Aldus and His Italics

This week in class we discussed the topic of typography. For those of you that don’t know, typography is the art and technique of printing with movable type. The way the letters fit together, spacing, typeface, bold, italics, size…so many different things contribute to the world of typography. With so many different avenues to explore, I wasn’t sure which path I wanted to take concerning typography and my Baby (remember…my Baby is “The Divine Comedy”). Then as I was looking through some photos of an old copy online, I stumbled across some of the most visually pleasing text I had ever seen. I knew this had to be explored!

In the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, housed at Wake Forest University, I found a special copy of Dante’s book. It was published in 1502 by Aldine Press and was a newer version, edited by Pietro Bembo. In his edition, he paid less attention to writing lengthy commentary and more attention on making the text understandable for his readers. Bembo agreed to work on the project because he was very close friends with the brains behind Aldine Press, Aldus Minutius. Together they crafted one of the most popular versions of Dante’s poem. When you flip through the pages, it’s impossible not to notice the beautiful script. Aldus used his trademark italic font. An innovator in typeface design, Minutius based his famous font on the handwriting of two very accomplished Italian scribes (Mulder, 2012). Their style allowed the scribes to write more speedily, with sloping letters that were sometimes joined together. This also allowed more words to fit on a page, using smaller font while retaining clarity. This was an important step in creating Aldus’ vision of smaller books. (Previously, most of the books were done folio style. Try fitting THAT in your pocket!) Pretty soon, this new italic font was popping up all over Europe! It became one of the main typefaces used in printing at that time. You can see the brilliant typography in the excerpts below:

aldine-dante-inferno-620x1024      aldine-dante-purgatorio-643x1024       aldine-dante-paradiso-detail-1024x751

See! I told you it was gorgeous! I can’t wait to learn more about my Baby. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface! Stay tuned for my next blog post… I’m going to show you those AMAZING illustrations that I told you about! See you next week 🙂

Mulder, Megan. “Divina Commedia,” 2012. http://zsr.wfu.edu/special/blog/tag/divine-comedy/

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