"FOR THOSE AMONG COLLECTORS WHO ALSO USE BOOKS FOR READING": THE NONESUCH DANTE, WITH 42 BOTTICELLI ILLUSTRATIONS
(BOTTICELLI) DANTE. La Divina Commedia, Or the Divine Vision. New York: Nonesuch Press, 1928. Folio (9 by 12-1/2 inches), original full orange vellum gilt, top edge gilt, uncut and partially unopened, custom slipcase. $2600.
Splendid private-press limited edition, number 685 of 1475 copies, designed by Francis Meynell, with 42 collotypes (34 double-page) after Botticelli's magnificent drawings.
Dante's "extraordinary audacity… is unmatched in the entire tradition of supposedly Christian literature… His poem is a prophecy and takes on the function of a third Testament in no way subservient to the Old and the New" (Harold Bloom). This wonderful private-press edition of the 14th-century poetic masterpiece was published by the Nonesuch Press, founded in 1923 by Francis Meynell, David Garnett and Vera Mendel in the basement premises under the Birrell & Garnett bookshop in London with the express intent to make books "for those among collectors who also use books for reading" (Ransom, Private Presses, 169). It boasts 42 collotypes (34 double-page, 8 full-page), after drawings by Botticelli. "Botticelli probably created his Dante drawings for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici sometime between 1480 and 1495. He mapped out his projected 100-sheet traversal of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven by making a chart of funnel-shaped Hell. The chart carefully lays out the various levels of the damned with the figures of Dante and Virgil, his guide, repeatedly seen navigating from one level to the next" (Karlins). This is the first time Botticelli's drawings appear in conjunction with the text for which he drew them. Text in both Italian (edited by Mario Casella) and English (translated by H.F. Cary), in facing columns. Without scarce original slipcase, as often. Ransom, Nonesuch 50.
With none of the fading to the spine often seen. A bright, fine copy.