The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the most significant collections of Italian literature in the United States. Principal among our materials is the Zahm Dante Collection, totaling over 3,500 volumes, which ranks among the top collections of materials relating to Dante Alighieri in North America. While this collection is grounded in incunable and cinquecentine editions of Dante, it also contains notable examples of 19th and 20th century editions of the poet’s works and ephemeral materials that document Dante’s popularity in literary and popular culture over time.
To support research on topics related to the development of the Italian language in literary contexts, the Department possesses an expansive collection of early Italian printed books, including incunabula. Strengths of the collection include vernacular poetry and prose, the history of the Italian language, the "questione della lingua" and debates surrounding the establishment of linguistic standards, and early Italian language dictionaries.
Our collection holdings are rich in the works of major Italian authors including Petrarch, Boccaccio, Baldassare Castiglione, Ludovico Ariosto, Pietro Bembo, and Torquato Tasso. These authors’ works are represented in the collection in early imprints and translations, historical publications of textual criticism, and significant illustrated editions.
The Department is also home to growing collections of modern literature. The writings of Primo Levi are actively collected, particularly first editions of works and translations published during the author’s lifetime. The Department also houses a developing collection of small press publications that record vernacular dialect poetry of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Related web resources:
To learn about recent additions to the collection, please see our Italian acquisitions news feed.
An exhibit of early Dante editions was on display at Notre Dame and at the Newberry Library in Chicago in 1994; an online version of the exhibit may be visited at Renaissance Dante in Print (1472-1629).
For more links to Dante-related programs at Notre Dame, please visit The William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies.
For information about Italian programs and events at the university, see Italian Studies at Notre Dame.