The University of Manchester - The University of Manchester Library
First Impressions


Medieval Venice was a major city state and an important trading port where East met West. Situated on a marshy lagoon at the head of the Adriatic Sea, for centuries it had traded extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim World. By the late thirteenth century, Venice was the most prosperous city in Europe, and with its powerful navy it dominated Mediterranean commerce. Goods such as silk and spices, incense, opium and herbs were traded, imported from Africa and Asia and distributed throughout Europe by Venetian traders. With their immense wealth Venice's leading families vied with each other to build the grandest palaces and to patronize the most talented artists and craftsmen. It was a city that embraced the new technology of printing with great enthusiasm. The opportunity for profit offered by this wealthy trading city, rather than a reputation for scholarship and intellect, attracted printers such as Nicolas Jenson to Venice. Aldus Manutius was the most successful Venetian printer in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

Discover more about early printing in Venice.