fol. xxφφ3r, Gospel of Matthew
It is fitting that the press of the man most responsible for disseminating Greek learning in the West, Aldus Manutius (1449/50–1515), was the first to publish a complete Bible in Greek. The work, which appeared three years after Aldus’s death, also has the distinction of containing the editio princeps of the Greek Septuagint, the third-century B.C.E. translation of the Old Testament into Greek. Although the so-called Complutensian Polyglot—printed a year earlier in 1517—also contains the Septuagint, it was not published until 1522 [2.4].
Aldus had been interested in the Bible text for a long time. As early as 1501, he planned a polyglot Old Testament, which would have included the Septuagint text in Greek, along with a Latin translation and Jerome’s Vulgate text. Unfortunately, this project was left unfinished, despite his prodigious abilities to produce classical and religious texts. In his lifetime, Aldus Manutius published thirty-one editiones principes in Greek and a total of 142 books in all.
It has proven impossible to determine who edited the 1518 Aldine Bible. It was certainly planned and perhaps edited, in part, by Aldus himself before his death in 1515. There is some evidence that the Greek scholar Marcus Musurus (ca. 1470–1517), who produced the first editions of Plato and Aristophanes, as well as the standard Greek lexicon of his age, also played a role in this project. (He mentions it in a letter to Jean Grolier from 1515.) And in the preface to the Septuagint Andrea Torresani of Asola (1451–1529), Aldus’s father-in-law and printing partner, seems to take credit for editing that part, claiming to have consulted numerous and various manuscripts as the basis for his text ("ego multis vetustissimis exemplaribus collatis.... Biblia graece cuncta descripsi"). What is clear is that the Psalms in the 1518 Bible are reprinted from the Greek Psalter printed by Aldus before 1498 [5.1], and the New Testament presents the edition of Erasmus of 1516 [5.2] with fewer than twenty variant readings. Not surprisingly, the New Testament portion is dedicated to Erasmus in a prefatory letter by Gian Francesco Torresani, Aldus’s brother-in-law. (The contributions of Aldus’s relatives are not unusual; printing and publishing was a family affair among many of the early printers.)
The Aldine text distinguishes chapters in the Old Testament, but not in the New, and, of course, no verses are delineated. When marked, the chapters are numbered with both Greek letters and arabic numerals.
Perhaps because of their great respect for Aldus’s philological excellence, humanists and reformers favored the Aldine text for the Septuagint over that of the Complutensian. For example, it was the 1518 Aldine Old Testament that served as the basis for the Strasbourg edition of 1524–26 by the Lutheran Johannes Lonicerus and for the 1545 Basel printing known as Melanchthon’s Bible because it includes a preface by the reformer. Indeed, copies of the 1518 Aldine edition are very rare today, perhaps owing to its popularity and heavy usage. It should also be noted that the small folio format of this edition makes it easier to use than the Complutensian.
The text is mostly in the Greek font developed by Aldus Manutius, with some roman types used for signatures and prefatory material in Latin. Aldus’s Greek fonts have been the subject of much criticism by scholars, faulted for being "devoid of beauty of form" (Proctor, 93) and for irritating the eye of the reader (Lowry 1979, 131). But more recently, the achievement of Aldus in establishing the shape of Greek typography has been acknowledged, and some modern readers even admit that his fonts have a "certain beauty and calligraphic elegance of their own" (In aedibus Aldi, 26). Regardless of one’s aesthetic reaction, no one can deny that his font styles, especially his Greek and italic (a font designed and first used by Aldus), became the standard for typography for the next several generations.
Most unusual is the printing in red and black, which is not common in Aldine books. The famous Aldine Dolphin and Anchor device is printed in red on the title page and in black at the end of the book. Each book opens with a large red woodcut initial and a geometric design in the upper border, also in red. The exception comes in the parts of the New Testament following the Gospel of John. There the same type of initials and borders are printed in black. There are no notes in the text, nor any references to the manuscript sources used, as is common in this period when standards for critical editions were still in the process of development.
Literature: Angerhofer 1995, 26; Copinger 1897, 92–94; Lowry 1979; Renouard 1825, 84.