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Cambridge University Library
17 January to 1 July 2006

The first portrait of Dante
 "Through me you pass into the city of woe:
  Through me you pass into eternal pain:
  Through me among the people lost for aye.
  Justice the founder of my fabric mov'd:
  To rear me was the task of power divine,
  Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
  Before me things create were none, save things
  Eternal, and eternal I endure.
  All hope abandon ye who enter here."

                    (Inferno III, 1-9, trans. Cary)
The first portrait of Dante in a printed book. Lo amoroso Convivio di
(Venice: Zuane Antonio & Fradelli da Sabio, 1521). LA(33)


The works of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) have been transcribed and translated, annotated and adapted, printed and illustrated for successive generations of readers from the fourteenth century right up to the present day. From the youthful lover of the Vita nova to the marvellous journey through the afterlife of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in the Divina commedia, Dante's works continue to challenge and inspire modern audiences.

This exhibition celebrates the ways in which Dante has been interpreted in text and image in the seven centuries of book production since the poet's death. It brings together manuscripts and printed books, illustrations and fine bindings - all created to make Dante's words visible or themselves inspired by Dante's writings. The display draws on Cambridge University Library's own collections and the private library of Livio Ambrogio.

The gate to the vestibule of Hell

The gate to the vestibule of Hell. Lo Inferno della Commedia di
Dante Alighieri col comento di Guiniforto delli Bargigi
Leopoldo Mossy; Firenze: Giuseppe Molini, 1838).
CUL 742:4.c.80.33. [Item not on display]