Macrobius, In somnium Scipionis
MACROBIUS, IN SOMNIUM SCIPIONIS
Until 1462 printing was practiced almost exclusively in Mainz. In that year war brought economic decline to the city, and as a result the printers moved elsewhere. They introduced the new technique in other German cities and abroad. In 1469 the first German printers established themselves in Venice; a year later they were followed by the Frenchman Nicolas Jenson, who had apprenticed himself in Mainz in 1458.
Jenson set to work with great energy. In his first year in Venice he mainly printed editions of classical authors. He had typefaces made for these texts based on the humanist script.
‘Nicolas Jenson’, R.E.O. Ekkart writes in Vroege boekdrukkunst uit Italië [Early book printing in Italy], ‘is one of the most important geniuses in the history of printing and his works, together with those of Aldus Manutius, form the pinnacle of Venetian printing. By 1470 Jenson had introduced his own typeface, the first roman type to be entirely suited to typographic requirements; it can be regarded as one of the finest typefaces in the history of printing.’
In 1472 Jenson published the final book of Cicero’s work on the state (De republica) which is known as the ‘Dream of Scipio’. He added a detailed commentary by the late classical author Macrobius, followed by Macrobius’ Saturnalia. The decoration of the first page, which was applied shortly after the printing, is inspired by antique murals that had recently been discovered in Nero’s palace in Rome.