The Aldine press device and a wood-cut from Demosthenes, (1554), Orationum, Venetiis : Paulo Manutio.
Pocket-sized books and the italic typeface are two enduring printing innovations introduced by the Italian Renaissance printer-publisher Aldus Manutius, who died 500 years ago.
Born ca. 1450 near Rome, Aldus Manutius or Aldo Manuzio was a humanist scholar. He worked as a tutor before moving in about 1489 to Venice where he set up the Aldine press with backing from established printer Andrea Torresani (1451-1529) among others. Aldus, who produced his first book in 1495, is perhaps most widely renowned for publishing the first printed editions in Greek of the works of many classical Greek writers, such as Thucydides and Herodotus.1
For his books in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and the vernacular Italian, Aldus commissioned several typefaces, including Bembo and the first italic typeface from the type designer Francesco Griffo. The italic type was used in the small-format `octavo’ books Aldus introduced in 1501, which he called `libri portatiles’ or portable books. He also collaborated with leading scholars of the day, including Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas Linacre. Following Aldus’ death on 6 February 1515, the Aldine press was carried on by Torresani (by then his father-in-law) and later his son Paulo Manutius (1512-1574) and grandson Aldus Manutius (1547-1597).1
The above images are from the 1554 Aldine edition of Demosthenes' Orationum, which was printed by Aldus’ son Paulo.2 This three-volume work in Special Collections is bound in ca. 19th century half-vellum. Each volume carries the armorial bookplate for William Henry Dutton (1827-1896), a lawyer and book collector of Hewcroft, Newcastle, England, whose library was sold in London by Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge in 1903.3 One volume has the signature of an earlier Greek owner.
Special Collections also holds a fine facsimile edition of Aldus’ most famous work, the 1499 Hypnerotomachia poliphili,4 which is hailed for its typographical design and its many exquisite woodcut illustrations.
Jo Birks, Special Collections
1 M. Davies, (1995), Aldus Manutius : printer and publisher of Renaissance Venice, Malibu, Calif.: J. Paul Getty Museum; M. Lowry, (1979), The world of Aldus Manutius : business and scholarship in Renaissance Venice, Oxford : Blackwell.
2 Demosthenes, (1554), Orationum, Venetiis : Paulo Manutio. Glass Case 885.6 A
3 (1903), Catalogue of the interesting library of books and manuscripts of the late William Henry Dutton, Esq. (of Hewcroft, Newcastle, Staffordshire) : comprising incunabula and other early printed and modern books illustrating the history of printing ... , London : Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
4 F. Collona, (1963), Hypnerotomachia Poliphili [facsimile], London : Eugrammia Press. Glass Case 093 C71