Dante from Manuscript to Printed Book
Although no manuscript of the Divine Comedy survives in Dante’s own hand, the poem’s early popularity is attested by the survival of at least eight hundred manuscript copies from the fourteeth and fifteenth centuries. With the advent of the printing press in the 1450s, it was not long before the first printed edition appeared—not in Dante’s native Florence, but in the small town of Foligno in Umbria. The first illustrated editions were printed in Florence, 1481, and Brescia, in the north of Italy, in 1487. While at first the approach was transitional, with blank spaces left for hand-illuminated capitals, illustrated editions began to work out a meaningful correspondence between text and image to aid the reader’s understanding of this complex poem.