A Journey through the Centuries: The Making of Dante Guarneriano

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A handmade illuminated copy of one of the oldest and most richly decorated examples of Dante’s Divine Comedy on display in Toronto.

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On October 20-21-22, 2021, for the International Week of Italian Language and Culture, the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto, in collaboration with St. Michael’s College, Massey College, and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto, presents a series of events to celebrate the father of the Italian language, the Mediaeval poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri, and his groundbreaking trilogy, the Divine Comedy, in the year that marks the 700th anniversary of the death of the “sommo poeta”.

A magnificent handmade illuminated anastatic copy of the “Inferno”, known as Dante Guarneriano, will travel to Toronto from the Biblioteca Guarneriana in San Daniele del Friuli, one of Italy’s oldest and most venerated public libraries, founded in 1466 by humanist Guarniero d’Artegna and enriched with the collection of Archbishop and bibliographer Giusto Fontanini in the 18th century.

The Dante Guarneriano is one of the oldest and most richly decorated Medieval examples of Dante’s Divine Comedy “Inferno”, dated late 14th - early 15th century. Miniatures and historiated initials are attributed to Bartolomeo di Fruosino, one of the most influential illuminators of the Florentine School. A notable miniature in the Dante Guarneriano depicts Dante in his studiolo (within the historiated initial “N” which marks the famous incipit of Dante’s journey through Hell: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita...”).

The copy of the Dante Guarneriano that will be displayed in Toronto has been handcrafted by the Scriptorium Foroiuliense in San Daniele, one of the most esteemed centers of Medieval calligraphy and book production in Italy. Specialized in Medieval historical scripts and manuscript production, the Scriptorium Foroiuliense - Scuola Italiana Amanuensi - has produced a dozen anastatic copies of the Dante Guarneriano, on handmade paper 100% cotton fibers, following the traditional techniques used to create the lavishly illuminated manuscripts, including miniatures gilded with gold leaf, finely decorated illustrations, and Medieval luxury bookbinding techniques.

The handcrafted illuminated anastatic copy of the Dante Guarneriano will arrive in Toronto with a delegation of the City of San Daniele, namely Mayor Pietro Valent and the amanuensis of the Scriptorium Foroiuliense, Ivano Coan.

On October 20, the Italian delegation will join a panel of experts in Medieval studies and manuscript culture – Michèle Mulchahey, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto and Nicholas Everett, Department of History, University of Toronto – coordinated by University of Toronto’s Professor and Senior Fellow at Massey College Paolo Granata, to officially present the copy of the Dante Guarneriano, exploring the making of this unique bibliographic artifact. The event will be live-streamed on YouTube at 4:30 pm EST from Massey College for the Massey Dialogues series.

Following the presentation event at Massey College, on October 21 and 22, at St. Michael’s College and Massey College, the amanuensis of the Scriptorium Foroiuliense, specialized in Medieval historical scripts such as Gothic Textura, Uncial, Beneventan, Carolingian, will hold a series of free workshops open to University of Toronto students as well as to the general public (registration required - Covid 19 protocols will be observed).

The series of events to celebrate the Dante Guarneriano will conclude on October 22 with a virtual tour of the Biblioteca Guarneriana, live from San Daniele del Friuli, to explore “in real-time” the making of a Medieval manuscript and its century-old tradition. The event will be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook at 4:30 pm EST (22:30 CET).

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Michèle Mulchahey currently holds the Leonard E. Boyle Chair in Manuscript Studies at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, and is the Director of PIMS’ new Diploma Programme in Manuscript Studies that was inaugurated at the American Academy in Rome in 2011. Michèle is herself a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, as well as of Harvard’s Villa I Tatti in Florence. In her research she has made a study of the medieval Dominican order and its schools and the techniques used by the friars to communicate their learning, and has received research grants from agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in of Canada, and from the Carnegie Trust in the U.K. for her work. Her book “First the bow is bent in study…” Dominican Education Before 1350 has become a touchstone in the field; her current projects include a study of Dante’s teacher, Remigio de’ Girolami, as revealed through some newly-discovered manuscript survivals, and another on Jacopo Passavanti, the charismatic Dominican preacher at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, who also commissioned some of the most famous artwork produced for the convent.

Nicholas Everett studied modern history and literature at the Universities of Queensland and Griffith (Australia), then medieval history at Cambridge (PhD 1997). Since then he taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Sheffield, the University of Queensland, Harvard University, and the University of Toronto (2003-). He is a Fellow of Trinity College, where he also serves as Public Orator and currently Acting Dean of Arts (2019-20). His areas of research include early medieval Italy, medieval medicine, manuscripts, legal documents, and Latin philology. Prof. Everett is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK), a Colleague of the European Science Foundation, and serves on the editorial board of several book series and journals in both history and pharmacy. Among his publications are Literacy in Lombard Italy c.568-774 AD (Cambridge 2003), The Alphabet of Galen. Pharmacy from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Toronto 2012), and Patron Saints of Early Medieval Italy AD c.350-800. History and Hagiography in Ten Biographies (PIMS/Durham 2016).

The event is presented by:

Department of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto

St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto

Massey College, Toronto

Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto, for the International Week of Italian Language and Culture

City of San Daniele del Friuli (Italy)

Scriptorium Foroiuliense, San Daniele (Italy)


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Organizer UofT, St. Michael's College, Massey College, IICT

Organizer of A Journey through the Centuries: The Making of Dante Guarneriano

The event is presented by:

Department of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto

St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto

Massey College, Toronto

Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto, for the International Week of Italian Language and Culture

City of San Daniele del Friuli (Italy)

Scriptorium Foroiuliense, San Daniele (Italy)

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