“Aldus Manutius” is the Latinised name of Teobaldo Manucci, an Italian humanist and printer, who was born in 1449 near Rome. After studying Latin and Greek in Rome, Manutius eventually moved to Venice during the 1490s to start a publishing business, funded by his former students – Alberto and Lionello Pio, princes of Carpi – and leading members of the Venetian aristocracy. The Aldine Press was established in 1494.
Manutius’s first publication was a complete critical edition of Aristotle’s works in the original Greek. Published in five folio volumes, it took eight years to finish. His publishing legacy includes scholarly editions of classical authors, the introduction of italic type, and the development of books in small formats that were read much like modern paperbacks. Manutius died in 1515, but his firm was continued after his death by his son and grandson until 1598.
Manutius in Manchester
The John Rylands Library in Manchester holds one of the largest collections of Aldine editions in the world. A project is nearly complete to recatalogue the collection, including details specific to particular copies such as individual bindings and previous owners. The core of this collection comes from George John 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834), who amassed a huge private collection of early printed books which was then purchased by Mrs Rylands from the 5th Earl in 1892. Spencer’s Aldine collection was housed separately at Spencer House in London, along with his outstanding collection of incunabula.
More books were added when the John Rylands Library merged with the University of Manchester Library in 1972. Professor Richard Copley Christie had presented his collection to the University in 1901. It includes an unrivaled set of virtually all the Greek texts published in the 15th and 16th centuries, together with a very substantial collection of Aldines. Christie also acquired over fifty counterfeit Aldines printed at Lyon between 1502 and 1527, some of which are rarer than genuine editions.
The Library will be hosting an exhibition – Merchants of Print: From Venice to Manchester, from February to June 2015 to celebrate the life and work of Aldus Manutius and five hundred years of collecting his books. We are also very excited to be a part of the ‘Books and Beasts’ project which will take material bibliography in an exciting new and profound direction – into the identification of the variety of animal skins used in the production of medieval and renaissance books, not only in their bindings, but also in their text blocks.
Our intention is to highlight special and interesting copies in our collections as well as provide updates and information on the exhibition and our Venetian Vellum project.