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Aldus Manutius

Aldus ManutiusAKA Teobaldo Manucci

Born: 1449
Birthplace: Bassiano, Italy
Died: 6-Feb-1515
Location of death: Venice, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Publisher

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Founder of Aldine Press

Aldus Manutius, called Aldo Manuzio, the founder of the Aldine press, was born in 1450 in the village of Bassiano, located outside Rome. He received a scholar's training, studying Latin at Rome under Gasparo da Verona, and Greek at Ferrara under Guarino da Verona. In 1482 he went to reside with his friend Giovanni Pico at Mirandola, where for two years he continued his study of Greek literature. Before Pico removed to Florence, he procured for Aldus the post of tutor to his nephews Alberto and Lionello Pio, princes of Carpi. The Pio family later financed Aldus's grand publishing house.

It was Aldus's ambition to secure the literature of Greece from further accident by committing its chief masterpieces to type. He selected Venice as the most appropriate station for his labors. He settled there in 1490, printing editions of the Hero and Leander of Musaeus, the Galeomyomachia, and the Greek Psalter. These have no date; but they are the earliest tracts Aldus printed, calling them "Precursors of the Greek Library".

At Venice Aldus gathered an army of Greek scholars and compositors around him. His trade was carried on by Greeks, and Greek was the language of his household. 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 models of calligraphy for casts of Greek type. Not counting the craftsmen employed in merely manual labor, Aldus entertained as many as thirty of these Greek assistants in his family. His own industry and energy were unremitting. In 1495 he issued the first volume of his Aristotle. Four more volumes completed the work in 1497-98. Nine comedies of Aristophanes appeared in 1498. Thucydides, Sophocles and Herodotus followed in 1502; Xenophon's Hellenics and Euripides in 1503; Demosthenes in 1504. The troubles of Italy, which pressed heavily on Venice at this time, suspended Aldus's labors for a while, but in 1508 he resumed his series with an edition of the minor Greek orators; and in 1509 appeared the lesser works of Plutarch. A small-format edition of Virgil, published in 1500, used the first instance of an italic font, though it should be noted that the entire book was printed in italics, and an italic typeface was not cut specifically to accompany a Roman type until much later. Then came another stoppage: the league of Cambray had driven Venice back to her lagoons, and all the forces of the republic were concentrated on a struggle to the death with the allied powers of Europe. In 1513 Aldus reappeared with Plato, which he dedicated to Pope Leo X. in a preface eloquently and earnestly comparing 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.

These complete the list of Aldus's prime services to Greek literature. But it may be well in this place to observe that his successors continued his work by giving Pausanias, Strabo, Aeschylus, Galen, Hippocrates and Longinus to the world in first editions. Meanwhile, other presses were at work in Italy; and, as the classics issued from Florence, Rome or Milan, Aldus took them up, bestowing in each case fresh industry upon the collation of codices and the correction of texts.

Nor was the Aldine press idle in regard to Latin and Italian classics. The Asolani and De Aetna of Bembo, the collected writings of Poliziano, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of Francesco Colonna, Dante's Divine Comedy, Petrarch's poems, a collection of early Latin poets of the Christian era, the letters of the younger Pliny, the poems of Pontanus, Sannazzaro's Arcadia, Quintilian, Valerius Maximus, and the Adagia of Erasmus were printed, either in first editions, or with a beauty of type and paper never achieved before, between the years 1495 and 1514. For these Italian and Latin editions Aldus 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 identified by Panizzi with Francia the painter.

Aldus's enthusiasm for Greek literature was not confined to the printing room. Whatever the students of this century may think of his scholarship, they must allow that only vast erudition and thorough familiarity with the Greek language could have enabled him to accomplish what he did. In his own days Aldus's learning won the hearty acknowledgment of ripe scholars. To his fellow workers he was uniformly generous, free from jealousy, and prodigal of praise. While aiming at that excellence of typography which renders his editions the treasures of the book-collector, he strove at the same time to make them cheap.

His great undertaking was carried on under continual difficulties, arising from strikes among his workmen, the piracies of rivals, and the interruptions of war. When he died, bequeathing Greek literature as an inalienable possession to the world, he was a poor man. In order to promote Greek studies, Aldus founded an academy of Hellenists in 1500 under the title of the New Academy. Its rules were written in Greek, and its members obliged to speak Greek. Their names and titles were Hellenized. The biographies of all the famous men who were enrolled in this academy must be sought in the pages of Didot's Aide Manuce. It is enough here to mention that they included Erasmus and the English Linacre.

In 1499 Aldo married Maria, daughter of Andrea Torresano of Asola. Andrea had already bought the press established by Nicolas Jenson at Venice. Therefore Aldus's marriage combined two important publishing firms. Henceforth the names Aldus and Asolanus were associated on the title pages of the Aldine publications; and after Aldus's death in 1515, Andrea and his two sons carried on the business during the minority of Aldo's children. The device of the dolphin and the anchor, and the motto festina lente, or make haste slowly, were never wholly abandoned by the Aldines until the expiration of their firm in the third generation.

Wife: Maria Torresano (m. 1499, 3 sons)
Son: Paulus Manutius (publisher, b. 1512, d. 1574)

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