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From Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading:

To keep down the production costs he [Aldus Manutius] decided to print a thousand copies at a time, and to use the page more economically he employed a newly designed type, “italic”, created by the Bolognese punch-cutter Francesco Griffo, who also cut the first roman type in which the capitals were shorter than the ascending (full-height) letters of the lower case to ensure a better-balanced line. The result was a book that appeared much plainer than the ornate manuscript editions popular throughout the Middle Ages, a volume of elegant sobriety. What counted above all, for the owner of an Aldine pocket-book, was the text, clearly and eruditely printed—not a preciously decorated object.

I’m painting in very broad strokes here, but it seems to me something else at play (aside from economics and consumer preferences) is shifting aesthetics brought on by the protestant reformation.