In the interest of saving face after that embarrasing Chalet disaster, we were digging around today and found a really good biography, as well as a handful of resourceful links, on Aldus Manutius, the publisher responsible for italics (it was actually Francesco Griffo who did all the work). And what luck, as this year marks the 510th anniversary of the release of the typeface, in a book by Roman scholar, Pietro Bempo, called De Aetna. So the next time you’re at the bar and typography talk comes up (which happens to us all the time, we swear), raise a glass to Manutius and Griffo. Then you should probably fake an excuse to leave, because everyone is going to look at you weird after that. Here’s some:
One of the many great talents working for Aldus was Francesco Griffo, a gifted type designer. Griffo created many innovative type designs that are still admired for their beauty and readability.
Their collaboration broke up over a copyright dispute, primarily over the ownership of the cursive type face that Griffo developed under the direction of Aldus. Although Aldus even had a papal decree to protect this style of alphabet, it was as difficult then as it is now to protect a typeface design. The alphabet was widely copied, and the style is known as italic, after its country of origin.
The wikipedia entry on Aldus is also really good. Turns out the guy also developed the semicolon. So he’s the one you can blame when you’re thinking, “When the hell do I use a semicolon?”