Sometimes the frame of history takes centuries to cross the weft thread through the warp. And so threads of lives apparently so distant in time end up crossing when and where we least expect it. Watch out for numbers (and then they say they are just coincidences).
Aldus Manutius, the greatest printer of the Renaissance, the inventor of the book and modern publishing, died in Venice in 1515, but Venice unexpectedly decides to celebrate his 500th anniversary only in 2016. The pocket book, index, page numbering and italics, everything that seems logical and natural in a book now, was only thanks to him that they exist. The National Library Marciana retains/hosts his most valuable work: the allegorical novel Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Love fight in a dream), in which 170 wonderful woodcuts integrate and intertwine harmoniously with the text, giving rise to one of the most beautiful graphic works of the Renaissance.
In the late afternoon of 4 November 1966, the tide gauge located behind the Punta della Salute measured the highest tide ever recorded in Venice: 194 cm. The sea swallowed the entire city. About four thousand ground floor homes were flooded, but the Marciana area was the most affected, as it is open to the sirocco wind, which can drag the gondolas in, even into the basilica. It was the “aqua granda” (“big flood”).
That same year C.R. was assistant director of the National Library Marciana and lived at number 52 of Piazza San Marco. His apartment had direct access to the library otherwise unreachable from the outside. C.R. and with the only help of the guardian rescued hundreds of books and manuscripts before the tide engulfed one of the finest collections of Greek, Latin and oriental manuscripts in the world. We do not know if among these there was also the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, but in the end, does it really matter? Whoever saves a book, saves them all.
2016 is the year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of ““aqua granda” (1966/2016) and as fate would have it, it is also the year of the (late) celebration for the 500th anniversary of Aldus Manutius. But it is also the year in which C.R. left us at the age of 86. We, from Inside Venice, like to remember these two brave Venetians with equal affection, whose fate met that evening, November 4, 1966 in the rooms on the ground floor of the National Library Marciana.
NATIONAL LIBRARY MARCIANA
Piazzetta San Marco 7, 30124 Venice
Phone: +39 041 240 7211 – http://marciana.venezia.sbn.it