The Divine Comedy

Dante (with a big nose)

1564 · Venice
Dante Alighieri

First Sessa Edition

Venice: Giovanbattista e Marchiò Sessa e fratelli, 1564.

Folio (32 cm); [28] 396 (erroneously numbered 392) leaves. Italic and Roman type, with the text of the poem in Italic surrounded by commentary in Roman. 96 woodcut illustrations in text, and celebrated portrait of author on title page, from which this edition derives its distinguishing nickname, “Dante del gran naso” or “Big-nose Dante.” Sessa cat-and-mouse device on verso of last leaf. In 18th-century full speckled leather binding, with five raised bands and compartments on spine decorated in gilt with hand tools. Red leather title label. Notes in ink on rear free endpaper dated 1807. Red speckled edges. Hinges splt but holding. First signature slightly sprung yet holding. Occasional scattered stains. A handsome copy in strong binding!

References: Mambelli, 40; Adams D-103; STC Italian 210; Gamba 390.

We throw the word “iconic” around quite a bit, but it can be applied literally to this edition of Dante, recognizable by the portrait on the title page and known as the “Big-Nose Dante” (Dante del Gran Naso). To prepare the text, Francesco Sansovino (1521-1586) stitched together the important but largely unheralded textual commentary of Alessandro Vellutello with the famous but old-fashioned commentary of the humanist Cristoforo Landino. This critical apparatus is disposed on the page in roman type surrounding the text of the poem in italic type. Sansovino used Pietro Bembo’s redaction of the text (Aldus, 1502), but diligently revised certain aspects of spelling and orthography. This edition of 1564 remained the model for future editions of the poem through the rest of the 16th century and, according to some, is the first version of Dante to be illustrated with “modern” (that is, in the supple Renaissance style) figures.

La caccia dell’ arcobugio