Beautifully bound first edition of Zotti's annotated DIVINE COMEDY, primarily designed for British women learning Italian and dedicated by the editor to three aristocratic women patrons.
Very good plus.
LA DIVINA COMMEDIA DI DANTE ALIGHIERI
In 1808 Dante's DIVINE COMEDY was published for the first time in London in the original Italian; this work was one of two editions from that year, with no priority established (see Toynbee, 68). Zotti's was the first London-printed DIVINE COMEDY with contextual commentary, and it was dedicated to three Englishwomen with an advanced knowledge of Italian: Augusta Fane, the Countess of Lonsdale; Frances Finch, third Countess of Dartmouth; and Mrs. Pilkington (Maria Elizabeth Gibbs). Their names also appear in the fourth volume's Nomi de' Signori Associati that is headed with the name of Queen Charlotte, and includes Signor Polidori, Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, John Kemble, the Misses Walpole, and Charlotte Leveson Gower, Duchess of Beaufort. Zotti was the author of a popular Italian grammar and a former teacher of Italian to English girls; among the 119 women who made up the vast majority of the list, many are unmarried and likely include some number of Zotti's pupils.
The preface suggests that the three dedicatees typified Zotti's intended readership: not scholars, but the well-educated, curious, and cosmopolitan British reading public, primarily female, in need of linguistic help and desiring some historical and cultural context. The readers he anticipates are no experts, but neither will they be unfamiliar with Dante. It was essentially a schoolteacher's Dante: basic in some respects, inaccurate in others, but profoundly useful to that stratum of English society educated enough to read it, and it contributed significantly to the growing English familiarity with Dante in Romantic circles and among women in particular.
The fourth volume of Zotti's Dante from 1809 also contains the first English publication of Dante's lyric poems, as well as several lyric poems attributed to him but "which are certainly not by Dante" (Toynbee). A stunning set in a lavish Georgian binding with moiré silk endpapers and gilt dentelles — quite appropriate for an aristocratic woman's library.
Read more: Havely, Dante's British Public: Readers and Texts, from the Fourteenth Century to the Present; Toynbee, Dante in English Literature from Chaucer to Cary.
London: R. Zotti, 1808, 1809. Four 12mo volumes. Contemporary full deep green goatskin. Green moiré silk endpapers, all edges gilt, gilt dentelles, green silk ribbon markers. Illustrated with frontispiece portrait of Dante in vol. I. xlii, 418; 419, ; , 482; viii, 448; iv, 8 pages. Light wear and bumping to all volumes, with occasional scuffing to edges. Vol. II with rear fly leaf lacking and rear fly leaf of vol. I partially detached; light spotting to moiré endpapers.
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