lectures were delivered in the churches and on feastdays, which shows their popular character.
reckons (but this is guess-work) that the Ms. copies of the Divina Commedia
made during the fourteenth century, and now existing in the libraries of Europe
, are more numerous than those of all other works, ancient and modern, made during the same period.
Between the invention of printing and the year 1500 more than twenty editions were published in Italy
, the earliest in 1472.
During the sixteenth century there were forty editions; during the seventeenth,—a period, for Italy
, of sceptical dilettanteism,—only three; during the eighteenth, thirty-four; and already, during the first half of the nineteenth, at least eighty.
The first translation was into Spanish, in 1428.1 M. St. Rene Taillandier
says that the Commedia
was condemned by the inquisition in Spain
; but this seems too general a statement, for, according to Foscolo,2
it was the commentary of Landino and Vellutello, and a few verses in the Inferno
, which were condemned.
The first French translation was that of Grangier, 1596, but the study of Dante
struck no root there till the present century.
Rivarol, who translated the Inferno
in 1783, was the first Frenchman who divined the wonderful force and vitality of the Commedia
The expressions of Voltaire
represent very well the average opinion of cultivated persons in respect of Dante
in the middle of the eighteenth century.
He says: ‘The Italians
call him divine; but it is a hidden divinity; few people understand his oracles.
He has commentators, which, perhaps, is another reason for his not being understood.
His reputation will go on ’