220px-Aldus_ManutiusThis year marks the quincentenary of the death of Aldus Manutius (c.1451-1515), a pioneer from the heroic age of printing. He was particularly known for his translations of Greek and Latin texts and he was the first to make libelli portatiles, small portable octavo books. In 1501 he employed Francisco Griffo to create a font modeled on chancery script. The resulting font, the first Italic type made, had the additional advantage of saving space. You can see from the book page illustrated below that critics have been rather severe as regards the aesthetics of Aldus’ fonts. His most famous typeface was first used in a book by Cardinal Bembo, De Aetna, 1496, the typeface taking its name from the author. For myself I have a definite soft spot for Bembo. However it is perhaps as an influential printing/publishing innovator that Aldus is most deservedly remembered.

The website The Manutius Network at CERL (Consortium of European Research Libraries) lists the events marking the quincentenary of Aldus’s death this year. The Aldine Press founded by Aldus was celebrated in the exhibition Collecting the Renaissance: The Aldine Press (1494-1598) part of Treasures of the British Library exhibit at the Ritblat Gallery which I managed to see in December. Unfortunately it ended on January 25th. The TLS blog had a little piece on it. This link will take you to an introduction to the Bodleian Library’s exhibition Aldus Manutius: The Struggle and the Dream with 17 illustrations. It ends on 22 February.

Bembo sample from Stanley Morison: A Tally of Types.  © Cambridge University Press 1973

Bembo sample from Stanley Morison: A Tally of Types.
© Cambridge University Press 1973

Graphic Design History has a good website which has much information about Aldus, and almost everything else, if you click around in it.

 

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