1515: Divina Commedia Dante Alighieri, R213743

Walter Bullock (1890-1944), Serena Professor of Italian, University of Manchester

Walter Bullock (1890-1944), Serena Professor of Italian, University of Manchester

We want to start the New Year by talking about one of the pioneers of Italian Studies in Manchester.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Professor Walter L. Bullock was one of the first academics to use special collections items in an innovative way, embedding them in his teaching of literature and bringing them to the classroom so that students could have hands-on experiences with early-modern books as physical objects.

This copy of the 1515 Aldine edition of Dante’s Divina Commedia, belonged to Bullock himself, as can be seen from the inscription on front fly-leaf verso: ‘Gualtierus L. Bullock e.d. Arturi Graham Aldis’. It was a gift from his Chicago friend Graham Aldis, a businessman and fellow student at Harvard. Aldis probably inherited it from his uncle Owen Franklin Aldis, also a prominent Chicagoan and noted book collector.

Dante, 1515. R213743

Dante, 1515. R213743

Bullock’s contribution to the field of Italian Studies is extraordinary and includes his founding, in 1937, of Italian Studies, which remains the leading Italian academic journal in the UK. He gave his collection of 5,000 books to the Victoria University of Manchester, including about 2,600 early printed books and numerous Aldines.

What was considered a novelty in Bullock’s time is now a well-established tradition. Current medievalists in Italian studies at the University of Manchester are proud to follow Bullock’s steps in bringing special collection items into their teaching of Dante, Boccaccio and other medieval authors.

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