New exhibition, Designing Dante, launches at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library
Explore how Dante’s Divine Comedy has been designed on and beyond the page in the 700 years since his death.
What’s the exhibition about?
The Italian medieval author Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is known for his fantastical reimagining of the worlds of the Christian afterlife, the Commedia (Divine Comedy). The poem is a fictional eyewitness account of his journey through Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise, an evocative and multi-sensory account of the torment of the damned and rapture of the blessed.
This exhibition explores both Dante’s design of his afterlife, and the ways the poem itself has been designed and presented in manuscript, print, visual images, media and sound in the 700 years since his death. The Rylands holds one of the greatest collections of Dante books in the world, many of which feature in this exhibition for the first time.
The exhibition is curated by Italian medieval specialist and book historian Dr Guyda Armstrong, Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies, in collaboration with the John Rylands Research Institute and Library.
The Rylands holds one of the finest and most complete collections of Dante material anywhere in the world, including, remarkably, almost every edition of his work printed before 1600. This exhibition gives us the opportunity to showcase not only some of the incredible objects in our collections, but also Dante’s place in the wider cultural landscape of the city of Manchester, and especially his importance to the library’s founder, Enriqueta Rylands. I’m very pleased that we have been able to include some of her own personal copies of Dante in the exhibition, displayed again in the magnificent building which she gave to the people of the city.
What’s in the exhibition?
The exhibition includes some of the most iconic rare books and manuscripts from the Rylands Dante Collection, including the three earliest Italian printed editions (all 1472), Spanish, French, Latin, English, and Japanese translations of the poem, important commentaries from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s translation of Dante’s Vita Nova.
It also features many different illustrated editions, including the first editions to contain printed images (1481 and 1487), Gustave Doré’s iconic 19th century illustrations, and an interactive digitization of Enriqueta Rylands’ own gigantic 20th century manuscript of the poem.
Where can I find out more?
Visit the Rylands website to find out more about the exhibition: