Aldus Manutius and the Making of the Myth: conference report

The Manutius in Manchester team were delighted to join the gathering of Aldo-philes in Venice to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Aldo’s death and share the latest research on Aldus and his critical fortuna through the ages. The conference was part of a whole series of events being organised this year by the Biblioteca Marciana and the University of Ca’ Foscari.Conference programme Appropriately, two of the three days were held in the Aula Magna of Ca' Dolfin and the middle day at the lovely Sala Sansovino at the Marciana.Ca' Dolfin Scholars, collectors, curators, and conservators drawn from Italy, Cyprus, Crete, Greece, France, Germany, UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and America heard some two dozen papers on all aspects of the Aldine workshop, from the origins of the press and the relation between Aldus and the Torresani family, to the examination of Aldus’ three wills. Sessions focused upon Aldus and his relation with the Greek diaspora community, with Erasmus, and with the Barbarigo family. On the Friday afternoon a session was wholly given over to the examination of bindings, design, and type in a session in memory of Anthony Hobson, whilst Saturday’s papers focused entirely on Aldus’s reception from the collection of Jean Grolier to AldusPageMaker, the precursor of Adobe Reader.

Our own contribution was a paper on how the Rylands’ impressive body of over 2,000 Aldines found its way to the industrial heartlands of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Manchester: an object lesson in cultural translation and a vital chapter in the history of knowledge transfer and ‘bibliomania’. In addition to examining the provenance of specific Aldine collections, like those of George John 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834) and the political economist Richard Copley Christie (1830-1901), we also looked at the accession of individual volumes like those found in the bequests of the gynaecologist David Lloyd Roberts (1835-1920) and in the library of the Northern Congregational College.DSC_0038 In addition, we showcased the trajectory of specific volumes, such as those owned by Pietro Bembo, Jean Grolier, Henri II and Agostino Barbarigo, all woven into a consideration of the nexus of social, political, and educational relationships which saw cultural and financial capital exchanged by Manchester’s merchant princes. It was gratifying to hear and see other scholars drawing on the Manchester collection in their work. After a very full three days of listening, learning, and discussion it was sadly time to leave behind the dolphins and weigh anchor and head for home.Dolfin well

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