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The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri

Translated by Robert and Jean Hollander
Illustrations by William Blake

The Divine Comedy is an Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun ca. 1308 and completed ca. 1321, shortly before the author’s death. It is widely considered the pre-eminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.

The poem’s imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval worldview as it existed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it was written, as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

The poem discusses “the state of the soul after death and presents an image of divine justice meted out as due punishment or reward,” and describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Dante draws on medieval Catholic theology and philosophy, especially Thomistic philosophy derived from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. Consequently, the Divine Comedy has been called “the Summa in verse.”

The epic grandeur of Dante’s masterpiece has inspired readers for 700 years and has entered the human imagination; but the further we move from the late medieval world of Dante, the more a rich understanding and enjoyment of the poem depends on knowledgeable guidance. In 1997, Robert and Jean Hollander embarked on the herculean task of creating a beautifully accurate and clear verse translation of the Divine Comedy.

The finished Hollander product was widely regarded as a thing apart, becoming the new standard in English of this essential work. The Los Angeles Times has called it “the most finely accomplished and most enduring translation of this essential work of world literature—from a renowned scholar and master teacher of Dante and an accomplished poet,” while The Economist writes that “the Hollanders act as latter-day Virgils, guiding us through the Italian text.” Indeed, Robert Hollander’s explanatory notes run approximately thirty times the length of the poem itself, incorporating more than forty years of teaching Dante into his commentary. As Christopher Kleinhenz, a professor emeritus of Italian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said in an interview, “He has made Dante accessible, [so that] we as contemporary readers can appreciate and can see how Dante was important in the Middle Ages and how he continues to be important today.” 

In the seven centuries since its composition, the Divine Comedy remains one of the greatest literary accomplishments of all time.

About The Edition

Our edition of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is limited to two hundred eighty-one copies and is presented in three states: Numbered, Lettered & Roman Numeral. The edition measures 7¼” x 10¾” and is published in two volumes. Volume I includes the complete English translations of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso by Robert and Jean Hollander; and Volume II, a supplemental volume of over 1100 pages includes extensive and accessible introductions and generous commentaries that draw on centuries of scholarship as well as Robert Hollander’s own decades of teaching and research.

The text pages are set in the elegant Centaur type, a serif typeface by book and typeface designer Bruce Rogers, based on the Renaissance-period printing of Nicolas Jenson around 1470. Volume I is printed letterpress by Bradley Hutchinson in Austin, Texas on his Heidelberg Cylinder, and Volume II is printed by offset lithography. The letterpress volume is printed in two colors on the title, contents, cantica title and canto pages. The ornament appearing on these pages was designed for this edition by Jerry Kelly and was cut in metal and cast by Ed Rayer at Swamp Press. Interior design & typography is by Jerry Kelly and each state is printed on Mohawk Via Laid, mouldmade Hahnemühle Ingres and handmade Velké Losiny respectively.

Also included in Volume I are four tipped on illustrations by William Blake (1757–1827), and a portrait of Dante by Agnolo Bronzino (1503–1572), as a frontispiece to Volume II. William Blake’s watercolor illustrations were commissioned in 1824 by John Linnell, friend and patron of his last years, three of which feature as the frontispiece to each cantica. Blake’s 1800 portrait of Dante serves as the frontispiece to the edition. All copies are signed by Robert Hollander.

The Numbered state is limited to two hundred fifty copies and is a Millimeter style binding covered in a decorative paper printed with an historical design from traditional Renaissance Italian woodblock printed papers. Upper and lower edges are capped in blue goatskin from J. Hewit & Sons. The gold foil blocked spine label, and the head & tail bands are goatskin. Volume I is printed letterpress on Mohawk Via Laid Natural, and Volume II is printed by offset lithography. Weighing 10 lb, the edition is housed in a clamshell enclosure covered in a durable linen cloth with velour lined floors and a leather spine label.

The Lettered state is limited to twenty-six copies and is an historical binding in full parchment from William Cowley in the United Kingdom, makers of the finest quality parchment and vellum since 1870. The book is sewn on parchment tapes, and laced into a semi-limp parchment cover.

The fore-edge of the covers are folded over to give the book more structural integrity and to protect the edges, similar to a traditional Yapp edge. The top-edge of the pages are colored red using Brazilwood, also called Logwood. This is a process for coloring edges dating back to the 16th century. The natural deckle of the paper is maintained at the fore- and lower-edge. The head & tail bands are hand tied over twisted parchment in red and off-white silk. They are laced into the covers as are the sewing tapes. The spine features a calligraphic title by Jerry Kelly which is stamped using printer’s ink. The book is housed in a Japanese cloth covered clamshell enclosure with a pull-out tray containing the supplemental volume. The William Blake illustrations in this edition are printed giclée on Hahnemühle Bugra.

Volume I is printed letterpress on mouldmade Hahnemühle Ingres Atique, and Volume II is printed by offset lithography. Weighing 12 lb, this state is handbound by master bookbinder Peter Geraty and his team at Praxis Bindery in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

The Roman Numeral edition is limited to five copies numbered I-V. It is bound in black leather with large onlays of smooth black leather, and textured black, brown and purple leathers. The black section is designed to represent Inferno, with the brown and purple sections representing Purgatorio and Paradiso respectively. The design is tooled using candle soot, palladium leaf and gold leaf. Part of the gold is surface gilt, a little known technique used to cover areas of leather in gold and other types of leaf. The top-edge is gilt with gold leaf and the head & tail bands are hand tied with brown, purple and gold silk, reflecting the colors of the onlays. The pastedowns are handmade decorative papers using acrylic paints and gold leaf. The enclosure is made with two rounded wooden spines covered in leather, with a pull-out tray containing the supplemental volume.

The natural deckle of the paper has been maintained at the fore- and lower-edge. The initial capitals of each cantica are beautifully hand painted and illuminated with raised gold leaf by renowned American calligrapher, Thomas Ingmire. The William Blake illustrations in this edition are printed giclée on Hahnemühle Bugra.

Volume I is printed letterpress on Velké Losiny handmade paper from the historic paper mill in the Czech Republic which was founded in the late 16th century, and Volume II is printed by offset lithography. Weighing 14 lb, this state is handbound by master bookbinder Peter Geraty and his team at Praxis Bindery in Easthampton, Massachusetts.


Included with all three states, the Introductions & Notes volume is sewn and jacketed softcover of over 1100 pages, with the jacket glued at the spine and titling in gold foil.

About the Author

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321) was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy); a landmark in Italian literature and widely considered one of the most important poems of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.

About the Collaborators

Photo by Laura Pedrick

Robert Hollander & Jean Hollander

Robert Hollander (1933-2021) taught Dante’s Divine Comedy to Princeton students for forty-two years, and is the author of a dozen books and more than seventy articles on Dante, Boccaccio, and other Italian authors. He was Professor in European Literature Emeritus at Princeton and the founding director of both the Dartmouth Dante Project and the Princeton Dante Project. He has received many awards, including the gold medal of the city of Florence and the gold florin of the Dante Society of America, in recognition of his work on Dante.

Jean Hollander (1928-2019) has taught literature and writing at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, Princeton University, and the College of New Jersey, where she was director of the Writers’ Conference for twenty-three years. She recently published her third book of poems.

The William Blake Archive

William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker, often regarded as one of the greatest figures of the Romantic Age. One of his most notable artistic achievements was his series of watercolor paintings illustrating Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. These vibrant and haunting images captured the essence of Dante’s epic journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, showcasing Blake’s mastery of both form and symbolism. The commission came to Blake in 1824 through John Linnell. Blake’s death in 1827 cut short the enterprise, and only a handful of watercolors were completed. His profound influence continues to resonate across literature, art, and spirituality, cementing his legacy as one of the most innovative and enigmatic figures in Western culture.

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