2015 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the Venetian scholar-printer Aldus Manutius.
Aldus Manutius (or Aldo Manuzio in its Italiate form) is credited with many ‘firsts’ in the printing and publishing industry. He made Greek and Latin classical literature more readily available by introducing smaller and cheaper formats of books, established the modern use of the semicolon through his printed works and was the first to print in italic type (with the assistance of his typefounder, Francesco Griffo).
Magdalene College Old Library holds many books from the Aldine Press when later generations of the Manutius family were overseeing the business. This book, part of a multi-volume set of Cicero’s works from 1559, names Aldus Manutius’ third son Paulus on the title page. Paulus Manutius was a Cicero scholar, and concentrated on publishing Cicero’s writings in addition to other works of classical literature. The Old Library has a comprehensive collection of Cicero published by the Aldine Press.
On the title page one can see the Aldine Press’ printer’s device, depicting an anchor and a dolphin. The anchor is said to represent stability and steadfastness whilst the dolphin’s agility in the water represents a prolific work ethic. It is an allegory of the motto “festina lente” or “make haste slowly.” The symbol and motto appears on certain Roman medals.
The book is in ‘octavo’ format, which Aldus Manutius pioneered for the printing of classical literature so scholars could read ‘on the move’ rather than at a desk. The term ‘octavo’ refers to the eight leaves of a book made by folding a large sheet of paper in half three times. The italic typeface, first used by the Aldine press, allowed text to be condensed into a smaller space to correspond with the smaller octavo format. This book features one of the italic typefaces of the press.
There are two handwritten marks of ownership on the title page. One has been deleted, although the name underneath can still clearly be read as ‘Joannis Sanrauij’. The other by the printer’s device is not so legible: perhaps readers of the blog can offer their own suggestions as to what this name might be?
by Catherine Sutherland
Deputy Librarian, Pepys Library and Special Collections
Update 25/02/16: Thank you to Dr. Jason Scott-Warren, Director of the Centre for Material Texts, has identified ‘Joannis Sanrauij’ as Jean Saint-Ravy (Johannes Sanravius) who translated Aeschylus into Latin in 1555.
‘Aldus Manutius – Rare Books Collections – National Library of Scotland – National Library of Scotland’. Accessed 10 April 2015. http://www.nls.uk/collections/rare-books/collections/aldus-manutius.
‘Aldus Pius Manutius – PUBLISHER OF RENAISSANCE VENICE | SFU Library’. Accessed 10 April 2015. http://www.lib.sfu.ca/special-collections/projects/aldus.
‘Exhibition Honours Man Who Brought Literature to the Masses | The University of Manchester’. Accessed 10 April 2015. http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/article/?id=13762.
‘First Impressions | Aldus Manutius’. Accessed 10 April 2015. http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/firstimpressions/Pioneers-of-Print/Aldus-Manutius/.
‘The Mark of the Aldine Press.’ New York Times. 5 April 1874.
‘ZSR | Aldus Manutius’. Accessed 10 April 2015. http://zsr.wfu.edu/special/blog/tag/aldus-manutius/.