DANTE, Alighieri. Dante col sito, et forma dell'Inferno. [Venice, Alessandro Paganini, ca. 1516].
24mo., 18th century calf boards, ruled in gilt, spine fully gilt with contrasting leather label; marbled edges and endpapers; A-X8, AA-DD8, EE4; pp. [iv], 2-202, printed in italic type with gothic numerals, with one folding double-page woodcut showing hell, and three other full-page wood cut diagrams depicting the categories of sins punished in Hell and Purgatory; ribbon marker; with occasional splash marks and ink annotations to margins; closely cropped, in places, to foot; expertly rebacked, preserving the original spine; boards rubbed to edges; occasional creases and folds to page edges, one small splash mark to folding plate, which is ever-so-slightly split at the bottom; a lovely copy of an incredible survival.
The exceedingly Rare Paganini edition of the Commedia is the smallest printed Commedia of the Renaissance, known, because of its miniature size, as the 'Dantino'. It was the first ever miniature edition of Dante, in Paganini's "minimis typis". Paganini was subsequently considered to be the inventor of the 24mo format, and the italic typeface is one of his own design.
The first two decades of the 16th century saw the introduction of many new formats for editions of Dante, which up until then had been large folio editions. The first octavo edition was printed by Aldus in 1502, followed by the first quarto in 1512 by Bernardino Stagnino. The 1506 Giunta octavo edition, while imitating the Aldine, additionally contains a two-book dialogue on Hell, and woodcuts depicting Hell, Earth and Purgatory. The 1515 Aldine reprint, now entitled Dante col sito, et forma dell'Inferno, additionally contains three woodcuts of Hell and Purgatory, following Manetti.
Paganino's edition is closely modelled on the 1515 Aldine, and is printed in the miniature 24mo format. The volume is part of the series begun by Paganini in the same year, which opens with Petrarch's Rime, Bembo's Asolani, and Sannazaro's Arcadia. Each volume was dedicated by Paganini to his pre-eminent contemporaries and patrons, and this edition was addressed to no less than the cardinal Giulio de' Medici, who, in 1523, became Pope Clement VII, who was later dubbed "the most unfortunate of the popes", due to the rapid succession of political, military, and religious struggles under his reign.The date is not present in the book, but it belongs to the period before Paganini's move to Toscolano, thus suggesting a date of 1515-16.
The double-page woodcut, showing the plan of Hell, is signed by the engraver 'I.A.', possibly indicating the Venetian artist and cartographer Giovanni Andrea Vavassore, also known as Guadagnino.
Rare indeed. OCLC locates just one copy held institutionally, by the National Library of Spain.