Aldus Manutius (Bassiano, near Rome, 1452? – Venice, 6 February 1515) is generally regarded as the ‘Prince’ of Renaissance printers. Indeed, in his twenty-year activity as a printer from 1495 to 1515, Aldus published more than 120 editions of extraordinary purity of proportions, and with beautiful founts cut by the goldsmith and punch-cutter Francesco Griffo. They include the renowned Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), his most accomplished illustrated book, and the series of pocket-size books in Italic type (enchiridia) of classical Latin and Greek authors and Italian vernacular poets, printed for the recreation of learned aristocrats and courtiers, so much sought-after as to be immediately counterfeited by Italian and French competitors. These books secured Aldus enduring fame and changed the appearance of Western books for ever.
This was never Aldus’s purpose, though. Instead, the principal and unwavering ambition of this grammarian turned printer was to spread the knowledge of classical Greek language and culture among European humanists by printing original Greek texts from ancient manuscript sources, with no commentary or translation. The Aldine Greek editions all revised by him and eminent scholars such as Chalcondylas and Musurus, gained Aldus the everlasting respect of Guillaume Budé, Janus Lascaris, Erasmus, and Johannes Reuchlin. This exhibition celebrates the 500-year anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius on 6 February 1515. It shows books mostly produced during Aldus’s life time (1495-1515) and focuses on his personal connections with some of the most influential scholars of the time, including Pietro Bembo and Erasmus of Rotterdam. Unless otherwise noted, all books were printed by Aldus in Venice. The exhibition curator Laura Nuvoloni wishes to thank John Goldfinch, Marilena Maniaci and Michael Reeve for their help and advice.