"Dante" - birth name Durante d'Alighiero (later became Dante d'Alighieri) (1265-1321)
He was born in Florence, Italy of a bourgeois family of noble descent - his father was a moneylender. Dante was a cavalryman, a member of the Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries, a political activist but most of all he was a poet.
After being sentenced to death by the Pope for opposing his temporal authority over the nation's monarch he fled to Ravenna (1318). Here is where he completed the epic poem "Divine Comedy" a spiritual trip through Hell, Purgatory and finally to Paradise (depicted in the artwork of what we normally call the "22 color version"). Although the poem was started in Latin, Dante changed to Italian which elevated for the first time the Italian vernacular from daily use into an art. He died from malaria shortly after he finished the poem "Paradiso".
THE LABEL (22 color version-circa 1900): Numerous articles have stated that this label originally cost about $6,000 to produce (in turn of the Century dollars) and that it would have required some 22 separate limestones to register and complete the label - but no one that I am aware of has been able to prove that there are 22 colors. I have a proof label "Temporia" with a color bar of 12 and have seen another label with 14 - has anyone seen a proof with more than 14 colors? If so, please let us know.
Nevertheless this version of "Dante" is an exquisite piece of art and considered a cross-over label - that is why there are so few available today. Many non-cigar label collectors acquired this label when it was first found - such as interior decorators, antique dealers and framers. According to Mark Trout, who located the label in 1977 at the Lewis Walters Cigar Box Company in New York, there were 1,200 found. I know you want to believe there were fewer found but "that's the fact Jack". The price Mark originally sold the label for: $7.00 - currently it is going for $500.00 to $800.00.
There are several (over 30) versions of "Dante" labels including a couple of European versions that look more like Top Sheets. "Dante Alighieri" is another Euro version that is available from time to time and a worthy addition to your collection. According to Gerard Petrone's book, "Cigar Box Labels", the 1857 "El Dante" label is reported to be the OLDEST American cigar label ever found. It is in the Library of Congress but I wish it were in my library.