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  • 28 décembre 2016 - 08:15
  • Noriane Rapin 3593 signes
Société

Les révolutions de l’édition qui ont permis la Réforme (1ère partie)

Série «L’imprimerie et la Réforme»

Aldo Manuzio AristoteleAlde Manuce, le «prince» vénitien de l’imprimerie, est sans doute l’imprimeur le plus célèbre et le plus marquant après Gutenberg. Ce passionné de typographie a transformé la manière d’éditer les textes, en particulier antiques, de manière à ce qu’ils soient intelligibles au plus grand nombre.

Par Noriane Rapin

Photo: Edition d’Aristote par Alde Manuce

Il y a plusieurs raisons qui font qu’Alde Manuce, dit aussi Alde l’Ancien, est considéré comme le prince des imprimeurs de la Renaissance. L’œuvre de cet homme, venu tardivement à l’imprimerie, est en effet restée dans les annales pour sa qualité unique et son indiscutable nouveauté. «Il a changé l’histoire de l’imprimerie à de nombreux égards, en produisant des textes plus accessibles notamment par les caractères d’écriture et même le format du livre», explique Flavia Bruni, historienne du livre et chercheuse à l’Université la Sapienza de Rome.

Outre la pureté des proportions de ses quelque 120 éditions et l’harmonie de ses caractères, gravés par un orfèvre, Alde Manuce s’est distingué par l’invention de l’apostrophe... et de l’italique: «Il a mis au point cette écriture pour gagner de la place», continue l’historienne. «Il produisait de la littérature classique au format in-octavo, c’est-à-dire des petits livres que l’on pouvait glisser dans sa poche. Il s’agissait d’une stratégie commerciale, visant à ouvrir le marché du livre à un public plus large, à l’époque où seuls les érudits s’offraient des livres encombrants et mal pratiques.»

En effet, si la rigueur et l’inventivité de l’imprimeur ont indéniablement fait sa réputation, le contexte économique vénitien a également joué un rôle dans sa destinée. Lorsqu’Alde Manuce est arrivé à Venise en 1489, la ville était déjà la capitale du livre imprimé. Cette métropole commerciale était donc le terreau idéal pour l’entreprise, puisqu’il s’y trouvait déjà un intérêt certain pour son activité, de nombreuses possibilités de financements, et que la distribution de ses livres sur le marché international y était quasi assurée.

Le texte, sans médiation

Si Alde Manuce a publié quelques ouvrages des poètes vernaculaires de son époque, son but premier était de porter à la connaissance du plus grand nombre les textes antiques, grecs en particulier. Son idée consistant à diffuser les originaux dans toute l’Europe, il lui fallait d’une part créer des caractères d’imprimerie pour le grec, ce qui n’avait pas encore été fait à Venise. Cela lui a permis de publier d’abord une grammaire grecque, son premier livre daté.

D’autre part, son projet prévoyait la possibilité de lire les textes sans la médiation des commentaires médiévaux. Si l’idée paraît évidente aujourd’hui, elle n’allait pas de soi en ce début d’époque moderne. «Dans les incunables (NDLR: livres imprimés en Europe avant le 1er janvier 1501), le texte se fond littéralement dans les commentaires qui l’entourent, comme c’était l’usage pour les manuscrits», rappelle Flavia Bruni. Alde Manuce a donc repensé la mise en page afin de rendre parfaitement clair ce qui était jusqu’alors d’une complexité extrême, réservée aux érudits. «L’ancienne pratique éditoriale avec commentaires n’a pas cessé avec Alde, elle a continué d’exister pour une clientèle bien précise», souligne Flavia Bruni. «Mais on a commencé à produire un autre genre de livres pour répondre aux besoins et aux envies de nouveaux amateurs potentiels.»

Si les contraintes de temps et d’argent ont contraint l’imprimeur à renoncer à certains projets (il souhaitait par exemple publier une édition trilingue de la Bible), son ambition et son exigence ont manifestement impressionné l’humaniste Erasme, dont il avait édité les «Adages». Le philosophe et philologue de Rotterdam a d’ailleurs affirmé à son sujet qu’il «bâtissait une bibliothèque qui n’avait d’autres limites que le monde lui-même.» Pour preuve: l’influence d’Alde Manuce a encore porté jusqu’à Bâle, au moment où Erasme a fait imprimer son Nouveau Testament en grec.

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