Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 October 2020
Twice in the Comedy's last canto Dante refers to the binding of texts. The Sibyl's “light leaves” (lines 64-66) point to the danger of not binding texts: when the order of pages is lost, the text s meaning (sentenza) also vanishes. Medieval thinkers distinguished between the sequential perception (sensus) and the simultaneous perception (sententia) of a poem s elements. Because Dante released the poem in fascicles over a period of ten or more years, he needed to remind the reader in the last fascicle to bind the pages into a single volume. The final book image (85-90) indirectly performs this task. Appearing at the moment when the reader is at last able to pass from the poem s sensus to its sententia, these lines employ book binding as a metaphor for the perception of the text in its entirety. Their unusually polysemous language implies a triple analogy. God, poet, and reader are all artificers of a heavenly volume.