Aldus Manutius [Aldo Manuzio] (Bassiano, Lazio ca. 1450–Venice 1515)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


“Aldus is building a library with no walls save those of the world itself.” 1 These words by Erasmus of Rotterdam, which first appeared in the edition of the Adagia published by Aldus Manutius in 1508, are testament to the publisher’s achievements. They speak directly to the proliferation of books of ancient Greek and Latin literature and learning that, in a second career with editions appearing only from 1495 and with no previous experience of printing, he brought about. Moreover, they are at least in part constitutive of a reputation for excellence, integrity, and ideological commitment to the improving power of the classics that became associated with Aldus, helped to turn his books into collectors’ items, and provided a template for all European scholar-printers to come. It is no surprise that, in 1516, just one year after Aldus’s death, his Greek editions were the means by which the visitors to Utopia in Thomas More’s account introduced the inhabitants to both ancient philosophy and the art of printing. 2 Yet the real achievements were impressive and lasting: more first editions of classical texts than any publisher before or since, including what has essentially become the Greek canon; and the adoption of the printed octavo for literature and the invention of the italic type, which together became key components of a social transformation of reading. His press survived him, and spawned numerous imitators (and counterfeiters). Some of his attempts to secure control over the work he printed represent important developments in the budding notions of copyright and intellectual property. He managed this while coping with a business that was never as lucrative as Erasmus maintained, and with periods of enforced hiatus during the Italian Wars.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Resources Online – The Renaissance World
EditorsKristen Poole, Suzanne Sutherland
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Academies
  • Aristotle
  • Book
  • Erasmus
  • Greek
  • Humanism
  • Latin
  • Literature
  • Philology
  • Printers
  • Printing
  • Scholarship
  • Venice

Cite this