Marcus Porcius Cato et al., Libri de re rustica

Title | Libri de re rustica…
Author and Publisher | Marcus Porcius Cato, Publius Terentius Varro Atacinus, Lucius Junius Modertatus Columella, Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus, Giorgio Merula (authors); Aldo Manuzio, Andreas de Asula Torresanus (publishers)
Date | 1514 
Medium | Woodcut and letterpress on blue paper 
Format | [34], 308 leaves: ill. (woodcuts); 21 cm (4to) 
Institution | The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin 
Credit line | Giorgio Uzielli (date unknown); images courtesy of Aaron Pratt.
Theme | Antiquity, Mythology and Allegory 
Museum number | Uzielli 103 

Aldo Manuzio (1449–1515) spent his early life as a tutor before entering the publishing and printing industry, setting up a printing house in Venice. The first work published by the Aldine press was the Erotemata, a Greek grammar text, printed in 1494. The Aldine press published 132 texts in the twenty years during which Aldo was heading up the firm. Of these, 73 were classical texts, as Aldo’s intent was to provide humanist scholars and students with reliable, accessible texts. This aim was borne out by Aldo’s innovative publishing techniques. By developing new typefaces, such as corsivo (cursive), and format, such as the easily-carried books known as octavos or libelli portatiles, Aldo made classical texts available to those who wished to study them as he had done in his youth. The printing press thus became a vehicle from the heart of humanist ideals, as classical texts could be replicated and distributed for study and discussion. Libri de rustica was the first known edition of which some copies were issued on blue paper. That such an object was particularly appreciated is shown by the illuminated initial, most likely commissioned from the purchaser. The original prelims of this book, printed on blue paper, were lost and replaced in the 19th century with those from another copy on white paper.