February 25-April 25, 2015. "Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze. Curated by G. Scott Clemons and H. George Fletcher.
A Legacy More Lasting than Bronze
The Grolier Club
25 February – 25 April 2015
I have built a monument more lasting than bronze
And on higher ground than the royal pyramids,
One that no wasting rain or impotent North Wind
Can destroy, nor the innumerable
Series of years and the flight of time.
– Horace Odes III.30 lines 1-5
The Grolier Club is commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius, the greatest Renaissance printer, with a public exhibition "Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting than Bronze." Objects were selected to demonstrate Aldus’s legacy and his contributions to the worlds of scholarship and printing. The subtitle is inspired by a quote from Horace, one of the classical writers reintroduced by Aldus. More than 130 books published by the Aldine Press, mostly from private collections and not previously exhibited, are on view from February 25 through April 25, 2015.
Although there are several exhibitions at European libraries and museums on this topic throughout the anniversary year, this is the only major presentation in North America. The distinguished co-curators are G. Scott Clemons, a private collector of the Aldine Press and president of the Grolier Club, and H. George Fletcher, a published scholar on the Aldine Press and retired curator of rare books at the Morgan Library & Museum and the New York Public Library.
Aldus Manutius earned his position at the forefront of printing history by publishing the first editions of most of the Greek canon, introducing the smaller hand-held format that defines the modern book, and for his innovations in Greek, Roman and italic typography.
When Aldus arrived in Venice and began printing in the waning years of the 15th century, the great classics of Greek literature, history, drama and philosophy had yet to make their way into print, and were in danger of being lost altogether. Aldus’s application of the technology of printing for the first time to authors such as Aristotle, Aristophanes, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, and Plato ensured their survival. Had not Aldus been in the right place at the right time, these and other works of literature could have been lost permanently. No single individual is more responsible for the preservation of the classical tradition. These and other first editions will be on display in the exhibition.
Aldus pioneered the use of the smaller octavo format to secular literature for the first time, commencing in 1501 with editions of Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Martial, Dante, Petrarch and others. He referred to these as “portable books,” thereby introducing the notion that great literature was a thing that one could own, while at the same time freeing the activity of reading from a library. In 1508 Erasmus rightly observed that Aldus was “building a library which knows no walls save those of the world itself.”
Typographical innovation accompanied these changes in format. Working with the type designer Francesco Griffo, Aldus developed a new type face for his octavo publications that echoed the humanist hand of the day. Originally called “Aldine” type, we know it today as italic, and the form remains practically unchanged from the early 16th century. The combination of innovations in format and typography essentially gave birth to the modern book.
In the early years of printing, the line between the manuscript tradition and printed books was quite blurry. By virtue of their typographical and editorial excellence, Aldine imprints had broad appeal, and were often decorated by their owners in a style similar to illuminated manuscripts. The exhibition includes illuminated editions of Virgil, Horace, Petrarch and Dante. Particularly fine copies of Aldines were not only illuminated, but printed on vellum instead of paper, two examples of which (Cicero and the Greek Anthology) will be on display.
Publications of the Aldine Press were treasured and collected even while the Press was still in operation. The history of book collecting arguably starts with Aldus Manutius and Jean Grolier, the early patron and collector of the Aldine Press, after whom the Grolier Club is named. This exhibition features books dedicated to Jean Grolier, as well as books from his library, including a 1504 Homer with his arms on the title page, a 1514 Virgil printed on blue paper and signed by Grolier, and the magnificent 1499 Hypnerotomachia Polifili, bound for Jean Grolier.
Other important association copies include a 1502 Herodotus owned by Desiderius Erasmus, as well as a 1517 Homer owned and annotated by Philip Melanchthon, later given to his friend Martin Luther.
The iconic image of the Aldine Press is the dolphin and anchor printers’ mark that adorned Aldus’s title pages, and will adorn the Club throughout the duration of the show. The exhibition includes a copy of Erasmus’s Adagia of 1508, where he reveals that Aldus saw in this image a perfect reflection of his objectives, as the dolphin symbolizes speed of production and the anchor stability of purpose. Erasmus furthermore attributes the image to coins minted during the reign of the Roman Emperor Titus in 70 AD, and examples of those coins will be included in the exhibition as well.
"Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze" will be accompanied by a full color catalogue, now in preparation, to be published later in the spring.
FREE PUBLIC TOURS: Every Wednesday through April 22, from 1 pm-2 pm, led by one of the curators; except please note that there will be no tour on Wednesday April 1.
HALF-DAY SYMPOSIUM ON ALDUS MANUTIUS: Tuesday, April 7, from 1 pm-5 pm. Admission is $75, $25 for students. Reservations are required. Please contact Grolier Club Administrative Assistant Maev Brennan at the Club (212-838-6690) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VISITING THE GROLIER CLUB
47 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm.
BUT PLEASE NOTE: The exhibition will be closed from 10 am-2:30 pm on Monday April 6, all day on Tuesday April 7, and 2:30pm-4pm on Thursday April 9, in order to accommodate special events.
Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge
For further information and jpegs please contact:
Public Relations Consultant to the Grolier Club