Aldus Manutius' Homer
The printer Aldus Manutius was born in the town of Bassiano, located 37 miles southeast of Rome, around 1450. He studied Latin in Rome under Gaspare da Verona and Greek in Ferrara with the son of the famous scholar Guarino Guarini. In Florence he met the humanists Poliziano and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. When working as a tutor of the Pio family in Carpi, Aldus conceived the idea of establishing a press devoted to the printing of the Greek classics. For this enterprise he chose Venice, a vibrant commercial city where there was a large community of Greek immigrants. The first Aldine edition of the Homeric poems (1504), of which the U-M Library holds a copy of the Odyssey, set the standard for what was included in “the complete Homer”: Iliad, Odyssey, Batrachomyomachia, Hymns, and Lives attributed to Herodotus, Dione, and Plutarch. As Aldus had previously done for many other Latin and Greek writers, these two volumes were printed in a handy pocket format (octavo). In the preface of his second octavo edition of the works of Vergil, which he dedicated to Pietro Bembo, Aldus mentions that he had greatly admired the miniature manuscripts in the library of Pietro's father, Bernardo Bembo. Perhaps these manuscripts were Aldus's inspiration to print in octavo format the Latin and Greek classics.