and its masters

Drawing of Aldus Manutius
Aldus Manutius

Manuscript Page


Hypnerotomachia  Poliphili (1499)

"Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499) by Francisco Colonna."


Example of Italic typeface

" An example of his italic typeface"



Aldus Pius Manutius Romanus
was born as, Teobaldo Mannuci at Sermoneta, and was born in Bassiano, Italy in 1450. After studying in Rome and Ferrara, he moved to Mirandola in 1482.
Alberto Pio, the prince of Carpi, gave Aldus the money to set up a printing press for the promotion of Greek scholarship, as well as to teach the Greek classics. It was in Carpi that he conceived the idea of publishing these manuscripts. He went to Venice in 1489, but did not begin to print until 1494. Venice was the great repository of Greek manuscripts at that time.In 1490, Aldus founded the Aldine Press in Venice, assembling a staff of Greek scholars and compositors, and making Greek the official language of his business and household.

Aldus Manutius introduced many innovations into the world of printing. Aldus wanted to make the contents of classical manuscripts available to the masses. The format of the earliest books printed in Venice was usually the Folio or the Quarto. Instances of the Octavo before Aldus are very rare. Aldus' desire to produce books cheaply led to the invention of the italic. The most important result of the italic type and the octavo page was the immediate lowering of the cost of printing, making it affordable to the public and it became a great service for travelling scholars.

The former goldsmith, Francesco Griffi da Bologna, was the first punchcutter for the Aldine Press and would advance typeface design beyond simple imitation of hand-drawn characters. Griffo's most brilliant work was the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499) by Francisco Colonna. His most famous achievement may have been the invention of italic type during the years 1500-1501. He cut the famous italic types, which were supposedly modeled on the handwriting of Petrarch.

The fame of the Aldine italic spread throughout Europe rapidly, and so did the forgeries. In the same year that Aldus issued his Virgil, a pirated edition appeared in Lyons. Aldus increasingly complained to the Signoria in Venice about the many forgeries. In Venice his type was known as Aldino or Venetian; but in Germany and the Netherlands, it was called cursiv, and in France it was called Italian or Italic. In addition to the Greek classics, he also published a whole series of Latin manuscripts. Aldus published the first known book catalogue in 1498. Listed in his catalogues are many Italian translations of Latin classics and Italian editions of Petrarch and Bocaccio.

Aldus Manutius died February 6, 1515. No rival, nor imitator, ever achieved the excellence of Aldus Manutius, the Scholar Printer. He was the last true innovator in the field of type design. As Updike writes: "With the Aldine Italic, originality of ideas in type forms ceases."

Research Sources:

Brigham Young University Biography on Aldus Manutius

Aldus Manutius: Scholar printer

Graphion: Aldus Manutius(1450-1515)

Encyclopedia Britannica: Biography on Aldus Manutius,The Elder

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Jill Weinstein