Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Author: Francesco Colonna (Italian, ca. 1453–1517)

Publisher: Aldo Manuzio (Italian, 1449/50–1515)

Designer: Design of woodcuts attributed to Benedetto Bordone (Italian, Padua ca. 1455/60–1530 Padua, active mainly Venice from 1488)

Binder: Copy of so-called Canevari binding

Published in: Venice

Date: December 1499

Medium: Printed book with woodcut illustrations

Dimensions: 11 5/8 × 8 11/16 × 1 9/16 in. (29.5 × 22 × 4 cm)

Classification: Books

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1923

Accession Number: 23.73.1


This exquisite book, a complex tale of love and antiquarianism and a prime document of the Renaissance rediscovery of classical antiquity, was produced by the important Venetian publisher Aldus Manutius (ca. 1450–1515). A specialist in the publication of Greek texts, Aldus was also famous for developing new formats, such as the small, handheld book, and new typefaces, such as the italic, the descendants of which are still in use today. The typeface used in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, based on ancient Roman inscriptions, was created by Aldus' type designer Francesco Griffo of Bologna especially for this book, which has long been admired for its harmonious marriage of text and image. The spare and elegant illustrations reveal a careful study of ancient art as well as an interest in the new science of one-point linear perspective. The beauty of these anonymous woodcuts has led scholars, through the years, to associate their design with such famous artists as Andrea Mantegna, Gentile Bellini, or the young Raphael.