Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Dante Alighieri, La Commedia (Brescia: Boninus de Boninis, de Ragusia, 31 May 1487)

La Commedia (Comm: Christophorus Landinus)

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Few other works can have received as much commentary, or provided the themes for so many images as La Divina commedia (The Divine Comedy) by Dante (1265-1321). It is no exaggeration to say that the commentary tradition began almost as soon as this work appeared, and the tradition has continued up to the present day with the development of the modern scholarly edition, such as that of Charles S. Singleton. The Keio University Library has three editions of La Divina Commedia, published in the 15th or 16th centuries. All of these copies contain illustrations, and they evidence a remarkable continuity.

The Keio incunabula of La Divina commedia, which is a folio edition, was published in Brescia. Also included in the book is a commentary by Christoforo Landino, printed around the body text. The initials and marginal illuminations have been inscribed by hand, and the bottom of the page has a blank frame for the owner's coat of arms to be inserted. Landino's commentary offers an allegorical reading of La Divina commedia, interpreting it as a story of the maturation of the soul. At the same time, it is a humanistic critique, in the sense that it contains detailed quotations from classical literature and demonstrates how Dante alludes to them in his poetry, something that had not been attempted before. The illustration for the first canto of the Inferno shows the figure of Dante, who strays off into the dark woods at the mid-point of his life's journey. When he wanders off into the woods, a leopard, a she-wolf and a lion appear in turn and make him step back, deeper into the woods; these three beasts have been interpreted as symbols of lust, pride and covetousness. At that moment Virgil, who becomes Dante's guide in the Inferno, appears, and holds him back.

The illustration that accompanies Canto 33 of the Purgatorio depicts the earthly paradise, along with the Griffin's triumphal chariot, which revives the trees, and the Rivers Lethe and Eunoë, which cleanse Dante's spirit, enabling him to rise up to heaven.

(Translation from the Japanese version in The Reflections in Allegory, pp. 104–05; TM; trans. by MO)


Dante Alighieri
Place of Publication
Boninus de Boninis, de Ragusia


Date of Publication

Vellum manuscript fragments of 12th-century Italy over card boards; vellum on spine.

Bibliographical Notes

310 leaves; on the first page is a beautifully decorated and illuminated capital initial and border decoration; initial capitals filled in blue and red with guide-letters; beautifully rubricated throughout; several full-page woodcut illustrations; occasional marginalia in a slightly later hand.

Goff D31, C 5943, HCR 5948, BMC VII 971, GW 7968, IJL 119, IJL2 146, PP97, RA53
Acquisition Year

Ownership inscriptions: (&1r, a1r).