1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manutius

MANUTIUS, the Latin name of an Italian family (Mannucci, Manuzio), famous in the history of printing as organizers of the Aldine press.

1. Aldus Manutius (1450–1515). Teobaldo Mannucci, better known as Aldo Manuzio, the founder of the Aldine press, was born in 1450 at Sermoneta in the Papal States. He received a scholar’s training, studying Latin at Rome under Gasparino da Verona, and Greek at Ferrara under Guarino da Verona. In 1482 he went to reside at Mirandola with his old friend and fellow-student, the illustrious Giovanni Pico. There he stayed two years, prosecuting his studies in Greek literature. Before Pico removed to Florence, he procured for Aldo the post of tutor to his nephews Alberto and Lionello Pio, princes of Carpi. Alberto Pio supplied Aldo with funds for starting his printing press, and gave him lands at Carpi. It was Aldo’s ambition to secure the literature of Greece from further accident by committing its chief masterpieces to type. Before his time four Italian towns had won the honours of Greek publications: Milan, with the grammar of Lascaris, Aesop, Theocritus, a Greek Psalter, and Isocrates, between 1476 and 1493; Venice, with the Erotemala of Chrysoloras in 1484; Vicenza, with reprints of Lascaris’s grammar and the Erolemata, in 1488 and 1490; Florence, with Alopa’s Homer, in 1488. Of these works, only three, the Milanese Theocritus and Isocrates and the Florentine Homer, were classics. Aldo selected Venice as the most appropriate station for his labours. He settled there in 1490, and soon afterwards gave to the world editions of the Hero and Leander of Musaeus, the Galeomyomachia, and the Greek Psalter. These have no date; but they are the earliest tracts issued from his press, and are called by him “Precursors of the Greek Library.”

At Venice Aldo gathered an army of Greek scholars and compositors around him. His trade was carried on by Greeks, and Greek was the language of his household. Instructions to type-setters and binders were given in Greek. The prefaces to his editions were written in Greek. Greeks from Crete collated MSS., read proofs, and gave models of calligraphy for casts of Greek type. Not counting the craftsmen employed in merely manual labour, Aldo entertained as many as thirty of these Greek assistants in his family. His own industry and energy were unremitting. In 1495 he issued the first volume of his Aristotle. Four more volumes completed the work in 1497–1498. Nine comedies of Aristophanes appeared in 1498. Thucydides, Sophocles and Herodotus followed in 1502; Xenophon’s Hellenics and Euripides in 1503; Demosthenes in 1504. The troubles of Italy, which pressed heavily on Venice at this epoch, suspended Aldo’s labours for a while. But in 1508 he resumed his series with an edition of the minor Greek orators; and in 1509 appeared the lesser works of Plutarch. Then came another stoppage. The league of Cambray had driven Venice back to her lagoons, and all the forces of the republic were concentrated on a struggle to the death with the allied powers of Europe. In 1513 Aldo reappeared with Plato, which he dedicated to Leo X. in a preface eloquently and earnestly comparing the miseries of warfare and the woes of Italy with the sublime and tranquil objects of the student’s life. Pindar, Hesychius, and Athenaeus followed in 1514.

These complete the list of Aldo’s prime services to Greek literature. But it may be well in this place to observe that his successors continued his work by giving Pausanias, Strabo, Aeschylus, Galen, Hippocrates and Longinus to the world in first editions. Omission has been made of Aldo’s reprints, in order that the attention of the reader might be concentrated on his labours in editing Greek classics from MSS. Other presses were at work in Italy; and, as the classics issued from Florence, Rome or Milan, Aldo took them up, bestowing in each case fresh industry upon the collation of codices and the correction of texts. Nor was the Aldine press idle in regard to Latin and Italian classics. The Asolani of Bembo, the collected writings of Poliziano, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Petrarch’s poems, a collection of early Latin poets of the Christian era, the letters of the younger Pliny, the poems of Pontanus, Sannazzaro’s Arcadia, Quintilian, Valerius Maximus, and the Adagia of Erasmus were printed, either in first editions, or with a beauty of type and paper never reached before, between the years 1495 and 1514. For these Italian and Latin editions Aldo had the elegant type struck which bears his name. It is said to have been copied from Petrarch’s handwriting, and was cast under the direction of Francesco da Bologna, who has been identified by Panizzi with Francia the painter.

Aldo’s enthusiasm for Greek literature was not confined to the printing-room. Whatever the students of this century may think of his scholarship, they must allow that only vast erudition and thorough familiarity with the Greek language could have enabled him to accomplish what he did. In his own days Aldo’s learning won the hearty acknowledgment of ripe scholars. To his fellow workers he was uniformly generous, free from jealousy, and prodigal of praise. While aiming at that excellence of typography which renders his editions the treasures of the book-collector, he strove at the same time to make them cheap. We may perhaps roughly estimate the current price of his pocket series of Greek, Latin and Italian classics, begun in 1501, at 2s. per volume of our present money. The five volumes of the Aristotle cost about £8. His great undertaking was carried on under continual difficulties, arising from strikes among his workmen, the piracies of rivals, and the interruptions of war. When he died, bequeathing Greek literature as an inalienable possession to the world, he was a poor man. In order to promote Greek studies, Aldo founded an academy of Hellenists in 1500 under the title of the New Academy. Its rules were written in Greek. Its members were obliged to speak Greek. Their names were Hellenized, and their official titles were Greek. The biographies of all the famous men who were enrolled in this academy must be sought in the pages of Didot’s Alde Manuce. It is enough here to mention that they included Erasmus and the English Linacre.

In 1499 Aldo married Maria, daughter of Andrea Torresano of Asola. Andrea had already bought the press established by Nicholas Jenson at Venice. Therefore Aldo’s marriage combined two important publishing firms. Henceforth the names Aldus and Asolanus were associated on the title pages of the Aldine publications; and after Aldo’s death in 1515, Andrea and his two sons carried on the business during the minority of Aldo’s children. The device of the dolphin and the anchor, and the motto festina lente, which indicated quickness combined with firmness in the execution of a great scheme, were never wholly abandoned by the Aldines until the expiration of their firm in the third generation.

2. Paulus Manutius (1512–1574). By his marriage with Maria Torresano, Aldo had three sons, the youngest of whom, Paolo, was born in 1512. He had the misfortune to lose his father at the age of two. After this event his grandfather and two uncles, the three Asolani, carried on the Aldine press, while Paolo prosecuted his early studies at Venice. Excessive application hurt his health, which remained weak during the rest of his life. At the age of twenty-one he had acquired a solid reputation for scholarship and learning. In 1533 Paolo undertook the conduct of his father’s business, which had latterly been much neglected by his uncles. In the interregnum between Aldo’s death and Paolo’s succession (1514–1533) the Asolani continued to issue books, the best of which were Latin classics. But, though their publications count a large number of first editions, and some are works of considerable magnitude, they were not brought out with the scholarly perfection at which Aldo aimed. The Asolani attempted to perform the whole duties of editing, and to reserve all its honours for themselves, dispensing with the service of competent collaborators. The result was that some of their editions, especially their Aeschylus of 1518, are singularly bad. Paolo determined to restore the glories of the house, and in 1540 he separated from his uncles. The field of Greek literature having been well-nigh exhausted, he devoted himself principally to the Latin classics. He was a passionate Ciceronian, and perhaps his chief contributions to scholarship are the corrected editions of Cicero’s letters and orations, his own epistles in a Ciceronian style, and his Latin version of Demosthenes. Throughout his life he combined the occupations of a student and a printer, winning an even higher celebrity in the former field than his father had done. Four treatises from his pen on Roman antiquities deserve to be commemorated for their erudition no less than for the elegance of their Latinity. Several Italian cities contended for the possession of so rare a man; and he received tempting offers from the Spanish court. Yet his life was a long struggle with pecuniary difficulties. To prepare correct editions of the classics, and to print them in a splendid style, has always been a costly undertaking. And, though Paolo’s publications were highly esteemed, their sale was slow. In 1556 he received for a time external support from the Venetian Academy, founded by Federigo Badoaro. But Badoaro failed disgracefully in 1559, and the academy was extinct in 1562. Meanwhile Paolo had established his brother, Antonio, a man of good parts but indifferent conduct, in a printing office and book shop at Bologna. Antonio died in 1559, having been a source of trouble and expense to Paolo during the last four years of his life. Other pecuniary embarrassments arose from a contract for supplying fish to Venice, into which Paolo had somewhat strangely entered with the government. In 1561 pope Pius IV. invited him to Rome, offering him a yearly stipend of 500 ducats, and undertaking to establish and maintain his press there. The profits on publications were to be divided between Paolo Manuzio and the Apostolic camera. Paolo accepted the invitation, and spent the larger portion of his life, under three papacies, with varying fortunes, in the city of Rome. Ill-health, the commercial interests he had left behind at Venice, and the coldness shown him by pope Pius V., induced him at various times and for several reasons to leave Rome. As was natural, his editions after his removal to Rome were mostly Latin works of theology and Biblical or patristic literature.

Paolo married Caterina Odoni in 1546. She brought him three sons and one daughter. His eldest son, the younger Aldus, succeeded him in the management of the Venetian printing house when his father settled at Rome in 1561. Paolo had never been a strong man, and his health was overtaxed with studies and commercial worries. Yet he lived into his sixty-second year, and died at Rome in 1574.

3. Aldus Manutius, Junior (1547–1597). The younger Aldo born in the year after his father Paolo’s marriage, proved what is called an infant prodigy. When he was nine years old his name was placed upon the title page of the famous Eleganze della lingua Toscana e Latina. The Eleganze was probably a book made for his instruction and in his company by his father. In 1561, at the age of fourteen, he produced a work upon Latin spelling, called Orthographiae ratio. During a visit to his father at Rome in the next year he was able to improve this treatise by the study of inscriptions, and in 1575 he completed his labours in the same field by the publication of an Epitome orthographiae. Whether Aldo was the sole composer of the work on spelling, in its first edition, may be doubted; but he appropriated the subject and made it his own. Probably his greatest service to scholarship is this analysis of the principles of orthography in Latin.

Aldo remained at Venice, studying literature and superintending the Aldine press. In 1572 he married Francesca Lucrezia daughter of Bartolommeo Giunta, and great-grandchild of the first Giunta, who founded the famous printing house in Venice. This was an alliance which augured well of the Giunta for the future of the Aldines, especially as Aldo had recently found time to publish a new revised edition of Velleius Paterculus. Two years later the death of his father at Rome placed Aldo at the head of the firm. In concert with the Giunta, he now edited an extensive collection of Italian letters, and in 1576 he published his commentary upon the Ars poetica of Horace. About the same time, that is to say, about the year 1576, he was appointed professor of literature to the Cancelleria at Venice. The Aldine press continued through this period to issue books, but none of signal merit; and in 1585 Aldo determined to quit his native city for Bologna, where he occupied the chair of eloquence for a few months. In 1587 he left Bologna for Pisa, and there, in his quality of professor, he made the curious mistake of printing Alberti’s comedy Philodoxius as a work of the classic Lepidus. Sixtus V. drew him in 1588 from Tuscany to Rome; and at Rome he hoped to make a permanent settlement as lecturer. But his public lessons were ill attended, and he soon fell back upon his old vocation of publisher under the patronage of a new pope, Clement VIII. In 1597 he died, leaving children, but none who cared or had capacity to carry on the Aldine press. Aldo himself, though a precocious student, a scholar of no mean ability, and a publisher of some distinction, was the least remarkable of the three men who gave books to the public under the old Aldine ensign. This does not of necessity mean that we should adopt Scaliger’s critique of the younger Aldo without reservation. Scaliger called him “a poverty-stricken talent, slow in operation; his work is very commonplace; he aped his father.” What is true in this remark lies partly in the fact that scholarship in Aldo’s days had flown beyond the Alps, where a new growth of erudition, on a basis different from that of the Italian Renaissance, had begun.

See Renouard’s Annales de l’imprimerie des Aldes (Paris, 1834); Didot’s Alde Manuce (Paris, 1873); Omont’s Catalogue of Aldine publications (Paris, 1892).  (J. A. S.)