London: A. Strahan for T. Cadell, 1802. First English language edition. A lovely set of the first complete translation into English of Dante's "Divine Comedy." Full contemporary tree calf, spines expertly rebacked in the style of the original, deep red morocco spine lables, gilt borders and spine panels, marbled end papers. Three 8vo volumes (pages 215 x 133 mm), collating: vi, , 408; [iv], 56, [ii (divisional title)], 57-62, 65-384 (complete); [iv], 420pp., engraved frontispiece portrait plate of Dante by Thomas Stothard in vol.1, half-titles in volumes 2 and 3, complete (despite the funny numbering sequence in volume 2). A few pages lightly foxed, but on the whole an excellent set. With the bookplates of Thomas Philip, 2nd Earl de Grey, who was a successful politician, member of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries.
One of the world’s great masterpieces and a foundational text of Italian literature. The Comedy took over a decade for Dante to write, he worked on it in exile, having been sent out of his native Florence in 1302, when his political faction fell out of favor. The work's genius was quickly recognized -- Boccaccio himself was so obsessed with it that he was responsible for adding the prefix “Divine.” Over the years, it has influenced countless writers, among them Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce. Borges claimed it was “the best book literature has achieved.”
Boyd (1748/49 - 1832), a member of the Irish clergy, was responsible for the first English translation of the Inferno in 1785 as well as the complete work in this 1802 edition. His translation would help bring Dante back into literary circles aften he had fallen by the critical wayside in the aftermath of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. The "Divine Comedy" soon regained its popularity; before the 19th century was up Longfellow would also try his hand at a translation and William Blake would make drawings of some of its more famous passages. (Item #1435)
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