Tag: Venice

The Art of printing in Venice

In the 15th Century the Venetian Republic reached the height of its expansion.

No European state could or would ever again boast such a great future and such a long period of continuity.

The “Serenissima” was particularly open to all religious philosophies, provided that none of these threatened its safety.

The first printers to arrive in Venice were German, followed by French, Flemish, Dutch, Swiss, Cretian and Istrian printers and many Italians.

A large group of  “reformist Humanists” fled to Venice, and among them Aldo Manuzio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldus_Manutius).

The freedom of the press was guaranteed and encouraged, especially since the expansion of printing had become such a good source of income in a matter of a few years. Venetian publishing not only called for collaboration, but also stimulated printers to experiment. The Senate even set down severe penalties for publishers who dared to use low-quality paper in 1537.

It is logical, therefore, to assume that authors not only saw Venice as the chance to get their works published, but also as having the facilities needed to accomodate them, plus the opportunity to discuss and compare their individual experiences.

Nearly 200 printing presses were operating in Venice towards the end of the 15th Century (1488).

The Art of printing was officially recognized in Venice on September 18th, 1469- the day the Senate recognized that Johann von Speyer had introduced and developed the art in Venice.

The “Scuola dei Stampatori e Libreri” always met at the Dominican monastery of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (the current hospital).

The cultural climate enjoyed by printers in Venice was that of a city ready to welcome all schools of thought and trends, filtering these and turning them into its own peculiar heritage. A real university was never established in Venice. Numerous cultural centres existed, however, such as the circle of the Greek scholar Giovanni Lascaris and the Rialto and San Marco schools holding classes in moral philosophy and rhetoric (only open to the noblility).

There were important centres for intellectual discussion with splendid libraries attached to them in the monasteries of the churches of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Santo Stefano, S. Francesco della Vigna, San Michele in Isola and Sant’Antonio in Castello.



Aldo Manuzio was not just a printer, but an actual publisher. An extraordinarily erudite man, he helped preserve many texts and guaranteed excellent results.

The printer’s early headquarters were in Calle del Pistor, number 2343, near Campo Sant’Agostin; he moved his operations to Calle San Paterniano near what is now Campo Manin in 1508.

As a printer, he published the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili in 1499 for the publisher Leonardo Crassus in Verona.

He was also famed for having invented his own type, possibly with the help of the philosopher Friar Luca Pacioli and the designer Francesco Griffo of Bologna.

Manuzio’s books were held in great regard and received numerous awards throughout Europe, but suffered precisely for this reason from imitation and counterfeiting by other publishers, especially in Florence and Lyon.

His printing house became a true literary circle. Manuzio was aware of his great responsibility: he summoned the most outstanding humanists of the time in Italy to act as correctors (not just translators and editors of drafts, but proper editors and editorial consultants).

Also his choice of paper -produced by the Fabriano papermill (the best on the market), format 32 x 42 cm- led to surprising result. When folded in half, he got the “folio” (32 x 21 cm), in four the “quarto” (16 x 21 cm), in three the “octavo” (10.5 x 16 cm). Manuzio designed and started using the “octave” with great commercial success: in other words, he had already invented the paperback (pocket book or “encheridio”) in the early 16th Century.

In May 1502 Manuzio founded an academy, the “Neacademia dei filelleni”, or Aldina Academy. He encouraged business relationships, collaboration and friendship with the best minds of the time, and he was a very prolific publisher.

Thanks to his expertise, talent and skill, the Senate appointed Manuzio as the official printer of the Venetian Republic on November 14th, 1502, having been sponsored by Marin Sanudo il Giovane (1466-1536).

It is unanimously accepted that his trademark (an anchor and a dolphin) refers to the motto “Festina lente” (more haste, less speed) attributed by Suetonius to Octavian Augustus.

Thanks to Franco Filippi

Source: The Art of printing in Venice by Franco Filippi (http://www.venicethefuture.com/schede/uk/323?aliusid=323)

Huck Scarry – Diario Veneziano

Huck Scarry (whose real name is Richard McClure Scarry) is famous Richard Scarry’s son of art (http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Scarry), a famous author and illustrator of children’s books.

Huck Scarry was born in Connecticut in 1953, and he lives and works in Vienna. After completing his studies at a school in graphics in Lausanne, he has lived in Paris, New York and Venice.

Huck”- the name that he usually uses to sign his works – is the nickname of Huckle Cat, one of the recurring characters of Busytown, an imaginary town inhabited by a variety of anthropomorphic animals described in various children’s books of the father.

When Huck works with his father’s style, he signs “Richard Scarry”.

In this article I want to talk about his book “Diario Veneziano” (Venetian Diary) realized in 1993, which contains a series of watercolors and pencil drawings of Venice, and which was -and still is- a great inspiration for my work.

The book was created by collecting pencil sketches and watercolor paintings produced along the streets and the canals of the famous lagoon city, as just he says in the introduction of the book: “Whenever I could, I took my box of colors, my sketchbook and my folding chair and I went to paint through the streets of Venice and on the lagoon. The drawings filled my clipboard and became the beginning of my Venetian diary … ”

The watercolors which you can see in this wonderful collection are light and fast, yet accurate and fine workmanship, and carry us into the magic of a city among the most mysterious yet still narrated for the multiplicity of its faces.

The artist’s eye captures new mysteries even when he observes known and overexploited by the “postcards” of Venice subjects, through a different point of view, giving new life to inanimate objects which seem to breathe in the suffused pastel colors, the play of lights and shadows on the chipped walls and on the old marbles, in the multi-colored reflections of the world on the ancient water of Venice.

Another important part of this book are the drawings in graphite, extremely light but with a strong character, so simple and yet perfect in telling the strong complexity of Venetian architecture, its bridges, chimneys and wells.

I highly recommend this book to all those who love art and good artists, to those who love Venice even without knowing it, and those who, like me, loves, knows and lives every day the most beautiful city of all.

To conclude, I really hope that among all the people who every day stop for streets and squares to portray glimpses and views of Venice, there should be someone who will give us another book beautiful like this.






Introduction: “Diario Veneziano”, Huck Scarry, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore 1993