In this pioneering study one of the leading experts on the history of the early Italian book has turned his attention to some of the most perplexing and intractable problems that historical bibliographers have to face the identification of anonymous printing. Venice quickly became one of the major publishing centres of Renaissance Europe, serviced by innumerable printers. While the products of many of the presses are easily identified today (one thinks of the famous device used in books produced by Aldus Manutius), many of the surviving books offer no such evidence as to their origins. Their title-pages may simply state Venetiis or in Venetia; or the name of the publisher or bookseller is given but not the printer; or occasionally no information at all is given. In such instances the bibliographer must make an identification by comparing the anonymously printed volume with known examples of a printer's work.
This is often peculiarly hard, particularly since in Venice (like nowhere else in Europe) there was a great deal of interloaning of initials, ornaments, devices and other material between printers, who seem often to have been friends rather than rivals. Occasionally it is impossible to be certain to whom a particular device really belonged.
. Despite these and other problems, Dennis Rhodes has succeeded in establishing the identity of the anonymous printer of over 250 different volumes in the British Library's outstanding collections. Each volume is fully described, and 150 photographs of type ornaments and other identifying features are included.
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