Letter fromGEORGE PERKINS MARSH to CHARLES ELIOT NORTON, dated April 18, 1864.
I believe there does not exist a verbal Index to Dante, or rather I should say, a
concordance; for Blanc answers pretty well as a verbal Index,
though troublesome to consult. The Rimario is but an
indifferent substitute for a concordance. Would not such a thing be a handsome
contribution to the festa of 1865.? I have suggested this to Mr
Joseph Artoni, formerly a teacher of Italian at Philadelphia and elsewhere
in the U.S. and now an attaché of this Legation, & he would be willing to
upon reasonable encouragement, which, however, cannot be got from Italian booksellers. He has made an experiment with canto I. Inferno. This employed him 20 hours, or say a week of working days at three hours twenty minutes per day, at which rate two years would be required. But he made his concordance unnecessarily full, copying the verse anew for almost every word. I think by taking only the important words like Mrs Cowden Clarke in Shakespeare, and even going very much beyond Prendergast's conc. to Milton, four words per verse would be a sufficient average which would make 50,000 or at most 60,000 lines. If, then, instead of the verses, he
separately from Witte's edition, italicising the emphatic words, marking Part, Canto, & line in the margin, and arranging the whole alphabetically, the time, with a little help, could be so reduced as to allow of the printing in season for the festa. Such a book would have a market all over the world, & it seems to me worth trying. Are you disposed to promote this in place of B. da Imola, which you will now, I suppose, hardly undertake? I do not know what Artoni would expect, but I think he would undertake it, finding his own assistants, and stipulate to have it ready for the press
by January 1 1865, for [...]1000. I hardly think it could be done for less, as one person cannot do it alone in less than one and a half or two years.
Mr Artoni is competent and conscientious. Will you do me the favor to reply by an early mail and oblige
Yours very trulyGeorge P. MarshC E Norton Esq
P.S. As half my letters miscarry, I observe that I wrote you on the 14th and again on the 29th of March
References in this letter:
Ludwig Gottfried Blanc's Vocabolario dantesco, limited to the Divine Comedy, was published in Leipzig in 1852. Marsh's library contained an 1859 edition.
A "rimario" is a rhyming dictionary, several of which to Dante were available in Marsh's time.
Joseph Artoni, an Italian who had spent twenty years in Philadelphia, served Marsh as his private secretary for two decades.
Mary Victoria Cowden-Clark (1809-1898) published The Complete Concordance to Shakespeare in 1844-45.
Guy Lushington Prendergast published A Complete Concordance to the Poetical Works of Milton in 1857.
Karl Witte (1800-1883), a German jurist and Dante scholar, published a critical edition of Dante's Divine Comedy in 1862.
Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola's commentary in Latin on the Divine Comedy was one of the earliest and most valuable discussions of Dante's great work.