Alighieri, Dante (1265-1321).
La Comedia di Dante Aligieri con la nova espositione di Alessandro Vellutello.... Venice, Francesco Marcolini, June 1544.
4° (236x153 mm). Collation: AA-BB8, CC10, A-Z8, AB-AZ8, BC-BI8.  leaves. Italic and roman type. Three full-page woodcuts at the beginning of each cantica; eighty-four woodcut vignettes in the text. An extra leaf, not present in the volume when it was originally issued, is bound here before the title-page; it bears the woodcut portrait of Dante from the Elogia virorum literis illustrium by Paolo Giovio (Basel 1577), issued here with some variants as a single sheet. Contemporary French calf, covers within gilt fillets, decorated with elaborate strapwork and floral tools on pointillé ground; title lettered at the centre of the upper cover, author's name at the centre of the lower cover. Later smooth spine gilt-tooled with a diaper pattern. Edges gilt and gauffered with a floral design. Covers restored and inlaid. On the verso of the front flyleaf, an early hand – likely that of Fugger himself – has copied the words of Dante's epitaph in Ravenna, restored by Bernardo Bembo in 1483. A very good copy, occasionally browned and stained.
Provenance: Marcus Fugger (1529-1597; his autograph signature on the front pastedown); Paul Harth (twentieth century; ex-libris on the front pastedown).
The first Commedia to contain the new and important commentary by the Lucchese Alessandro Vellutello (b. 1473), in a copy finely bound for the great bibliophile and member of the celebrated Augsburg banking dynasty, Marcus Fugger, who in 1560 succeeded his father Anton as head of the family firm. This copy is in the first state of the Marcolini edition, in which terzina 64-66 of the Purgatorio's second canto is missing due to a printing oversight (fol. V7r). The book is rightly famous for its illustrations, which were all newly designed for this edition. Each woodcut records one or more scenes from the illustrated cantos and closely relates to Vellutello's glosses. The vignettes were possibly designed by Giovanni Britto, who worked as an engraver for Marcolini, and were likely cut by Marcolini himself.
The volume is in a strapwork, gilt-tooled, and now extensively restored binding, produced for Fugger in the Parisian ateliers of Jean Grolier, as suggested by the elaborate interlaced decoration, patterned tools, and dotted background. The binding may have been executed by either Claude de Picques or Gommar Estienne, both of whom produced work for the Bibliothèque Royale.
A notable addition in the present copy is an extra leaf which was not included in the volume as originally published; the leaf has been bound here for Fugger as a frontispiece and bears the woodcut portrait of Dante taken from the Elogia virorum literis illustrium by Paolo Giovio (Basel, Perna, 1577). The Elogia woodcuts were designed by the Swiss painter and printmaker Tobias Stimmer (1539-1584), who was sent by Perna to Lake Como in 1569-1570 to produce drawing copies of the famous portrait collection assembled by Giovio. In 1577, Perna published the woodcut portrait of Dante, cut after Stimmer's designs, in the Elogia virorum literis illustrium, together with sixty-seven other portraits of illustrious men of letters, each surrounded by a strapwork frame. In the leaf bound into the present copy, however, Dante's portrait is lacking the border found in the original edition, and the name of the poet is spelt in the variant form 'Dante' instead of the 'Danthes' of the Basel publication; although the font used is identical, the name is perhaps stamped separately letter by letter, rather than printed as a single word. This represents an unrecorded issue of the woodcut portrait and may therefore suggest that the Stimmer series was issued individually as single-sheet prints.
Adams D-94; Mortimer Italian 146; Casali Annali, 72; Batines I, pp. 82-84; Mambelli 30; Essling 545; Sander 2328; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 102.