The First Printed Edition of Aristophanes
Aristophanes (circa 446–circa 386 BCE).
Aristophanis comoediae novem.
Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1498.
Aldus Manutius (ca. 1450–1515), a native of Bassiano, Italy, was a scholar and teacher for whom printing represented a further means of disseminating classical languages and literature. Establishing a press in Venice in 1494, Aldus printed Greek and Latin classics as well as the works of contemporary writers, including immigrant scholars from Thessaloniki and Constantinople. Aldus published the editio princeps of more than thirty Greek texts, designing his own Greek typefaces based on contemporary manuscript fashion. Aldus employed Francesco Griffo (1450–1518) to cut punches based on the handwriting of friends and associates, including Immanuel Rhusotas (active 1465–1500), Ioannes Gregoropoulos (active 1493–1503), and Marcus Musurus (ca. 1470–1517). Although criticized for their complexity by scholars in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Aldus’s fonts proved to be popular with contemporary readers.
In July 1498 Aldus published the editio princeps of nine of the comedies of Aristophanes, including Wealth, The Clouds, The Frogs, The Knights, The Acharnians, The Wasps, The Birds, Peace, and The Ecclesiazusae. The only two extant plays lacking in the volume are Lysistrata and The Thesmophoriazusae. Aldus’s editor for the publication was Marcus Musurus (ca. 1470–1517), a native of Rhethymno, Crete. Musurus rose to prominence as a Greek scholar and was later appointed bishop of Hierapetra by Pope Leo X, although he died before he was able to assume the position. The edition combines the original Greek text of Aristophanes, printed in the center of the page and enhanced with elaborate woodcut initials. It includes extensive notes and comments, called scholia, which Musurus compiled from the work of ancient scholiasts.