Book History Colloquium: “The Birth of Italics”

Randall McLeod

Randall McLeod, Emeritus Professor of English, University of Toronto

November 4, 2013 (Monday)

Butler Library, Room, 523, at 6:00 p.m.

The 1501 Venetian Vergil was the first book printed entirely in italics. On the verso of the title page, the printer, Aldo Manuzio, celebrated the type-cutter, Francesco da Bologna. (The two fell out a year later, however, over ownership of the new typeface.) Curiously, production began before all the sorts had been created: all the letters were in place, but not all the ligatures. The trickling on stream of some fifteen of the latter points led to a bizarre schedule of composition and printing. A material reading of the text will resurrect this schedule in surprising detail.

Randall McLeod has published about editing Shakespearean sonnets, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and John Donne. He is the inventor of the McLeod Portable Collator, a stereoscopic device for comparing texts as images, and sometimes publishes as ‘Random Cloud.’


The Book History Colloquium at Columbia University, open to any discipline, aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Our presenters include Columbia faculty members and advanced graduate students, and scholars of national prominence from a range of institutions.

Questions? Email Karla Nielsen.