Designing Dante 24 March – 1 October 2022

Designing Dante exhibition

Explore how Dante’s Divine Comedy has been designed on and beyond the page in the 700 years since his death.

24 March – 1 October 2022

About the exhibition

The Italian medieval author Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is known for his fantastical reimagining of the worlds of the Christian afterlife, the Commedia (Divine Comedy). The poem is a fictional eyewitness account of his journey through Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise, an evocative and multi-sensory account of the torment of the damned and rapture of the blessed.

This exhibition explores both Dante’s design of his afterlife, and the ways the poem itself has been designed and presented in manuscript, print, visual media and sound in the 700 years since his death. The Rylands holds one of the greatest collections of Dante books in the world, many of which will be on display in this landmark exhibition.

The exhibition is curated by Italian medieval specialist and book historian Dr Guyda Armstrong, Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies in The University of Manchester’s School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, in collaboration with the John Rylands Research Institute and Library.

Keep an eye on our events programme for related Dante activities including online talks, curator tours and close-up sessions with books. We will also be highlighting creative responses to Dante’s poem during the exhibition, with a film screening, sound art installations and an artists’ book workshop.

What’s on display

  • Explore Dante’s vision of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise through iconic illustrated rare books and manuscripts, including the first two editions to have printed images from 1481 and 1487.
  • Uncover how book design has evolved from handwritten manuscripts to digital editions.
  • Compare the first three editions of the Commedia, all printed in 1472, with the first Spanish (1515) and French printed translations (1595).
  • See visualisations of Dante’s afterlife through time, including Renaissance diagrams of Inferno, silent film, contemporary adaptations and a digitised manuscript.