Vassar College Digital Library

Aldus Manutius, 1495-1515 -- Printer's Mark

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Main (Thompson) Library location: Class of '51 Reading Room. Aldus Manutius (c.1449 – 1515) was born in Bassiano, Italy around 1449 and studied the classics in Rome and Ferrara. He took a special interest in the ancient Greek scholarship of Guarino da Verona. In 1482, through his relationship with Giovanni Pico, Manutius began to tutor the Princes of Carpi, who ultimately became the benefactors of his first printing press in Venice in 1494. Five years later, Manutius printed his first work, a Greek grammar book, and in the following decades Manutius continued to print classical textbooks. His press was especially known for its printing of classical Greek texts, in addition to those in Latin and Italian. Notably, many of his books appeared in octavo format, making them easy to transport. By 1500 Manutius commissioned Francesco Griffo to develop italic typesets for him, with which he printed Petrarch's De cose volgari and Sophocles' Tragoediae. Manutius then entered a partnership with his father-in-law Andreas Torresanus, with whom he worked until his death in 1515; his wife, son, and grandson continued his practice and legacy in the years following. Manutius employed several versions of his mark throughout his career. Its primary form, as displayed in the Vassar Library, is comprised of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor. The anchor vertically bisects the printer's first name, written in Roman letters. While the dolphin symbolizes speed and agility, the anchor represents the steadfast stability of Manutius' work. It is possible that Manutius adapted this symbol from the emblem of the Roman emperor Vespasian. In more elaborate versions, the device would have included a border, as well as the motto Festina lente, meaning "Make haste slowly." Devices developed even later used more detailed variations of the dolphin and included cornucopias, cherubim, and flowers in the border.
Photograph by Amy Laughlin

This project was created by Katherine Durr (VC '15) as part of the Ford Scholar program under the supervision of Professor Ron Patkus in Summer 2013.

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"The Mark of the Renaissance Printer" blog post by Katherine Durr, 2013 Vassar Ford Scholar: