London: A. Strahan for T. Cadell, 1802. First English language edition. The first complete translation into English of Dante's "Divine Comedy." Bound in recent, full maroon straight-grained morocco, smooth spines ruled and titled in gilt, marbled end papers, all edges sprinkled red. The odd spot or bit of foxing internally, heaviest in the third volume, but an excellent set overall. Three 8vo volumes (pages 211 x 132 mm), 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; complete.
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 #4829)