Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Aldus Manutius

We recently attended the annual conference of the American Printing History Association (APHA) held at UCLA and the Getty Research Institute. It was invigorating to get out of our workshop and stuff our brains with printing history and exquisite exhibitions from the work of Aldus Manutius, his press, followers and modern imitators.

The scholars in attendance framed a fascinating and brief period in which books changed from handwritten manuscripts to works printed with metal type in fonts very like the ones we continue to use today. We learned that those first printed books before 1501 are referred to as incunabulum- a most fascinating word and work.

These forays into book history are like spiritual pilgrimages. Aldus was responsible for the inspired work of creating books for the hands, allowing for comfortable, solitary reading (Can we say "Praise be to Aldus"). The speed and ease of reading was enhanced by his italic type faces. He also saved many classical texts through his careful work with translators and his super-human publishing speed.

APHA has a newly revived Southern California chapter. Membership in this association has been enriching for our creative work all year. The salons that meet at studios and homes and wonderful. Membership is open to all and includes a thick, handsome journal of papers and reviews.

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