Book Excerpt

PIETRO BEMBO: 'FOSTER FATHER' OF THE MODERN BOOK. Ted Danforth Jr

PIETRO BEMBO: 'FOSTER FATHER' OF THE MODERN BOOK.

New York: The Typophiles, 2003. 6 x 9.5 inches. paperback. 33+(1) pages. Typophile Monograph - New Series, Number 18. 500 years ago, with the publication of a small octavo Virgil, the modern printed book emerged due to Venetian printer Aldo Manuzio (Aldus). Previous to this, the printing press had been seen primarily as a means of mechanically reproducing manuscript books. It was Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) who gave Aldus the idea for the small format of..... READ MORE

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PREFACE


FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, with the publication in Venice of a small octavo Virgil, the modern printed book emerged out of the cradle of its ftfty years' making. Upon its invention, the printing press had been seen principally as a means of mechanically repro- ducing manuscript books; its products were warranted to be 'just as good as those written by hand," and the possibilities inherent in the new art were not readily apparent. It remained to the Venetian printer Aldo Manuzio to give us the book that we would recognize today-as a book. It was Pietro Bembo who gave Aldus the idea for the small for- mat of his books. It required the text to stand on the page by itself, free of the oceans of commentary which was the norm in those days. Bembo also gave Aldus the device of the anchor-and-dolphin, that most famous of all printer's marks. Even more significantly, Bembo obtained for Aldus many of the manuscripts that were the sine qua non of his publishing program. As one of the first editors, he introduced methods and standards, as well as punctuation, we now take for granted.

The name 'Bembo' is well known to every typophile, not be- cause of anything that occurred five hundred years ago, but rather more recently: in 1929. In that year Stanley Morison, typograph- ical advisor to the Monotype Corporation in England, in his life- long search for the grail of the ideal type,1 decided to re-cut Aldus' first roman type. It had originally been cut for Pietro Bembo's De Aetna of 1495. Following in the tradition of naming a new type after the book in which it was first used, or the book's author, Morison called this new type 'Bembo.'