Type to Print: The Book & The Type Specimen Book

Roman vs Italic > Homer

Venice: Aldus, 1517

The italic designed by Francesco Griffo of Bologna for Aldus Manutius was first used extensively in Aldus's octavo edition of the works of Virgil that appeared in April 1501.

Aldus commissioned this font for his new series of classical texts, text he had stripped of commentary and put in a convenient, small format, which he called "portable books in the nature of manuals." Intended for the scholar, they were priced accordingly. Before this, small books were only either for religious or instructive texts.

Aldus's series launched a revolution in publishing, and it became fashionable to carry not only breviaries and books of hours but his editions of Virgil, Lucan and Juvenal. This edition of Homer was presented to Martin Luther by Philip Melancthon.

Aldus's acknowledgment of Griffo in his forward to the 1501 edition of Virgil can be translated as: "Aldus, who gave punch-cut current script to the Greeks, now, as you see, gives as much to the Latins, by the fabulous hands of Francis of Bologna."

Even though the new type was granted an exclusive privilege by both the Venetian Senate and the Vatican, it was quickly pirated and used in France and Italy; the pirating of type designs continues to be endemic.

Gift of George A. Plimpton

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