About the Text

Methods and Criteria

The only letter to appear alongside a printed work of Aldus’ is Letter 4 of our collection, written to Catarina Pia in circa 1484. It has remained untranslated because it occupies an indeterminate space in scholarship of the printer’s life. It accompanies a poem that Aldus wrote for Alberto Pio but is not a dedicatory letter. It was circulated by Aldus but not printed by him. It seems, based on the address, to have been written while Aldus was still at Carpi, working as a tutor for the Pio family. Based on other prosopographical data, however, it was published years later in Venice. These uncertainties and what they reveal about Aldus’ self-conception at an early point in his career are what make this letter particularly suited to our project. The document that contains the Catarina letter, which exists in only seven copies around the world, was evidently intended as a kind of advertisement for Manutius’ skills as a tutor for aristocratic youth. As such, the letter represents a unique opportunity to see Aldus at a point in his life when his role in the culture of humanism was not fixed and to observe one of his earliest attempts to position himself within it.

Editing Conventions

In editing the Latin text of these letters, we have followed the standards of the I Tatti Renaissance Library with few exceptions. Spelling has been, broadly speaking, reworked for modern tastes. The letter j has been eliminated in all contexts, v used only to denote the semivowel, diphthongs spelled out ae, oe and restored where historically shifted to e, and all compound words written to reflect consonant assimilation (e.g. tanquam instead of tamquam, colloquor instead of conloquor). Punctuation has been added for clarity and to match the translation where appropriate, and Latin proper names and adjectives have been capitalized according to English conventions. Words and phrases are translated into English differently as the context and each editor’s preferences have dictated: the reader should always refer back to the Latin when scrutinizing the language closely.

Exceptions to these standards include certain words such as littera whose spelling was a matter of controversy during the period. Interpreting the spelling of the word as a deliberate choice by the author, we have allowed for variation between the letters. In the translation, historical people are referred to by the names used in their native vernacular, while figures from antiquity are referred to by their English names.

We have made an exception to the above rules in referring to Aldus by his Latin appellation and preserving its variations as they appear throughout the collection. The intent is to chronicle the gradual development of his identity over the years covered, his slow metamorphosis from “Altus Cato” to “Aldus Manuccius Bassianas” to the final “Aldus Manutius Romanus” that would become the trademark of his press and, thus, a byword for classical learning. This was no foregone conclusion, but the result of a painstaking process of self-fashioning, accomplished over many years, no small part of which was the correspondence that constituted his public face.