LODOVICO DOLCE (1508-1568)

The editor of Giolito's 1555 Dante, Lodovico Dolce, was responsible for inventing a new and attractive presentation of the poem. The editor recognized that the period of uncontested Petrarchism and of Pietro Bembo's literary dominance was drawing to a close, and surmised that in the second half of the century readers tired of Petrarch would return to Dante. Dolce also recognized that a contemporary Dante, while it could not be burdened by an overwhelming commentary as it had been by those of Landino and Vellutello, could not be offered completely devoid of explanation as it had been in the Aldine imprints of Bembo's era. Thus Dolce elaborated an elegant tripartite apparatus: at the head of each canto a brief argument summarizing its contents; at the end an equally brief note on the canto's allegory; and in the margins, minimalist postils, referenced and summarized in two indexes, one lexical and the other organized by subject. From a textual standpoint, Dolce was not a very competent philologist, and the fifty or so variants he introduced in his edition had no particular authority. Despite his grandiose claim to have based his revision on "an exemplar copied from the manuscript of Dante's son, obtained from the erudite youth Messer Battista Amalteo" -- one up on the generic and equally specious appeals to unidentifiable ancient codices made by other editors during the period.