Dante-libri nuovi

2021 is the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet Dante Aligheiri.

The academics from the Italian department of the University of Bristol are planning a series of events in October 2021. These include the launch of eight new artist books produced in response to Dante’s life and works. It is my privilege to have been invited to make one of the new artists’ books.

The public launch of these books will be on 26th October . Following this event all the books will be on display in the Faculty of Arts in the University of Bristol until 12th November.

My book titled Inferno- Narag- Hell is a limited edition of nine handprinted and hand bound books. On reading the original book and numerous research papers I found that Dante had chosen to write his poem in the Italian language and not in Latin. Using language as the primary theme I have translated the nine sins in an Indian language, Hindi. The book comprises of word translations from Italian to English and Hindi.

Dante also followed an orderly structure with the symbolic use of 3, 9. This is reflected in the binding of the book where three signatures are used. Each signature unfolds to reveal the three languages.

The nine sins by mankind have been metaphorically symbolised by the three beasts that appear in the first canto in Dante’s journey through the forest: the leopard, the lion, and the wolf. They also represent the three major divisions of hell, which unfold in the three pages of the book.

While Dante’s Inferno describes a dark and gruesome journey of pain and suffering through hell, I have taken a more spiritual approach. I believe it is a reflection of struggle and temptations faced by humanity to do what is morally right. It is an emotional journey that is necessary to reach heaven.

The book is constructed using an accordion fold with signatures attached in every valley fold using pamphlet stitch. The accordion fold with the bi-fold pages lends itself to the subject matter of a journey unfolding. The nine circles of hell are highlighted in stitch on the cover and painted on the inside covers. The use of a subtle monochromatic colour scheme with a splash of red highlights the struggles and temptations faced by mankind.

The pages are made using Zerkall which is suitable for relief printing while Southbank paper which is a slightly heavier stock has been used for the cover.  Primarily adopting relief printmaking techniques, the text is a combination of stamping and hand-cut stencils. Lino printing, some watercolour painting and stitch is also used in the pages and the cover.