An Illustrated and Interactive Dante’s Inferno: Explore a New Digital Companion to the Great 14th-Century Epic Poem

Medieval con­cep­tions of hell may have lit­tle effect on the laws and social mores of our sec­u­lar age. But they sure as hell did in the late 15th cen­tu­ry, when the first illus­trat­ed edi­tions of Dante’s Infer­no appeared. A 1481 edi­tion con­tained art based on a series of unfin­ished illus­tra­tions by Renais­sance mas­ter San­dro Bot­ti­cel­li. In 1491, the first ful­ly-illus­trat­ed edi­tion of the Infer­no arrived. As were most print­ed works at the time, these books were elab­o­rate and expen­sive, reflect­ing the very seri­ous treat­ment the sub­ject of Dante’s work received.

Cen­turies lat­er, Dante’s work has not lost its effect on our imag­i­na­tions. Though most peo­ple are far less like­ly to enter­tain belief in a giant corkscrew pit beneath the earth full of tor­tured souls, it remains a vivid, chill­ing (so to speak) metaphor. The epic poem’s lan­guage moves and entrances us; its psy­cho­log­i­cal insights daz­zle; its for­mal inno­va­tions con­tin­ue to awe; and its images still shock, amuse, and ter­ri­fy.

Every decade, it seems, pro­duces some new, fresh visu­al take on the Infer­no, from Bot­ti­cel­li to the stun­ning ren­der­ings of William Blake, Gus­tave Doré, Alber­to Mar­ti­ni, Sal­vador Dali, Robert Rauschen­berg.…

This is daunt­ing com­pa­ny, and the online, inter­ac­tive com­pan­ion to the Infer­no you see screen-shot­ted here does not attempt to join their ranks. Its charm­ing, children’s‑book-graphic visu­al pre­sen­ta­tion takes a G‑rated approach, ditch­ing accu­rate human anato­my and hor­rif­ic vio­lence for a car­toon­ish video game romp through hell that makes it seem like a super fun, if super weird, place to vis­it. Cre­at­ed by Alpaca, an Ital­ian design coop­er­a­tive, and design stu­dio Molotro, the tool aims to be “a synsemic access point to Dante’s lit­er­a­ture, aid­ing its study.”

What it lacks in visu­al high seri­ous­ness, it makes up for in util­i­ty. In this bril­liant­ly sim­ple design you can leap from Can­to to Can­to, learn the cir­cle each one cov­ers, the kind of sin­ners who inhab­it it, and the main char­ac­ters in each. Click on select­ed fig­ures in the graph­ic to see char­ac­ter names and quot­ed excerpts from the poem. A much longer list of char­ac­ters serves as an index, quick­ly link­ing each name to a Can­to, quo­ta­tion, cir­cle, and sin. The Ital­ian site links to the orig­i­nal poem on Wikipedia. The Eng­lish ver­sion’s anno­ta­tions link to Hen­ry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1867 trans­la­tion.

Access Can­tos and Char­ac­ters in menus at the top of the main page or use the zoom but­ton to move clos­er into any point in the topo­graph­i­cal map and begin click­ing on car­toon fig­ures in var­i­ous stages of tor­tured dis­tress. See Behance for an illus­trat­ed guide through the online Infer­no, a com­i­cal-look­ing tool with very seri­ous appli­ca­tions for stu­dents of Dante’s poem. If you’re new to the Infer­no, dive right in here. Hell awaits, as it has for mil­lions of fas­ci­nat­ed read­ers for 800 years.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Free Course on Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Visu­al­iz­ing Dante’s Hell: See Maps & Draw­ings of Dante’s Infer­no from the Renais­sance Through Today

Artists Illus­trate Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy Through the Ages: Doré, Blake, Bot­ti­cel­li, Mœbius & More

A Dig­i­tal Archive of the Ear­li­est Illus­trat­ed Edi­tions of Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy (1487–1568)

Alber­to Martini’s Haunt­ing Illus­tra­tions of Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy (1901–1944)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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