[MUSIC PLAYING] LAURENT FERRI: Hello. My name is Laurent Ferri, co-curator of Visions of Dante. I told you in my introduction earlier this morning that exhibitions offer us an opportunity to advance scholarship and to make new hypotheses to share new ideas. I guess the first talk was a confirmation of that.
And it is now my pleasure to introduce our second guest speaker, Dr. Natale Vacalebre, who is a book historian, eminent Dante scholar, currently Benjamin Franklin Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania where he's completing his second PhD since he already had a doctorate from Italy. And I'm very lucky and blessed to know him as a friend and as a very generous and knowledgeable scholar. I made his acquaintance in 2019 when he came to Ithaca to look at our Foligno copy, the first printed edition of The Divine Comedy 1472. And he keeps making new discoveries and teaching us new things about the collection. So it's really wonderful to have you, Natale.
After his lecture, another exceptional scholar, Professor Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio, from the University of Rochester, who I think got a PhD from Cornell, is going to start out the questions. And I will step up and relay other questions from the audience, both in person and online. Thank you, Natale.
NATALE VACALEBRE: Usually when a speaker starts his talk, has to say, he's obliged to say thank you. I'm not obliged to say thank you. I need to say thank you to both of you, Andy and Laurent, both for your friendship and for the opportunity you gave me to, as the [INAUDIBLE], [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] to see the stars again after two years of Zoom exile. This is my first in person talk after these two years of [NON-ENGLISH], of relegated in a Zoom, in a Zoom situation.
Well, I'm here to basically tell you a story. So our story, of course, begins with the protagonist. Only in our case, the protagonist is not a hero like Ulysses, Achilles, or Black Panther. In fact, our protagonist is not even a person. The protagonist of this adventure is a town. A beautiful town. Very active, rich, full of artists, scholars.
But above all, it is a town full of artisans and merchants with diverse entrepreneurial activities. This town is Foligno. Foligno, as you can see in this slide, is located at the very center of Italy in a region called Umbria. And it is close to two other important cities. Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis, and Perugia.
Foligno has been a fair town since the end of the [INAUDIBLE] century. From that time onwards, a large number of commercial activities are concentrated in Foligno. And the town's governors promoted not only proto industrial activities such as, I don't know, wool and paper manufacturing but also the marketing and exchange of products, both from the territory and from abroad. And when I say abroad, by abroad I mean Naples, the Duchy of Milan, Venice, but also Northern Europe, France, and Spain.
In the 15th century, Foligno becomes the city of merchants and trade par excellence in central Italy. A large part of the population at all levels is engaged in mercantile activities. There is the nobleman, the peasant, the artisan, the bourgeoisie. Everyone in one way or another makes business. Well, in short, Foligno is in the period that we usually call humanism, is a modern business center where everyone contributes to increase to the increase of their own wealthy and that of the city.
In particular, in this period, a certain type of entrepreneur emerges. That of the aristocrat trader. That is a prosperous entrepreneur, often belonging to the nobility, who not only controls a large part of the commercial exchanges taking place in the city but also, well, above all, invests his wealth in multiple activities. And in doing so, he directly influences and reinforce the production areas of the local economy. We are talking basically about a very particular individual who has interests in the production of wool, paper, cereals, and sometimes also in new types of business in which he sees a good opportunity for profit and that he can test through his considerable network of business relationship or through one of the most important mercantile events of the Peninsula, of the Italian Peninsula, the Foligno Fair.
This fair was a formidable event for the economy of the city, which for seven days from March 22 each year to March 28, it was the Fair of the Annunciation, a celebration held every year on March 25. So for one week, this fair gathered business people from virtually all of commercial Italy. So we were talking about the Foligno merchant and the new investment sectors. Well, one of these new business is precisely that of the printing press in 15th century.
So now let me yield the floor for a moment to a much more illustrious speaker than I who can give you an idea of what, at least in his imagination, must have been the beginning of a typographic start up in the 15th century. One evening in Rome in a store of Via delle Coppelle, the Folignate, men of Foligno, Emiliano Orfini, met a little man from Cologne who was wearing a fur coat, red as his [INAUDIBLE] beard, and a long hat that fell on his delicate eyes to protect them from the overwhelming light. He touched the paper from Pale with three blackened fingers that left a trace in the white. From time to time, he would put his hand on his stomach to keep something up, a leather bag full of warm oil, which he carried for his illness according to the Aristotelian custom. He was the printer Johann Neumeister.
So with this word, this gentleman, the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, described at the beginning of the 20th century the encounter that in one way or another deeply influenced the story of Dante's fortune. So who are the protagonist of this scene? Let's take a closer look. On one end, we have a printer, a German called Johann Neumeister. On the other hand, we have a Folignate, a man from Foligno, who is an entrepreneur, a capitalist, a businessman who is interested in investing his money in this new business of serial book production. His name is Emiliano Orfini.
Orfini is a goldsmith who descends from a family of goldsmiths, of craftsmen with a history spanning at least three generations. Emiliano is a capable, intelligent, and enterprising man. With two of his brothers, Antonio and Mariotto, he not only runs the traditional family business, but he expands the interests of the house to many different sectors. From 1464, he runs the papal mint in Rome and then establish one in Viterbo, so close to Rome. Emiliano manufactures money. But he also manages it. From 1470 to 1475, so for five years, he comes to manage together with his brothers the contract of the [INAUDIBLE] Foligno. The [INAUDIBLE], the taxes.
So this shows us that the Orfinis were a family of very wealthy entrepreneurs who were able to put money, cash, into the city's treasury so as to be granted the privilege of collecting taxes and keep the taxes, which at the time in Foligno was not exactly a small thing. So in other words, the Orfinis are the perfect 15th century entrepreneurs of Foligno. They are practical business people, sharp, but also open to expansion and innovation.
So at some point between 1478 and 1479, Emiliano has an intuition. He is working in Rome, which is at the time the largest center of printed book production in the Italian Peninsula. He probably becomes interested in this new business of books and convinces his brothers to support him. Now, I'm not saying that the meeting with Neumeister took place in the circumstances described by D'Annunzio.
But there is no doubt that there was a connection between Orfini and the German community in central Italy. The so-called [ITALIAN] the Germans, were present in Foligno in a small community since 1463. Well, actually even before if you think that in 1441 the governors of Foligno lease the house to a certain Federico Armani, Friedrich Harmon, who was actually a pimp and who set up a brothel in that house for the days of the Annunciation Fair. But this is another story. It happens.
Let us return to our Germans of the 1473. They were identified in a lost manuscript as [ITALIAN] calligraphy. So copies, scribes from minds. German scribes who copied manuscript to survive. It is impossible to say, to determine whether they had already set up a printing shop before 1470, but these [ITALIAN] are familiar with Gutenberg's technique. And one of them has a great talent.
And this person is precisely Johann Neumeister. Neumeister came from Hesse, may have attended the University of Erfurt, and then probably studied with Gutenberg in mind, from where then he fled with other compatriots after the capture of the city by the troops of Bishop Adolph of Nassau in 1462, which is the big German typographer's diaspora. So as early as 1469, he associates with Orfini.
In the family palace, Emiliano sets up a workshop for his German partner, who together with other collaborators, probably the other [ITALIAN] builds one or perhaps two presses and creates new typefaces. The following year, they publish their first edition, the Latin translation of [INAUDIBLE], written by Leonardo Bruni. This first publication is indeed a huge success. How do we know this? Well, we know this because a lot of copies have been preserved today. And as you can see, many of them display annotations, marginalia dating back from 15th century. And this is not precisely something obvious.
So following the success of the first edition, Orfini decided to embark on a second venture in which he also involved his brothers, as you can see from this slide. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], Emilianos and brothers. But if Bruni's work was a success, the second edition is not. It is indeed the second publication a reprint of Cicero's [INAUDIBLE], which in 1471 already is present on the market with at least 10 editions. And this mean that Orfini decides and his brother decide to abandon the printing enterprise.
And poor Neumeister. Well, when the Orfini abandons him, he is left with a couple of printing presses, a large number of typefaces, but he lacks the most important element, money. A sponsor. Fortunately for him, someone comes to his rescue, and Neumeister finds a new partner. He's a notary, a notary from Trevi, which is close to Foligno, but he was living in Foligno at the time, whose name is Evangelista Angelini.
Evidently, Evangelista has a plan. No more works in Latin. Let's change [INAUDIBLE]. Let's change the audience. Let's use the vernacular. Let's print a text which can be understandable to a wider popular audience, popular more or less. An important text but not an obvious one. A text mostly that is not available on the market.
So we are approximately in the middle of 1471. Let's say summer. What works of the great Tuscan literary tradition are available on the market? Well, there are two editions of Petrarch's [INAUDIBLE]. You can see here the two colophons of these two edition, one printed in Rome, another printed in Venice. And two additions of Boccaccio's Decameron. This is the first edition, sorry, printed in Naples in 1469. OK, Boccaccio and Petrarch.
So in any case, there are only two Tuscan authors in print. The third is missing. The oldest, the one who in the past century had had the most outstanding success of all with his poetic masterpiece, Dante. In the 14th century, the success of Dante and the Commedia spread throughout the Italian Peninsula, including Foligno. So manuscripts of Dante's poem circulated in Foligno in the 14th and 15th century.
The Bishop Federico Frezzi, a poet and imitator of Dante, had a beautiful copy. And we are sure, for sure we know that. The lords of Foligno, the [INAUDIBLE] family, had a copy which was commissioned by Federico Frezzi that now is preserved at the British Library. And for sure also many of the noble and mercantile families of Foligno had copies of the poem in their libraries.
So it's done, no? Let's publish Dante, decides Angelini. Evidently his partners liked the proposal. So together they find a manuscript to reproduce a copy of the so-called Dante [INAUDIBLE]. You can see a reproduction of this group of manuscripts in the biggest image. The Dante [INAUDIBLE] are a group of manuscripts of Tuscan origins, mostly produced in the 1340s in the workshop of [INAUDIBLE]. So very elegant object.
So in November 1471, Angelini goes to his city, Trevi, and buys 113 pounds of tin in typefaces and also another printing press. And he commits himself to complete the [INAUDIBLE] in six months. So in May 1472. In December in Foligno, Angelini buys also 600 sheets of parchment to print some luxury copies of The Commedia. So Angelini and partners, they are thinking big. They want to reach, of course, a wealthy and important public. They want to reach the Tuscan market, that of the bankers and merchants who still adored in 15th century Dante. But the partners are also thinking of the readers of the courts, the aristocrats, where the noble circles of northern Italy where Petrarch is the most beloved poet.
So they get to work. They don't have much time. They have to close the production cycle in a few months. Why? Because none of them is a merchant. Angelini is a notary. Neumeister is a technician and a foreigner. So they are not [INAUDIBLE] with their contacts, their commission network. And in Foligno in the 15th century, if you are not a merchant, the only way to sell an object produced in series like a printed edition of a new text like The Commedia is to commercialize the edition during the most important commercial event of the year, the Foligno Fair. But the Foligno Fair is in the week of March 25, so March 22, March 28. So we are in December. There is not much time.
So the work progressed fairly quickly. The [INAUDIBLE] come off Neumeister's press in an orderly fashion until at some point, something happens. So if we compare some copies of the Foligno Commedia, we can see that there are differences in the structure of the first two [INAUDIBLE]. We don't know what happened. Someone thinks that the partners decided at a certain point to elevate the print runs. Some other thinks that an accident occurred in the printing shop.
However, the production time is prolonged by a few days, probably a few weeks. Why? Because, as everybody knows, the edition of The Commedia of Foligno is dated officially April 18, 1472. So this throws the production schedule of Angelini and associates into disarray. But is this really how things turned out? Did really the efforts of this company really come to nothing because of a mere typographical accident? I don't think so.
So let us take a step backward. Well, no, let us take a step forward. We can take a good copy of Neumeister's Commedia and go to the colophon, to this subscription which many in Italy know by art, because [INAUDIBLE] and is composed in rhyme. So it could be a tribute, so to speak, to the text of The Divine Comedy. Let us read together in English. In the year 1472, 2 in the fourth month on days five and six, this beautiful work was printed. I, Master Johann Neumeister, worked on this publication and was helped by my assistant from Foligno, Evangelista.
Now, there is no need to be Walt Whitman or Derrick Walcott to understand that these verses are not exactly beautiful. Also because in this sestina there are strange words that to understand them so you have to stop and reread them at least a couple of times. So let's analyze it briefly. The structure is really simple. The rhyming chain is obviously based on the first two lines. And to be precise, on the words [ITALIAN] and [ITALIAN], two and six. Now, as you can see, the rhyme with due is easily satisfied by the use in verses three and five of the same word [ITALIAN]. [ITALIAN] is a very simple word, past tense of the verb to be, [ITALIAN], third person singular, which is understandable to all.
However, when we moved on to the other series of verses which refer to the word [ITALIAN] which means six, the situation changes, as the author of the colophon uses difficult words. The first is [NON-ENGLISH], which is supposed to be the past tense of the verb to give, [NON-ENGLISH]. The second is a Latinism, [NON-ENGLISH] instead of [NON-ENGLISH]. And in fact, this word is so strange that the early scholars of The Commedia thought that [NON-ENGLISH] was the surname, the last name, of the Evangelista from Foligno. So an Evangelista Mei who, of course, never existed.
But let's go back. Personally, the first question that I asked myself after rereading a couple of times the colophon was, wait. But why did the printer have to complicate his life at the point in the edition when it exists? Because it's the colophon doesn't always exist, has always been designed to be functional.
So the subscription, the colophon, however original it may be written in verse, in Greek, in [INAUDIBLE], whatever you want, always serves to let the public know the name, the last name of the printers, the place of publication, and the date of publication. In our colophon, actually there is not even the place of printing, because we can imagine that it's Foligno because Neumeister says that [INAUDIBLE] Evangelista, the man from Foligno, who actually was from Trevi. But OK, it's another story.
So in the colophon of The Commedia, if we compare it to the previous two edition published by Neumeister and Foligno, the elements of the narration are even inverted in the two. In the first two colophons, you can see that the first two lines are devoted to say the name of the printers and publisher, while in the Foligno edition we have only the date, which is extremely precise. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] 1472. Fourth month, April. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Has always been intended as the sum of five and six, which is 11.
I don't think so. Probably the author of the colophon had to use five and six because the publisher wanted to connect the end of the publishing process to two days instead of one. OK. You can say, well, OK, they published The Commedia the 5th and 6th of April. But if they wanted to commercialize it during the Foligno Fair still, they were late for of at least eight days. No, because the last day of the Foligno Fair usually was March 28. OK. But perhaps this is not true.
So when I was a student, a college student, I learned that, OK, everybody hates date. But dates are important. But not only the years. Also the days, the seasons, and the months.
So I say to myself, well, let's take a trip to 1472. So I took a book called [INAUDIBLE] by [? Adriano ?] [? Capelli ?] and went back in time. It is important to know that in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, there are some rules of precedence. When there is an [INAUDIBLE], which is the coincidence of two religious celebrations, a kind of liturgical crossroad, certain fixed solemnities must give way to more important celebrations, like, for example, the Holy Week, Easter. So when there is an [INAUDIBLE], the solemnity which gives precedence is postponed to the first convenient date.
So suppose, for example, that one year Easter Sunday is on March 29. During this period, as everyone knows now, there is another celebration. The Annunciation on March 25. Well, when these kind of [INAUDIBLE] happens, the rule is that the celebration is postponed to the Monday following the Sunday in [INAUDIBLE], which is the second Sunday of Easter. Well, in 1472, the Easter fell on March 29. March 25 was the Holy Wednesday and the Annunciation was postponed on the Monday after Sunday in [INAUDIBLE]. These two dates were precisely April 5 and 6.
So that means that all the events connected with that celebration were postponed also to those two dates. Even a famous fair held in a beautiful town of Umbria called Foligno. So that means that for its symbolic meaning, the printer and the producer of the edition wanted to connect the end of the publication process with the most important, the central days of the Fair of Foligno, which were precisely the 5th and the 6th of April.
So hopefully my friends from the British Library and the [INAUDIBLE] will be happy to change the records in their catalogs. I mean, at least this is my hypothesis. So the Foligno edition should be not-- the date of the Foligno edition should not be read as 11 of April but April 5 and 6.
So I don't know how much time I have. 15? Oh, OK. I thought I was late. OK, well. So this hypothesis will not only explain the writing of a very complicated colophon and articulate as one of the Neumeister Commedia. But it will also demonstrate that behind the production process of the Foligno edition, there was a very solid business plan aimed at bringing out marketing a prestigious publishing product during the most important commercial week of the year in Foligno.
This will also demonstrate that the Foligno Fair and the consequent possibility of widely circulating the products through the network of merchants who periodically attended event directly influenced the Commedia project realized by Angelini and Neumeister. So in other words, without the fair, there would not have been the print [INAUDIBLE] the first edition of Foligno. Foligno, one of our protagonists precisely because of its very high potential as a commercial center, originated even ideally the first printing of The Commedia.
Well, from Foligno, copies of Neumeister's Commedia traveled throughout the Peninsula from Tuscany to Venice to Rome to the kingdom of Naples. And precisely a copy of Neapolitan origins of provenance is the other protagonist of our story. I don't show now the images. I will show them later. This beautiful, richly annotated copy is now kept at Cornell's Kroch Library and it is displayed in our exhibition. Its reading history is extremely interesting and spans more than five centuries.
The first certain information of the presence of Cornell's copy of The Commedia in a private collection dates back to the first half of the 19th century. In the 1820s, the book became part of the collection of George Frederick Nott. Nott was a British ecclesiastic and a scholar, author of the first Italian translation of The Book of Common Prayer, and also editor of the works of Dante and of one of his first commentator, [INAUDIBLE]. Nott lived for many years in Italy, where he had the opportunity to enrich his personal library with rare edition of Italian literature.
And after his death, his large book collection housed in his residence in Winchester was put up for auction. And in January 1842, the books of his Dante collection were purchased by some of the most famous and important booksellers in London and Bristol. The Foligno [INAUDIBLE] was bought by William Strong, a bookseller from Bristol.
He in a very short time compiled a new sales catalog of his bookshop in which the newly acquired volumes were advertised, including those coming from famous libraries such as that of Nott and Horace Walpole. Strong managed to obtain from an anonymous Italian collector a truly remarkable price for the volume. 46 pounds and $0.40, almost 10 times the price of the most expensive Dante edition recorded in his 1842 catalog. So here we have an annotation written in Italian.
I bought it at Strong in Bristol for 46 pound and $0.15. On the same paper just below the purchase note, there is another annotation, this time in Spanish. And this is still one of the mysteries of this copy. And it is very different from the previous one. And this annotation is the first evidence related to the annotations that are displayed into the copy.
The annotations and commentaries, the handwritten commentaries and annotation in this book are by Luca Pulci, a famous Italian poet from the 15th century. So I mean, although clearly erroneous given that Luca Pulci died in 1470, that is two years before the publication of The Comedy of Foligno, these notes, nevertheless, had this, well, we can say the merit of generating literary and historical misunderstanding capable of attracting the interest of 19th century collectors and scholars.
In the second half of the century, the copy passed into one of the most prestigious European collection of the time, that of the great Parisian publisher and bookseller, Ambroise Firmin-Didot, as evidenced by the booklet displayed on the first flyleaf of the book. Starting in the 1850s, the volume's home was for at least 20 years the magnificent library built by Didot in his splendid Chateau de [? la Bucherie ?] just outside Paris.
Following his death in 1876, a considerable portion of the collection was sold in a series of auctions held between 1878 and 1885. The copy of the Foligno edition was auctioned in on June 6, 1878. And as witnessed by the collection auction catalog, you can see that the compiler of the catalog also has translated the Spanish annotation in the description of the exemplar.
It is the same. It's the literal transcription in French of the Spanish annotation we have seen before. So who bought this copy? The most important book dealer of the 19th century, [INAUDIBLE], in 1878.
However, even though he bought this copy, he never published a description of the volume in his sales catalogs. Well, as a matter of fact, it is probable that a book so dense with manuscript annotations and drawings, even though [INAUDIBLE] did not meet the tastes of the bibliophiles of the time, who were much more interested in clean copies of the works they were looking for. Consequently, it can be assumed that the bookseller preferred to keep the volume in his bookstore waiting for the right customer to offer it to.
Well, the hypothetical wait lasted 15 years until June 1873, when Willard Fiske, the founder of the Dante Collection here at Cornell, bought the book for the considerable price of 90 pounds. What Fiske did not know was that this richly annotated [INAUDIBLE] was not actually a volume contained the notes by a Tuscan poet like Pulci. In fact, the numerous annotations and drawings within its pages are a transcription of the only commentary on The Commedia written in the [INAUDIBLE] kingdom of Naples in the 14th century. The [INAUDIBLE] by Guglielmo Maramauro.
This work was known until today only through a manuscript. An only surviving manuscript kept in the library of the Borromeo Princess in their palace in Isola Bella in northern Italy, which was discovered in the 1980s by [INAUDIBLE] and was edited by [INAUDIBLE] in 1988. '98, sorry. However, this manuscript displays only the commentary on the Inferno. So Cornell's copy of The Commedia [INAUDIBLE] on the other hand, contains the transcription of all the commentary, the complete commentary of Maramauro to the entire Divine Comedy.
The transcription was likely made in Naples. But for sure it was made in 1513. We know this because, as you can see in this slide, the transcriber makes a calculation at Paradiso 26. I can read it in English. He is talking about the years that Adam spent in the, when he was alive [INAUDIBLE]. That is, he lived in the world 930 years. So that by adding up how long Adam lived and remained in limbo, the sum is 5,232 years. And since the Resurrection of Christ, 1,480 years have passed. Consequently, from the creation of the world, he's calculating the age of the world, to this day 6,712 years have passed. If we add to 1480 the number 33, which corresponds to the years that Christ lived on the Earth according to the gospel, we have the number 1513.
The anonymous transcriber had in front of him a manuscript of The Commedia containing Maramauro's work and diligently transcribed the sections that were useful to him to understand the meaning of Dante's complicated verses. However, he not only transcribed Maramauro's text, but also [INAUDIBLE] to copy the drawings that were displayed in the manuscript so as to obtain also we can call it a visual commentary of the poem into his own copy of The Commedia. Here you can see two example of this visual commentary.
So I don't want to take any more time. I just wanted to end this chat with a thought. The America Dante's collections, the Italian collection in the US universities and private libraries, contain, host priceless treasures. They were created as a teaching tool. But unfortunately, they have often been neglected by scholars who have not fully understood their historical and documentary importance.
Well, thanks to the Dante celebration of 2021, a new interest has opened up for this wonderful collection. So now all that we have to do is-- what it remains to be done is to train new scholars who can explore them and bring to light new treasures as Maramauro's commentary. And as one of my mentors used to say many years ago, I was 18 at the time, my dear friend, a new discovery is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of the [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you.
DONATELLA STOCCHI-PERUCCHIO: Natale, this was really beautiful and engaging. Thank you. And thank you to the organizers who are hosting all of us here and Dr. [? Elaine Martinez ?] Dr. Weislogel, and Dr. Ferri for this incredible opportunity. So let me say that I am really personally touched by all this, because first of all, I'm an Etruscan. Second, I am an alumna of Cornell. So these two worlds come together with your talk and elicit memories and emotions and interests and curiosities.
Just a first observation is that these people who collaborated in creating this print edition and making sure that it would come out and on the market on that specific day of the Annunciation. And it was fascinating how you reconstructed the coincidence. It's significant because they claim some kind of authorship and role similar to Dante's. Because [INAUDIBLE] we have Dante locating himself temporarily at the time of the Annunciation. His poem is written at that particular propitious time.
So it's fascinating how economic considerations go together with the considerations of a completely different kind. And I'm sure there is an attempt to make a connection with Dante's own enterprise and Dante's own authorship. So this moment of giving birth to this new object, which is the first in its kind, is a way of creating a new beginning. A new beginning and a new story. And as you said at the end, a new discovery is a start. So I find fascinating the fact that commercial considerations collaborate with culture and they go hand in hand.
The vicissitudes of these texts are also fascinating for me, and that's where I would like to know more what happens in this Neapolitan area and what it means to translate, to transport, [NON-ENGLISH], a text in a different culture and environment. I'm interested in the political atmosphere. But not just that. The cultural milieu, the audience, the fact that they choose the vernacular text so this will have a larger audience. Also following Dante's lead in that as printers. And then what happens in the Neapolitan area in terms of potential translations even of details and words in the transcription, in the commentary, to adapt that to the local audience.
So we see a phenomenon of proliferation in many different senses and in many different directions. A beautiful example of reception. I mean, the beginning of reception. These days we are all talking about the reception of Dante, which is a large term that includes all kinds of engagement, forms of engagement, with the poem, engagement that sometimes are forms of transmission.
But in any case, it's inevitable in any transmission there is a translation and therefore a transformation but also an enrichment. So we lose certain things or we gain other things. And then there are responses to. I mean, we have cases in which the commentator, even the illustrator, responds to the text, engages in a dialogue with the text, and not simply aims at trying to do an exegesis. But there is a dialogue.
So I guess in this part, and this is something I would like to tell us in a few more minutes, in this part, there is that kind of engagement, especially on the part of this anonymous transcriber. The illustrations are also significant. Why did he pick up exactly those themes and those illustrations? Why the imperial eagle, which refers, of course, to Dante's political vision and universalism as well in the context of a specific political milieu? Well, basically that's what I would like you to talk about a little more. Thank you. Thank you again very much.
NATALE VACALEBRE: Thank you, Donatella. Yes, so the reception is, of course, the most interesting part of what this copy brings up in terms of scholarship. As you can see in this image, the commentary is displayed not only on the margins but also on the top of single words. Why? Because this person is trying to clarify to himself the meaning of the single concept, of the single word. Sometimes he's translating a word, a word that in Neapolitan is very different from Tuscan. Even though the Tuscan vernacular, at least in 1513, is mostly spoken by people of the middle class and, of course, the aristocrats.
But let's think about this. In 1513, there are at least 10 editions available on the market with a commentary. And not only the commentary by [INAUDIBLE], which is a very intellectual commentary. But there are also other two commentaries available. The first one printed in Venice in 1477, which is the one by [INAUDIBLE]. It's a 14th century commentary. And there is also the addition of 1478 printed in Milan, which has the same commentary, brings the same commentary by [INAUDIBLE], but which was modified by another intellectual from Milan, [INAUDIBLE].
He choose, not choose, he has at his disposal a manuscript, a work which is not famous, which probably circulated only at a local level. But mostly it was a text that he was able to understand, because it was written in Naples in his own language, in his Italian, of course was a Neapolitan language spoken by aristocrats, not by common people. But still, this tells us a lot about the social environment of the transcriber and of the circulation of both the manuscript and of the copy, of this specific copy 40 years after the publication of the Divine Comedy. So this copy was a luxury object in 1472 but probably not in 1513.
1472, we know that there are at least three copies, survived copies, of The Commedia, of the Foligno Commedia, which circulated in Naples in the 1470s. Two of them are in France, one at the Bibliotheque Nationale and one at the Bibliotheque Mazarine. The first one was the copy of the King of Naples in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. The second one was the copy of the Count of Sarno. So two aristocratic copies. I mean, one was for the royal library in Naples and one for the private library of one of the most important noblemen in the kingdom.
And then we have the third copy, which my opinion, is the most interesting copy of all, which probably was passed through many hands but specifically of people from the middle class, for the bourgeoisie. Why? How do we know that? Because of the decoration. The decoration is not a very beautiful one. The illumination are not exactly elegant. There is no coat of arms displayed on the first leaf. And there are other two probably three transcription of commentaries.
In the first 12 cantos of the Inferno, there is the transcription of the so-called [ITALIAN] Boccaccio, another commentary probably written in the Neapolitan area, which we know only through one manuscript. And then there is transcription but only in some part of the entire poem of the [INAUDIBLE], another commentary written or that had a very large circulation in the kingdom of Naples in the 1340s.
So this means that there is a straight connection between these works, the manuscript tradition, the exegesis of The Divine Comedy which was developed in Naples and the copy of Cornell. The copy of Cornell is the vessel of a long tradition of exegesis developed in Naples that until now is known only by manuscript testimonies. So the circulation is-- we can say it is a popular circulation, because it is not an aristocratic circulation of this kind of literature, of this specific copy, and of the exegetic apparatus, [INAUDIBLE] that it brings into its pages.
DONATELLA STOCCHI-PERUCCHIO: If I may comment on what you said. So the conclusion, I would say, is that this kind of research, and I hope students are attracted to pursue it as well, can open up a number of avenues. You're talking about a situation that will take us into social history, economic history, and following all these leads we can even talk about political history. I mean, when you were talking, you reminded me of what happened in Tuscany around the collection of [INAUDIBLE].
We've been talking with our colleagues about this place in the middle of Tuscany where Dante was as a guest of the [INAUDIBLE], by the way, during his exile. And so significant for that reason, and also because right there the famous battle of [INAUDIBLE] took place and where Dante was fighting as a knight. And in this place, we have a library that is a result of the activity of a collector, a nobleman, a local nobleman [INAUDIBLE], who also took advantage of certain commercial situations that were opening up because of the circumstances in Italian history. They had put on the market materials that were inside convents and inside nunneries and inside friaries and then all of a sudden became available to the public.
So the history of the books in that library in [INAUDIBLE] intertwine with the history of Tuscany and the grand duchy of Tuscany and then the history of [INAUDIBLE] Italy. And then in the middle, there is a collector who grabs things. And so all these elements allow us to pursue all kinds of possible avenues to discover worlds around books. So a book like that could be a mine, a treasure for all types of research. So thank you very much for giving us a lot of inspiration in all those directions. Thank you.
LAURENT FERRI: So we don't have much time. Thank you very much. It was really inspirational. Two very quick remarks. When you said that in the 19th century most bibliophiles would look for clean copies of The Divine Comedy, I used to be a curator in [INAUDIBLE], where the collection of the wealthy [INAUDIBLE] is kept. And typically, it was an immaculate copy which he would like to show off to his friends and fellow bibliophiles. But the copy that Fiske acquired for Cornell is not clean at all. It's not so beautiful, but it's so much more interesting in terms of the annotations and in terms of what it teaches us about book history.
And then I also enjoyed very much what you said about the social, historical, linguistic context of transmission and reception. There's so much that needs to be added. I think to see a Dante readership, the core readership, was I think initially the [INAUDIBLE]. And it makes a lot of sense that Dante would write The Divine Comedy in three parts with the purgatory, which was a recent invention, really, when he wrote The Divine Comedy. But it's-- according to Jacques LeGoff, it's really an invention that is prompted by the rise of this intermediate social class, people who have a more transactional approach to the afterlife and they're not happy with just a hell and a paradise. They want to help their friends and relatives and buy their way out of purgatory and if possible making donations to the church.
And then to see that printed editions on vellum especially were meant to reach out to a much more aristocratic public and to win the favor in the courts where Petrarch was the number one poet. So it shows that printers, publishers come up with very different plans and target specific readers. So it was all very interesting. Maybe we can take one question from the audience if there's one. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. I can make a really quick question. I can ask a question straightforward and it's this, but I want to ask a second part of it. Does the 1513 anonymous transcriber commentator read Neumeister's colophon? And if so, does he say anything? Or do they say anything? But what I really want to push Natale to say something about is an adjective in that six line colophon that you didn't comment on. It was translated as beautiful and the adjective is [ITALIAN].
And I think that's a really important choice for an adjective in Italian for a work of Dante as opposed to Petrarch, perhaps, one might say. And it's right there at the center of it all. And I don't want to defend Neumeister as being a brilliant poet or whatever, although I like the pun maestro Neumeister. I was excited that he got to play around. But [ITALIAN] seems to me a very-- one could-- it's a word that requires some-- can carry a burden of thought. We could talk about it. So I invite you to.
NATALE VACALEBRE: I'm sure that the author of the colophon is Angelini, who was a notary. And as you know, the first-- I don't know if the first, but one of the first social groups which formed the Dante audience in the 13th-- sorry, in the 14th century was precisely that of notaries. We have testimonies of notaries who read Dante when only The Inferno circulated in 1314 and 1317. The [INAUDIBLE] is the most important testimony of this kind of readership.
Angelini was also an assistant during the printing process. So he knew Dante, but I'm sure that the true mind, the origin of this creation, of this publishing enterprise, the creator is Angelini. Angelini who knew Dante, Angelini who knew that there was probably a good chance to sell that product because that product was not available on the market and was a desired product by who?
By precisely those of his social group and also the bankers of Tuscany and other parts of Italy. Probably also from the kingdom of Naples. So I am sure-- I mean, this is [INAUDIBLE]. My opinion is horrible. But still, this is inspired precisely by the work that has ended two lines before. So yes, [ITALIAN] is probably another testimony of this readership of the notary class to which Angelini was part of.
DONATELLA STOCCHI-PERUCCHIO: [? Dennis, ?] you made me think and then what you said also about the fact that I wonder, he was a notary Angelini, he was a notary, whether he inserted himself in the tradition of the notaries who were around Dante. And therefore [ITALIAN] noble with gentle hearts is the audience, the privileged audience is thinking of at this moment. I wonder. [INAUDIBLE] tradition. Maybe.
NATALE VACALEBRE: Well, of course this is a book for people who can afford to pay more than one ducat. That means golden money. So it's not exactly for the notary who is trained just to sign a document. This means that the people, notary are also people who have many economic interests. And I mean, it's a wealthy audience they are thinking. Among them are the wealthy notaries.
But of course, Angelini was one of those who knew The Divine Comedy precisely because it was a text that was not only owned in the house of a notary but mostly was read in the house or among the circle of these social classes. So you know that there are several ways you can read in doing a common reading some text of the Tuscan literature. Petrarch and mostly Dante in this kind of social class.
DONATELLA STOCCHI-PERUCCHIO: Thank you.
SPEAKER: Thank you so much, Natale.
Well, and thank you all for the wonderful questions and your attention. We've completed our second talk and we've reached our lunch break. I just want to mention that we will, as you see on your schedule, we will reconvene for a short tour of the exhibition itself with myself and Laurent. That starts at 1:00 PM in the exhibition galleries, which are on this same level, and we'll gather by the elevator there.
And the interns who are working with us today will be happy to direct you. Put up a hand, Hannah and David and Raina. There you are. If you need any kind of direction or if you need direction towards a place where you can get a bite to eat in the coming hour, they'll be happy to direct you as well. So thank you very much. We'll see you back at 1:00.
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In 15th-century Italy, book printing was linked to a system of trade fairs bringing together businesspeople from across Europe, in turn influencing the publishing choices of early Italian printers. A case in point is the newly rediscovered copy of a first printed edition (‘editio princeps’) of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” (Foligno, 1472), which seems linked to the important Annunciation Fair of Foligno.
Join Natale Vacalebre, Benjamin Franklin Fellow in Italian Studies at University of Pennsylvania, for this talk in which he explores the commercial history and dissemination of the Foligno first edition, currently held in Cornell University’s Kroch Library. Its pages preserve the only existing annotations and margin drawings of the complete 14th-century commentary by Neapolitan scholar Guglielmo Maramauro, opening a unique portal into the Renaissance reader’s understanding of Dante and his writing.
This is the second talk in Cornell’s “Visions of Dante” symposium held in conjunction with the Johnson Museum of Art’s “Visions of Dante” exhibition, timed to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. The Foligno edition is on display as part of the exhibit.
“Visions of Dante: A Central NY Humanities Corridor Symposium” was held on Saturday, October 16, 2021, at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, in conjunction with their exhibition “Visions of Dante.” The symposium was cosponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor, a unique regional collaboration between Syracuse University, Cornell University, the University of Rochester, the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium, and other liberal arts schools and colleges in the central New York region.
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