Dante 1481: the Comedia, illustrated by Botticelli

A line drawing - a person is chased down a hill by a wolf or dog, there run towards a forest where three people stand

Dante 1481: the Comedia, illustrated by Botticelli

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 Tuesday 4 May 2021

 2–4pm BST


Book tickets

About the event

The 1481 edition of Dante's La Comedia contained engraved illustrations from designs by Sandro Botticelli. This ambitious book could potentially have been the first fully illustrated edition of the poem.

No more than 19 illustrations are printed directly onto the page in any of the surviving copies, and in many of the 156 copies known to exist around the world, the number of illustrations is far lower, some appearing misplaced or upside down or supplemented by later images. Each copy has developed its own unique history and provenance as the books have spread across Europe and beyond in the 540 years since they were first printed.


The event includes short talks on Botticelli's illustrations (Professor Gervase Rosser, University of Oxford), on surviving copies (Professor Cristina Dondi, University of Oxford and Secretary of CERL) and on the context of the book's production (Dr Tabitha Tuckett, UCL).

Showing rare books online

2021 marks the 540th anniversary of the edition's publication and the 700th anniversary of Dante's death. To celebrate, we hope to display copies from Italy, the U.S.A. and the U.K. and to hear the books' stories from their current keepers. We'll be using online technology developed during the lockdown to give the audience visual access to copies that couldn't otherwise be brought together physically at one time.

Participating libraries include:

  • Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, UK (co-organiser)
  • University College London, UK (co-organiser)
  • Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Italy
  • The Morgan Library, New York, USA
  • The British Library, UK
  • John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, UK
  • Trinity College, Cambridge, UK

(More libraries will be added as they are confirmed.)

Hosts, sponsors and organisers

This event is hosted as part of two series:

Dante 1321–2021: A Man For All Season (Italian Cultural Institute of London)

Events of the Bibliographical Society of America

We are grateful to the Italian Cultural Institute of London and the Bibliographical Society of America for their support.

The event is organised by Dr Tabitha Tuckett, Rare-Books Librarian, University College London, Professor Cristina Dondi, Professor of Early European Book Heritage, University of Oxford and Secretary of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), and Dr Alexandra Franklin, Co-ordinator, Centre for the Study of the Book, Bodleian Libraries.

The event will be presented in English. Automated captions will be available.

The event will be recorded.


Lead image: La Commedia (comm. Christophorus Landinus), Bodleian Library Auct. 2Q 1.11