Aldus Manutius and his contemporaries: printing in Venice, 1500-1560 exhibition

Aldus manutius anchorThe year 2015 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius (c. 1451-1515), one of the most influential figures among the early Venetian printers.

This exhibition features some examples of his publications from the University of Reading rare book collections, together with works by his son, Paulus Manutius, and some of Aldus’s contemporaries who were working during his lifetime and afterwards.

At the turn of the fifteenth century, Venice was at the centre of the book market, with about 150 presses at work in the city. Aldus established a reputation as one of the finest printers of the period, producing quality, compact and affordable editions of classical and contemporary texts for the growing market of humanist scholars.

Aldus is known for his development of an italic type, cut by Francesco Griffo. The condensed size of this type, which was based on the humanist script, enabled Aldus to create compact editions which were popular with scholars for their portability.

Publications printed by Aldus from 1502 onwards bear his printer’s device of a dolphin curled around an anchor [see image above]. This emblem, representing speed combined with calmness, is a reference to Aldus’s motto – festina lente: make haste slowly, and was to become a hallmark of high quality printing.

The exhibition will be on display at the Special Collections Service from 12 January until 27 March 2015.

Image of illuminated initial from 'Pontani Opera'.List of exhibits

Aldus Manutius

  • Pontani Opera. Vrania, siue de stellis libri quinq;. Meteororum liber unus. De hortis hesperidum libri duo. Lepidina, siue postorales [sic] pompæ septem. Item Meliseus. Mæon Acon. Hendecasyllaborum libri duo. Tumulorum liber unus. Neniæ duodecim. Epigrammata duodecim. [Venetiis : In Ædibus Aldi Ro., 1505]. PRINTING COLLECTION--879.1-PON

This illuminated edition of the works of Giovanni Gioviano Pontano (1426–1503), the celebrated Italian humanist and Latin poet, is an example of one of Aldus’s compact publications, printed in the italic type designed by Francesco Griffo. [Illuminated initial from this copy of the Pontani Opera shown right].

  • Martialis. [Venetiis : In aedibus Aldi], [Mense Decembri, 1501]. PRINTING COLLECTION--877.6

This edition of poems by the Roman poet Martial is an example of one of Aldus’s compact editions of a classical text. Aldus produced the first printed editions of many of the Greek and Latin classics. The type and format of Aldus’s publications were quickly imitated by other Italian printers, and a number of counterfeit editions of some of his works were also produced.

  • C. Plinii Secundi Novocomensis Epistolarū libri decem, .. [Venetiis : In aedib. Aldi, et Andreae Asulani soceri], [mēse Nouembri, 1508]. COLE LIBRARY--401

Aldus married in 1499, and from 1508 the name of his father-in-law, Andrea Torresani di Asola, often appeared with Aldus’s name in imprints. This edition of Pliny was their first joint publication. The partnership published an extensive number of books, especially editions of Latin works. The imprint of the partnership remained unchanged after Aldus’s death on 6 February 1515 and continued until Torresani died in 1529.

  • Francesco Colonna. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili ... [London : Eugrammia Press, 1963]. PRINTING COLLECTION FOLIO--853.29-COL

A facsimile reprint of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a romantic allegory, which was published by Aldus in 1499. Illustrated by an unknown artist, the book has been described as “the most beautiful woodcut book ever published”. The use of illustrations in printed books was a relatively new development at this time. This work is also notable for the way in which the content of the illustrations closely follows the storyline of the allegory.

Successors of Aldus Manutius

  • Thomae Linacri Britanni De emendata structura Latini sermonis libri sex : cum indice copiosissimo. Venetiis : [apud Paulum Manutium, Aldi F.], 1557. RESERVE--475-LIN

After Aldus’s death in 1515, his brothers-in-law, the Asolani, carried on the Aldine Press until 1533, when Aldus’s third son, Paulus Manutius, took over the business. Paulus continued to maintain the firm’s production of high quality editions, but failed to build on or maintain its commercial success. Paulus went to Rome in 1561, leaving the press to his son Aldus Manutius the Younger.

  • Dialoghi, di M. Sperone Speroni.. In Vinegia : [in casa de' figliuoli di Aldo], 1544. RESERVE--852.41

An edition of works by Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti (1500–1588), printed by Paulus Manutius. Speroni was an Italian Renaissance humanist, scholar and dramatist who wrote on both moral and literary matters. His works, the Dialoghi (Dialogues), were first published in Venice in 1542.

  • Bernardini Lauredani... in M. Tullius Ciceronis orationes De lege agraria contra P. Servilium Rullum tribunum pl. commentarius. Venetiis : apud Paulum Manutium, Aldi F., 1558. RESERVE--875.2

An edition of De lege agraria (On the agrarian law) by the Roman polymath Marcus Tullius Cicero, accompanied by Bernardino Loredano's commentary, and printed by Paulus Manutius.

  • Sonetti, è canzoni, del Sannazaro. [Vinegia : Nelle case delli heredi d'Aldo romano, & Andrea socero], 1534. PRINTING COLLECTION--851.26

An edition of the sonnets and songs of Jacopo Sannazaro (1458–1530), a distinguished Italian poet, humanist and epigrammist, printed under the imprint of the heirs of Aldus and his father-in-law, Andrea Torresani di Asola. 

Contemporaries of Aldus Manutius

  • M. L. Vitruvio Pollione Di architettura dal vero esemplare latino nella volgar lingua tradotto … In Vinegia : per Nicolo de Aristotele detto Zoppino, 1535. RESERVE FOLIO--720.1-VIT

This edition of De Architectura, the celebrated treatise by the Ancient Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, was printed by Nicolò di Aristotile di Rusci, detto Zoppino. Zoppino’s first known work to be printed in Venice was dated 1505. After 1518 he became a prolific printer, both alone and in partnership with Vincenzo di Paolo, and he continued to print until about 1540.

  • L'amoroso convivio di Dante : con la additione, & molti suoi notandi, accuratamente reusito & emendato. [In Vinegia : per Nicolo di Aristotile detto Zoppino], 1529. RESERVE--851.15-DAN

This edition of the Convivio (The Banquet), a work of poetry and prose on philosophy and other subjects by the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri (c.1265–1321), was printed by Nicolò di Aristotile di Rusci, detto Zoppino.

  • Tragedia di messere Giovanni Ruscellai patritio Fiorentino : intitolata Rosmunda. [Venetia : per Nicolo d'Aristotile detto Zoppino, 1528]. RESERVE--851.33

An edition of Rosmunda, a tragedy based on Hecuba, a play by the classical Greek playwright Euripides, by Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai (1475-1525), and printed by Nicolò di Aristotile di Rusci, detto Zoppino.

  • Opera di Girolamo Benvieni Firentino. [Venetia : per Nicolo Zopino e Vincentio compagno, 1522]. RESERVE--851.25

An edition of the works of the Florentine poet Girolamo Benivieni (1453–1542). The printers of this work, Nicolò di Aristotile di Rusci, detto Zoppino and Vincenzo di Paolo, worked in partnership in Venice from about 1513 until 1524. From 1518 they printed a large number of publications, specialising in small format editions of popular literature and vernacular devotional works.

  • Pietro Crescentio : opera di agricoltura : nella qual si contiene a che modi si debbe coltiuar la terra: seminare, inferireli alberi, gouernar gli giardini e glihorti. In Vinegia : per Guielmo da Fontaneto de Monserra, [1534]. RESERVE--630.2-CRE

An edition of the agricultural works of the Italian writer Petrus de Crescentius (1230-1321), printed in Venice by Guillielmus de Fontaneto.

  • Commentarii a Philippo Beroaldo conditi in Asinum aureum Lucii Apuleii. [Venetiis : per Bartholomeum de Zanis, 1504]. RESERVE FOLIO--878.9-APU/BER

A folio edition and commentary on Apuleius’s Latin novel The Golden Ass by Filippo Beroaldo (1453-1505), printed by Bartholomaeus de Zanis. Bartholomaeus de Zanis was active between 1486 and 1513 in Venice, and produced a number of folio editions of Latin and Italian classics.

  • Petri Pomponatii Mantuani tractatus acutissimi utillimi [et] mere peripatetici … [Venetiis : Impressium arte [et] sumptibus heredii quo[n]da[m] d[omi]ni Octaviani Scoti..., 1525]. RESERVE FOLIO--185-POM

An edition of the works of the Italian philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1524) on peripatetics and immortality, published by the heirs of Octavianus Scotus. The Scotus family played an important part in the history of early Venetian printing, although they often employed other, sometimes anonymous, printers to publish works on their behalf but using the Scotus imprint and device.

  • Prima pars totius summe maioris beati Antonini. [Venetijs : Per Lazarum de Soardis], [1503]. RESERVE--171.1-ANT

An edition of the first part of Summa moralis, one of the principal works of Saint Antoninus (1389-1459), Archbishop of Florence, one of the founders of modern moral theology and Christian social ethics. This book was published by Lazarus de Soardis, who specialised in the publication of theological and devotional works. 


  • Italian printers, 1501-1520 : an annotated list, with an introduction by F.J. Norton. London : Bowes and Bowes, 1958.

Available for reference use at the Special Collections Service: MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY--686.20945-NOR

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