Interior View of the Palagio
The Società Dantesca Italiana officially came into existence in Florence on July 31st. 1888 in the "Sala di Leone X" in Palazzo Vecchio, where its founding statute was approved and where Pietro Torrigiani, the mayor of Florence, was nominated provisional (and subsequently honorary) President.
The founding members included the most distinguished names in Italian culture and politics of the time: G. Eroli, G. Biagi, R. Bonghi, C. Cantù, G. Carducci, G. Chiarini, A. Conti, A. D’Ancona, A. De Gubernatis, I. Del Lungo, C. Guasti, G. Mazzoni, E. Monaci, C. Negroni, E. Nencioni, P. Rajna, G. Rigutini, G. Tortoli, P. Villari (to mention only the most noteworthy).
On May 31st 1889 the central committee was elected; at its June 26th meeting, following a proposal of Bonghi’s, the committee laid the foundations for the Society’s scholarly activity with proposals for a critical edition of the Commedia and of the minor works, and for the publication of a "Bulletin" to contain "research into and documentation of" Dante’s life and works. The "Bullettin" was entrusted to M. Barbi, who remained its director from 1890 to 1905 (vol. XII of the ‘new series’). From 1906 (vol. XIII) until 1923 (vol. XXVIII) the "Bulletin" continued under the direction of E.G. Parodi (who died in 1923). In 1920 Barbi founded the Society's periodical "Studi Danteschi", which, after Parodi’s death, became the official organ of the Society. "Studi Danteschi" was edited by Barbi until 1943 (volume XXVII), from volume XXVIII (1949) by M. Casella, from volume XXXIV (1957) by G. Contini, assisted, from volume XLVIII (1971) on, by F. Mazzoni, who became sole director in 1982 and has remained so untill 2001, when he was supported by two codirectors, G. Gorni and R. Migliorini Fissi. In 2011 the review was directed by Enrico Ghidetti with Giancarlo Garfagnini as vice director. Today the review is directed by Antonio Lanza and Lino Pertile with the vice direction of Paola Allegretti.
On April 27th 1899, in the large hall of Orsanmichele (later officially named the ‘Sala di Dante’), G. Mazzoni inaugurated public readings (or ‘lecturae’) of the poem - and thus took the first step in making an informed appreciation of Dante available to a wider public. By Decree n. 353 of November 8th, 1901, the Society became a charitable foundation; by Decree n. 352 of the same date, the "Lecturae Dantis" were formalised and became the responsibility of the Michelangelo Caetani di Sermoneta Charitable Foundation, with the aim of ensuring perpetually the ‘public reading and explanation of the Commedia in Orsanmichele in Florence, and, where possible, the public exposition of the minor works as well’.
It was time too to think about finding permanent premises for the offices and for the library. Space was found at first in the Biblioteca Riccardiana, which by Decree n. 7329 of December 14th 1890 was declared ‘the seat of the Italian Dante Society, and was assigned under its patronage’. Then, in 1904, came the purchase of the Palagio dell’Arte della Lana, a building which is architecturally linked to the national monument of Orsanmichele. In the Palagio the public and scholarly activities of the Society have taken place and they still do so.
After Guglielmo Gorni, Emilio Pasquini and Enrico Ghidetti, today the President is Eugenio Giani side by side with Lino Pertile for the scientific program. Robert Hollander is Honorary President.