Spotted in the Stacks

Spotted in the Stacks

Ever wonder about the stained glass in your library?

The dolphin and anchor seen in the non-fiction room window are the insignia of Aldus Manutius, the 16th-century Italian humanist and publisher who helped make books what they are today: plentiful, portable, easily legible—and cheap.

Aldus Manutius’ goal was to spread knowledge by making high-quality books available—and affordable—to as broad an audience as possible. The invention of moveable type a few decades earlier helped with that, but Manutius was responsible for several innovations that modern readers may take for granted, from pocket-sized books to the italic type that you’re reading right now.

Since their publication at the beginning of the 1500s, Manutius’ books have been praised for their beauty, clarity, and scholarship. Accordingly, the Aldine device has emerged over the centuries as a symbol of knowledge. It’s appeared in books, from pirated editions of Manutius’ own day to the Doubleday logo, and in the halls of the libraries all over the world.

Manutius himself wasn’t the first one to use the image, though. The anchor-and-dolphin emblem dates back to ancient Rome, where it appeared on coins and jewelry as a representation of the classical adage Festina lente: Make haste slowly. Not a bad thing to keep in mind, whether you’re in 16th-century Venice or 2015 Vermont.