Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript – Priuli & Verlucca, editori – cod.R.4.8 (Ital. 474) – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)

Modena (Italy) β€” 1380–1390

Commissioned by the Este family and later owned by the Sun King Louis XIV: the first complete copy of Dante's famous Divine Comedy with elaborate illustrations on every page

  1. A literary monument was completely transcribed for the first time in this late 14th century manuscript

  2. A commission of the noble Este family, its illumination is a reflection of their wealth and sophistication

  3. A monogram indicates that it was once owned inter alia by no less than Louis XIV (1638–1715), the Sun King

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is one of the most significant and influential literary works ever written worldwide. In the edition at hand, the work is completely transcribed for the first time and is furnished with fantastical, expressive illustrations. The text, which originated in Italy between 1380 and 1390, has found itself in the possession of some of the greatest aristocratic houses in Europe.

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript

The manuscript by the famous poet Dante Alighieri, which is also known as the Divine Comedy, is considered to be one of the most important literary works of all time. Dante’s influence on the world of poetry cannot be expressed in words. His most famous manuscript, which has been continuously revised over the centuries, exists today in countless various editions. The version at hand originated from a commission of the Italian noble family of Este. Each page of the work is illustrated with image scenes above the written text. The pictures enchantingly visualize the occurrences in the text.

A Unique Edition

The codex originates from the 14th century, or between 1380 and 1390 to be precise. Dante, the original author of the extremely complex story, had been dead for 60 years at this point. Nonetheless, the edition of his Divine Comedy at hand appears as though designed by the author himself. It is one of the few complete editions existing worldwide. Certain elements are missing in most of the other transcripts that were omitted to simplify the events. To this day, the splendid work is the subject matter of historical research and continuously provides new contributions with regard to philosophical studies.

Powerful Illumination

This manuscript, which was financed by a member of the Este family, is a truly unique work of the medieval art of illumination. It is one of the few editions of the Divine Comedy which is completely illuminated. Three excellently wrought, full-page miniatures open the three parts of the literary masterpiece. The large-format pictures are framed by splendidly patterned Bordures. The hand-written text is ennobled with elaborately designed initials. A biblical scene can be found on the upper edge of each page, which illustrates the scene described on the respective page.

In the Possession of Great Noble Houses

The book displays a great read coat of arms with a blue band on the lower-middle section of the first page. This escutcheon represents the patron of the precious book treasure, the identity of whom has never been established with certainty, it is only known that the commission came from the house of Este. The last page of the work shows a monogram in front of a solar symbol. It is the prestigious symbol of sovereignty of the Sun King Louis XIV. Under Napoleon, the book was taken into the French National Library in Paris. Having said this, the royal sun had to be removed from it beforehand. The exact destiny of the masterpiece thereafter is not known to us. In the year 1816, the librarian of the Biblioteca Estense, Antonio Lombardi, arranged for the return of the document to Italy upon the express request of the Duke of Modena.


Alternative Titles
Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Divina commedia
Estense Divine Comedy
Codex Ital.474
GΓΆttliche KomΓΆdie der Este
Dante Estense
Divine Comedy Dante Estense
Size / Format
280 pages / 35.0 Γ— 25.5 cm
Each page shows scenes at the top that accompany and illustrate the text
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Available facsimile editions:
Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript – Priuli & Verlucca, editori – cod.R.4.8 (Ital. 474) – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Scarmagno, 1995
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript

The Angel Boatman

While Charon ferries the souls of the damned across the Acheron in the Inferno, an Angel Boatman escorts the souls of Christians through the Pillars of Hercules to the Mountain of Purgatory (pictured in the background). Here we see Dante and Virgil at the gathering place of these souls somewhere near Ostia, the seaport of Rome at the mouth of the Tiber. Upon their arrival, the souls all begin singing In exitu Israel de Aegypto, a reference to the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt.

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript – Priuli & Verlucca, editori – cod.R.4.8 (Ital. 474) – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Single Page

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript

Lost in a Dark Wood

The definitive Italian novel begins on Maundy Thursday, the night before Good Friday when the Last Supper occurred, and finds the author/protagonist lost in a dark wood and pursued by wild animals. He is at last rescued by the ancient Roman poet Virgil, who accompanies Dante into the underworld and through the nine concentric rings of hell.

Dante is shown surrounded by trees at the top of the page and again in the historiated initial holding a codex in an author portrait. One finds the figure of a young man looking admiringly up toward the author in the tendril marginalia. The shield flanked by two women at the bottom of the page indicates a patron from the House of Este and is sat on by a drollery with the head of a man and the body of a dragon.

Divine Comedy - Estense Manuscript – Priuli & Verlucca, editori – cod.R.4.8 (Ital. 474) – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Dante Estense

Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Scarmagno, 1995

Publisher: Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Scarmagno, 1995
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Binding: Calfskin with gilt embossing on the covers and spine, commentary volume with a leather spine, housed together in a leather slip case
Commentary: 1 volume (232 pages) by Ernesto Milano
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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