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Cornell University Library website
Visions of Dante

A Dante Collection At Cornell: A Short History

This exhibition draws extensively on the comprehensive collection of books, manuscripts, prints, and photographs related to Dante Alighieri assembled by the first Cornell Librarian, Willard Fiske (1831—1904), in 1893 and 1894. At that time, Harvard University’s Dante collection was the only such in the United States, built by the Harvard scholar Charles Eliot Norton (1827—1908), the co-founder (with James Russell Lowell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) de la Dante Society of America (1881).

Between 1896 and 1898, the Cornell University Press issued a 606-page long catalog in two volumes, compiled by Theodore Koch, a Harvard graduate who had studied Dante under Norton.

Since Fiske’s death, generations of librarians have enriched this teaching and research collection. A supplemental volume of the catalog, compiled by Mary Fowler, curator of the Dante and Petrarch Collections, was published in 1920. Today, the vault of Cornell Library contains more than 12,000 printed volumes, manuscript, prints, and photographs.

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