The Story Behind the Logo and Festina Lente

The anchor and dolphin mark symbolizes the phrase, festina lente, latin for “make haste slowly” or “hasten slowly.” The dolphin represents “haste,” and the anchor represents “slowly.” The Roman emperor Augustus often chided his military commanders to “hasten slowly,” as he thought rashness was a dangerous quality for an officer. Roman coins minted during the time of Augustus and later Titus bore several emblems that symbolized the adage festina lente, including the dolphin and anchor.

Aldine publisher’s imprint, circa 1541. Photo © Tim Chambers, 2012

Aldus Manutius, the leading Italian Renaissance printer, publisher, and inventor of italic type started using the anchor and dolphin mark as his publisher’s imprint after receiving a Roman coin bearing the image from his friend Pietro Bembo. Aldus printed the mark on most of the works he published during his lifetime, and his family continued to use the mark for works published by the Aldine press in Venice for over 100 years. 

When I was visiting the Tipoteca in northern Italy, I got a chance to look through an Aldine book from 1541 with the mark printed on a page in its forematter. I fell in love with the design and the sentiment of the motto, festina lente. Like Aldus, I appreciate the idea that care and deliberation are often necessary to temper the constant demand for speed.

When I was thinking about starting this venture, and considering all the qualities and controls that go into making a fine art print, I knew the anchor and dolphin mark was the perfect representation of what I hope to achieve with Anchor Editions. I care about quality and craft above speed and throughput, and festina lente embodies that sentiment perfectly. Like Augustus would often tell his commanders:

That which has been done well has been done quickly enough.