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 and decided that it would become the seat of his printing house, the city already had many printers (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.

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

Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, have been translated and printed thanks to Aldo Manuzio, who began to think about books not only as a product in itself, but to the possibility that it could become a cultural and social means to educate. He was the first to create the so-called ”series” of books, in which was inserted what we previously called the italic, that is the cursive, using the characters ”aldini”, similar to the letters of Greek manuscripts. They were called italic, later, when by the French and English, in honor of Venetian typography.

What we now call punctuation, as well as grammar, is once again due to Aldo Manuzio. Never before had printing in Venice been taken care of as he began to do: he defined the point as the closing of a period, used the comma, apostrophe and accent as they are used today, and even invented the semicolon.

And it is always to him that we owe the coinage of the term copyright (which he claimed and was granted by the Serenissima of Venice), he was the first to recognize the work of collecting, transcribing, compiling and editing texts.

acqua alta bookshop venice

In about twenty years, Manuzio built his ideal library, while it was in 1537 that the construction of the Biblioteca Marciana in Piazza San Marco was begun 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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