Cantos, Carte, and Columns: A Hypothesis Concerning the Original Mise-en-page of Dante’s Comedy

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Kevin White


John Ahern conjectures that, in writing out the first copies of the Comedy, Dante wrote on pages formatted for four 36-line columns, with two columns on each side of the page, and he assigned one page to each of the 100 cantos. Building on Ahern’s conjecture, the article suggests that Dante had a standard method of distributing the lines of a canto over the four columns. After describing the method, the article argues that Dante sometimes adapted his composition of a canto to the four-column page format, and that traces of this adaptation can be discerned in certain passages of the Comedy.

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