‘Aldus is building a library which knows no walls save those of the world itself.’

Erasmus, Adages: Festina Lente.1

Edward Worth (1676-1733), an early eighteenth-century Dublin physician, was a connoisseur collector of rare printings and fine bindings. This online exhibition, curated by Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius (1449 or 1450-1515), one of the most famous printers in the history of printing. Worth was particularly interested in collecting Aldines and his library holds 90 volumes printed by the Aldine press, including a substantial number of early Aldines. The exhibition is the seventh in a series of website exhibitions which explore aspects of the holdings of the Worth Library. For further details about the Edward Worth Library please contact our website: www.edwardworthlibrary.ie A catalogue of Aldines at the Edward Worth Library will be available for purchase in Autumn 2015.

Poetae Christiani 1502 Aldine device no 1.

Poetae Christiani 1502 Aldine device no.1.

This image, from Worth’s copy of the Poetae Christiani (1502) depicts the first use of the Aldine dolphin and anchor printing device (Ahmanson-Murphy’s A1). Over time, the device would be subtly altered but always showed the dolphin and anchor – indeed various versions of the device may be seen on the pages of this web exhibition. Erasmus, a contemporary and friend of Aldus, explains in his adage Festina Lente how Aldus’ choice of the device was influenced by a gift from Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) of a coin of Emperor Vespasian, engraved with a dolphin and anchor. As Erasmus explains in Festina Lente (make haste slowly), ‘the anchor symbolises delay in considering and the dolphin speed in finishing’. It was, therefore, a perfect device for the Aldine printing house.

Aldus had experimented with dolphin imagery in his famous Hypnerotmachia polifilii of 1499 but he only chose the dolphin and anchor as a printing device in 1502.2 As a device it worked on a number of levels: it reminded readers of the past of imperial Rome, bringing together as it did the visual allusion to Vespasian and the textual reference to Emperor Augustus’ adage. But, as Deborah Howard (1997) suggests, it could also be understood at a more local level, for Venice, the site of the Aldine press, had been depicted in the shape of a dolphin in Jacopo de’ Barbari’s map of the city in 1500, just two years before Aldus adopted the image as his device.3


The Aldine Press. Catalogue of the Ahmanson-Murphy Collection of Books by or relating to the press in the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles incorporating works recorded elsewhere (University of California Press, 2001).

Howard, Deborah (1997), ‘Venice as a Dolphin: Further Investigations into Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View’, Artibus et Historiae, 18, no 35, 101-111.

1 Erasmus, Desiderius, Collected Works of Erasmus: Adages, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (University of Toronto Press, 1991) 33 Iii1 to IIvi100, p. 10.

2 This work was not part of Worth’s Aldine collection but every other text mentioned in this website may be found in the Worth Library (unless noted otherwise).

3 Howard, Deborah (1997), ‘Venice as a Dolphin: Further Investigations into Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View’, Artibus et Historiae, 18, no 35, pp. 101-111.