Wednesday, April 13, 2016
K IS FOR KINDLE
It's not plagiarism if you steal from yourself, am I right? I've previously written about someone who did for 16th-century readers much of what the Kindle has done for 21st-century readers: made books more portable and thus, more accessible. So without further ado, I'm going to quote part of a post I did for last year's A to Z Challenge about Aldus Manutius (1449-1515), an Italian humanist who, among other things, is considered the father of standardized punctuation. Although there are still some people who chafe at punctuation rules, no one can dispute that at least one of his printing innovations profoundly changed the way people read books.
Manutius was a publisher and printer who invented italic type, developed some elements of modern punctuation, and perhaps most importantly, introduced the idea of printing inexpensive volumes of books bound in vellum in "octavo" size - much smaller and more portable than the then-standard size [my 2016 note: up to that point, books were usually printed either in folio size - four pages to a sheet of paper - or quarto size - eight pages to a sheet. Octavo size was appreciably smaller - sixteen pages to a sheet] - that were distributed and read much as paperback books are in modern times. Manutius, and the Aldine Press which he founded, had no less of an admirer than Erasmus, who worked at Manutius's press for a while during his stint in Italy, and had this to say:
However one may sing the praises of those who by their virtue either defend
or increase the glory of their country, their actions only affect worldly pros-
perity, and within narrow limits. But the man who sets fallen learning on its
feet (and this is almost more difficult than to originate it in the first place) is
building up a sacred and immortal thing, and serving not one province alone
but all peoples and all generations. Once this was the task of princes, and it
was the greatest glory of Ptolemy. But his library was contained between the
narrow walls of its own house, and Aldus is building up a library which has
no other limits than the world itself.
Manutius founded the Aldine Press, and came up with the logo of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor, inspired by an image on ancient Roman coins. The logo was such a success that it was immediately pirated by French and Italian publishers, and is still used by Doubleday, a Random House division.