Dante’s Inferno. Glossed printed leaf with woodcut, 1507


Recto:  Printed on laid paper in two columns in Italian. There are two sizes of a humanist font with two historiated woodcut initials.  The woodcut illustration depicts the pool of pitch that sinners are condemned to suffer in.  Dante and Virgil seek to discuss one sinner’s history, but through trickery, the sinner escapes.  The demons fight among themselves allowing Dante and Virgil to slip away unnoticed.


Verso:  As Recto with main text and gloss and two further woodcut initials.


Source:   Published in  Venice, Italy for Bartholomeo de Zanna da Portese.  

                 Gloss by Cristoforo Landino


Date: 1507.


Content:  This leaf is from Canto XXII of Inferno.  The original text of the 14th century epic poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is in the larger type directly below the woodcut, with the gloss (commentary) by Landino in the smaller type.

The original text reads:


Lo vidi già cavalier muover campo,

e cominciare stormo e far lor mostra,

e talvolta partir per loro scampo;  

Corritor vidi per la terra vostra,

o Aretini, e vidi gir gualdane,

ferir torneamenti e muover giostra;  

Quando con trombe, e quando con campane,

con tamburi e con cenni di castella,

e con cose nostrali e con istrane;

(The Canto continues on Verso)


Before this I've seen horsemen start to march

and open the assault and muster ranks

and seen them, too, at times beat their retreat;


and on your land, o Aretines, I've seen

rangers and raiding parties galloping,

the clash of tournaments, the rush of jousts,


now done with trumpets, now with bells, and now

with drums, and now with signs from castle walls,

with native things and with imported ware;



Condition:  This leaf is in very good antiquarian condition with full margins and sharply printed text and woodcut.  There is some light staining in the top corner and some cockling.  The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.  Please not that packing/postage is invoiced separately:  Australia $25, overseas, ask for quote.


Notes:  In Canto XXII, Dante marvels that he is in such terrible company, but he realises that this part of his trek with the demons is necessary. Every now and then a sinner shows his back at the surface of the pitch to ease his pain, and Dante compares them to frogs squatting about in water with only their muzzles sticking out.  One sinner is slow in ducking back into the pitch fast enough and is caught by one of the demons who pulls him out of the pitch.  Before the demons tear him to shreds, Dante asks if he can listen to the sinner's history. The sinner replies that he was born in Navarre and worked for a king and began to graft, which is the reason he now suffers in the pitch. The demons begin to tear at the sinner, and to avoid this punishment, he offers them a deal. The sinner says that he will whistle, as if he'd been set free, and call more sinners (especially Italians with whom Dante will want to speak) to the surface of the pitch, so that they can suffer at the hands of the demons as well.

The demons are suspicious, but they let him try his plan, warning him that if he tries to escape they will catch him. The sinner, once set free, jumps off of the ridge into the “safety” of the pitch and escapes. The demons, furious at the deception, fly after him. When they see that he has escaped, two of the demons begin fighting, fall into the pitch, and are unable to rise. The other demons form a rescue party and while they are occupied, the poets use the opportunity to slip away unnoticed.



Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 305x205 mm.   


Item No:  PSE062

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