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 polished calf by "J. Bohn" (not later than 1809). Boards ruled in gilt with a blindstamped mosaic border, raised bands with decorative gilt and titling on the spine, all edges marbled, with marbled end-papers. Spines a little faded and trivial flaking along the outer hinges, but a fantastic set in an unrestored and strictly contemporary binding. Three 8vo volumes (pages 228 x 140 mm), taller than many copies, collating: vi, , 408; [ii], 56, [ii (divisional title)], 57-62, 65-384 (complete); [ii], 420pp., engraved frontispiece portrait plate of Dante by Thomas Stothard in vol.1, bound without the half-titles in volumes 2 and 3, otherwise complete (despite the funky numbering sequence in volume 2). A few pages very slightly foxed, but on the whole a Fine set internally and with only trivial wear on the original bindings.
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 after 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 #1832)