When Ryan Opaz asked me to “defend the written word as a medium of wine blogging” for a panel at the European Wine Bloggers Conference, I have to admit I was nonplussed.
My short talk was to be part of a panel entitled “Defending Storytelling” (here’s the video, btw) and each participant was charged with “defending” a medium: photography, video, oral storytelling, and the written word (my medium).
Isn’t the written word, I thought to myself, a sine qua non of wine blogging? And even though we use all sorts of media to “blog” (not “write”) about wine, isn’t writing at the core — literally and historically — of what we do as wine bloggers?
It occurred to me that Brescia, the conference host city, was once part of the Most Serene Republic of Venice and that at the height of the Venetian state’s power, the late-15th- and early 16th-century humanist printer Aldus Manutius developed the octavo book format — the world’s first pocket-sized book, an innovation that reshaped the way knowledge was consumed in Renaissance Europe. (That’s Aldus’s “device,” above, a dolphin wrapped around an anchor, a visual representation of his oxymoronic motto, festina lente, meaning hurry slowly, in other words, hurry to achieve as much as you can but do so thoroughly.)
He also created a new typeface, a cursive font (also above) that would revolutionize printing and would soon come to be known as italics (because they were invented in Italy). His inspiration for the new character was the humanist cursive (hand-written) script that had brought new clarity, precision, and elegance to literature in Europe in the early Renaissance.
In many ways, the Aldine revolution is not dissimilar from the blogging revolution: like the Aldine octavo and italic font, the new blogging media have reshaped the way information and knowledge are syndicated. And just as Aldus’s tiny books unchained readers from the elitist lecterns of dimly light reading rooms, the blogging medium has unleashed wine writing and opened a new frontier for the everyman who enjoys wine.
The written word, I said in my address, represents a continuity between the past and future of vinography (the retelling of wine in any medium) just as the Aldine cursive font represented a cohesion between the writing that came before and the writing that would follow.
Another example I made was the @ sign. Did you know that the earliest known use of the @ sign was an elided abbreviation that denoted an amphora full of wine? And while a Florentine is credited with the first known written instance of the symbol, it was during the height of the Venetian empire and the Venetian printing industry that the @ sign took the shape that we know it today.
Just ask any blogger if she/he has ever used italics or the @ sign: without this continuity of the written word we wine bloggers would not be here today, nor would we be here tomorrow.
it was great meeting you, listening to you and now, reading you. i was the brazilian who talked in the “stories to be told” debate. great pleasure. cheers.
Very nice post- I’ve been telling all of our friends in Italy about your blog because of posts just like this- Wine and beyond.
It’s not easy to be simple. It’s not easy at all! You need a lot of knowledge, experience, high self confidence skills to translate your expertise in easy words that make sense to a bunch of people from 35 different countries.. And you did!! nice meet you in Brescia. Whenever you go to The Netherlands or Brazil, drop a line.