Gian Francesco Torresani of Asola

Gian Francesco Torresani of Asola

‘It may be added that our epistles or prefaces are of such a kind that it seems to us proper, for the same reason, that although we seem to write privately to one man, we nevertheless write publicly for all who read our words in friendly fashion.’

Aldus Manutius to Andrea Navagero, March 1514.1


Apuleius 1521 Aldine device.

Aldus’ emphasis on the importance of the epistle dedicatory, both as a method of praising his friendship circle and as a means of instructing his readers was mirrored in the prefaces of Aldine works by his brother-in-law, Gian Francesco Torresani d’Asola (1498-1557 or 1558). As Cataldi Palau (2012) has argued, Gian Francesco was instrumental in the running of the Aldine press, particularly in the 1520s. It was he who was responsible for the production of the editiones principes of Galen and Hippocrates and for a number of editions of the commentaries of Simplicius on Aristotle.

Simplicius 1527 January Aldine device

Simplicius 1527 January Aldine device.

Worth had copies of the October 1526, January 1527 and June 1527 editions of Simplicius (on the ‘Physics’, ‘On the Heavens’ and ‘On the Soul’ respectively). They weren’t the only Aristotelian commentators collected by Worth, for he also had a copy of Alexander of Aphrodisaeus in a 1514 Aldine edition. The sixth-century neoplatonist Simplicius of Cilicia was heavily indebted to Iamblichus (c.250-c.330), a copy of whose works Worth also purchased in an Aldine edition. Simplicius sought to bring Aristotelian and Platonic thought together, emphasising areas of agreement between the two, rather than focusing on differences.

Simplicius  1527 June title-page.

Simplicius 1527 June title-page.

That Gian Francesco viewed the printing of Simplicius’ commentaries as a continuation of Aldus’ classical project, a vital companion volume to the Aldine Aristotle, may be seen in his preface to the January 1527 edition. This was addressed to Alberto Pio, the principal patron of the Aldine Aristotle, and Gian Francesco made much of the fact that Pio was yet again involved in bringing an Aristotelian publication to press. Addressing Pio, he stated that ‘after you two had laid the foundations for a work truly outstanding if anything ever was, no one should be surprised that substructures were added allowing it to be completed in all its magnificence’. Gian Francesco therefore saw his editions of the commentaries of Simplicius as the logical culmination of the project initiated by Aldus as far back as the 1490s. Certainly Aldus himself had hoped to published commentaries by Simplicius on the ‘Physics’ of Aristotle – as Cordero (1977) notes, he had stated this aim as early as 14 October 1499.

Simplicius 1527 June annotation detail

Simplicius 1527 June annotation detail.

While Aldus’ son Paolo was still a child Andrea, and later Gian Francesco, ruled supreme at the press but once Paulo reached his majority storm clouds appeared on the otherwise tranquil printing horizon of the press. Following Andrea’s death Paolo sought to assert his authority – leading to a quarrel with Gian Francesco. By 1540 the reign of Gian Francesco was well and truly over.


Cataldi Palau, Annaclara (2012), ‘Gian Francesco Torresani of Asola and the Aldine printing press: A new chapter in intellectual and printing history’, Intellectual News, 10: 1, pp. 28-44.

Cordero, Nestor-Luis (1977), ‘Analyse de L’Edition Aldine du Commentaire de Simplicius a la Physique D’Aristote’, Hermes, 105, no. 1, pp. 42-54.

Fazzo, Silvia (2004), ‘Aristotelianism as a commentary tradition’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 47, no. 83, part 1, pp. 1-19.

Gaskin, Richard (2000), Simplicius On Aristotle’s “Categories 9-15” (New York: Cornell University Press).

1 Aldus Manutius, ‘The Life of a Scholar-Printer’ in The Portable Renaissance Reader, edited by James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin (Penguin: New York, 1977), p. 399.