Editions Palaeography Student Projects

Digitising Dante’s Inferno – A Project Report

by Thomas Godfrey (MSt. Modern Languages 2021)

As part of my MSt. in Modern Languages, I was fortunate enough to take Henrike Lähnemann’s method option, entitled Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities. This particular method option provides training in dealing with manuscripts and books, and the final assessment requires students to come up with a 7,000-word project of their choice. Although we ultimately submitted different papers, I worked with a classmate to research an early codex of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Ital. 108. Under the supervision of both Henrike Lähnemann and Simon Gilson—and with feedback from my peers—I produced the following project, which I am excited to have the opportunity to share with you. I have shortened the example of my transcription seeing as it was rather long, and I have translated the Italian citations I used into English. Without further ado, here it is:

A Partial Digital Edition of Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Ital. 108: Palaeographic Analysis and Transcription of Inferno I-IX 

  1. Making a Digital Edition of Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Ital. 108

Francesca Tomasi highlights the importance of creating digital editions given their roles as instruments of access to cultural heritage.[1] With this in mind, for this project, my group partner and I have decided to create a partial digital edition of Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Ital. 108—a fourteenth-century copy of Dante’s Commedia. Although Dante’s poem is readily accessible in many modern critical editions, and manuscripts are becoming increasingly available through digital platforms by libraries and in funded projects, it nonetheless remains beneficial to create digital editions of the copies found in medieval codices and manuscripts. Indeed, long ago, Carl Täuber claimed that ‘lo studio dei manoscritti dovrebbe procedere ogni altro studio della Commedia [the study of the manuscripts should proceed every other study of the Commedia].’[2] The importance of these material objects lies not only in the fact that they contain the poem within their bindings, but also in the unique way in which each individual scribe copies and presents it. By studying the peculiarities of the hundreds of copies of Dante’s Commedia—such as their varying dialectical inflections, textual contaminations, paratexts, fonts, formats, and so on—scholars can formulate a better understanding of the poem’s transmission history. 

When one studies MS. Canon. Ital. 108 (MS. 108 hereafter), it is immediately apparent that it contains myriad idiosyncrasies, thereby rendering it both intriguing and to some extent illustrative within the manuscript tradition of Dante’s Commedia—the ‘richest manuscript tradition of any medieval vernacular work’.[3] With the intention of highlighting and retaining the unique features of MS. 108, this partial digital edition is aimed at book historians and Italianists who are concerned with the study of the poem’s transmission history, as opposed to general readers of the Commedia. With this target audience in mind, there seems to be no reason to include an English translation of the poem as a component of the digital edition; an understanding of the poem is not pivotal for being able to discern the palaeographical features that render this codex unique. There will, however, be a standardised version of the Commedia next to the transcription of MS. 108, so that scholars can easily spot the peculiar features of this codex through a side-by-side comparison.[4]

Dante’s Commedia is made up of three canticles: InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso. At present, however, the only digital edition that exists for MS. 108 is one that deals with Antipurgatorio—the first nine cantos of Purgatorio.[5] As such, my group partner and I have set out to transcribe the first nine cantos of Inferno. Our decision to transcribe nine cantos from Inferno not only reflects the time limitations imposed upon this project, but also our desire to make available transcriptions from another cantica and our hope that this digital edition might be used for future vertical readings of the copies of Inferno and Purgatorio found in MS. 108.[6] If another project were to make a digital edition of the first nine cantos of Paradiso, it would be interesting to compare the ways in which each canticle looks in MS. 108. For instance, given that more than one hand was involved in the copying of this codex, one could compare the extent of the annotations or illustrations in each canticle and, from there, try to assess what this could tell us with regards to early reception and understanding of the Commedia

Katie Bastiman and Holly Abrahamson who created the digital edition (Watch the launch, read the blog posts Meeting the manuscript and Goals for the digital edition. follow the twitter account @ante_purgatory) for Antipurgatorio decided to use a semi-diplomatic approach so that they could make the text more legible, thereby allowing more people to read it. My group partner and I, on the other hand, believe that a highly diplomatic approach is necessary for the purpose of our particular digital edition. Seeing as we are intrigued by the idiosyncrasies that exist in MS. 108, and in the belief that we wished to represent the material object as accurately and directly as possible, it seemed logical to make this digital edition appear as close to what one sees on its pages as is possible. Were the transcription to be semi-diplomatic, many of the individuating aspects of the codex would be lost. In short, the aim of this digital edition is not to produce a legible copy of the codex with regards to its language, but to digitalise it so that one can study its distinct palaeographical features within the manuscript tradition. Therefore, in order to accommodate this aim, it is important that the transcription is highly diplomatic.

  • Manuscript tradition of Dante’s Commedia

It is not peculiar that MS. 108 should be so full of unique characteristics. The original copy of the Commedia is no longer extant and, as such, textual scholars seeking to create a critical edition of the poem are forced to rely upon its many medieval manuscripts. However, when one includes incomplete or fragmented versions, there are around 850 extant manuscripts of the Commedia and—as exemplified by MS. 108—every single one of them displays its own idiosyncratic features, making them all different to one another in some way, even if certain recognisable features can be found that have led scholars to talk about certain main book types.[7] It is therefore immensely difficult—if not impossible—to establish which version of the poem can be considered the closest to Dante’s autograph copy, although Trovato and Tonello recently have made proposals in this direction suggesting the value of a northern family of manuscripts. Fabio Zinelli suggests that the way in which the Commedia was copied meant that ‘[s]uch thing as a pure, uncontaminated manuscript does not seem to exist in the whole Commedia tradition.’[8]

In the fourteenth century, there was no standardised vernacular language across the Italian peninsula. Accordingly, each scribe who copied the Commedia would have approached the task equipped with their own regional understanding of the vernacular language, even if Dante’s lost original base-text was of course principally in Tuscan dialect.[9] This meant that, when copying the Commedia, the scribe might not have understood, or agreed with, every written aspect of the text in front of them or, even if they did, they might not have resisted inflections from their own region and dialect. Prue Shaw, writing about scribal practices, notes that:

Texts become corrupt because there are two things scribes unfailingly do: they alter textual substance, and they alter linguistic form. They alter textual substance in two ways: by innovating inadvertently as they copy, unwittingly introducing variants and errors; or by intervening deliberately to improve the text, correcting what are, or seem to them to be, obvious mistakes […] The second thing copyists unfailingly do involves linguistic form: they adapt the text they are copying to their own language habits and preferences.[10]

Ultimately, the processes under which the manuscript tradition of the Commedia developed allowed for the poem to be changed into a slightly different version of itself each time it was copied. However, it was not just regional differences that led to each manuscript being slightly different. Something that is not unique to the Dantean manuscript tradition is the fact that scribes make mistakes when copying a text.[11] Many of the idiosyncrasies of MS. 108, for instance, are a result of this. Scribes copying a manuscript containing examples of dittography, haplography, or even basic spelling mistakes might unwittingly copy these errors into their own manuscript. Indeed, Giorgio Petrocchi highlights that: 

L’alterazione del testo della Commedia risale, è noto, ai primissimi amanuensi […] I manoscritti si riproducevano da una copista settentrionale ad un copista toscano, e viceversa; e il singolo amanuense dové lavorare, nella più parte dei casi, su diversi testi, non su un solo [The alteration of the text of the Commedia goes back, as is well known, to the earliest amanuensis […] Manuscripts were reproduced from a northern copyist to a Tuscan copyist, and vice versa; and the individual amanuensis had to work, in most cases, on several texts, not on a single one].[12]

Aware of the many corruptions that exist in the manuscript tradition of Dante’s Commedia, book historians and scholars of Dante have debated the best way to approach making a critical edition of the poem, with varying solutions being put forward. Giorgio Petrocchi proposes that the best way in which to construct the closest version of the Commedia to its original form is by examining the manuscripts that fall into what he coins l’antica vulgata—the period of transmission that occurred within the first thirty years of the poem’s completion, before textual contamination became such that reconstruction was rendered extremely difficult. In his opinion, these copies are the least corrupted and, as such, are the most useful for trying to construct a critical edition that resembles the original poem.[13] This approach differs to those offered by scholars such as Carl Täuber, who suggests, instead, that the best approach is to study as many copies of the Commedia as possible—ideally every single extant one—in order to create a full genealogy of the manuscripts of Dante’s Commedia.[14] Federico Sanguineti took a very different approach, choosing to consider only ‘seven manuscripts […] His stemma consists of two branches: α and β; to simplify, manuscripts from Tuscany form the α branch, while those from Northern Italy form the β branch.’[15]

Irrespective of how Dante’s autograph Commedia originally read, it is clear that the copies produced were immensely varied as a result of the poem’s transmission history. It is important to note that MS. 108 is not part of the so-called antica vulgata, thereby suggesting that—according to Petrocchi’s theory—it is perhaps more likely to be contaminated than its earlier counterparts. Indeed, straightaway, just from the second word of the codex alone, it is apparent that MS. 108 is affected by the dialect of the scribe who copied it. In MS. 108, the scribe writes ‘meço’ instead of the now standardised ‘mezzo’, and this might be an indication of the scribal provenance since ‘meço’ tends to be northern or, more specifically, from the Veneto region. When compared to Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Ital. 109, a copy from the same quarter of the fourteenth century and thought to be from Bologna, it becomes even more apparent that variances are common, even if they appear minor. The Bolognese manuscript opens with ‘meçço’ as opposed to either ‘mezzo’ or ‘meço’, and ‘chamin’ rather than ‘cammin’ or ‘camin’. 

  • Opening remarks and description of MS. Canon. Ital. 108

MS. 108 is a vellum codex that is made up of nine quires. The pages of the codex, the dimensions of which are 35.8 x 25 cm, contain two columns. Interestingly, Barański speculates that ‘the two-column layout of many copies of the Commedia from the first half of the fourteenth century might reflect the appearance of the poet’s original.’[16] The margins on each page are wide enough for commentaries, or at least annotations, which is perhaps unsurprising because, as Anna Pegoretti notes, Dante continuously reminds the reader that his poem is complicated and, therefore, that it merits commentary.[17]Indeed, there are many indications to suggest that later hands made their own amendments to the codex, not only by adding annotations, but also through inserting corrections, erasures, punctuation, and certain attempts to make the spacing between words clearer. Aside from these later additions, it seems apparent that the poem was copied by at least two hands, with illustrations being added at a later stage in the production process.

  • Provenance

The history of MS. 108’s ownership, from what we can securely establish, only dates as far back as Giacomo Soranzo, a Venetian bibliophile. Upon his death, in 1761, it appears that his relatives sold a large number of the codices and manuscripts from his library to the Canonici family, who then later sold their own collection—including MS. 108—to the Bodleian, in 1817.[18] The provenance of the codex, therefore, is rather unclear and, as is the case with many codices from the Dantean tradition, the exact date that it was completed remains up for debate. However, scholars generally agree that it was written at some stage in the third quarter of the fourteenth century, and almost certainly prior to 1380.[19] Both Gillerman and Pope-Hennessy make the claim that it was written around 1360, albeit without offering evidence for this.[20] If this were to be the case, this codex would only be five years shy of the aforementioned antica vulgata tradition. After 1355, so Petrocchi claims, ‘Boccaccio’s impact on the tradition meant that it became irremediably contaminated’.[21] Indeed, MS. 108 contains a multitude of contaminations and idiosyncratic elements that not only render it unique, but that make it immensely difficult to identify its provenance, as well as the identity of its scribe.

  • Identity of the scribe 

In Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della ‘Commedia’, Paolo Trovato and his team include a table that contains 293 manuscripts of the Commedia, along with their linguistic origins, and the dates of when they were most likely written.[22] This table makes clear that the geographical origin of MS. 108 is disputable, with some scholars believing that it was written in southern Italy and others claiming that it must come from the North; Trovato suggests that the scribe could have been from Emilia-Romagna.[23] As I have mentioned, there are clearly at least two hands within this codex, but neither one has been successfully identified, which is one of the reasons for which it might be difficult to discern where the codex was produced. However, in reality, very few of the manuscripts from the tradition of Dante’s Commedia have been ascribed a specific copyist. Therefore, the principal reason for which the origin of this codex is disputable is because—strangely—it contains elements that are indicative both of northern and of southern scribal practices. 

According to Maria Rotiroti, the codicological features of MS. 108, such as its patina, suggest that it was likely produced in the South, whereas its linguistic characteristics seem to indicate that it was written by northern scribes.[24] Despite this uncertainty, perhaps considering the possibility of mobile northern scribes, she concludes that it is most likely a southern codex. Similarly, Pope-Hennessy and Otto Pächt record the codex as having been produced in Naples. However, based on the initials at the start of each canticle, Mario Rotili firmly rejects the notion that this codex could be Neapolitan, stating that:

le iniziali delle tre cantiche e le scene che illustrano i canti dell’Inferno e del Purgatorio con un disegno delicato, non privo di suggestione nell’evidente riecheggiamento dei modi gotici d’Oltralpe, sono estranee alla miniatura napoletana [the initials of the three canticles and the scenes illustrating the cantos of Hell and Purgatory with a delicate design, not lacking in suggestion in the evident echo of the Gothic modes from beyond the Alps, are foreign to Neapolitan miniature].[25]

Although this might not be the best indication of its geographical origin, given that initials and illustrations could have been added later, there are plenty of linguistical features of the codex that also strengthen the claim that the codex was written in northern Italy. Carl Täuber proposes a very specific origin for the codex, suggesting that it could have been made in the workshop of Francesco di ser Nardo, a Tuscan copyist.[26] According to Täuber, the majority of fourteenth-century copies of the Commedia to be written in scrittura cancelleresca were produced by Nardo’s workshop and, with this in mind, he lists MS. 108 as one of eight manuscripts that are likely to be—but not definitively—written by the Tuscan copyist. Täuber boldly attributes as many as forty-seven copies of the poem to Nardo’s workshop.[27] Although Täuber’s identification is unlikely to be accepted by modern scholarship, Kenneth Clarke somewhat substantiates his claim when he points out that: 

Francesco di ser Nardo is a key figure amongst a group of scribes who copied manuscripts of the Comedìa in Florence between the 1330s and the 1350s, now commonly referred to as the “officina del Cento.” These “Cento-type” manuscripts were copied with remarkable similarities in script, support, format, and page design (a bastarda cancelleresca script, on parchment, medium-large in size and in two columns).[28]

That is to say, each codicological aspect of MS. 108 matches the typical characteristics of Nardo’s workshop. However, in spite of this evidence, MS. 108 is thought to have been produced after 1350. 

Edward Moore, on the other hand, notes that it was perhaps written by a Venetian scribe given, in his words, ‘the reckless manner in which single and double consonants are interchanged [which] is perhaps its most marked peculiarity.’[29] For example, this can be seen on fol. 4r, where the scribe has written ‘fano benne’ rather than the standardised ‘fanno bene’ that is seen in Bodleian Library MS. Holkham misc. 48, thought to be from Genova in the same quarter of the fourteenth century as MS. 108.

  • Notes on the codex

What is apparent is the fact that the provenance and the identification of the scribe are far from certain. This codex therefore requires further study and, to permit this, a highly diplomatic digital edition is more suitable than a semi-diplomatic one. That is to say, if my group partner and I were to have produced a semi-diplomatic transcription, book historians and Italianists would not be able to use the digital edition as a tool through which they could establish the linguistic origins of the codex. To keep the digital edition as close to the material object as possible, there were a lot of details that we had to keep in mind whilst creating the digital edition, most notably: its type, the condition of the codex, the mise-en-page, abbreviations, the use of rubrics, capitalisation, decorative initials, and illustrations.

  • Type 

The two scribes whose copies we see in MS. 108 wrote in bastarda cancelleresca; however, according to Fabio Romanini, the second scribe’s hand is more of an example of cursive chancery miniscule and not as skilfully executed.[30] Trying to distinguish key features of the type has been an important part of creating my digital edition and has informed certain aspects of my transcription criteria. In the folios that we have transcribed, only one scribe (hand A) was involved in copying the body of the poem. The second scribe (hand B) is not involved with the copy until fol. 24r. However, there are plenty of instances within this codex’s first nine cantos in which both hand B and a later hand (hand C) have added annotations and corrections. Moore notes that ‘[m]any of the corrections over erasures in the preceding cantos seem to me to be in the handwriting and ink of the second scribe.’[31]

The type used by hand C is distinctly different to that of both A and B, seeing as it is written in a simplified version of littera textualis as opposed to in bastarda cancelleresca.[32] Given that I want my transcription to reflect the material object as closely as possible, I have made a few decisions to reflect the differences between hands A and C. For example, hand A continuously uses a single-storey ‘ɑ’ as opposed to the double-story ‘a’ that is used by hand C. Accordingly, my transcription follows this and distinguishes between the two letterforms.

  • Condition

Overall, MS. 108 is in quite good condition, allowing for the process of transcribing the text to be relatively pain-free. However, as a result of both general wear and some instances of erasure, there are certain sections that were difficult to decipher. This was particularly true when transcribing fol. 1r. Although it is indeed true that much of MS. 108 is discoloured, fol. 1r and fol. 94v (the start and end pages of this copy of the Commedia) display the most apparent amount of blackening and detrition.[33] This is because the codex—for some unknown time—may have lacked a front cover, thereby making these two pages more prone to damage. The other areas that are frequently in poor condition are the bottom corners of the pages, where the illustrations are. Such damage is likely the result of readers turning the pages from the bottom corners.

In instances where the damage was so bad that it was seemingly impossible to work out what the letters were, such as with sections of fol. 1r, we decided to transcribe the unrecognisable letters as ‘[?]’. This felt more appropriate than writing the letter according to how it appears in the Petrocchi edition. To add in letters, without knowing if they were originally used in MS. 108, would make redundant our ambition of creating a digital edition that can be used as a tool through which scholars might establish the provenance of the codex, seeing as it would not accurately display the original textual choices made by the scribe. That is to say, it would be misleading.

  • Mise-en-page

The mise-en-page of MS. 108 is consistent and follows the same structure throughout. Namely, there are two columns, thirty-nine lines on each page (including two lines reserved for a Latin rubric), no spaces between each tercet, wide enough margins for annotations to be made, and space for illustrations. With regards to the formatting of the illustrations, Pope-Hennessy says:

Illustrations to the Divine Comedy during the fourteenth century more often than not took the form of outline drawings across the bottom (and less frequently along the edges) of the page […] the casual scribbles of the illustrator were confined by a ruled line, which was intended to prevent the figures within it from obtruding themselves into the area of the text (this method is employed in a Neapolitan manuscript of the Divina Commedia of ca. 1360 in the Bodleian).[34]

In this passage, Pope-Hennessy is referring to MS. 108. Although he is correct to state that the pictorial narratives are contained within a rectangular frame, it seems that—as opposed to being made at the start of the production process as a way of highlighting the designated space for the illustrations—these ruled lines were actually drawn at the time of illustration. This conclusion comes from the fact that there are no frames set out on the pages without illustrations.

  • Decoration

It seems important that the digital edition should include the facsimile so that those studying MS. 108 can also consult its decoration and illustrations. Much like the textual aspects of the codex, these can also act as important indicators of its provenance. Indeed, Pächt claims that ‘[t]he illustrations are executed in pen-and-ink drawings in a stiff, angular, and very linear style which recalls the illustrations of Arthurian Romances executed in southern Italy.’[35] Meiss-Brieger, on the other hand, claims that the style of the figures suggests that they were likely made by a Sicilian or even a Spanish illustrator. [36] Therefore, it is clear that there exists uncertainty with regards not only to the geographical origin of the scribe, but also to that of the illustrator.

With this in mind, my group partner and I have tried to stay true to the decoration found in MS. 108, when creating our digital edition. For example, the colour of the first letter of each canto alternates between blue and red. As such, we have chosen to highlight this by following the same colour scheme within our transcription. This differs to the two students who made the digital edition of Antipurgatorio; they chose to make the first letter red, irrespective of what colour it was in the codex itself. 

The decoration may also help scholars seeking to explore the early reception and interpretation of Dante’s Commedia. Gillerman observes that the illustrators of these early copies:

have the singular advantage of proximity to the milieu out of which the poem emerged. Discussion of these first of Dante’s illustrators must necessarily be concerned not only with problems of style and local origin, but also with the interpretation of the text.[37]

Indeed, the illustrations within MS. 108 offer certain insights into the ways in which readers interpreted the poem. For example, in both illustrations of Canto V, somebody has chosen to label the figure that represents Francesca, but Paolo is left without a name. This perhaps tells us something about who readers thought this episode was about. 

Additionally, in Canto II, the illustrator has included three figures: Dante, Virgil, and an unidentified female figure. It is quite probable that this figure is meant to be Beatrice, Lucia, or Rachele, seeing as all three women are mentioned in this canto by Virgil. That is to say, the illustrator—not knowing that Virgil is referring to a moment prior to his first encounter with Dante—has understood there to be a female figure present in this episode and has therefore included one next to the two poets. Given these intriguing decorative aspects of the codex, it might be beneficial to include image descriptions in the digital edition. However, at the very least, the facsimile will be next to the transcription, and it will serve as a reference for scholars consulting the codex. 

  • Use of rubrics

In much the same way as the illustrations offer a certain insight into early interpretations of the Commedia, so too do the codex’s Latin rubrics. On this, Kenneth Clarke writes that ‘rubrics are sites of hermeneutic value, filtering the poem and priming the reader for what is to come’.[38] It is worth noting that there are two lines reserved for a Latin rubric at the start of every canto, even if they are only written in Inferno I-XIII and Purgatorio I-IX.[39] The interpretive power of these rubrics can be seen in Canto II of MS. 108, in which it is written: ‘Incipit secundus cantus infernus in quo proemiatur et loquitur cum Virgillio’. Typically, only the first canto of Inferno is considered to be the preface to the Commedia, and yet the scribe has decided that Canto II is a continuation of that. Furthermore, as noted by Rhiannon Daniels: ‘rubrication is a privileged feature within the narrative: it is not simply implicitly present, but explicitly highlighted’.[40] Indeed, in MS. 108, the rubrics are given special attention given the red ink that is used to write them.

  • The transcription and its criteria 

In order to ensure that the transcription is consistent, it was necessary to create a set of criteria for certain aspects of the codex that are particularly intriguing, and to find appropriate ways of transcribing them. 

  • Later additions

When words or glyphs appear to have been added at a later date, I have chosen to highlight this by transcribing them in a dark gold colour. This means that, in the digital edition, I can retain all of the features that exist on the page, whilst simultaneously permitting scholars to distinguish the original hand from later ones. Seeing as I want this digital edition to assist scholars in establishing the provenance of the codex, it is important that they know which part of the text was written first. This approach also allows them to consider the way in which the codex was edited over time, which may prove useful for studies on the reception and interpretation of the Commedia

When words have been added, such as with interlinear corrections, I have chosen to insert them in the same position as they appear on the page. Most of the interlinear corrections are letters that have been inserted within the line itself, and I show this in the transcription. However, there are occasional examples of letters that have been added above the line or outside of the margins. I have used superscript to highlight the former and subscript for the latter, as shown below:

  • Punctuation and spacing 

Attempts to indicate spacing seem to have been added by a later hand in the form of word dividers. I try to make a distinction between the glyph that has been added to make the space between two words clearer (‘/’) and the glyph that has been added with the intention of separating a single word into two words (‘|’). Additionally, at times, there is a strangely large space between words. I have shown this in my transcription by writing ‘[…]’. 

  • Capitalisation

The way in which capitalisation is used in MS. 108 is not in line with many modern critical editions of the poem. First of all, the first letter of every tercet is capitalised, which is not standard practice. Names and places, on the other hand, are not capitalised. This can cause a certain amount of difficulty when trying to read the poem. However, so as to produce a highly diplomatic transcription, I have chosen not to add capital letters for words that, nowadays, would require them. For example, in Canto IV, I have transcribed the modernised ‘e David re’ as ‘edɑuít re’. 

  • Letterforms

In the same way that I have made the distinction between the single- and double-storey ‘ɑ’ and ‘a’, I have had to transcribe other letters in more than one form, according to the rubrics used by the scribe. Ultimately, keeping letterforms as they appear in MS. 108 is important because lettering might offer certain insights into the provenance of the codex.

  • ‘ɡ’ and ‘g’

In MS. 108, there is a difference between ‘ɡ’ and ‘g’. The ‘ɡ’ appears more frequently, seeing as the ‘g’ is only used when the letter is followed by either ‘io’ or ‘ie’. In these instances, the ‘o’ and the ‘e’ are written by the scribe, but the ‘ɡ’ and the ‘i’ become a singular ‘g’.

  • ‘ʀ’ and ‘r’

Although there is some inconsistency, the scribe appears to write ‘ʀ’ when the letter ‘r’ is preceded by ‘p’, ‘b’, ‘o’, and sometimes by ‘d’. Otherwise, ‘r’ is the main letterform. I have transcribed these letterforms as they appear on the page and, in instances where the scribe has been inconsistent, I have chosen to transcribe the inconsistency; this is in keeping with my aim to make this transcription highly diplomatic.

  • ‘ʃ’ and ‘s’

‘ʃ’ is the most frequently used letterform, with ‘s’ only being used when it is the last letter in a word. 

  • ‘u’

The scribe does not distinguish between ‘u’ and ‘v’. With this in mind, my transcription does not contain the letter ‘v’.

  • ‘í’ and ‘ı’

Throughout the transcription, the tittle is a stroked ‘í’ rather than a dotted ‘i’. However, in the Latin rubric there is also the dotless ‘ı’.

  • Spellings

Seeing as the way in which the way in which a scribe spells words can be used by scholars to distinguish the provenance of a codex, I have chosen not to change any spelling forms at all, even if it makes the poem difficult to read. For example, Moore claims that spellings such as ‘caxion’ instead of ‘cagion’ indicate that MS. 108 is of Venetian origin, whereas Roddewig suggests spellings such as ‘som’ instead of ‘son’ mean that the scribe was likely from southern Italy.[41] Given that this debate remains unresolved, choosing to keep the spellings as they appear permits further exploration within this area. One such decision with regards to spelling was to retain the C-cedilla (‘ç’) where it would be standardised as a ‘z’. Similarly, I have chosen not to change the abbreviations used by the scribe.

  • Example transcription
  • XML

In order to create the digital edition, it was necessary for my group partner and I to learn how to use XML, so that we could encode the transcription. We are still in the process of completing the digital edition. 

  • Bibliography

Primary literature:

Secondary literature:

  • Aresu, Francesco Marco (2018), ‘Review of La tradizione della “Commedia” dai manoscritti al testo II: I codici trecenteschi (oltre l’antica vulgata) conservati a Firenze. Biblioteca dell’“Archivum Romanicum” Serie I: Storia, Letteratura, Paleografia’, Renaissance Quarterly lxxi (2018), 790–91.
  • Barański, Zygmunt (2015), ‘Early reception (1290–1481)’, in Dante in Context, ed. by Barański, Zygmunt G. & Lino Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 518-37.
  • Barański, Zygmunt, ‘Textual Transmission’, in Dante in Context, ed. by Barański, Zygmunt G. & Lino Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 509-17.
  • Bertelli, Sandro & Paolo Trovato, La tradizione della “Commedia” dai manoscritti al testo (Florence: L.S. Olschki (Biblioteca dell’“Archivum Romanicum.” Serie I, Storia, letteratura, paleografia; v. 376, 448), 2011).
  • Bastiman, Katie & Holly Abrahamson, Ante-Purgatory (Oxford: Oxford University Research Archive, 2021), accessed on 11 March 2023, https://editions.mml.ox.ac.uk/editions/ante-purgatory/.
  • Boschi, Marisa, Codicologia trecentesca della Commedia: Entro e oltre l’antica vulgata (Rome: Viella, 2004).
  • Clarke, Kenneth Patrick, ‘Sotto la quale rubrica: Pre-Reading the Comedìa’, Dante Studies cxxxiii (2015), 147-76.
  • Colomb de Batines, Paul, vicomte, Bibliografia Dantesca, ossia Catalogo delle Edizione Traduzione, Codici e Comenti di Dante ii (Prato: Tipografia Aldina Editrice, 1846).
  • Corbett, George & Heather Webb, Vertical Readings in Dante’s Comedy (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2015).
  • Christopher De Hamel, Making Medieval Manuscripts (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2018).
  • Daniels, Rhiannon, ‘Where Does the Decameron Begin? Editorial Practice and Tables of Rubrics, Modern Languages Review cxiv (2019), 52-78.
  • De Mortara, Alessandro, Catalogo dei manoscritti italiani che sotto la denominazione di codici Canoniciani italici(Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1864).
  • Franzini, Greta, et al., ‘Digital Editions of Text’, Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage xii (2019), 1–23.
  • Gillerman, Dorothy Hughes, ‘Trecento Illustrators of the Divina Commedia’, Annual Report of the Dante Society, with Accompanying Papers lxxvi (1959), 1-40.
  • Gilson, Simon (2011), ‘“La divinità di Dante”: The Problematics of Dante’s Critical Reception from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries’, in Dante oggi i, ed. by Antonelli, Roberto, et al. (Rome: Viella, 2011), pp. 581-603.
  • Lit, Lambertus Willem Cornelis van, Among Digitized Manuscripts: Philology, Codicology, Paleography in a Digital World (Leiden; Boston: Brill 2020).
  • Malato, Enrico, et al., Censimento dei commenti danteschi ii (Rome: Salerno, 2011).
  • Moore, Edward, Contributions to the Textual Criticism of the Divina Commedia, Including the Complete Collation Throughout the Inferno of all the Mss. at Oxford and Cambridge (Massachusetts: The University Press, 1889).
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Ital. 109: https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/710e2e3d-c8dd-48fd-9dfe-08634d7033fc/.
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Holkham misc. 48: https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/10974934-30a5-4495-857e-255760e5c5ff/.
  • Pächt, Otto, Italian Illuminated Manuscripts from 1400 to 1550: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1948 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948).
  • Parkes, Malcolm, Scribes, Scripts and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation and Dissemination of Medieval Texts, (London: Hambledon, 1991).
  • Parkes, Malcolm, et al., Pages from the Past: Medieval Writing skills and Manuscript books (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012). 
  • Anna Pegoretti, ‘Early Reception until 1481’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante’s ‘Commedia’, ed. by Zgymunt G. Baranski & Simon Gilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 245-58.
  • Petrocchi, Giorgio & Carlo Ossola, Itinerari danteschi (Milan: FrancoAngeli, 1994).
  • Pomaro, Gabriella, ‘Ricerche d’archivio per il “copista di Parm” e la mano principale del cento. (In margine ai “frammenti di un discorso dantesco”)’, in Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della “Commedia”: Una guida filologico-linguistica al poema dantesco, ed. by Trovato, Paolo (Florence: F. Cesati (Filologia e ordinatori; 3), 2007), pp. 269-71.
  • Pope-Hennessy, John Wyndham, Sir, A Sienese codex of the Divine Comedy (Oxford; London: Phaidon Press, 1947).
  • Roddewig, Marcella, Dante Alighieri, Die göttliche Komödie: vergleichende Bestandsaufnahme der Commedia-Handschriften (Stuttgart: A. Hiersemann (Hiersemanns bibliographische Handbücher; Bd. 4), 1984).
  • Romanini, Fabio, ‘Altri testimoni della “Commedia”’, in Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della “Commedia”. Una guida filologico-linguistica al poema dantesco, ed. by Trovato, Paolo (Florence: F. Cesati (Filologia e ordinatori; 3), 2007), pp. 61-94.
  • Rotili, Mario, I Codici Danteschi Miniati a Napoli (Naples: Libreria Scientifica Editrice, 1972).
  • Shaw, Prue, ‘Transmission History’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante’s ‘Commedia’, ed. by Baranski, Zygmunt G. & Simon Gilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 229-44.
  • Spadini, Elena, ‘Processing Dante’s Commedia: From Sanguineti’s Edition to Digital Tools’, RIDE iii (2015), 1-24.
  • Täuber, Carl, I capostipiti dei manoscritti della Divina commedia; ricerche. A spese dell’autore (Switzerland: Ziegler, 1889).
  • Tomasi, Francesca, ‘Le edizioni digitali come nuovo modello per pati di autorità concettuali’, JLIS.it: Italian Journal of Library and Information Science iv (2013), 21-44.
  • Trovato, Paolo, ‘Appendice’, in Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della Commedia. Una guida filologico-linguistica al poema dantesco, ed. by Trovato, Paolo (Florence: F. Cesati (Filologia e ordinatori; 3), 2007), pp. 229-42.
  • Luisa Vergani, ‘Review of “La Commedia, secondo l’antica vulgata”’, by Dante Alighieri & Giorgio Petrocchi’, Italica xlvi (1969), 191-93.
  • Zinelli, Fabio, ‘The Manuscript Tradition, or on Editing Dante’, in The Oxford Handbook of Dante, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), pp. 63-78.

[1] Francesca Tomasi, ‘Le edizioni digitali come nuovo modello per pati di autorità concettuali’, JLIS.it: Italian Journal of Library and Information Science iv (2013), 21-44, p. 25.

[2] Carl Täuber (1889), I capostipiti dei manoscritti della Divina commedia; ricerche. A spese dell’autore (Switzerland, 1889), p. v.

[3] Prue Shaw (2018), ‘Transmission History’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante’s ‘Commedia’, ed. by Zygmunt G. Baranski & Simon Gilson (Cambridge, 2018), 229-44, p. 229.

[4] There is no version of the Commedia that can be considered the original. The standardised text in my digital edition will be based upon Petrocchi’s critical edition.

[5] Katie Bastiman & Holly Abrahamson, Ante-Purgatory (Oxford, 2021), accessed on 11 March 2023, https://editions.mml.ox.ac.uk/editions/ante-purgatory/.

[6] For more information on vertical reading, consult: George Corbett & Heather Webb, Vertical Readings in Dante’s Comedy (Cambridge, 2015).

[7] Shaw (2018), p. 229.

[8] Fabio Zinelli, ‘The Manuscript Tradition, or on Editing Dante’, in The Oxford Handbook of Dante, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati et al., (Oxford, 2021), 63-78, p. 71.

[9] Malcolm Parkes, et al., Pages from the Past: Medieval Writing skills and Manuscript books (Farnham, 2012), p. 24.

[10] Shaw (2018), pp. 232-33.

[11] Christopher De Hamel, Making Medieval Manuscripts (Oxford, 2018), p. 89.

[12] Giorgio Petrocchi & Carlo Ossola, Itinerari danteschi (Milan, 1994), p. 107.

[13] Luisa Vergani (1969), ‘Review of “La Commedia, secondo l’antica vulgata”’, by Dante Alighieri & Giorgio Petrocchi’, Italica xlvi (Columbus, 1969), 191-93, p. 192.

[14] Täuber (1889), pp. 3-15.

[15] Elena Spadini, ‘Processing Dante’s Commedia: From Sanguineti’s Edition to Digital Tools’, RIDE iii (2015), 1-24, p. 3. 

[16] Barański (2015), p. 509.

[17] Anna Pegoretti, ‘Early Reception until 1481’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante’s ‘Commedia’, ed. by Zgymunt G. Baranski & Simon Gilson (Cambridge, 2018), 245-58, p. 247.

[18] Information sourced using the Consortium of European Research Libraries, accessed on 8 March 2023, https://data.cerl.org/owners/00014373 & Digital Bodleian, accessed on 8 March 2023, https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/collections/canonici/

[19] Edward Moore, Contributions to the Textual Criticism of the Divina Commedia, Including the Complete Collation Throughout the Inferno of all the Mss. at Oxford and Cambridge (Massachusetts, 1889), p. 515.

[20] Dorothy Hughes Gillerman, ‘Trecento Illustrators of the Divina Commedia’, Annual Report of the Dante Society, with Accompanying Paperslxxvii (1959), 1-40, p. 19; Sir John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy, A Sienese codex of the Divine Comedy (Oxford; London, 1947), pp. 7-8.

[21] Zygmunt Barański (2015), ‘Textual Transmission’, in Dante in Context, ed. by Zygmunt G. Barański & Lino Pertile (Cambridge, 2015), 509-17, p. 514.

[22] Paolo Trovato, ‘Appendice’, in Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della Commedia. Una guida filologico-linguistica al poema dantesco, ed. by Paolo Trovato (Florence, 2007), pp. 229-42.

[23] Sandro Bertelli & Paolo Trovato, La tradizione della “Commedia” dai manoscritti al testo (Florence, 2011), p. 13.

[24] Marisa Boschi, Codicologia trecentesca della Commedia: Entro e oltre l’antica vulgata (Rome, 2004), p. 95; Fabio Romanini, ‘Altri testimoni della “Commedia”’, in Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della “Commedia”. Una guida filologico-linguistica al poema dantesco, ed. by Trovato, Paolo, (Florence, 2007), 61-94, p. 68.

[25] Mario Rotili, I Codici danteschi miniati a Napoli, (Naples, 1972), p. 49.

[26] Täuber (1889), p. 110.

[27] Gabriella Pomaro, ‘Ricerche d’archivio per il “copista di Parm” e la mano principale del cento. (In margine ai “frammenti di un discorso dantesco”)’, in Nuove prospettive sulla tradizione della “Commedia”: Una guida filologico-linguistica al poema dantesco, ed. by Paolo Trovato (Florence, 2007), pp. 269-71.

[28] Kenneth Patrick Clarke, ‘Sotto la quale rubrica: Pre-reading the Comedìa’, Dante Studies cxxxiii (2015), 147-76, p. 148. 

[29] Moore (1889), p. 515.

[30] Romanini (2007), p. 68.

[31] Moore (1889), p. 515.

[32] Enrico Malato, et al., Censimento dei commenti danteschi ii (Rome: Salerno, 2011), p. 919.

[33] Moore (1889), p. 515.

[34] Pope-Hennessy (1947), p. 8.

[35] Otto Pächt, Italian Illuminated Manuscripts from 1400 to 1550: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1948 (Oxford, 1948), p. 10.

[36] Marcella Roddewig, Dante Alighieri, Die göttliche Komödie: vergleichende Bestandsaufnahme der Commedia-Handschriften (Stuttgart, 1984), p. 221.

[37] Gillerman (1959), p. 1.

[38] Clarke (2015), p. 147.

[39] Romanini (2007), p. 68.

[40] Rhiannon Daniels, ‘Where Does the Decameron Begin? Editorial Practice and Tables of Rubrics, Modern Languages Review cxiv (2019), pp. 52-78.

[41] Moore (1889), p. 516.

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