Aldus Manutius

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Aldus Manutius
Aldus Manutius.jpg
Aldus Pius Manutius
Born Aldo Manuzio
Fifteenth century
Died 1515
Nationality Venetian
Other names Aldus Manutius the Elder
Occupation humanist who became a printer and publisher
Known for founding the Aldine Press at Venice

Aldus Pius Manutius also known as Aldo Manuzio (Italian: Aldo Pio Manuzio; ca. 1452 – February 6, 1515) was a Venetian humanist, scholar, and educator, who became a printer and publisher when he helped found the Aldine Press in Venice, 1495.[1]:22 He is also known as "Aldus Manutius the Elder" to distinguish him from his grandson, "Aldus Manutius the Younger".[2]

Manutius "attempted to make classical Greek works accessible which before him had never been published in their original language".[3]:2 His publishing legacy includes the distinctions of inventing the first italic type, establishing the modern use of the semicolon, developing the modern appearance of the comma, and popularizing the libelli portatiles, or portable little (specifically) classic books: small-format volumes that could be easily carried and read anywhere.[4]:foreword

Early life and printing press

Bust of Aldo Manuzio. Panteon Veneto; Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti

Manutius was born in Bassiano, in the Papal States, in what is now the province of Latina, some 100 km south of Rome, during the Italian Renaissance period.[1]:22 His family was well off and in the early 1470s Manutius was sent to Rome to be educated as a humanistic scholar, studying Latin under Gaspare da Verona and attending lectures by Domizio Calderini. In 1475–1478 he studied Greek in Ferrara, under Guarino da Verona.[3]:1

Manutius was granted citizenship of the town of Carpi in March 1480. In 1482 he went to reside at Mirandola with his old friend and fellow student, the illustrious Giovanni Pico, while avoiding the Venetian army. There he stayed two years, pursuing his studies in Greek literature.[5]:624 Before Pico moved to Florence,[5]:624 he procured for Manutius the post of tutor to his nephews, Alberto and Leonello Pio, princes of the town of Carpi.[5]:624 In Carpi, Manutius shared a close bond with his student, Alberto Pio. At the end of the 1480s Manutius published two works addressed to his two pupils and their mother, Caterina Pico. Both works were published by Baptista de Tortis in Venice — Musarum panagyris with its Epistola Catherinae Piae, March/May 1487 – March 1491 and the Paraenesis, 1490.[3]:1–3 This would serve as Manutius' emergence into the publishing sphere.

Giovanni Pico's family supplied Manutius with funds for starting his printing press and gave him lands at Carpi.[5]:624 Manutius determined that Venice was the best location for his work and settled there in 1490[5]:624 The same year, Manutius began gathering contracts and eventually met Andrea Torresani who also had come to Venice to become a print publisher. The two became lifelong business partners. For their first contract together, Manutius hired Torresani to print the first edition of his Latin grammar book, the Institutiones grammaticae, published on March 9, 1493.[3]:3[6]

Aldine Press

In 1494 Manutius helped found the Aldine Press in Venice. Yet it wasn't until February 1495 that the Aldine Press had its first publication. Half of the Aldine Press was owned by Pier Francesco Barbarigo, whose uncle was the doge, Agostino Barbarigo. The other half was owned by Andrea Torresani. Manutius owned 1/5 of Torresani's share.[3]

Greek classics

Aldus Manutius desired to preserve ancient Greek literature and make them accessible to everyday people by printing small and portable editions of Greek classics. Before Aldo's time, four Italian towns had won the honours of Greek publications: Milan, Venice, Vicenze, and Florence. Few of these works (the Milanese Theocritus and Isocrates and the Florentine Homer) were classics.[5]:624

Venice had a large library of Greek manuscripts from Constantinople. Manutius began gathering Greek scholars and compositors, employing as many as 30 Greeks in his print shop and speaking Greek at home. Instructions to typesetters and binders were given in Greek. The prefaces to his editions were written in Greek. Greeks from Crete collated manuscripts, read proofs, and gave samples of calligraphy for casts of Greek type. Manutius soon printed editions of Hero and Leander by Musaeus Grammaticus, the Galeomyomachia, and the Greek Psalter. He called these "Precursors of the Greek Library" because they served as guides to the Greek language.[5]:624

Aristotle printed by Aldus Manutius, 1495–98 (Libreria antiquaria Pregliasco, Turin)

In 1495, Manutius issued the first volume of his edition of Aristotle. Four more volumes completed the work in 1497 and 1498. Nine comedies of Aristophanes appeared in 1498. Thucydides, Sophocles, and Herodotus followed in 1502. In addition to editing Greek classics from manuscripts, Manutius re-printed editions of classics that had originally been published in Florence, Rome, and Milan, often correcting and improving the texts. To promote Greek studies, Manutius founded an academy of Hellenists in 1502 called the New Academy. "Its rules were written in Greek, its members spoke Greek, their names were Hellenized, and their official titles were Greek."[5]:625 Members of the "New Academy" included Desiderius Erasmus.[citation needed]

The Second Italian War, which pressed heavily on Venice, suspended Manutius' labors for a time. In 1508 he resumed his series with an edition of the minor Greek orators and in 1509 printed the lesser works of Plutarch. Printing work stopped again when the League of Cambrai drove Venice back to its lagoons, and all the forces of the republic were concentrated on a life-or-death struggle with the allied powers of Europe. In 1513, Manutius reappeared with an edition of Plato, which he dedicated to Pope Leo X in a preface that compares the miseries of warfare and the woes of Italy with the sublime and tranquil objects of the student's life. Pindar, Hesychius, and Athenaeus followed in 1514. At the end of his life, Manutius had begun an edition of the Septuagint, the first to be published; it appeared posthumously in 1518.[5]:624

A page from Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, an illustrated book printed by Aldus Manutius

Latin classics

The Rylands copy of the Aldine Vergil of 1501

Manutius's press also published Latin and Italian classics. The Asolani of Bembo, the collected writings of Poliziano, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Dante's Divine Comedy, Petrarch's poems, a collection of early Latin poets of the Christian era, the letters of the Pliny the Younger, the poems of Iovianus Pontanus, Jacopo Sannazaro's Arcadia, Quintilian, Valerius Maximus, and the Adagia of Erasmus were printed, in first editions, as Symonds' wrote in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "with a beauty of type and paper never reached before, between the years 1495 and 1514". For these Italian and Latin editions, Manutius had the elegant type struck which bears his name. It is said to have been copied from Petrarch's handwriting, and was cast under the direction of Francesco da Bologna, who has been wrongly identified by Antonio Panizzi with Francia the painter.[5]:624

The 1501 Virgil, which introduced the use of italic print, was produced in higher-than-normal print runs (1,000 rather than the usual 200 to 500 copies).

Manutius strove for excellence in typography and book design while at the same time striving to create inexpensive editions. His great undertaking was carried on under continual difficulties, arising from strikes among his workmen, the piracies of rivals, and the interruptions of war.[5]:625

Accomplishments as a publisher

Imprint and motto

In 1501, Manutius began to use the image of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor as his publisher's device.[7][8] The dolphin and anchor emblem is also associated with "Festina lente" which means "make haste slowly", a motto that Aldus had begun to use in publishing as early as 1499. The symbol was taken from a Roman coin minted during Emperor Vespasian's reign, which bore the emblem and motto. The coin was given to Manutius by Pietro Bembo.[9]

Aldus Manutius' editions of the classics were so highly respected that almost immediately the dolphin-and-anchor device was pirated by French and Italian publishers. Because of the Aldine Press' renown many organizations now use the image of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor.[3]:4–5 More recently, the device has been used by the nineteenth-century London firm of William Pickering, and by Doubleday. The international honor society for library & information science, Beta Phi Mu uses the dolphin and the anchor as the society’s insignia.[10]

The "movable book": Aldus' octavos

The development of the "movable book" is arguably Aldus’ most celebrated contribution to printing and publishing.[11] His famous octavo editions have often been regarded as the first prototype of the mass-market trade paperback, but this popular idea is misleading and requires some clarification.[12] "Aldus changed the format of the Latin [and Greek] classics in several ways. He published them without commentary and in smaller sizes, usually octavos of five by eight of four by six inches".[13]:22 Manutius's genius for the "movable book" was listening to his audience. At the time many publishers added commentary to the classics they published. Pages became overloaded with scholarship and serious material. Although "these innovations were not absolutely original with Aldus, their use in combination was".[13]:22 Manutius’ octavos were also moderately priced, considering the known average salaries of the time, but it would be a mistake to label them as "cheap."[14]:88–91 His portable books became known as the first appearance of editio minor, a straightforward text.[3]:4–5


Manutius wanted typefaces designed to look like the handwriting of humanists, both in Latin and Greek. Cursive was the norm for everyday handwriting in Venice, but at the time, published works only contained block lettering. By creating a cursive typeface, Manutius could make the works he published more personal. Manutius hired Francesco Griffo of Bologna as the punchcutter to create the new typeface "and the resulting roman face was first used to print Cardinal Pietro Bembo's De Aetna in 1495."[1]:22 This roman face was also the first model of italic type and used until 1501.[3]:2–5

In the New Aldine Studies, Fletcher describes his belief for Manutius's typeface, "His principal intent, I am convinced, was to make available in type a face comfortable for its readers". Manutius designed a new font in which the letters were inclined which he called "italic" in reference to classical Italy. Type designs based on work designed by Francesco Griffo and commissioned by Aldus Manutius include Bembo, Poliphilus, and Garamond. Despite trying to have the font patented, he could not stop printers outside Venice from copying it, leading to the font's popularity outside of Italy.[15]

Marriage and personal life

Bernardino Loschi, Aldo Manuzio

In 1505, Manutius married Maria, daughter of Andrea Torresani[16] of Asola. Torresani and Manutius were already business partners but the marriage combined the two partner's shares in the publishing business. After the marriage, Manutius lived at Toressani's house, now his father-in-law. By 1506 the Aldine Press was shrinking in popularity and was moved to a house now covered by a bank building named Campo Manin. In March 1506 Manutius decided to travel from Venice in search of reliable manuscripts for six months. While travelling with Frederico de Ceresara, they were stopped by border guards of the marquisate of Mantua. The guards were looking for two criminals. In fear, Frederico took flight taking with him all of Manutius's personal effects, leaving the guards in high suspicion. They arrested Manutius. However, Manutius knew the Marquis of Mantua, Francesco Gonzaga. Manutius spent five days in jail in Casal Romano and spent another night in a real prison in Canneto. He wrote letters to the marquis but it took six days until it was brought to Gonzaga's attention. Manutius was released by Geoffroy Carles, president of the Milanese Senate. This experience brought forth the "eventual appearance, in 1509, of a new edition of Horace with an accompanying work by Aldus on Horation metrics, dedicated to Carles".[3]

Manutius died in 1515, "with his death the importance of Italy as a seminal and dynamic force in printing came to an end"[17]:11 Torresani and his two sons carried on the business during the minority of Manutius' children. The device of the dolphin and the anchor, and the motto festina lente, which indicated quickness combined with firmness in the execution of a great scheme, were never wholly abandoned by the Aldine Press until the expiration of their firm in the third generation.[5]:625 Manutius dreamed of a trilingual Bible but never saw it come to fruition.[3]

Influence in the modern era

1994 marked the 500th anniversary of Aldus Manutius' first publication. On Manutius, Paul F. Grendler wrote, "Aldus ensured the survival of a large number of ancient texts and greatly facilitated the diffusion of the values, enthusiasms, and scholarship of Italian Renaissance Humanism to the rest of Europe". "He jettisoned commentary because he felt that it prevented the dialogue between author and reader that the renaissance prized." The modern world owes a great debt to Aldus Manutius for Greek literature.[13]:22–24

References to Aldus Manutius


Partial list of works published by the Aldine Press under Aldus Manutius's supervision:

  • Institutiones Graecae grammatices, Urbano Bolzanio (1497)
  • De mysteriis. Latin, Iamblichus (1497)
  • Alcibiades; De sacrificio et magia. Latin, Proclus (1497)
  • De somniis. Latin, Synesius Platonicus (1497)
  • De daemonibus. Latin, Michael Psellus (1497)
  • Dictionarium Graecum , Giovanni Crastoni (1497)
  • Book of Hours. Greek, Catholic Church (1497)
  • Works, Aristophanes (1498)
  • Works Latin, Angelo Poliziano (1498)
  • Cornucopiae, Niccolò Perotti (1499)
  • Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Francesco Colonna (1499)
  • Epistole devotissime, Catherine of Siena (1500)
  • De vita Apollonii, Philostratus (1501)
  • Vocabularium, Julius Pollux (1502)
  • In Aristotelis De interpretatione, Ammonius Hermiae (1503)
  • In posteriora resolutoria Aristotelis, John Philoponus (1504)
  • Gli Asolani, Pietro Bembo (1505)
  • Hecuba; Iphigenia in Aulis. Latin, Euripides (1507)
  • Epistolae, Pliny the Younger (1508)
  • Moralia, Plutarch (1509)
  • Erotemata, Constantine Lascaris (1512)
  • Epistolae ad Atticum; ad Brutum; ad Quintum fratrem, Cicero (1513)
  • Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri IX, Valerius Maximus (1514)


For substantial collections of Aldus Manutius's publications, see Aldine Press Collections.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Seddon, Tony (2015). The Evolution of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Landmark Typefaces. Firefly Books. ISBN 9781770855045. 
  2. ^ "Pay attention: it's important!". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 November 2010.  "This is a celebration of punctuation, full of jokes and anecdotes and information. It also introduces us to a new hero, and, as a fitting act of deference, I am going to put down a colon before writing his name: Aldus Manutius the Elder. This Venetian printer, who lived from 1450 to 1515, was the inventor of the italic typeface and also the first to use the semicolon."
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fletcher III, Harry George (1988). New Aldine Studies. San Francisco, California: Bernard M. Rosenthal, Inc. 
  4. ^ Truss, Lyne. Eats, shoots & leaves The zero tolerance approach to punctuation. New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1592402038. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Symonds 1911.
  6. ^ "Aldus Manutius". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  7. ^ H. George Fletcher, In praise of Aldus Manutius (New York: Morgan Library, 1995), pp. 26–27.
  8. ^ Mortimer, Ruth (1974). Catalogue of books and Manuscripts. Part II. Italian 16th Century Books. 2 vols. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 
  9. ^ Brian Richardson, Print Culture in Renaissance Italy: The Editor and the Vernacular Text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 16.
  10. ^ "Beta Phi Mu". 
  11. ^ The term "movable book" is borrowed from Yosef Wosk. See Yosef Wosk, “Dedication of the Aldine Collection,” in Festina Lente: A Celebration of the Wosk‒McDonald Aldine Collection at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, B.C.: SFU Friends of the Archives & the Alcuin Society, 1996).
  12. ^ Neil Harris, "Aldus and the Making of the Myth (Or What Did Aldus Really Do?)," in Aldo Manuzio. La costruzione del mito (Marsilio, 2017), pp. 363–364. See also Martin Lowry, The World of Aldus Manutius. Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979), p. 142.
  13. ^ a b c Grendler, Paul F. (1984). Aldus Manutius: Humanist, Teacher, and Printer. Providence, Rhode Island: The John Carter Brown Library. 
  14. ^ See Fletcher's "Octavo Sizes and Prices" in his New Aldine Studies (San Francisco: Rosenthal, 1988., pp. 88–91.
  15. ^ Lyons, Martyn (2011). Books: A Living History. Los Angeles: Getty Publications. p. 78. ISBN 9781606060834. 
  16. ^ Helen Barolini, Aldus and His Dream Book (New York: Italica Press, 1992), p. 84.
  17. ^ Blumenthal, Joseph (1973). Art of the Printed Book, 1455-1955: Masterpieces of Typograph through Five Centuries from the Collections of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Boston: The Pierpont Morgan Library. pp. no. 557 illus. [II 778]. 
  18. ^ "Manuzio". Liber Liber. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  19. ^ "TYPE GALLERY – LINOTYPE ALDUS". Linotype. Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  20. ^ Sais, Mercy. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan". Central Rappahannock Regional Library Inspiring Lifelong Learning. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  21. ^ McAllister, Courtney. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan". Central Rappahannock Regional Library Inspiring Lifelong Learning. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  22. ^ Friedlander, Joel. "Deconstructing Bembo: Typographic Beauty and Bloody Murder". Self-Publishing Review. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  23. ^ "Student Publications Spotlight: Aldus Journal of Translation". Brown University: Office of Global Engagement. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  24. ^ O'day, Edward F. (February 1928). John Henry Nash: The Aldus of San Francisco. San Francisco, California: San Francisco Bay Cities Club of Printing House Craftsman. 


  • Infelise, Mario, eds. (2016) Aldo Manuzio. La costruzione del mito. Venice: Marsilio.
  • Lowry, Martin J. C. (1979). The World of Aldus Manutius: Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice. Oxford: Blackwell.  (Italian translation, Il Mondo di Aldo Manuzio, 1984; 'con aggiornamento bibliografico', 2000).
  • Lyons, Martyn (2011). Books: A Living History. Los Angeles: Paul Getty Publications. 2nd ed.
  • Fletcher. Harry George III (1988). New Aldine Studies: Documentary Essays on the Life and Work of Aldus Manutius. San Francisco: Bernard M. Rosenthal.
  • Truss, Lynn (2004). Eats, Shoot & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Aldus Manutius". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSymonds, John Addington (1911). "Manutius s.v. Aldus Manutius". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 624–625. 

Further reading

  • Barker, Nicolas, Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script and Type in the Fifteenth Century (2nd. ed., 1973)
  • Barolini, Helen, Aldus and His Dream Book (New York: Italica Press, 1992)
  • Beltramini, Guido, Davide Gasparotto, and Giulio Manieri Elia, eds. (2016) Aldo Manuzio: Renaissance in Venice. Venezia: Marsilio.
  • Braida, Lodovica, Stampa e Cultura in Europa (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2003)
  • Calasso, Roberto (2015). The Art of the Publisher. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Davies, Martin, Aldus Manutius, Printer and Publisher of Renaissance Venice (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1999)
  • Febvre, L. & Martin, H., La nascita del libro (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2001)
  • Norton, F. J., Italian Printers 1501–20 (1958)
  • Nuovo, Angela (2016). "Aldo Manuzio a Los Angeles. La collezione Ahmanson-Murphy all'University of California Los Angeles". 7 (1): 1–24. doi:10.4403/ 
  • Renouard, Antoine-Augustine, Annales de l'imprimerie des Alde, ou Histoire des trois Manuce et de leurs éditions. (3rd ed. Paris: Jules Renouard, 1834)
  • Rives, Bruno, Aldo Manuzio, passions et secrets d'un Vénitien de génie (Saint- Cloud: Librii, 2008)

External links

  • Media related to Aldus Manutius at Wikimedia Commons
  • Exhibit on Aldus Manutius and his press at the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
  • Works by Aldus Manutius at Open Library
  • Works by Aldus Manutius at
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