Benito Rial Costas (ed.), Aldo Manuzio en la España del Renacimiento. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (csic), 2019. Nueva Roma, Bibliotheca Graeca et Latina Aevi Posterioris 50.

Cover Image for Aldo Manuzio en la España del Renacimiento

Costas, Benito Rial (ed.), Aldo Manuzio en la España del Renacimiento. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (csic), 2019. Nueva Roma, Bibliotheca Graeca et Latina Aevi Posterioris 50. ISBN 978-84-00-10578-5. 402 pp. € 36.

This collective volume is the result of the work of a research seminar assembled in 2015, under the auspices of the Complutense University of Madrid (ucm), commemorating the fifth centenary of the death of the humanist and printer Aldus Manutius the Elder (c. 1450-1515). The overall objective of the text is to reexamine the impact of Manutius in Renaissance Spain by covering different areas and avoiding common places broadly accepted in the traditional historiography, such as the devotion, fame, and prestige around the paradigmatic yet idealized figure of Manutius the Elder (which overlooks, therefore, the importance of the subsequent editorial projects built deliberately by his own heirs: his son, Paulus (1512-1574), and his grandson Aldus the Younger (1547-1597) and by other publishers, who did more than merely imitate Manutius’ editorial model). The traditional veneration of Manutius’ works poses a problem for truly assessing his actual influence in sixteenth-century Spain because the extensive use (or rather, the abuse) of the term “Aldine” in historical sources often makes no difference between the trajectories and individual projects of each one of the members of the Manutius family resulting in a confusing use of the term and an overstated “presence and fame” of the first of them.  

The different case studies from both historical or philological perspectives show a slower, but more progressive presence, influence, and impact on cultural circuits and literate elites in Renaissance Spain on different levels. Consequently, they help us to develop a more nuanced understanding of previously accepted assumptions of Manutius’ extensive influence in sixteenth-century Spain, which have traditionally been based on the activities of his collaborators such as the Greek humanist Dimitrious Doukas (Demetrios Ducas in Spanish); or on the availability of Aldine editions in Spanish libraries, which in fact, did not always imply a sign of general use or consumption. In fact, the presence of different editions in any library did not mean that its owners understood all the works and their contents, but rather exemplified a mark of prestige among collectors. Given all these arguments, the authors examine the different forms of transmission and impact of the complex multidimensional “Aldine” project. 

The volume comprises a preface and a short introduction, both written by the editor Benito Rial Costas, followed by ten chapters by recognized scholars specialized in Spanish Humanism. However, the volume has no thematic sections. Instead, the organization of the chapters follows an alphabetical order, and as a result, the philological, historical, or material approaches are not separated.  

Despite the lack of sections, the first chapter by Vicente Bécares provides a good starting point by offering an erudite philological overview of how the process of recuperation and incorporation of Manutius’ classical legacy operated in the university contexts of Salamanca and Alcalá de Henares during the early sixteenth century. The chapter of Antonio Dávila fits in the same line of exploring processes of reception, and it raises the question of how-to assess and how-to measure the real impact of the Manutius family’s editorial project in the context of Greek and Latin studies (studia humanitatis) in learned Spanish circles. The case studies are particularly enlightening since they provide a useful philological methodology on how to evaluate the different degrees of textual use and at times, evident dependance on Aldine Neo-Latin sources in the translations elaborated by humanists active throughout the sixteenth century and even beyond, such as Juan Lorenzo Palmireno (c. 1524-1579), Pedro Simón Abril (1530-1595), and Vicent Mariner (ca. 1580-1642) to mention a few. In addition, this chapter makes a significant contribution calling attention to the relatively few studies on the Latin literature produced by Spanish humanists from the sixteenth century onwards, pointing out that in the last three decades the situation has improved, but there are still plenty of texts waiting to be studied.    

A perspective of the development of Spanish poetry is provided by Roland Béhar, who explores the role of the Manutius’ editorial catalog on the transmission of classical, Tuscan, and Neapolitan literary models which contributed to a radical transformation of Spanish poetry exemplified by canonical authors like Juan Boscán (1487-1542) or Garcilaso de la Vega († 1536). This transmission was not entirely based on the direct circulation of Aldine editions, but also through the agency of Italian humanist writers linked to Manutius’ circles such as Andrea Navagero (1483-1529). 

Hellenism and library history are well represented in the text of Arantxa Domingo, which traces the extensive and direct presence of Aldine editions (published by the three Manutius) in private libraries of outstanding humanists in Spanish culture: Hernán Núñez de Guzmán (ca. 1478-1553) or Juan Páez de Castro (ca. 1510-1570). This presence of Aldine copies is essentially linked to their teaching activities in the Latin and Greek chairs at the universities of Salamanca or Alcalá. This demonstrates the compelling need for foreign editions within the Iberian circles of educated readers because the local output of early printers like Guillén de Brocar (ca. 1460-1523) was not sufficient to meet the increasing demand for Hellenistic, erudite, and accurate editions. In fact, it is a privilege that, despite centuries of dispersion, many of these copies with their annotations, and rich marginalia are still preserved in the holdings of Spanish historical libraries. Strikingly original in this chapter is the use of private letters of learned men such as Núñez de Guzmán as a source to shed light on the bibliographic recommendations of Aldine editions suggested to other friends, students, or acquaintances. 

In the same vein, the Hellenistic studies in Spain are also embodied in the chapters of Ángel Escobar and Inmaculada Pérez. The former explores the presence of the famous Aristotelian Aldine edition (1495-1498) in sixteenth-century Spain, while the latter focuses its attention on the most important Spanish Greek library, the one of the celebrated diplomat, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (1503/4-1575). Both authors examine surviving copies of exquisite collections amassed by the finest exponents of Spanish humanism, searching for marks of ownership, marginalia and reading practices which shed light on the use and assimilation of Aldine editions. The material traces of another private library are explored in the chapter written by Julián Solana, who offers a bibliographic study through surviving copies belonging to the private library of the humanist and theologian Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1494-1573).     

Regarding the education of sovereigns, the text of José Luis Gonzalo explores the real (or invented) presence of several Aldine editions in the humanistic education of the future king Philip II, which demonstrates that it was in accordance with the cultural context of the time, rejecting an obscurantist image of the monarch due to the Spanish Black Legend. The prince’s early royal formation (from 1527 to 1545) was still receptive to Erasmian precepts and other unorthodox authors published in German cities and disguised as Aldine editions to prevent censorship. This project was prepared by modern scholars linked to the court, such as Calvete de la Estrella (c. 1520-1593). Beside the use of surviving copies kept at the library of the Monastery of El Escorial, the ingenious revisions of sources such as accounts of the prince’s chamber allow for recreating a full image of Philip II’s readings, as well as the process of acquisition and incorporation of books to the royal collections.  

Outside the Castilian sphere, Manuel Pedraza’s chapter unsuccessfully attempts to trace any Aldine influence in the world of the printing press in the Realm of Aragón. The results are, however, disappointing, because the early Iberian printing press had no need to compete or to imitate the exquisite books exported from Venice, which on the contrary, were regularly ordered and consumed by the increasingly literate elites in the Iberian world.      

Contributing to discussions in the field of book materiality is the chapter of Antonio Carpallo, which briefly explores the technical and stylistic aspects of Aldine artistic binding (produced by the three Manutius) intended for collectors or bibliophiles. To close this non-sequential enumeration of chapters, the text of Fidel Sebastián Mediavilla offers a lengthy, quantitative, and original study on the influence of Aldine editions (from Aldus the Older and the Younger) on the gradual change of punctuation in Spanish treatises and other texts. In this respect, the case of the ambiguous usage of the semicolon (;) is paradigmatic. Finally, a general bibliography, and the always useful and reader-friendly analytic indexes are provided at the end of the volume.

On balance, the book provides an excellent overview of the kind of the current specialized studies dealing with Renaissance Spain, using different perspectives, particularly from philological and book history approaches. It is, therefore, an important contribution in the field of Iberian humanistic studies.   

César Manrique Figueroa