The Steve Jobs of the Renaissance: Meet The Man Who Set Books Free

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This biography of the printer Aldus Manutius was written by Domenico Maria Manni.
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This spring marks 500 years since the death of Aldus Manutius, a printer whose small, cleanly-designed editions of the classics paved the way for the modern paperback. Manutius's legacy is marked in a new exhibit at Grolier Club in Manhattan called “Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze.”

Before Manutius, classic literature only existed in large, unwieldy and extremely expensive tomes.  But the thin volumes Manutius printed changed that, and soon inspired imitators.  

Takeaway producer and book critic Mythili Rao investigates Manutius's legacy. 

The two curators of the Aldus Manutius exhibition at the Grolier Club. Left: H. George Fletcher Right: G. Scott Clemons
The two curators of the Aldus Manutius exhibition at the Grolier Club. Left: H. George Fletcher Right: G. Scott Clemons ( Gavin Ashworth )
An installation in the exhibit “Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze.”
An installation in the exhibit “Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze.” ( Gavin Ashworth )
Dante was printed as early as 1472, but this Aldine edition is the first appearance of the Divine Comedy in the smaller octavo format pioneered by Aldus.
Dante was printed as early as 1472, but this Aldine edition is the first appearance of the Divine Comedy in the smaller octavo format pioneered by Aldus. ( The collection of T. Kimball Brooker/Robert Lorenzson )
The most celebrated illustrated book of the Italian Renaissance, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Bound for Jean Grolier (1489/90–1565) by Gommar Estienne.
The most celebrated illustrated book of the Italian Renaissance, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Bound for Jean Grolier (1489/90–1565) by Gommar Estienne. ( Private Collection )
Jean Grolier’s edition of Homer.
Jean Grolier’s edition of Homer. ( From the collections of The Grolier Club/Robert Lorenzson )
This Virgil initiated a series of books that Aldus referred to as his Portable Library, intended for personal secular use.
This Virgil initiated a series of books that Aldus referred to as his Portable Library, intended for personal secular use. ( From the collection of T. Kimball Brooker/Robert Lorenzson )
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