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The project
Illuminated Dante Project
In 2021 will occur the seventh centenary of the death of Dante, the greatest «poet of the secular world» (Erich Auerbach). Over that period, worldwide celebrations, several international projects focusing on his works, conferences, seminars and exhibitions will take place all over the world, along with a renewed popular circulation of texts, motives, images, performances, and representations concerning his life and mainly his masterwork. Notwithstanding, the Divine Comedythe most illustrated lay work of the Middle Ages, still demands a systematic survey of its illuminated manuscripts, as well as a clear classification and explanation of all the vivid images that these precious artefacts contain. Illuminated Dante Project (IDP), promoted by the  University of Naples “Federico II”, may be the perfect opportunity for cultural institutions and public and/or private foundations to advocate the extraordinary literary and artistic heritage that such handiworks represent. Indeed, IDP aims to respond for the first time to both the need of an in-depth understanding of the ancient illustration of the Divine Comedy and to the lack of a research tool available not only for academic specialists or for affluent bibliophiles (such as the printed catalogues and the manuscript facsimiles), but also for a wider public of passionate readers.
The project aims to provide a systematic survey and an accurate description of those early illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy (miniatures’ extended apparatuses, historiated initials, elaborated friezes, drawings, sketches, diagrams, schemes) revealing up to the smallest meaningful reference to the poem or to a commentary accompanying the poem. Such a crucial work of classification will be accompanied by the setting up of the biggest high-definition image archive of the Divine Comedy, in which both linguistic and figurative codes of the Divine Comedy intersect in a multi-disciplinary viewpoint availing itself of the IT means.
By the creation of both an image archive and a database of the earliest illustrations of the Divine Comedy, presented in a charming and user-friendly architecture, IDP will add an indispensable research and knowledge tool to the already existing online academic resources on Dante’s world (Dante online, Digital Dante, Dartmouth Dante Project, Princeton Dante Project).
So far, IDP has already created a finding list of about 280 manuscripts dating and datable between the 14th and the 15th  centuries, and held in libraries, museums and archives worldwide. Such institutions will be asked to provide high-definition reproductions (according to the IFLA and FADGI digitization standards) of their Dante artefacts, along with copyright licenses for research purposes and/or re-use permission of their online images through specific web-interoperability protocols (such as the  IIIF manifest). At the same time, IDP research team will describe and classify the manuscripts through in situ missions and will harvest the codicologic and iconographic descriptions into a database called IDP. A dataset of such descriptions will be then related to a high-definition image repository of the illuminated manuscripts. Both database and digital archive will be hosted here, on this portal, so to be entirely and openly available to the needs of librarians, cataloguers, researchers, and passionate onlookers. The University portal will share – via the XML TEI-P5 encoding standard – the codicological descriptions of the IDP corpus with the  National Manuscript Online Catalogue (Manus online) of the Central Institute for the Unique Catalogue (ICCU) in a special section dedicated to the project. The digital reproductions of the Italian State Libraries’ manuscripts will be also accessible on the Digital Library of Internet Culturale (IC), accompanied by a specific dataset concerning the illustrations.
Because of an agreement between the University of Naples “Federico II” and the General Direction of the State Libraries of Italy (DGBIC), made possible thanks to the intermediation of the Centro Pio Rajna (CPR) and the  Casa di Dante in Rome, the majority of the manuscripts coming from Italian State Libraries (almost the half of the corpus) has been already digitised. The manuscripts of some Italian non-State libraries have also been added to IDP repository (Biblioteca dell'Archivio Storico e Trivulziana; Biblioteca dell'Accademia dei Lincei e Corsiniana). Further agreements with important international libraries such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Oxford University Bodleian Library have allowed reproducing and studying another consistent part of the corpus. IDP has also established further partnerships with the Vatican Library and the British Library for the the re-use and the analysis of their illuminated Dante manuscripts.