Terence in folio was so standardized a format that we can discern a single design tradition in Italy across the entire period from the invention of printing to the middle of the seventeenth century. Small-format Terences varied much more. The Aldine press set a pattern for printing classical poets in octavo without commentary. But while some publishers mimicked the Aldines slavishly, others felt free to offer small volumes on other models.

Terence 1511, a typical French quarto edition (click to enlarge - 827 KB JPEG image)

Terence 1511, a typical French quarto edition (click to enlarge - 827 KB JPEG image)


Quarto Terences were common in France and England and normal in Spain and the Netherlands but never became usual in Italy. (41) The rare examples tend to be fat volumes that include the six plays with some or all of the commentaries usual in folio editions. As such, they were offered for the teacher’s market or for advanced student use, and so they competed directly with the more common folio Terences. Given the limited margins of the usual Italian small quarto, however, the form would have proved less useful for a reader who wanted to annotate the plays, a factor that no doubt induced printers to continue to favor folio formats for Terence.

We may discern three distinct periods at which Italian printers experimented with presenting Terence in quarto. In the early fourteen seventies, a few large quartos were offered, especially at Rome, as an alternative to the folios without commentary. Alessandro Paganino produced an experimental quarto Terence in 1526 as part of a textbook series. And in the fifteen forties and fifties, a few further experiments in quarto were attempted at Venice. The only one of these latter to be reprinted was the bilingual Terence of Giovanni Fabrini, which will concern us later as an experiment in editing and translation. The fifteenth century quartos were made on very large paper so they differed little in final size from the usual small folios of the period. The form probably died out after only a few experiments because it did not offer any design advantage over the folios and because the paper it required was not significantly cheaper. (42)


Paganino title page, 1526 (click to enlarge - 659 KB jpeg file)

Paganino title page, 1526 (click to enlarge - 659 KB jpeg file)

The 1526 Terence printed by Alessandro Paganino at Toscolano, exemplifies the design problems a printer faced in offering Terence with commentary in smaller quarto form. It is an ambitious volume, if somewhat backward-looking. (43) It opens promisingly enough with a typographically sophisticated title page. The handsome roman title is surrounded by a broad white-on-gray interlace border of a sort that was used repeatedly by Paganino for quarto textbooks in Latin. There are almost 300 folios numbered in roman numerals and the layout of the whole follows the folio Terences of the time in displaying the base text in a window on each page, so the double-page spread has two small windows entirely surrounded by commentary. Marginal index notes are an aid to reading, but they are squeezed rather tightly into the small space available. There are five commentaries, so Paganino was marketing to the humanist schoolmasters of Italy and their most advanced students.

Comic strip illustrations (click to enlarge - 606 KB jpeg file)

Comic strip illustrations (click to enlarge - 606 KB jpeg file)

Paganino made one other innovation in his 1526 quarto, commissioning new copies of the Tacuino comic-strip illustrations in a form appropriate for a quarto volume. Tacuino had arranged the scenes four across in two rows at the top of the page that opened each play. Paganino had the very same eight scenes per play copied onto a full-page woodcut with two frames in each of four rows. This scheme created a handsome page to act as a frontispiece for each of the plays. Like the Tacuino strips, Paganino's were more decorative than useful, but they did fit the quarto format nicely and relieved the overall effect of the crowded text pages.

There were hundreds of octavo editions of Terence in the sixteenth century. The recorded quartos, however, are few, and all are Venetian imprints. After Paganino in 1526, only Girolomo Scotto in 1549, Giovanni Andrea Valvassore in 1550, and Vincenzo Valgrisi in 1558 experimented with the quarto format for the standard Terence with commentaries. We might well ask why Terence was never published in Italy after 1480 in a spacious quarto without commentary. This form was normal for all kinds of classical and contemporary poetry before Aldo Manuzio offered his popular octavos, and it continued to be used for many kinds of poetry well into the sixteenth century. The simplest answer is probably that the Aldine octavo swept competitors for this kind of book from the market for classical poetry. In the case of Terence, the strong tradition of folio Terences with and without commentary no doubt also contributed to the limited demand for other formats. (44)

Open Bibliography (330 KB pdf)
(41)  Lawton 1926, 284.
(42)  Lawton 1926, 283-286.
(43)  It is (according to the title page) a second printing, but no earlier one by Paganino in this format survives. The title page might refer to a 24mo Paganino of 1516 that survives in a single copy, but the note noviter impressae and the fact that this edition lacks a dedication present in the 1516 book suggests that there actually was an earlier printing in this format. Paganino had pioneered the use of such quartos for other Latin textbooks in 1522; see Nuovo 1990, 53-55, 83-89, 161, 185.
(44)  Kallendorf 1999, 46-50.

Posted by admin on September 16, 2008
Tags: Chapter One

Total comments on this page: 3

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John Vincler on paragraph 5:

There is something wonderful about this image embedded as it is on this page. The detail here of the comic strip-like illustration at first obscures the text embedded in commentary to which you refer earlier in this section. (The detail image of the “comic” shows the verso only; you must click on this to reveal the whole spread including the recto with the text and commentary.) This immediately calls to mind (for this reader) the meta-critical nature of the text you as author have created: that is a text that opens itself up for comment and critique. While your 21st century text is a dynamic, digitally morphing (not to say living and breathing) thing, the text you refer to is also an example of an earlier interactive project, evidencing a history of interpretation that required thoughtful planning and design to make sense of the polyphony of voices both authorial and critical/interpretive.

So much has changed and yet so much stays the same. This brings into sharper focus the messy business of “print culture.” We see the text embedded in commentary (e.g. the recto page of the photo illustration), we can think of the convention of the scholarly footnote, and then we can see CommentPress providing a newer digital model at work here in your text. (The “comic strip” provided in this same illustration, sets up another very different but parallel example.) This reminds me once again that “print culture” is never fully coherent, it can only point us towards the profound role technology plays in the process of interpreting old texts by adapting old or inventing new strategies for creating new texts. This process is never as neat and as linear as it may at first seem. And certainly not every innovation offers an improvement.

At this moment of profound change in scholarly publishing and experiences of reading, it is particularly useful to be jolted a bit out of the conventions of the book, so that we just might be better able (or at least differently able) to reflect upon the book in its various and sometimes wonderfully deviant forms. I know I’ve read someone else expressing this same sentiment (I think it was Roger Chartier):

Perhaps the computer can provide a site for scholars to better and more clearly examine the nature of the book…

September 5, 2009 11:59 pm
ddreezee on paragraph 3:

Is there a reason they didn’t show themselves as often in Italy?

May 2, 2016 12:28 pm
Paul F. Gehl :

Partly I think it was just a matter of national traditions in publishing, some of which were derived from manuscript usage –this was certainly the case with the Italian folios, a humanistic form. North of the Alps it was more common to see all kinds of schoolbooks in smaller formats.

May 2, 2016 3:56 pm

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