So many things that we now find usual and commonplace were once someone’s inventions – maybe even a risky madness, as judged by contemporaries. Take, for example, italics, the semicolon, or pocket-sized books. These were all innovations by the great Venetian printer, humanist, and educator Aldus Manutius (1449/1450–1515).
At the turn of the fifteenth century, Venice was flourishing, and so was the art of printing. Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, whose name has famously been adopted by the current European student exchange programme, commented that it was easier to become a printer than a baker in Venice.
Erasmus spent eight months at Aldus’ printing house in 1508. At that time Aldus Manutius published the second, expanded edition of Erasmus’ Adagia, a collection of Greek and Latin proverbs, many of which are widely used today, thanks to Erasmus of Rotterdam: