Ever wonder where Italic type came from? I didn’t. Until I was doing some research on punctuation and there was a picture of Aldus Manutius, an Italian printer and inventor of the semicolon, italic typeface, and the father of modern punctuation according to The Guide to Grammar and Writing. Manutius lived from 1449 to 1515.
Manutius was educated in Latin and Greek. He was friends with famed Italian philosopher, Giovanni Pico, who gave him the money to start a printing press.
Italic writing was based on calligraphy, and there are different styles. “Italic type was first used by Aldus Manutius and the Aldine Press in 1501, in an edition of Virgil dedicated to Italy,” according to Wikipedia. Anything typed on an old typewriter that was a title was underlined. With Manutius’s invention, it was italicized when professionally printed.
Manutius was also one of the first, or maybe the first, to print small books that could easily fit into men’s pockets, and so the “pocket book” was born. Also, according to Wikipedia, In 1501 “Aldus [Manutius] wrote to his friend Scipio: “We have printed, and are now publishing, the Satires of Juvenal and Persius in a very small format, so that they may more conveniently be held in the hand and learned by heart (not to speak of being read) by everyone.” The Satires were written in 1st and 2nd AD. I can’t imagine memorizing them or what that might do to one’s attitude! Here is a small sample found in Sat I:19-44:
It’s hard not to write satire! For who’s so tolerant of Rome’s
Iniquities, so made of steel they can contain themselves
When along comes that lawyer Matho’s brand new litter,
Full of himself; behind, one who informed on a powerful
Friend, ready to steal any scraps from the noble carcase,
In 1501, Manutius began printing small books known as an octavo, and soon his name was associated with that term. An octavo’s size depends on the size of the sheet it is printed. To print pages for an octavo, which means one-eighth, 16 pages of text are printed on one sheet which is then folded three times to produce eight leaves. So the size of the book will be one-eighth the size of the sheet.
“A sixteenth century octavo printed in France or Italy is about the size of a modern cheap paperback, whereas an eighteenth-century octavo printed in England is larger, about the size of a modern hardcover novel,” saysWikipedia. “The oldest surviving octavo book apparently is the so-called “Turkish calendar” for 1455, presumably printed in late 1454, about the same time as the Gutenberg Bible.”
Manutius was also the first to print a semicolon in 1494. There are many uses for the semicolon, and different meanings for it in different languages. Many authors have advised against using it. Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country (2005) stated: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
I’m not sure I will take that advice; I believe the semicolon is here to stay!
http://www.nevabodin.net, NevaBodin1@Twitter, Facebook