The new phase actually begins in 1493 with the Nuremberg Chronicle. The art book was born. It is characterized by the careful composition that incorporates many engravings at their proper place in the text.
When Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius) starts his business in 1494 in Venice, this city already has an established reputation for luxury book and clear typography. Aldus partners with the punchcutter Francesco Griffo to improve the Roman and Greek characters and try Hebrew and Arabic and even mathematical formulas. The leaning "italic" characters are added in 1501 to facilitate a differentiated reading.
Printed in 1499 in format 30 x 20 cm by Aldus for a sponsor named Leonardo Crasso, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili integrates 172 woodcuts cleverly arranged to assist in the understanding of the hermetic literary text.
The narration bears somewhere the date of 1467. Its author only identified by an acrostic has no biography. Constructed like a dream, the story is based on hidden references, perhaps understandable from some scholars in its time, to Pliny, Ovid and Boccaccio.
It could not become a bestseller though the invention therein of a false language between Latin and vernacular anticipates by half a century the freedom of language by Rabelais. Its edition at a key date in the history of the books rather meets the need to produce a demonstrator of the know how of the printer, with some blocks escaping the rectangular shape and with typographical inserts from various alphabets.
The success of the edition of 1545 will certainly be due to the increased interest of the bibliophiles for beautiful printed books assembled in luxurious bindings.
A copy printed in 1499 by Aldus was sold for £ 313K including premium by Christie's on July 7, 2010. It had been bound circa 1555 for Grolier. Another copy of the same edition is estimated € 150K for sale by Alde in Paris on May 24, lot 11. Complete, it even includes the often missing risqué image of the sacrifice to Priapus. Here is the link to the auction house's website.