Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, Illustrations from William Blake, Folio Society, 1998

Months ago, Books and Vines took a look at Folio Society’s edition of Dante Alighieri‘s Purgatorio, illustrated by Salvador Dali. Since then, I have been looking for the sister books to this. FS published the Divine Comedy as three separate books, each with different illustrators (besides Dali’s Purgatorio, Inferno with illustrations by William Blake and Paradiso by Giovanni di Paolo). In my local book store, I stumbled on Inferno, which is now presented to you below. Any readers who happen to have Paradiso please contact me so I can add it to Books and Vines.

Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedyan epic poem by Dante which is generally considered the greatest work of Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature. Dante, an Italian poet, philosopher and political thinker, composed this work over many years, from 1308 until his death in 1321.  The Divine Comedy tells of Dante’s travels through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso).  

Representing the path of the soul as it moves towards God, Inferno (allegorically) describes the recognition of sin along with its rejection. Dante travels through hell (nine circles of suffering located within the Earth) with the Roman poet Virgil as his guide. The gate of Hell contains the famous inscription “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.  As he travels through the nine circles, there is an increase in wickedness as he moves towards the center.  The sinners in each circle are punished for all eternity in a manner fitting their crimes. The Divine Comedy itself is one of the most important works in the Western Canon, and remains enormously influential. Its version of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise probably representing in some ways what most think of when they ponder these terms.

In Italy, Dante (1265–1321) is known as ‘The Supreme Poet’ and also as the father of the Italian language.

William Blake (1757-1827), largely unrecognized in his lifetime, is now considered one of the greatest poets and painters of the Romantic Age.  His work is very philosophic, with significant mystical underpinnings.  Blake claimed to have experienced religious visions throughout his life. Looking at his illustrations in Inferno, along with his work in Edward Young’s Night Thoughts and for John Milton‘s Paradise Lost, it is easy to see how these visions translated into inspiration for his work. Here is a nice link to high quality images of Blake’s illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Henry Francis Cary (1772-1844) is best known for his translation of The Divine Comedy which was completed in 1814. The translation, done in in blank verse, remains well thought of.

About the Edition

  • Henry Francis Cary translation
  • 32 full-page colour illustrations by William Blake
  • Introduction by Robin Hamlyn
  • Typeset at The Folio Society in Monotype Walbaum
  • Printed at Bath Press Colourbooks on Book Design Smooth paper
  • Bound at The Bath Press, Bath, in full cloth printed with Blake’s engraving of his watercolor to Canto 25, The Serpent attacking Buoso Donati (Tate Gallery, London)
  • 13″ x 9″, 240 pages

Pictures

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

{Ed. Note: Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures.  This was in the book store, and I only had my phone camera.  This specific book is at Book Gallery in Phoenix, you can contact them to see if they still have it, if you are interested.}

Inferno, Folio Society, Slipcase
Inferno, Folio Society, Spine
Inferno, Folio Society, Cover
Inferno, Folio Society, Frontispiece
Inferno, Folio Society, Edition and Colophon Information
Inferno, Folio Society, Partial List of Illustrations
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Text #2
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Text #2
Inferno, Folio Society, Sample Illustration #4

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