Book, the Printed
BOOK, THE PRINTED
The book printed from moveable type represents a relatively late development in history. In tracing its progress in the West from the 15th century, this article focuses on those aspects of the printed book that are relevant to the fine arts, that is, the effect of its appearance as produced by type face, page design, and illustration.
Printed Books and Manuscripts. Although the printed book can be considered a mechanical product, its physical format in the first stages of development in the 15th century differed little from the medieval manuscript book. Of the similarities between them, perhaps the most significant was the parallel between script and its position on the page and printed type and its position. The decoration of manuscripts, including rubrication, initial lettering, and elaborate marginal treatment, often served as inspiration for similar decoration in the printed book. At first these elements were added by hand; later they were produced by woodcut, metal-cut, and type forms such as printers' flowers. The printers were quick to use woodcut illustrations, which corresponded to the illuminations in manuscript. Finally, common to both the printed book and the illuminated manuscript was the protection provided by binding.
Throughout their history, handwritings in manuscripts assumed characteristic forms that are comparable to styles in the history of art. Beginning with the square capital derived from formal stone-cut letters, such as those on Trajan's Column in Rome, the manuscript letter in Europe underwent various changes in design, resulting finally in the 15th-century gothic pointed letter (called also "black letter") used in the north, and a humanistic rounded letter ("roman"), lighter in weight, that was characteristic of the south. On these two basic MS hands the first type faces were modeled.
A Benedictine Missal printed at Bamberg in 1481 by Johann Sensenschmidt exemplifies the typical gothic type face. The angular letters, somewhat condensed in width, perpendicular and rigid in structure, and black in color, result in a magnificent effect of solemnity, dignity, and formality. This lettering was intended primarily for folio volumes to be used in Offices of the Church. A work such as Cicero's Epistles, printed by Nicholas Jenson in Venice (1471), may serve to illustrate the Renaissance round hand. Beautifully designed letters, each in perfect relation to all the others, give a sense of ease and movement in the lines of the page. The two styles of type face corresponded to the prevailing architectural styles of Europe at the time—the pointed Gothic of northern Europe and the round-arched Renaissance style characteristic of Italy.
The Discovery of Printing. How printing was invented in the Western world in the 15th century and who was responsible for it have long been matters of controversy among scholars. It seems to have been a matter of the cumulative solution, at a propitious time, of certain technical problems, rather than the discovery of any new principles. In China moveable wood characters were used for printing by the 11th century, and in Korea cast metal characters were in use in the 14th century. In the West the invention of printing with moveable type has been claimed for Laurens Jansoon Coster from Haarlem in the Netherlands and Procopius Waldfoghel from Avignon in southern France. However, it was Johann Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, who first devised the most satisfactory method of printing books, using metal type cast in molds that adjusted to exact dimensions for the separate characters, a workable linseed oil varnish ink, and a press with a sliding bed. Historical records show that Gutenberg was carrying out experiments in printing as early as 1439.
The earliest known example of printing in Germany is a part of a leaf of a Sibylline poem known as the "Fragment of the World Judgment." This work, together with a Latin grammar and an astronomical calendar, were probably printed on an experimental basis in Gutenberg's Mainz workshop between 1444 and 1447. The type face is a pointed gothic letter, not very skillfully handled. The earliest dated piece of printing is a collection of papal indulgences with the date 1454; it contains receipts requested of Pope Nicholas V by the King of Cyprus for donors of money to oppose the invasion of the Muslim Turks and the attendant threat to Christianity. However, the first complete book—and a supreme achievement in printing—is the famous Gutenberg or Forty-Two-Line Bible. By 1450 the Bible was being planned by Gutenberg; with the assistance of Peter Schoeffer, a calligrapher and later one of the most skillful of 15th-century printers, he completed it in 1456. The Bible is folio in size, and its 1286 pages are arranged in two columns of type printed in the pointed black letter (lettre de forme ) similar to the letters in manuscripts written in the Mainz area in the early 15th century. Border and marginal decorations were added by hand. A copy preserved in two volumes in the Bibliothèeque Nationale contains an inscription by the rubricator, Heinrich Cremer, a curate of St. Stephen's Collegiate Church in Mainz, stating that it was finished before Aug. 15, 1456. Of the 47 copies known to be in existence, it is thought that the most beautiful is the one in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Two other important books printed in Mainz have been connected with Gutenberg. The rare Thirty-Six-Line Bible was begun c. 1450 but not finished until 1460–61. This Bible was probably set up from the printed Forty-Two-Line Bible as copy and has perhaps more valid claim to the title "Gutenberg Bible." The Catholicon, a Latin dictionary compiled by Joannes Balbus in the 13th century, was printed at Mainz in 1460 in a small rounded gothic type face, with Lombard capitals for initial letters and with the text arranged in two columns to the page. It has been suggested that Gutenberg himself was the author of its colophon (a statement at the end of a book giving information pertaining to its printing).
With the completion of the Forty-Two-Line Bible in 1456, Gutenberg seems to have given up his activities in printing, leaving Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer as the major practitioners. The Psalter of 1457, the first dated and signed book and one of the most beautiful ever printed, is credited to them (see prayer books). Its handsome typography is enhanced by red and blue floriated initials printed individually from large metal type after the book was printed, rather than drawn in by hand. Of the 10 copies known to be in existence, that in Vienna is the only one in which the printer's device of the double shield appears in the colophon.
Printing soon flourished in other cities in Germany, such as Strassburg, Bamberg, Augsburg, Nuremburg, and Ulm. The subject matter of the books was primarily religious. In general there came to be three type faces in common use: the lettre de forme or pointed gothic letter reserved for formal publications such as service books for the Church; the less formal lettre de somme or rounded gothic; and the lettre batarde, a cursive influenced style used chiefly for works in the vernacular. The lettre de forme was elaborated in the 16th century with many flourishes into the fraktur style, most spectacularly expressed in the Theuerdanck printed by Hans Schonsperger in 1517 for Emperor Maximilian. A pure roman type face was first used in Germany by Adolf Rusch at Strassburg in 1464 in the Rationale divinorum officiorum, a popular work by Duranti the Elder on the origin and meaning of ecclesiastical ceremonies. In the 16th century, Johann Froben of Basel used a roman face almost exclusively.
Early Printed Illustration. Woodcut illustration became a concern of the 15th-century printer as early as 1460 in the books printed by Albrecht Pfister at Bamberg. Among the most famous of the early illustrated books is the Nuremberg Chronicle printed by Anton Koberger in 1493. This volume, compiled by Hartmann Schedel, is a world history up to 1492 in which, obligingly, three pages were left blank for the recording of what might happen after that date. Its 1,809 illustrations, designed chiefly by Michael Wohlgemuth, were made from only 645 separate woodblocks by repeating the same view for many cities and the same portrait for many kings. Stefan Fridolin's Schatzbehalter, published by Koberger two years before the Chronicle, with almost 100 cuts of biblical subjects, is of greater aesthetic value. Another illustrated book of importance, the extremely popular Narrenschiff, of Sebastian Brant, was printed by Johann Bergmann at Basel in 1494. Albrecht Dürer is credited with the illustrations of this satire on the foibles of mankind. Both Dürer and Holbein the Younger gave considerable impetus to book illustration. Of the illustrated Bibles of the period, the Cologne Bible of 1478, printed by Heinrich Quentell, and the Lübeck Bible of 1494 are outstanding. Bernhard Breydenbach's Peregrinations to the Holy Land is one of the most interesting of these early illustrated books. The artist Erhard Reuwich accompanied the author on his travels and is thought to have made drawings of scenes as he actually observed them, even though one of the illustrations of animals is a representation of a unicorn. An outstanding work from the Netherlands is the Chevalier Délibéré, printed at Gouda (1486–90).
An interesting variation of the illustrated book was the blockbook, with both letter text and illustration cut from wood blocks. Like those of moveable types, blockbooks existed in China long before they made their appearance in the West. The earliest known Chinese example is the Diamond Sutra of 868, printed as an aid to popular devotions. Blockbooks became popular in Europe in the mid-15th century and are significant as an early indication of the great social changes that were to result from the development of the printing press. Their purpose was to dramatize pictorially legends, miracle stories, and teachings of the Scriptures for semiliterate people; the printed text played a minor role. In style and design they were derived from contemporary manuscripts. One of the most delightful is the Canticum canticorum, illustrating the Song of Solomon as an Old Testament prefiguration of the history of the Virgin (see song of songs). Others of interest are thears moriendi and thebiblia pauperum; the popularity of these two books is attested by the great number of their editions. Blockbooks may have been made as early as 1420, and they continued to be produced after books were printed from moveable type.
The Spread of Printing. As the result of religious difficulties in Mainz and conditions that were unfavorable to the guilds, many printers left that city in the 1460s to practice the newly learned craft elsewhere throughout Europe—Italy, France, Spain, and England. Printing in each of these countries, however, early assumed an unmistakably national character.
In Italy, through the encouragement of Cardinal Juan de Torquemada, Conrad Sweyenheym and Arnold Pannartz of Mainz began printing in the monastery of Santa Scholastica, at Subiaco, near Tivoli. One of their earliest works was St. Augustine's De civitate Dei, printed in 1467 in a transitional type face that retained the heavy blackness and narrow proportions of the gothic but also anticipated the rounded forms of the roman humanistic hand. A year later Sweyenheym and Pannartz moved to Rome, where they printed under the patronage of the Massimi family.
Venice became the great printing center in Italy. John and Wendelin de Spire were the first to practice the craft there. Another successful printer, Erhard Ratdolt, specialized in printed decoration. His edition of Appian's Historia Romana (1477) shows how readily the printer could adjust his craft to the needs of the printed book. Printing reached its zenith in Venice with Nicholas Jenson, whose roman type has been the model for type faces ever since. An excellent example of his work is Pliny's Historia naturalis, printed in 1476. Jenson showed consistently in his work a sensitivity for appropriate marginal ratio.
Aldus manutius was, after Gutenberg, perhaps the most famous among printers. He was the inventor not only of a beautiful roman type face but also of the italic letter, which he used for his pocket-size editions of the classics, comparable to Loeb or Everyman editions of recent times. The well-known printing device of Aldus consists of a dolphin, supposedly a symbol of speed and activity, entwined around an anchor, representing firmness and stability. The most beautiful work printed by Aldus was the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), a dream allegory written by the Dominican Francesco Colonna, in a mixture of Italian, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. This masterpiece of typography is remarkable for the harmonious relationship between outline woodcut illustrations, attributed to various Renaissance artists, and the handsome roman text type and initial letters.
In France the most notable examples of early printing are to be found in the Book of Hours, the layman's manual of devotion. Artists, illuminators, and printers all devoted their skills to this type of book, which was frequently embellished with illustrations of religious scenes, printed from relief-engraved metal plates. In general, early French printing was characterized by elaborate decoration combined with graceful type face designs. A good example is La Mer des Hystoires, printed in Paris in 1478 by Pierre La Rouge. This book reflects its derivation from Merovingian manuscripts of the 7th and 8th centuries in the type face and the full-page initials ending in fantastic animal heads. The full-page calligraphic letters, which were characteristic of French printing, may be seen in the title page of another edition of the same book printed in Lyons in 1491 by Jean du Pré. The type face favored by the French was the gothic lettre batarde, with a spirited delicacy of design. Other important printers and publishers in France include: Philippe Pigouchet, Simon Vostre, Antoine Verard, and Guy Marchand.
The delight and charm of the medieval spirit of the 15th-century book in France continued into the 16th. There were many scholarly printers as well, especially the Estienne family, who produced Greek and Hebrew classics and scientific works. An important figure representing the new Renaissance ideal in France was Geoffroy Tory. The type and ornamentation of his printed Books of Hours reveal the Italian influence that Francis I had made fashionable at the French court. The Champfleury, his greatest work, incorporates his theories of letter design based on the proportions of the human body, a subject that intrigued such artists as Albrecht Dürer, Fra Pacioli, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Printing in Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries was marked by a splendor of effect with heavy black decoration, reflecting the intensity of much Spanish painting. Among the important printers were Pablos Hurus at Saragossa, Fadrique of Basilea at Burgos, and Lambert Palmart and Nicolaus Spindeler at Valencia.
William Caxton, the first important English printer, was as much a scholar as a craftsman. He designed several types and produced at least 100 books, some of which were the first books to be printed in the vernacular. Caxton was followed in the 16th century by Wynkyn de Worde and Richard Pynson. Johann Froben was another scholarly printer who worked in Basel. He is remembered for his association with Erasmus and for his employment of Hans Holbein the Younger to decorate many of his publications.
From the 17th Century to the Present. In the 17th century, production of the luxurious book reflected the baroque style of the period. Book design became architectural with the elaboration of bordered title pages, and illustrations were printed from copper line-engravings designed by such artists as Peter Paul Rubens. The style was exemplified by the Opera of Justus Lipsius printed in 1637 at the Plantin-Moretus Press, in Antwerp. Despite the frequent aesthetic deficiencies of the printed book in the 17th century, the period was important for book production. The Imprimerie Royale in France published handsome volumes, its first product being the De imitatione Christi of Thomas à Kempis in 1640.
In the 18th century the printed book was marked by the same classical tendencies that one finds expressed in literature, painting, and architecture. John Baskerville in England is important for his type designs and his experiments in papermaking. William Caslon, an English typefounder, designed a handsome old-style type face that has been in continuous use for more than 200 years. The printed book reached its culmination at this time in the simple restrained work of Giambattista Bodoni in Italy and the Didot family in France. Their modern-style type faces, with thick and thin lines sharply defined, and the open spacing of a page resulted in a classical dignity that was also somewhat cold and forbidding. Typical of what may be called the "neoclassical" in printing are the works of Horace printed by Bodoni at Parma in 1793.
In the 19th century, printing underwent a certain decline as a result of innovations in machine-printing. Those who were interested in fine printed books groped for a new aesthetic pattern. At the end of the century an interest in the handpress was revived through the activities of William Morris. The most impressive and ambitious undertaking of his Kelmscott Press was the printing of the works of Chaucer in 1896. In folio format, the book was printed in one of Morris's gothic types, decorated with elaborate borders and initials designed by him, and illustrated with woodcuts based on drawings by Edward Burne-Jones. Although Morris sometimes violated his own stated principles of good bookmaking in his extravagant decoration and typography, he succeeded in creating a new interest and enthusiasm for fine printing and careful craftsmanship. The private press movement to which he gave impetus has left its mark in raised standards of book design. In this as in other areas, Morris's work was a protest against the ugly, the mediocre, and the indifferent. The first book published by the Kelmscott Press in accordance with the function of the private press as it was originally conceived was one of Morris's own works, The Story of the Glittering Plain, printed in his "golden" type. Of the numerous private presses that subsequently came into existence, the most important were the Ashendane, established by C. H. St. John Hornby, and the Doves, founded by Emery Walker and T. J. Cobden-Sanderson. The Doves Bible (1903–05) is one of the most beautiful examples of fine printing from any period, marked by a sophisticated simplicity of typography reminiscent of Jenson's work in Venice. Among more recent influential private presses was the late Laboratory Press, established in 439 1923 at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. This press was experimental in approach; most of its imprints were student projects, worked out as individual solutions to typographical problems posed by the director, Porter Garnett. The private press has flourished also in Germany. The Janus Press, founded by Walter Tiemann, has published works of simple design and high quality. Wilhelm Wiegand's Bremer Press in Munich is especially notable for the use of handsome initial letters designed by Anna Simons. More recent is the distinguished work in type and book design carried out at the Bauhaus.
Bruce Rogers is the most important figure in fine printing of the 20th century in the United States. His work shows versatility and an instinct for propriety. He has worked with almost impish delight with printers' flowers, yet always in restrained good taste, as in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge, printed in 1931. His Holy Bible, published by Oxford University Press, is set in the Centaur type face, of Rogers' own creation. In it he has demonstrated the basic tradition of the maker of fine printed books, a sensitivity for the material to be printed.
Considerable interest has been shown in recent times for handsome publications illustrated in fine print media by artists of distinction, such as Rouault, Odilon Redon, Picasso, Braque, and Chagall. The French publisher and art dealer Ambroise Vollard has been an important influence in this area. Similar to the livre de luxe of the 17th century, these books show a great freedom of imagination and interpretation for the artist. One of the most impressive is the Cantiques Spirituels de Saint Jean de la Croix, illustrated with lithographs by Alfred Manessier, whose style is uniquely expressive of the mysticism pervading the writings of the Carmelite theologian. With the recent emphasis on the artist as illustrator and with the technical knowledge gained over the centuries, the printed book continues in the tradition in which it began, that of being both functional and beautiful.
Bibliography: Biblia Latina, 2 v. (Leipzig 1913–14; repr. New York 1961), fac. ed. of Gutenberg Bible. p. garnett, The Fine Book (Pittsburgh 1934). f. weitenkampf, The Illustrated Book (Cambridge, Mass. 1938). g. p. winship, Printing in the Fifteenth Century (Philadelphia 1940). d. c. mcmurtrie, The Book: The Story of Printing and Bookmaking (3d ed. New York 1943). s. morison, Art of Printing (New York 1945). p. hofer, Baroque Book Illustration (Cambridge, Mass. 1951). c. ede, ed., The Art of the Book (New York 1951). d. bland, A History of Book Illustration (Cleveland 1958). d. c. norman, The 500th Anniversary Pictorial Census of the Gutenberg Bible (Chicago 1961). s. h. steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (2d ed. Baltimore 1962). r. bellm, P. Stephan Fridolin: Der Schatzbehalter, 2 v. (Wiesbaden 1962). j. c. harrison, Five Hundred Years of the Printed Bible (Pittsburgh 1964). r. chartier and g. cavallo, eds., A History of Reading in the West (Amherst 1999). h-j martin, The History and Power of Writing (Chicago 1994). l. febvre and h-j martin, L'Apparition du Livre (Paris 1999). p. saenger, "The Impact of the Early Printed Page on the History of Reading," Bulletin du Bibliophile (1996) 237–301.
[v. e. lewis]