Thread: Knowledge updates – Poster session

Aldo Manuzio and his legacy to the language profession

Valerie Matarese, Vidor, Italy

The printing press was invented around 1450 in Germany, but it was in Venice that the book publishing industry was born. In the late 1400s and early 1500s, the city of Venice, capital of the Venetian Republic, presented the right combination of economic wealth, entrepreneurial spirit, literacy, multilingualism and-”especially-”freedom of expression to permit the development of a literary marketplace. Among the hundreds of printers who set up shop in the city, one-”Aldo Manuzio-”stands out prominently for his editorial innovation and emphasis on quality.

Manuzio printed his first book, a Greek grammar, in 1495 and continued the activity of his Aldine Press until his death in 1515. In that period, he published 132 books, mostly Latin and Greek classics and grammars, but also contemporary works in Latin and Italian vernacular. In only 20 years, Manuzio almost single-handedly transformed the concept of a book from an object for study or prayer to one for pleasureful reading. Considered the first publisher in the modern sense, Manuzio is accredited with having commercialized the book in portable octavo format, precursor of today's pocketbook. His pages were set in an elegant, round font (now called roman), which was sought after by contemporary authors like Erasmus of Rotterdam and which inspired modern serif fonts. He established an academy where scholars discussed which manuscripts to publish, and employed scores of copy editors to verify the accurate composition of the printed texts. He invented what we now call italic font and established the current usage of punctuation, most notably by giving the comma its semicircular form and by introducing the semicolon.

It is therefore with great pleasure that MET hosts its eighth annual meeting in the city that fostered the work of such a creative and scholarly publisher. In appreciation of the legacy that Manuzio has left us, the METM12 Organizing Committee has chosen to adopt the Aldine Press's emblem, the dolphin and anchor, as our meeting logo. This poster explains the meaning of this symbol and reviews the editorial achievements of Manuzio in early sixteenth century Venice.


Valerie Matarese is an independent biomedical editor based in northeastern Italy. She also teaches scientific writing in graduate-level courses and one-on-one settings. She is editor of the multiauthored volume Supporting Research Writing: Roles and challenges in multilingual settings, due to be published by Chandos in late 2012. She is also chair of the METM12 Organizing Committee.