With the advent of studies in the area of mise-en-page and the increased interest in the relationships among text, image, and material structures in medieval manuscripts, the inherent problems of interpretation and “intentionality” have often been concentrated in critics’ assignment of meaning and cultural “readings” to medieval illuminators. Yet numerous sources, especially the instructions to illuminators that remain still visible in unfinished manuscripts, confirm that methods of work in the illustrating of medieval texts were guided by very different criteria than interpretation. Instead, the material and mechanical realities of reproducing medieval texts, among them Dante’s Commedia, were often subject more to production efficiency, cost effectiveness, taste, and scribal and cultural norms. Examining the instructions to the illuminator of an unfinished copy of a uniquely edited Veneto copy of the Commedia, initially produced in the 1340s (Codex Italicus 1 of the University Library and Archives of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest), this essay investigates the systems and constructions imposed on the Commedia by a new scribal culture in the reproduction and “visual glossing” of the poem.

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