Manufacturing the Renaissance
Modern merchant princes and the origins of the Manchester Dante Society
in Culture in Manchester
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Stephen Milner’s essay focuses on the foundation in 1906 of the Manchester Dante Society. With the benefit of an archive of minute books, membership lists, correspondence and press cuttings, he reconstructs the particular social and cultural milieu in which interest in Dante emerged in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Manchester. Pre-dating the Society, the analogy between medieval and Renaissance Florence and nineteenth-century Manchester was regularly made. Newly wealthy Manchester men visited Italy and collected Italian art, and the ‘Palazzo-style’ architecture of Manchester’s warehouses was explicitly based on the Renaissance model. At the same time, Dante’s Inferno served as a literary trope for the worst aspects of industrial Manchester, as recorded by Friedrich Engels and other social commentators. With the acquisition of Italian texts for the John Rylands library by the early twentieth century, the scene was set for the founding of the Dante Society.

Culture in Manchester

Institutions and urban change since 1850

Editors: Janet Wolff and Mike Savage


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