London: George Routledge & Sons, 1867. First Edition. Hardcover. First British edition of Longfellow's translation, 3 volumes (complete), duodecimo size, 800 total pp. Very good. Item #16072304
"The Divine Comedy" is often considered the masterpiece of Italian literature and one of the world's great classics. This set is the first British printing of Longfellow's translation of the poem, published very close to the first edition (Ticknor and Fields); according to the BAL, the text in Volume I may be earlier than the Boston printing. All three volumes are first printings, Volume I the first state with p. 118, note 116 reading "Di quegli antichi".
"One of the few truly successful English translations comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a professor of Italian at Harvard and an acclaimed poet. He produced one of the first complete, and in many respects still the best, English translations of The Divine Comedy in 1867. It did not hurt that Longfellow had also experienced the kind of traumatic loss - the death of his young wife after her dress caught fire - that brought him closer to the melancholy spirit of Dante’s writing, shaped by the lacerating exile from his beloved Florence in 1302. Longfellow succeeded in capturing the original brilliance of Dante’s lines with a close, sometimes awkwardly literal translation that allows the Tuscan to shine through the English, as though this 'foreign' veneer were merely a protective layer added over the still-visible source" (per Cynthia Haven's blog on the Stanford University website).
___DESCRIPTION: Full dark green cloth, depiction of Dante in gilt on the front boards, gilt lettering and rules on the spine, light brown coated endpapers, arranged with the text first in each volume, followed by extensive notes and other matter, index at the end of Paradiso; duodecimo size (approximately 7.5" by 5"), pagination: Volume I: [i-iii] iv-viii (lacking half-title), [1-3] 4-246, [246-248 ads]; Volume II: [i-v] vi-viii [247-249] 250-489 [490-495 ads]; Volume III: [i-v] vi-viii [491-493] 494-760 [761-770 ads]. There is a gift inscription on the front free endpaper of Inferno in a flowing, vintage hand, and a vintage bookseller ticket (Robert Irvine, Kilmarnock) on the front paste-down endpaper of Inferno.
___CONDITION: Overall the set is very good, with clean boards, all three volumes have strong, square text blocks with solid hinges, the interiors are very lightly toned and free of foxing; professional restoration to the front hinge and joint of Paradiso; Inferno was acquired by us separately from the other two volumes, and it shows some rubbing to the head and tail of the spine and the upper part of the front joint, and the leaf for pp. 123-124 was roughly opened, with some loss to the fore-edge margin (not affecting text); Purgatorio also has some rubbing to the head and tail of the spine, some rippling to the cloth on the front board (but no evidence of damp stain), a small bump to the bottom edge of the front board and evidence of removal of a small plate on the rear paste-down; there is a prior owner name in pencil on the front paste-down endpaper of Paradiso; all three volumes show slight rubbing to the corners. Even with their aggregate minor faults this set is overall very good, a solid, eminently respectable set of Longfellow's highly regarded translation.
___CITATION: BAL 12146.
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