This article considers the importance of material philological features of the early manuscripts of Dante’s Vita nova for the work’s critical reception. Over the centuries, editors (most notably Giovanni Boccaccio) have recast textual meaning in the work mainly by marginalizing the poet’s glosses and by reformatting the poems. Attention to the material features of the earliest extant manuscript of the Vita nova (MS Martelli 12) with respect to later copies, however, prompts us to consider the creative interplay between Dante’s prosimetrum and the material features of the manuscript. To interpret a text critically is to acknowledge and to examine also how a manuscript or print edition orients textual interpretation. The editorial history of the Vita nova teaches us about the cultural processes and discourses of literary culture and about Italian literary history.

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