Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a little bit of time every week going through the Dante collection in the Brotherton so I can get to know exactly what’s there and also so that I can compile a mini-catalogue to put on the website. As you will know from some of my previous posts, I am quite big on illustrations. I don’t have any formal art training, so I have no way to know if any of the pictures in the books are actually any good from a critical point of view, but I spend quite a lot of my free time (and, unfortunately, some of my not-so-free time, i.e. when I should be writing, reading, etc) colouring in, painting, sketching, etc. so there’s definitely some form of inner artist in me trying to escape. One of the most impressive Dante illustrations I’ve ever come across is in the ‘Landino’ Commedia in Manchester, which was published in Florence in 1481.
This copy of the Landino (so-named because of the extensive commentary surrounding the poem, written by Christophoro Landino) is unique of its edition, because it is the only one to have the full set of 21 copper-plate engravings. And let me tell you, these engravings are INCREDIBLE. I remember when we were first introduced to it, and my friend Fay asked our then-librarian, Ed, how much he’d sell it to her for, and he replied that he wouldn’t even swap it for a unicorn. And I’m sure you’re all dying to see a snippet, so check out this image from Manchester’s LUNA digitization project:
It’s so amazing, isn’t it?! In case you can’t work out what it is, I think (because I don’t know for sure and this is just how I interpret it…) it’s the Devil sat in the middle of Hell, surrounded by various sinners and doomed persons.
Now I’m sure you’re all thinking, well yes, that IS a nice picture, but does it warrant an entire blog-post for itself? Now just hold your horses one minute! This little story just keeps getting better and better because yesterday, it came to my attention (via the Manchester Dante blog), that hardcore Manchester librarian – and general LEGEND – Jamie has had this very image actually TATTOOED on his body.
As someone who has been to-ing and fro-ing with the idea of getting some form of body-art of my own for quite a while, I must admit that I am jealous beyond words. I wish I’d have come up with the idea first because now I’m just going to look like a copy-cat if I get a similar Dante-inspired tattoo. Even so, I think I may be tempted…
p.s. Thanks to Guyda Armstrong for letting me nick the pictures from her blogpost to use on here.
p.p.s. The Landino LUNA picture belongs to the Rylands library and is copyrighted. Please don’t nick it and use it in any inappropraie ways! But if you want to see the rest of the digitized book, you can go to the LUNA site by clicking HERE and check out the other beautiful engravings (and maybe even the text if you feel so-inclined)