Rome, June 10 – The Italian epic poet Dante is going to heaven again.
Dante, Italy’s greatest poet, divided his monumental divine comedy into three parts – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. The allegory representing a soul’s journey to God is one of the world’s most influential works of literature.
Now, a copy of the entire Divine Comedy, finely inscribed on sheets of titanium and gold alloy, will be sent into space and left there so that it floats in heaven among the stars about which Dante had written.
The final word in each of the three parts is “stele” (stars), including the famous final line which defines God as “the love that moves the sun and other stars”.
“We knew there would be several special editions of the Divine Comedy coming this year for the 700th anniversary of his death, and we wanted to do something different,” said Giorgio Amaroli, head of the high-end art publishing house, Scripta Manet. Based in Bologna.
Dante Alighieri, often referred to as the “Supreme Poet”, lived in the Republic of Florence and his writings helped establish Tuscan as the standardized Italian language. He was exiled for political reasons and died in Ravenna in 1321.
For the space project, two sheets of approximately 11 X 17 inches and four, folded in accordion style, would each be inscribed with a complete poem of approximately 14,200 lines containing approximately 32,000 words.
They will be sent on a Soyuz mission from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station in the autumn. One will be released into space. The other will be signed by astronauts and return to Earth in 2022.
A facsimile of the second sheet would be made part of the traditional large-format printed edition of the comedy and sold as a limited-numbered edition of 700 copies for a number of years after Dante’s death.
“The Soyuz guys told us that a paper version would not last long in space and so they suggested an alloy of titanium and gold,” Amroli said, adding that a prototype was sent to Kazakhstan for inspection.
Amroli gets inspiration for the project from Canto 22 of Paradise, when Dante, in between the sphere of heaven and the vastness of the planets, sees Earth and is amazed by its smallness.
Amroli said the special delivery to space would cost the publishing company more than $182,570 and that the books would cost about $7,302.
The publishing house is no stranger to luxurious, high-end projects. In 2017, it worked with the Vatican Museums on an extra-large three-volume set that reproduced Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling fresco in a 1:1 scale.
Dante’s book is a steal by comparison. The Sistine set costs $1,825.