I was just thinking the other day about how important it is to be remembered. Wanting your peers to look upon you as someone great; someone never to be forgotten! It’s in our human nature to want to be important, loved, cherished, remembered. This is the reason why most great pieces of art, books, sculptures, poems, songs, etc. aren’t written by some mystery figure. No, we know exactly who painted the Mona Lisa, and who wrote Romeo and Juliet. Why? People want credit for their hard work! Putting your name to something is like adding the finishing touches to a master piece. It’s so no one steals credit for their hours of labor! It’s so that hundreds of years from now, anyone that looks upon that painting will know whose brush strokes graced that canvas! We want to be remembered.
All these thoughts were streaming through my head as I researched about how my Baby was printed. The early copies of the Divine Comedy were printed in the 1500’s by none other than Aldus Manutius of the Aldine Press. Aldus realized that there was a market for smaller, portable books, so he printed Dante’s work in an octavo format, rather than the larger, but more common, folio editions. In the 1502 edition of the Divine Comedy, Aldus decided to try something new. He wanted to “autograph” his artwork. He put a lot of hard work into being a leader in the printing world, so of course he wanted to get credit for what was his! He, in essence, developed his signature.
Aldus’ good friend and partner, Pietro Bembo, had given him a Roman medal that really struck his fancy. The emblem on that medal was of a swift dolphin surrounding an immovable anchor. This was a visual representation of the motto ” festina lente” or “make haste slowly.” Aldus thought this quote from Emperor Augustus was a perfect embodiment of his life and struggle. From then on he used it as a printer’s mark in his books. The engraving was so new that not all of Aldus’ Dante editions have the mark. The symbol wasn’t quite ready when the first copies went to the press. But the one’s that do have the mark, are very very special. And here we are, 500 years later… and we still remember Aldus Manutius and his groundbreaking prints.
Mulder, Megan (2012). Divina commedia, by dante Alighieri (aldine press, 1502) http://zsr.wfu.edu/special/blog/tag/divine-comedy/