Monday, November 29, 2010

Early Book Marketing

The first italic type design originated in Venice, Italy when this edition of Virgil was published in 1501 by Aldus Manutius of the Aldine Press. Aldus actually commissioned type designer, Francesco Griffo to punchcut the first italic typeface for his book. I believe Aldus also originated one of the earliest creative marketing plans at this time as well. He cleverly chose to base the italic upon a popular form of cursive handwriting which was quite fashionable amongst his many educated customers. He also was the inventor of the semi-colon which I have reported upon previously on Letterology. One thing Aldus might have overlooked however; it appears he was so busy marketing his book, he forgot to add a decorative drop cap on the verso page.
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Doh! Update alert!
Being a Renaissance guy, I couldn't believe Aldus could just overlook adding initial caps in Virgil. It then dawned on me that of course he printed a placeholder cap—For Placement Only—and had it in mind to add the beautiful hand-painted ornamental drop caps post printing. I did further investigations and found a few images of the book in the archives of the British Library and there is even an illuminated border. The physical description of this book actually reads: 8vo, 228 leaves, on vellum. With illuminated initials and illuminated border to the first page of text. (Meaning just the front matter?) No credit to the artist who created all of the page illuminations however. Typical!

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