Roman coin. Denarius.

[Rome, AD 79-81].

18 mm. diameter. Dolphin entwined around anchor on one side, and Draped bust of Tutus, turning right on the other side. Very nice condition with sharp and clear imprint . 3,4 g.

Obverse: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate head right
Reverse: TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P, dolphin coiled around an anchor.

RIC 112, RSC 309.

Excellent specimen of the beautiful and rare coin that inspired Aldus Manutius' famous printer's device, the dolphin-and-anchor, the most famous logo in the history of book printing and the trademark of the Renaissance. The Aldus coin is the only printing-related ancient coin in existence.

Aldus Manutius, the most famous printer of all times, had been given a copy of the Titus coin, with the dolphin-and-anchor logo on the verso, as a gift by Pietro Bembo. He was extremely taken by the magnificent logo, that in Roman times, by Titus Vespasian, had been used to illustrate the proverb "Festina lente" ("make haste slowly"), and was so inspired by it that he began using it as his printer's device at the very beginning of the 16th century. Before it appears as his printer's device for the first time, he used it as an illustration in one of his most magnificent books, Colonna's "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili", 1499.

In his "Adagiorum Collectanea", the collection of classical proverbs that he kept revising throughout his life, Erasmus Roterodamus had composed a lengthy essay on the "festina lente" proverb, which intrigued him immensely. Erasmus traced the motto back to the emperor Titus Vespasian, who had minted a coin with the emblem (i.e. the present coin), and had the rare opportunity to inspect that very coin - namely that which belonged to his printer, Aldus Manutius, who had been given it by the great Italian scholar Pietro Bembo. The second edition of Erasmus' "Adagiorum Collectanea" was published by Aldus in Venice in 1508, and Erasmus subsequently praises his printer to the skies in the course of explaining "festina lente".

Erasmus explains the motto as such: "the circle as having neither beginning nor end represents eternity. The anchor, which holds back and ties down the ship and binds it fast, indicates slowness. The dolphin, as the fastest and in its motions most agile of living creatures, expresses speed. If then you skillfully connect these three, they will make up some such principle as "Ever hasten slowly", and adds that by claiming it as his own (recognizable and marketable) emblem, Aldus gave "fresh celebrity to the same device that was once approved by Vespasian". Not only is it "most familiar, it is highly popular among all those everywhere in the world to whom sound learning is either familiar or dear." Erasmus seems to also suggest that the device had perhaps become too popular: "the city of Venice, with its many claims to distinction, has none the less become distinguished through the Aldine press, so much so that any books shipped from Venice to foreign countries immediately find a readier market merely because they bear that city's imprint."

And he might have been right. In fact, the Aldine press was so successful and renowned, and Aldus' printer's device as taken from the Titus Vespatian coin, so incorporated a symbol of elegant, correct printing and higher learning, that it was imitated by printers all over Europe. By using the dolphin-and-anchor device, other printers, although much inferior, would benefit from the authority and prestige of the Aldine press. In spite of Erasmus' attempts to make the public aware of this by praising the efforts of Aldus and opposing them to "those common printers who reckon one pitiful gold coin in the way of profit worth more than the whole realm of letters", publishers kept using the Aldus device for centuries.

Aldus Manutius, Grolier Club: no 129
RIC 26a, RSC 309.

Order-nr.: 60368

DKK 18.000,00