Location Opening hours Previous exhibitions Library web site

Dante in print

The first edition of the Commedia

  Think, Reader, if what here is just beginning
  No farther should proceed, how thou wouldst have
  An agonizing need of knowing more...

                  (Paradiso V, 109-111, trans. Longfellow)
The first edition of the Commedia (Foligno: Johann Neumeister
and Evangelista Angelini, 1472). CUL Inc.3.B.4.1 [3782]

In 1465 the German printers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who had worked for Johann Gutenberg in Mainz, set up the first press in Italy at the Benedictine monastery at Subiaco, about fifty miles east of Rome. They worked there until 1467, producing three or four books. Printing soon spread to Rome itself by 1466 and to Venice by 1469. In 1467 Sweynheym and Pannartz moved to Rome where they printed a second edition of the works of Lucius Coelius Firmianus Lactantius the following year. It was the first printed book to contain a text in the Italian language, and the first to quote from Dante-two tercets from Canto XXIV of the Inferno.

In 1470 another German, Johann Neumeister, set up press in Foligno where he printed three works, including the first edition of Dante's Commedia in 1472. Two other editions appeared the same year, printed at Mantua and Venice.

Illuminated initial for Paradiso   Two tercets of Dante
Illuminated initial for Paradiso (Mantua: Georgius de Augusta and Paulus de Butzbach, 1472). CUL Inc.3.B.18.2 [3783] [this image not on display]   Two tercets of Dante, from Sweynheym and Pannartz's edition of Lucius Coelius Firmianus Lactantius (Rome, 1468). LA(6) [item not on display]