A very small, but perfectly formed, Exhibition, gathered from the treasures of Bodley, commemorating Aldus Pius Manutius, who died on February 6 1515. Just one case, on your right as you go into the Proscholium. (Ends on February 22.)
The decades covered by Aldus' working life were, surely, feverishly exciting: Venice full of Greek refugees (Aldus insisted that only Greek was spoken in his workshop!); loads of Greek manuscripts saved from Constantinople swilling around; Aldus and all the others experimenting with the new technology of printing. There must have been sensation after sensation: "Did you hear? So-and-so has just come across a manuscript of such-and-such!!" You only have to look at the apparatus beneath any page of Catullus to be reminded how much we owe, in the recovery of that poet a textu corruptissimo, to the emendations that were whizzing round Venice and the Veneto in a society where the distinction between Scholar and Printer must often have been blurred. (Dirk Obbink would have been in his element, not to mention the Anonymous London Collector who is not a German Officer!!)
It was Aldus who invented punctuation as we know it today, and italic for the smaller, handier, octavo volumes, exemplified in this Exhibition, which he produced for the convenience of the docti. But the most spectacular thing on show is his edition of the Hypnerotomachia of Poliphili, open (not at the God of Lampsacus but) at the engraving of the Monster Hollow Elephant (or should I say Olyphant?).
One tiny oddity. The Exhibition's master caption laudably refers to Aldus' association with the great humanist scholar Pietro Bembo. It doesn't mention that Bembo was a Cardinal. And, a few months ago, an exhibition in the same case about the foundation of Exeter College (in 1314) failed to mention that its founder was a bishop. Is there a plot in this secularised University to let the Catholic Church's centrality in European cultural history fade from the public memory?