Aldus Manutius and his Legacy

Of the many printers to have operated in Venice in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Aldus Manutius (c.1452-1515) was a shining light. An outstanding advocate of Greek literature, he produced the first printed editions of 31 Greek authors, designing a Greek type in order to do so. He was also a humanist scholar printer par excellence, who edited, translated or wrote commentaries on works he published. In 1501 he became a major innovator by departing from the heavy and expensive folio format previously used for publication of the classics in order to produce octavo volumes printed in an italic type he designed: books that were portable and that students could more easily afford.


Although Aldus Manutius and the Aldine Press generally – continued by his son and grandson until nearly the end of the sixteenth century – are best known for producing classical texts, the Press also published works in the vernacular, and also published modern works, including books that they themselves wrote. Their output covers a variety of subjects, in the contemporary as well as the classical works.

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of Aldus’s death, Senate House Library is displaying books connected with the Aldine Press, acquired from various sources from 1871 onwards. Our display demonstrates in a few books the variety of the Aldine output. It shows, too, in the final case, how their influence lasted long after their publishing enterprise had ceased.

The display runs 16 January – 16 March and complements other Aldine celebrations in London, Britain and continental Europe.

 

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