|Historical Study - Previous |Next | Page 2|
|FROM HIEROGLYPHS TO HOME PAGES|
Argument and disputation on religious dogma, whether it be Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist was usually held by those who could read or write.
In Byzantine times and the dark ages, few peasants and serfs questioned dogma, let alone religious interpretation of scripture and law, because bishops and priests interpreted and translated scripture and law for them.
A serf who could neither read nor write was in no position to question the King's law or Papal decrees. Kings and landlords drew up acts of sale or donation, enacted written judgements and royal privileges, while the Pope recorded and granted indulgences, pardons and excommunications. Such enactments, when committed to writing, were almost always in Latin, and would need exhaustive translation and interpretation.
Without prior knowledge of early Jewish and Christian texts, Byzantine theology was quite impenetrable. In the early and middle centuries of the Christian era religious leaders had such knowledge, which was invariably gained from extensive study of the scripture and commentaries, and which was nearly always in Latin or Greek.
One example was the argument over the dual nature of Christ in which controversy raged as to whether the incarnate Lord was identical with, or separate from the Father. Because the transcendent first cause of creation was beyond suffering, the Lord could not be one with the Father, but, on the other hand, because the Lord was the Son of God, so He therefore was one with the Father.
That is to say, the Lord, being the son of God, was at the one time identical with, and at the same time separate from the Father. Such contradictions offended the mind, and explanations were sought to explain the difference. Some monks and scholars worked on such fine points of theology full time.
Religious leaders in the middle ages also had a good understanding of the psychology of masses. Their interpretation of the Bible and the Qu'ran convinced hundreds of thousands to fight in the holy lands for nothing much more than a principal.
In the middle ages the European world view, was of a universe of concentric spheres which revolved around the earth. The cosmos was alive and the stars influenced the course of events. Unicorns, griffins, and phoenix's lived beyond the borders of the civilized world. Man was composed of the four humors, blood, phlegm, choler and melancholy, and through the use of magic, could exercise power over the spirits and jinns of Nature.
With the advent of printing in 1450 such notions were dispelled. Around 1450 ancient texts began to appear in print in large numbers, and, for the first time in history, the public began an education in something other than farming.
One of the great men of printing and a leading light of the renaissance was Aldus Manutius. Manutius was born to a Tuscan family in the north of Italy in 1447. Early on, he showed an interest in learning and the classics, distinguishing himself in Latin and Greek.
From his use of manuscript texts for scholarship he came to the notion of protecting and preserving great works by disseminating them to the public in the new form of printing.
'I have resolved to devote my life to the cause of scholarship... A man has higher responsibilities than the seeking of his own enjoyment; he should devote himself to honorable labor....Human existance is as iron: when nothing is done with it, it rusts; it is only through constant activity that polish or brilliancey is secured.'
Aldus Manutius's first major work was five volumes of Aristotle in 1495-98. He then revived the Roman type face which was based on Jenson's hand-lettering adding small capitals. His typecutter, Francesco Griffo, cut the first italic face, which was modelled on the inclined cursive handwriting of Petrarch.
In 1501 he issued The Bucolics of Virgil, cut in the new type face, followed in 1502, by works of Catullus, Lucan, Thucydides, Sophocles and Herodotus.
Between 1503 and 1514 his production included works by Xenophon, Euripedes, Homer, Aesop, Virgil, Erasmus, Horace, Pindar and Plato.
Manutius became the first holder of copyright in history when he made application to the Venetian government for protection of the publication of his Greek volumes.
An important contributution to the advancement of human society and culture was Manutius' s patronage of the Nostraan Academy which was formed to assimilate the knowledge of the classical literature of Greece into contemporary society.
Aldus Manutius became the first President of the academy and charged it with the task of editing and examining ancient manuscripts for publication in the new medium. Members included readers and correctors of the Aldine Press, poets and physicians, the cultured nobility of cities such as Venice, Padua, Bologna, and Rome and even the Rotterdam scholar Erasmus.
Manutius was not the first person with the idea of opening up literature to the general public. In the 13th Century the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, wrote The Divine Comedy in the vernacular, at once ensuring a wide readership, while at the same time, providing the public with a work of poetry in its own tongue, one in which no prior knowledge of Greek or Latin was required.
When Manutius published The Divine Comedy in August 1502, it was the first to show the famous collophon of the Dolphin and Anchor, which the Aldine Press had adopted as its printers mark. The dolphin and anchor has its origin in the medals of Rome struck for Vespassian and Domitian. The dolphin indicates speed in execution and the anchor firmness in deliberation.
Although Manutius made a great contribution to renaissance scholarship, it has to be said that the humanists of Italy also played a leading role, discovering manuscripts, founding libraries, and teaching the Greek language.
Among them was the establishment of Blastus and Calliergi, both Cretans of wealth and culture, who produced exclusively Greek volumes. Manutius saw in the work of Calliergi a real contribution to Greek learning, and, in spite of the rivalry, maintained a close friendship with him.
When Aldus Manutius died in 1515 Jean Grolier associated with the Aldine Press. Grolier was treasurer of the duchy of Milan and had a passionate love of books. He became the patron of the press, sending manuscripts for printing and lending money. Today his work lives on in the Grolier Club of New York City.
In 1533 Paulus Manutius, the youngest son, who was now 21, assumed charge of the Aldine Press. He issued corrected letters of Cicero, produced his own Latin version of Demosthenes (1554) and four treatises on Roman antiquities. In Rome Paulus printed about 50 books up to 1571.
Aldus Manutius had the vision to apply Gutenberg's ideas of typesetting and the printing of books to large scale production. His selection of titles of quality and wisdom became one of the foundations for the rebirth of knowledge and art which ushered in the Renaissance.
Contemporaries of Aldus Manutius such as Grolier, Musurus and Erasmus declared that he had done more for the spread of learning and the development of literature than any other scholar of the period.
The labours of such men as these along with the new invention of Gutenberg provided an impetus for the advancement of human culture unlike any other in history, and one comparable only to the invention of writing itself.
|Click for more|