The link between paper printing and Venice is centuries long, more than 600 years to be precise! At the end of the 1400s, Venice became a center of intellectual, cultural and artistic innovation and it is in this context that Aldo Manuzio made his entrance, the man who invented the so-called ”italic typeface” (italic is the cursive that we find in writing programs) and pocket editions.

When Manuzio arrived in Venice, in the last years of the 15th century, he decided that it would become the headquarters of his printing house. At that time, in the city there were already many active printing houses (it is said that between 1485 and 1494 no less than 1336 titles were produced). At that time, printers were true craftsmen, working at the service of rich patrons and people who required printed sermons, texts of law and Roman law (pandette) and calendars.

How did the link between Venice and the press develop? And who was Aldo Manunzio?

Manuzio more than a craftsman, however, became an inventor, indeed, the first publisher. His printing house, founded in 1495 together with the bookseller Andrea Torresano called Asolano and Pietro Francesco Barbarigo, son and grandson of the two doges, Marco and Agostino, was driven by the desire to establish Venice even more as a nerve center of culture and knowledge.

books-and-the-press-of-Aldo-Manuzio-Venice

Aldo Manuzio translated the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates. The publisher began to think of books not only as a product in its own right, but also as a cultural and social means of education. Aldo Manuzio created the so-called ”series” of books. In the series he inserted what we previously called italic, that is, cursive, using “aldine” characters, similar to the letters of Greek manuscripts. The term Italic was coined by the French and English, in honor of the Venetian typography.

What we now call punctuation, as well as grammar, is once again due to Aldo Manuzio.

Printing in Venice, to be extremely polished, thanks to him. He defined the period as the closing of a period, used the comma, apostrophe and accent as they are used today, and also invented the semicolon..

And it is always to Aldo Manuzio that we owe the coining of the term copyright. He demanded it and it was granted by the Serenissima of Venice. He was also the first to recognize the work of collecting, transcribing, compiling and editing texts.

acqua alta bookshop venice

What did Aldo Manuzio bring to the city of Venice?

In about twenty years, Manuzio built his ideal library. In 1537, construction began on the Biblioteca Marciana in Piazza San Marco, by Jacopo Sansovino. It was established because it was to house the library collection of Cardinal Bessarione (on May 31, 1468 he donated to the Republic of Venice: 746 codices, of which 482 in Greek and 246 in Latin, to which another 250 manuscripts were later added after his death).

Moreover, at the beginning of 1600, a law came into force requiring every printer in the Veneto region to deposit a copy of every book printed in the Biblioteca Marciana.

Some independent publishers and some publishing houses continue this tradition related to printing in Venice, which you will see below.

The sources for the creation of the article are: Storiain.net, Artribune and the website of the Marciana Library.

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