More is More: Francesco Sansovino’s Editorial Additions as a Form of Authorship on Dante’s Commedia (1564)

  • Zoe Langer (Autor/in)


This paper shows how Francesco Sansovino’s visual strategies for presenting Dante’s Commedia contribute to our knowledge about the publication and reception of Dante’s works in the mid-sixteenth century. Current scholarship has undervalued Sansovino’s authorship of literary editions, and in particular of medieval poets. An unicum of its time, Sansovino’s edition was the first double commentary on the Commedia to appear in print. He combined two of the most illustrious Dante commentators of the day – Cristoforo Landino and Alessandro Vellutello – into one sumptuous folio edition. Striking in its adherence to the medieval commentary layout, with a block of text surrounded by commentary, the organization of each author’s contribution was decidedly new. Sansovino presented each commentator as though they were in a dialogue, even though their interventions were more than sixty years apart. This is but one example of how Sansovino allowed Dante and his commentators to speak to each other as well as to contemporary audiences. This paper demonstrates how Sansovino maintained manuscript traditions, while creating innovative ways to organize the mise en page to assert his authorial role. I examine how he combined the medieval commentary format with modern editorial additions, such as glossaries, portraits, biographies, and summaries. Sansovino’s visual and verbal interventions further illuminate how editors defined their practice and status through the presentation of the book. An analysis of these additions in all three editions (1564, 1578, 1596) reveals how Sansovino used them to claim his own authorship as an editor, intellectual, and author.