Aldo Manuzio (Latin form: Aldus Manutius), 1449/50-1515 was the most famous printer of his day and the founder of the Aldine press, in Venice. He was born at Bassiano, part of the Papal States. He received a scholar’s training. It was Manutius’ ambition to secure the literature of Greece through printing. In Venice, Aldus gathered an army of Greek scholars around him. Greeks collated manuscripts, read proofs, and created calligraphic models for casts of Greek types. Venice was by far the greatest printing center of its day. Aldus’ enthusiasm for Greek literature was not confined to printing: in order to promote Greek studies Aldus founded an academy of Hellenists in 1502, under the title of The New Academy.
Aldus was responsible for printing many Greek texts for the very first time, e.g. the comedies of Aristophanes (1498), the tragedies of Sophocles (1502), and those of Euripides (1503). Among his many contributions to printing and western culture was his introduction of italic type, seen first in the letters of Catherine of Siena, 1500 (in the illustration in the frontispiece) and used first as a text in the 1501 Aldine edition of Virgil, and seen here in the 1502 Aldine edition of Dante. It would be used for the 1515 Dante as well, the first illustrated Aldine edition of Dante.
The Aldine Collection at Stanford numbers more than 230 volumes, most of them donated by Morgan and Aline Gunst, some purchased on the generous endowment left to Stanford by the Gunst family. All are a part of Stanford’s Morgan A. and Aline D. Gunst Collection of the Book Arts.