Rampazetto’s re-issue of the Marcolini Commedia, unrecorded in the Dante bibliography

Dante, Alighieri (1265-1321).

La Comedia di Dante Alighieri con la nova esposizione di Alessandro Vellutello.... Venice, Francesco Rampazetto, 1564 [at the end: Francesco Marcolini for Alessandro Vellutello, 1544].

Dante, Alighieri (1265-1321) La Comedia di Dante Alighieri con la nova esposizione di Alessandro Vellutello.... Venice, Francesco Rampazetto, 1564 [at the end: Francesco Marcolini for Alessandro Vellutello, 1544].

4° (223x150 mm). Collation: AA-BB8, CC10, A-Z8, AB-AZ8, BC-BH8, BI8. 441 of [442] leaves, lacking only the last blank leaf, BI8. In this copy, fols. F3-F6, and AY3-AY6 are misbound. Roman and italic type. Rampazetto's woodcut device and headpiece on the title-page. Marcolini's colophon, dated 1544, on the recto of fol. BI7. Three full-page and eighty-four smaller woodcuts. Seven-line woodcut animated initial on black-lined background on fol. AA2r; smaller animated initial on the verso. Late seventeenth-century bazzana leather, over pasteboards. Spine with four raised bands, underlined with gilt friezes; each compartment decorated with small floral tools, title in gold on red morocco lettering-piece. Edges speckled red. Corners of both covers restored, later flyleaves; minor losses to the lettering-piece. Front hinge slightly weak. A good copy, title-page rather browned and soiled. Some foxing and spotting; a few fingermarks and ink stains, more significant on fol. AR1. The upper margin of some leaves are slightly trimmed. A tear on fol. AZ8 has been carefully restored.

Provenance: a small, old, illegible stamp on the title-page; the Tuscan clergyman Giovanni Ciabattini (nineteenth-century ownership inscription on the title-page).

The second known copy of a Rampazetto's re-issue of Marcolini's famous 1544 edition, the illustrated Commedia supplemented with the Vellutello commentary (see no. 102). Francesco Rampazetto somehow came into possession of an unsold, and possibly defective, stock of Marcolini's twenty-year-old edition and replaced some leaves. He reset the Marcolini title-page with his own address, setting the line in a roman capital type of various sizes. He also set the dedication to Paul III in a large italic font (fol. A2r), while the first page of the Letter to the readers (fol. A2v), and a portion of the Descritione de lo Inferno (fols. A7 and A8) were set in a small roman type.

The extremely rare Rampazetto re-issue was, until now, known only in a unique and incomplete copy preserved in the library of the University of Notre Dame. In that copy, fols. BB1 and BB8 (both illustrated), as well as the last blank BI8 are lacking, and only fols. AA1-AA2 and AA7-AA8 are reset. On the contrary, this newly discovered copy is complete from a textual point of view, lacking only the last blank leaf. Most importantly, it contains more leaves reset by Rampazetto, as well as leaves misprinted by Marcolini.

They are as follows:

- fols. AY3-AY6 (Par. xv) were reset by Rampazetto with the text in the same large italic he used for the dedication to Paul III (fol. A2r), while the commentary is cast in the same small roman type used for fols. A2v, A7 and A8. In fact, as he had no small italic type, he used a small roman type in place of the italic.

- the four central leaves of quire K were misprinted (K3v on the verso of K5r, K4v on the verso of K6r, and vice versa) by Marcolini himself, as they are in his 1544 type. This further suggests that Marcolini kept some incomplete or bad copies, which were sold to Rampazetto who had to reset the leaves missing in this copy; instead, he did not reset the misprinted leaves.

A different matter is the variant at the end of fol. V7r, which is present in this copy as well as in the copy at Notre Dame: a terzina (Purg. II, 64-66) was omitted in the Marcolini edition, and as the 63rd line came at the bottom of the page, Rampazetto could add these lines in hand-printing, with different spacing and in a darker ink, using the letter 'u' for the 'v' found in Marcolini as well as, in the second line, the letter 'e' for the ligature '&t' used by Marcolini (in the present copy the impression of these lines is grey and blurry).

This newly discovered copy is therefore of the greatest significance, and gives precious insight into the history of the Venetian press. “In 1564, the printer Francesco Rampazetto had in some way come into possession of unsold stock of the twenty year-old 1544 Marcolini edition [...] No listing of 16th-century Dante editions includes this imprint. Its extreme rarity is due to its odd history, a curiosity in the annals of early Dante publishing, providing insight into the commercial wiles and ways of the Venetian press during this period” (Renaissance Dante in Print).

For Marcolini's edition: Adams D-94; Mortimer Italian, 146; Casali Annali, 72; Batines I, pp. 82-84; Mambelli 30; Essling 545; Sander 2328; University of Notre Dame, Renaissance Dante in Print (1472-1629) (accessed January 2018); Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 133.

$ 32.000