History of Paper and Books in Venice

March 23, 2012 by

Top Attractions, Travel Tips, Unforgettable Experiences, Uniquely Venice

A page printed by Aldo Manuzio or Aldus Manutius.

A page printed by Aldo Manuzio or Aldus Manutius.

Venice has its typical souvenirs that everyone buys and every second shop sells: glass, lace, Carnivale masks. Another is paper – writing paper including little books with marbled covers, photo albums and more. I have to admit that these are where my money goes. Historically, Venice has always had a fine reputation for making good quality paper. The city became one of the first places in the world to begin printing books rather than having manuscripts copied by hand. But it was one man in Venice in the 15th century who changed everything: Aldo Manuzio. This man invented the italic typeface so he could fit more words on a page, then he decided that the huge size and weight of the first books kept reading and knowledge out of ordinary people’s hands, so he decided to fold the paper before printing it. Manuzio produced the first pocket sized book, the kind of book we take for granted today, printing the Greek classics for all the world to read. And this all happened in a building which still stands in the San Polo district, in Rio Terra Secondo.

Hence Venice has a great history and reputation for producing beautiful books and beautiful papers. One of the oldest and most famous paper and binding shops is Antica Legatoria Piazzesi, which calls itself the first paper shop in Europe and opened in 1851 (Campiello della Feltrini 2511/c, in San Marco district, near Santa Maria del Giglio vaporetto stop.) There is also a lovely paper shop on the square where the Frari church is. And another called Il Pavone, at Dosoduro, 721, 30123 Venice. But quite frankly, addresses in Venice are barely worth the paper they’re printed on (witty joke there…) –only the locals can possibly understand the street numbering system. So ask a local, or stumble across a paper shop as you wander– you’re sure to find something gorgeous.

-Philippa Burne

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