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News Release — October 20, 1998

Ransom Center Publishes Aldine Press Books Catalogue

The Ransom Center has published a descriptive catalogue delineating its distinct and significant collection of Aldine Press books. Authored by Craig W. Kallendorf, Professor of English and Classics at Texas A&M University, and Maria X. Wells, Adjunct Professor of French and Italian and Curator of Italian Collections at the Ransom Center, the catalogue details each of the Center's Aldine holdings, describing their condition and genealogy of ownership while recounting the original uses of each book. The work will be of interest to a wide variety of audiences--historians, bibliographers, book collectors, antiquarian booksellers, and university libraries.

Of the Center's Aldine collection and the catalogue, the noted bibliographer Anthony R.A. Hobson has remarked, "The collection has real merit and interest and a catalogue that brings out its particular character is a welcome addition to the books of this famous press."

"Festina Lente"

Aldus Manutius (c. 1450-1515) and his heirs were the most important printers of the Renaissance. Capitalizing on the newfound availability of movable type, the wondrous invention of Johann Gutenberg, Aldus decisively influenced not only printing, but the general course of ideas in his time. For it was through his press that the written word became widely available to the day's intellectuals, and thus his selection of manuscripts rendered in book form crucially affected Renaissance thought.

The range and diversity of the works that came to bear the distinctive Aldine printerÕs mark--a dolphin entwined in an anchor -- was impressive by any standard. A scholar of Latin and Greek prior to entering the printing profession, Aldus was committed to publishing classical authors. The books resulting from his efforts played a prominent role in developing and nourishing the humanist agenda of the Renaissance. For it was through the Aldine Press that the foundation of the Greek and Latin classics appeared in print, many for the first time -- Aristotle, Thucydides, Herodotus, Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Ovid, and Pliny.

While known primarily for its publication of classic texts, the Aldine Press made many other significant contributions. Aldus himself was a leader in printing the great humanist works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, and he provided a continual source of publication for Pietro Bembo, Erasmus, and many other contemporary authors. Complementing the great authors Aldine published was the unparalleled craftsmanship reflected in the books themselves. Today, nearly 500 years after their publication, Aldine Press books are still revered for their attractive topography, clean lines, and impressive design. The careful, considered, and critical contributions of Aldine to the development of fine scholarly printing and Western thought reflect well Aldus's motto, "Festina lente" -- make haste slowly.

The Catalogue of Aldine Books at the Ransom Center

The Ransom Center's collection of Aldine Press books is important for its size, special editions, early owners, and contemporary bindings. Part of the collection came to the Center in 1957 with the acquisition of Edward A. Parsons personal library. In 1984, the existing collection was greatly improved by the generous donation of Mr. Giorgio Uzielli, who left his 287 Aldines to the Ransom Center. This brought the total number of Aldines at the Center to over 900, though some are duplicates.

Of particular significance are two copies of the 1494-95 Lascaris Greek grammar, the first dated product of the Aldine Press; two copies of the first publication of Aristotle's works; the only North American copy of Reuchlin's Oratio ad Alexandrum Sextum; two copies of the original 1499 edition of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the only illustrated book published by Aldus; and eight copies of Aldine editions printed on vellum, as well as two blue-paper copies. According to H. George Fletcher of New York's Pierpont Morgan Library, "The totality of the Ransom Center's Aldine collection, with its particular glories, is a stunning revelation."

On October 31, 1998 the catalogue will be featured at a conference on Aldus in Italy organized by the Biblioteca Marciana of Venice and the Ministry of Culture of the Veneto Region. Held in San Dona' di Piave (near Venice), Dennis Rhodes from the British Library will introduce the book, followed by a presentation by Maria X. Wells on the Ransom Center's Aldine collection. According to Wells, "This presentation is the best recognition we could have hoped for our publication. Since the Ransom Center's collection of Aldine books is one of the largest outside of Italy, it is important that it be recognized on an international level, and this conference is an opportunity for such recognition."

The catalogue is published by the Harry Ransom Center and is being distributed by the University of Texas Press. For more information on the book or the Ransom Center's Aldine collection, phone 512.471.8944.

 

 

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