Printed on vellum by Andrea Torresanus and Bartolomeo de Blavis in Venice, 1483
Opening, Volume 2: Group of Philosophers Disputing by Girolamo da Cremona
Purchased in 1919
The text of Aristotle's Metaphysics is embellished by a group of disputing philosophers, including at far left a Dominican (probably Thomas Aquinas) and again Averroes (third from left).
In 1469—some fourteen years after Johannes Gutenberg printed a bible using movable type—this transformative technology arrived in Venice, and the city rapidly became Europe's preeminent center for book publishing. During the last few decades of the fifteenth century, a new kind of volume appeared: the hand-illuminated printed book. Trained scribes and artists carefully added chapter headings, initials, borders, and lavish frontispieces to the printed text. These luxury items were created for a wealthy and prominent clientele—predominantly Venetian nobility.
The impossibility of hand decorating ever-increasing numbers of books led Venetian printers to adopt mechanical means to embellish their printed texts. From the 1490s, it became common to illustrate books by incorporating woodcuts. As the market for printed material flourished, artists such as Titian and Battista Franco produced masterly woodcuts and engravings to enhance their reputations.