If you are not familiar with Aldus Manutius, you are about to become so. If you are interested in the history of book production and printing, read on for the story of this Italian who changed the way we read by changing the way books were printed – from fonts to inexpensive editions.
Below is the beginning of a feature Smithsonian did on him a while back. Read a summary and the opening here, then follow the link below to read the rest. Take the time to read the Wikipedia entry too – worth your time.
The Venetian roots of revolutionary modern book printer Aldus Manutius shaped books as we know them today.
The palazzo, now divided into rental apartments and gift shops, is where Aldus forever changed printing more than half a millennium ago. He introduced curved italic type, which replaced the cumbersome square Gothic print used at the time, and helped standardize punctuation, defining the rules of use for the comma and semicolon. He also was the first to print small, secular books that could be carried around for study and pleasure—the precursors to paperbacks and e-readers today. “He was very much like the Steve Jobs of his era,” says Sandro Berra, managing director of the Tipoteca Italiana museum of typography outside of Venice (open to the public Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.). “He was ahead of his time, risking everything on an untested whim that somehow he knew would work.”
As a related side item, I might add that the PRC Seminary library has an interesting book on this man and his times in the Letis collection of books. It is The World of Aldus Manutius: Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice by Martin Lowry (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979.