Printing in Italy
The first successful press outside the confines of the German-speaking world was established in 1464 by two German émigrés, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, at the Benedictine monastery of Santa Scolastica at Subiaco, fifty miles east of Rome. After printing the first edition of St. Augustine’s De civitate dei in 1467 they moved their press to Rome. Printing spread to Venice in 1469. Italy’s great maritime and commercial center long had been a major exporter of manuscripts, and it quickly became Europe’s leading producer of printed books, publishing more than 3,500 fifteenth-century editions. Other centers of Italian printing included Milan, Florence, Bologna, Pavia, and Naples.
Characterized by handsome Roman types and book decoration inspired by antique models, the books in this section of the exhibition embody the Classical spirit of the Italian Renaissance. Several of Bridwell Library’s copies preserve masterpieces of Italian illumination, while others were decorated at foreign destinations. A rare edition of the Psalms in Hebrew shows evidence of Church censorship, and two of the items are the only recorded copies that survive.