Around the age of forty, Aldus decided to devote his life to publishing classical literature. Europe was at the time in turmoil, with Christian scholars being hounded out of their homes into neighbouring countries. Aldus offered refugees safe asylum in return for their help in collating quality copies of Greek and Latin classics.
Many of the old grammar books had suffered from shoddy copying over the years. They were slapdash and messy, and many were saved by the work of the men in Aldus’ academy of learned men.
To bring down his production costs, and to make the books more affordable for skint scholars, Aldus needed to fit as many words as he could on every page. Ideally he wanted to be able to get 2 pages’ worth of type onto a single page. He employed the artist Giovanni de Bologna to design a new, compressed typeface – which became known as the italic.
Aldus’ press became famous all around Europe. People all over were carrying his pocket editions of Latin and Greek classics around with them. His press was so famous that people were constantly knocking on the door, wanting to visit. Their interest got in the way of the work of the press. He hung a sign over the print shop door: “Whoever you are that wish to see Aldus, be brief,” it said; “And when business is finished go away.”
Things printed in italics at the print project “With 26 Soldiers of Lead I Have conquered the world” card.