Chapter 24 - The Emergence of Modern Printing Technique


Table of Contents:


According to the Müller-Brockmans, a poster ‘should inform, stimulate, activate, expound, query, provoke, convince.’ As Tony Fusco writes:
From the years 1890 to 1900, Europe and America were in a frenzy over a new form of advertising, which was also a new form of art: the illustrated colour advertising poster. Gone were the drab streets and boring broadsides. The boulevards of Paris, the tiny streets of Belgium and Holland, the otherwise solemn squares of London, and the shop windows of America proliferated with colourful images, a veritable public poster parade, created by some of the most talented artists of their times.




Johann Gutenberg and Modern Printing Techniques


The history of modern posters is intimately linked with the invention of modern printing techniques by Johann Gutenberg in 1450s, with the publication and design of modern books by Aldus Manutius in Italy and William Caxton in England in 1480s , and development of lithographic process by Alois Senefelder in Austria in 1798. It is also related to the development of engraving and etching techniques.


Johann Gutenberg


Johann Gutenberg (1396- 1468) was born in Mainz, Germany into a patrician family. Trained in crafts such as goldsmithing and gem cutting, he left Mainz for Strasbourg around 1428 as a political exile. According to a lawsuit of 1439 he began experimenting with printing techniques in Strasbourg. In 1450, the financier Johann Fust, who was also a lawyer, invested in Gutenberg's printing firm, and became his partner. The firm employed Gutenberg's inventions of movable metal type cast in separate letters and a type-casting machine, but he lost the firm to Fust in 1455, mainly due to the investor's unhappiness with the slow pace of business. Gutenberg's main innovations were the use of individual metal letters in raised type and the use of a pressure press in the printing process. The metal letters, as compared to earlier used wooden letters, were more durable and their printed text were more clear and sharp. Gutenberg's first book ever printed from movable type, is the "Forty-Two-Line" Bible. This bible (Which was named so because of the number of lines in each column of its double-column pages),was set up during 1452-3, and was published on August 1456. It was a two volumes lectern book, comprising of 1286 pages. Copies of this bible were sold across northern Europe and, when illuminated, could be mistaken for manuscripts. There over 40 extant copies. After the loss of his firm, he published a beautiful Psalter in 1457. Only some other minor works are still attributed to him.

In Gutenberg's lifetime the technology of printing spread slowly, to Strasbourg, Bamberg, Cologne, and into Italy, reaching Rome in 1467. But the printing surge began in 1469 and after, when printing was first introduced to the great trading city of Venice. By 1500, printing shops had been introduced to more than 250 European cities and towns, although many of these were the sites for only brief experiments. Concurrently, a strong consolidation of shops began to form in a dozen or so cities—Venice, Paris, Milan, Strasbourg, Nuremberg, and others—which among them produced nearly twothirds of the approximately 28,000 surviving printed editions of the fifteenth century. As can be expected, from about 1475 onward, the production of manuscript books plummeted.


The Gutenberg Bible, the first substantial book printed with movable type,Volume 1, Old Testament, Book of Judges, pages 114 verso and 115 recto



The Book Design of Aldus Manutius




Gutenberg's printing press made books widely available in Europe. The book design of Aldus Manutius developed the book structure which would become the foundation of western publication design. Aldus Manutius was born in 1452 in the small town of Bassiano, some 80 km south of Rome. He was a student in the Faculty of Arts in the University of Rome during the 1467-1473 period. Around the late 1470's he enrolled in the University of Ferrara, where he studied Greek. In 1480, he was employed as a tutor to the children of the Duke of Carpi. But in 1480, he quit teaching and moved to Venice, the centre of the publishing industry, where he became partners with an established printer, Andrea Torresano. Manutius adopted the Anchor and Dolphin design as the printer's logo.

Manutius published fine editions of Greek, Latin and Italian Classics. His was the first press to print Greek and Latin classics. In some of these books he used a printing type known as Italics fonts. The Aldine Press was the first press to use the Italic type also. A grammarian and humanist, Manutius ' fame is above all emanates from being the leading publisher and printer of the Venetian High Renaissance, he set up a definite scheme of book design, produced the first italic type, introduced small and handy pocket editions (octavos) of the classics and applied several innovations in binding technique and design for use on a broad scheme.


Examples Aldus Manutius's printed books



Printing and Universities


Universities soon discovered the value of the printed books, with their identical texts useful for researchers and professors alike. However, seldom university press became as prominent as the great commercial printing houses. Although, there may have been exceptions like the relationships between the printing houses of Venice with the ancient university of Padua.

In Paris professor Jean Heynlin de Lapide, the prior elected for the year 1470, and the previous year's rector of the University, being a great lover of books communicated with his friend professor Guillaume Fichet, " a person of great enterprise, reading, and eloquence," who was at the time librarian of the Sorbonne to establish a printing press at the university of Sorbonne. Fichet, with the gift from a generous donors was able to finance the enterprise. Heynlin who had visited Basel, and new some typographers there, invited Michael Freyburger, of Colmar in Elsass, a master in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Basel, who became the head of the printing house, and two craftsmen, Ulrich Gering, and Martin Crantz to set the first printing house in France.

Gasparinus Barzizius, Epistolae, Paris: Ulrich Gering, Martin Crantz and Michael Friburger, 1470

Selecting from printed books in Heynlin's possession and ;closely imitatting from the edition of Caesar's Commentaries, printed at Rome in 1469 by Sweynheim and Pannartz, the three typographers set to work immediately to engrave puncheons and strike matrices, producing a large, round typeface, suited to the failing eyesight of the prior. The first book issued from the new press was the collection of letters written by Gasparino Barzizi of Bergamo, exhibiting the purest examples of Latin style. The text was carefully revised by Heynlin himself, and was very correctly printed. Heynlin became the director of the firm and Fichet managed its finances. Their confidence and their enthusiasm for the marvellous art which they had introduced into their adopted city is fully expressed in the metrical colophon to the edition of Gasparino's Letters. From a letter addressed by Fichet to Heynlin in which he addresses him as "Joanni Lapidano Sorbonensis scholae priori," it can be inferred that the printing of the book was finished in the summer1470. In his letter Fichet thanks Heynlin for the charming Letters of Gasparino which he had sent him in proof.

"They are not only carefully corrected by yourself, but also neatly and daintily reproduced by the German printers whom we owe to you. . . . The stationers whom you have brought from your native Germany to Paris turn out copies most exadily corrected after their originals. . . . You strain every nerve to ensure their printing nothing that you have not previously collated in many copies and corrected extensively."

The Sorbonne press operated for two and a half years and produced in that time 22 works. At the end of that period, Fichet and Heynlin had to move on as their positions in the academic world changed, and they could no longer occupy the premises at the Sorbonne. In 1472 the three printers set up an independent printing house in the rueSaint-Jacques and continued in Paris until 1477, now capable of printing major books. Only Ulrich Gering stayed there longer to remain a printer for the next quarter of a century. He was an expert typographer, working often in association with others including a printer named Guillaume Maynyal, with whom he published the Postilla of Guillermus, in 1479/80.


MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO, De officiis libri III cum interpretatione Petri Marsi [Cicero’s De officiis with commentary by PIETRO MARSO] < br />
This manuscript was copied in the circle of the eminent humanists who founded the Sorbonne Press in Paris, Jean Heynlin and Guillaume Fichet. It is based on two editions of Cicero’s De officiis, one printed in Paris in 1471-1472 by the Sorbonne Press, the other printed first in Venice in 1481, of the first edition of Pietro Marso’s influential commentary. The humanist scribe (Heynlin?) of the present manuscript was clearly a careful reader of both imprints, and it seems likely that this codex was a preparatory manuscript for another edition of Cicero by the Sorbonne Press.

Tyrannius Rufinus, Expositio in symbolum apostolorum, Oxford: Printer of the ‘Expositio in symbolum apostolorum’, 17 December, 1478 ,

The first press in Oxford produced only three books; like the first books printed at the Sorbonne, they are the products of a very small press that must have been installed in some convenient corner. But unlike the small books of the Sorbonne press, they were the work of a very inexperienced printer whose name we do not know. The press operated for a year at most, its books dated in December 1478 and in 1479. Its sole typeface is closely related to types used to print in 1477-8 a few small books in Cologne for the merchant Gerard ten Raem. To avoidthe import duties Ten Raem sent his printer to Oxford to print what was locally demanded and at first was not originating from the university. The earliest book of this press, with the date 17 December 1478 (famously misprinted as ‘Mcccclxviii’), was a text on the Apostolic Creed, written at the end of the fourth century by Tyrannius Rufinus Aquileiensis, best remembered for his disputes with St Jerome.

Two years later, Theodericus Rood, another printer from Cologne arrived in Oxford. His fonts were related to those of the Cologne printer Arnold ther Hoernen, which suggest that it was his intention to open a branch of this major printing house. He produced a greater variety of titles than his predecessor, for the university and for the recently established school at Magdalen College. In all, thirteen books are ascribed to him, all printed in the years 1481 to 1483, with the first being a large commentary on Aristotle, De anima. Rood returned to Cologne after only two years, as the import trade of printed books proved to be more profitable than the printing them locally.


William Caxton




William Caxton (c.1422 - 1492) was the first English printer and a translator and importer of books into England.

Caxton was born in around 1422 in Kent. He was apprenticed to Robert Large, a mercer, probably when he was about fourteen or a little older, later moving to Bruges, the centre of the wool trade, where he became a successful and important member of the merchant community. From 1462 to 1470 he served as governor of the 'English Nation of Merchant Adventurers', which allowed him to represent his fellow merchants, as well as act as a diplomat for the king.

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, William Caxton, 1483

Caxton affiliated himself with the household of Margaret, the duchess of Burgundy, sister of the English king Edward IV. She became one of his most important patrons and encouraged him with his translation of 'The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye' from French to English. In 1469 or earlier Caxton decided to learn how to print and by using this knowledge to produce books in English for sale in England to the nobility. In the early 1470s Caxton spent time in Cologne learning the art of printing. He returned to Bruges in 1472 where he and Colard Mansion, a Flemish calligrapher, set up a press. Caxton's own translation of 'The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye' was the first book printed in the English language.


Jacobus de Voragine (c. 1229–1298). The Golden Legend. Translated and enlarged by William Caxton. Westminster: William Caxton, [between 20 November 1483 and March 1484].

This translation of the Golden Legend by William Caxton (c. 1422–1491) is the first English edition of Jacobus de Voragine’s highly popular compendium of saints’ biographies. It also served as the first printing of significant passages of the scriptures in English. Whereas the ecclesiastical authorities forbade the publication of the Wycliffite translation of the Bible into English, Caxton was not prevented from retelling the stories of Adam and Eve, the Nativity of Christ, or the Crucifixion with brief biblical quotations. The Golden Legend is Bridwell Library’s only intact, although incomplete, book by England’s first printer.


In 1476 Caxton returned to London and established a press at Westminster, the first printing press in England. Amongst the books he printed were Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales', Gower's 'Confession Amantis' and Malory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur'. He printed more than 100 books in his lifetime, books which were known for their craftsmanship and careful editing. He was also the translator of many of the books he published, using his knowledge of French, Latin and Dutch.

Newspapers and the Printing Technology of the 19th century

Gutenberg’s print technology continued virtually unchanged until the 19th century. In the early 1800s, innovations in science and technology lead to the use of iron instead of wood for building presses, a steam-powered press and the development of continuous rolls of paper.
Young Ben Franklin in a Philadelphia Printing Shop, Told by Governor Keith He Should Go to England.
At the age of twelve, Ben Franklin first began to learn the business of printing. His older brother James had set up a printing office in Boston and Ben learned quickly as an apprentice. By the time Ben was seventeen, he was a fully skilled printer able to work in any print shop.
Benjamin Franklin in his printing shop
With this printing skills, Ben was able to leave Boston and find work in both Philadelphia and London. In 1728, at the age of twenty-two, Ben opened his own printing office in Philadelphia. His most famous publications were a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette and his annual Poor Richard's Almanack

The Columbian and Albion were two other iron presses used in the early 19th century.

The early 19th century saw the beginning of enormous changes in printing, for during what is generally regarded as the second phase of the industrial revolution (1800-1850). In 1803, Earl Stanhope introduced the first hand press with an iron frame. It was stronger and more efficient than a wooden press and rapidly replaced it and soon printing became one of the first industries to utilise automation. Various problems had to be solved before the partially mechanized handicraft could be transformed into a high-output factory operation. The early 'flat-surface' inventors of this period, Stanhope, Koenig, Clymer, Treadwell, Napier and others made significant improvements to machinery involved mainly with the newspaper and book printing industry.
Various platen jobber models

It is generally agreed that the press that revolutionized job printing, that is, the printing of handbills, cards and stationery, was the treadle-powered, self-inking platen, first produced in Boston, U.S.A. by Stephen P. Ruggles in 1851. This was his small 'Card & Billhead' press and it was reputed to be the first commercially successful platen.
Letterhead, Late Victorian styled letterhead creating corporate identity for PIKE MANUFACTURING CO., World's Headquarters for Scythe Stones, Oil Stones, Razor Hones, Etc. Pike Station, N. H., U. S. A. July 26, 1902.



Billhead, THE PIKE MFG CO. Scythe Stones, Oil Stones, Razor Hones & Pike, NH: Jan 19, 1904. 





As new technical changes continued, the small craftsman's workshops disappeared. They gave way to noisy factories housing bigger and faster machines, driven by steam engines. In 1833, newspaper baron Benjamin Day capitalized on the new, more cost-effective printing techniques and dropped the price of the “New York Sun” to a penny per copy, undercutting the competition by four to five cents. The era of inexpensive mass-produced print had arrived. In response to increased newspaper readership the firm of R. Hoe & Co. constructed a printing press known as the "Lightning" or "Hoe Type Revolving Machine," in 1845-46. The machines were built to suit the specific layout of each paper - length, width and number of columns, depth of heading, rules, dashes and margins. The sheets were fed in by workers from both sides of the machine, and taken from the feed-board by automatic grippers. Sheet fliers, patented earlier by Hoe on other machines, consisting of a row of wooden fingers, delivered the printed sheets face up behind each feeding station. This machine printed one side of the sheet only, necessitating a further pass for the back-up. Beginning in the mid-19th century, jobbing presses evolved to specialize in small-format pieces such as letterheads, business cards and envelopes. They were capable of quick set-up (under 15 minutes) and had production speeds averaging 1,000 impressions per hour with one pressman. From 1847, about 175 Type-revolvers of various dimensions were built, the last, a four cylinder, in 1876 - made obsolescent by curved stereo plates and web perfectors.

Innovations in print technology during the 20th century

The economics of linear replication was introduced in the 20th century, which reduced unit costs, and as a result created huge profit potentials. This was followed by the development of presses with multiple units that can print multi-color images in one pass on both sides of the sheet. Offset printing, a technique where the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface was another revolutionary phase. In 1903, American Ira Washington Rubel moved from printing on a tin surface to printing on paper. By the late 1930s or early 1940s, printing presses had increased substantially in efficiency: 2,500 to 3,000 impressions per hour. Today, offset lithography is commonly used for just about any smooth, mass-produced item, such as posters, maps, stationery, newspapers, magazines and packaging.

By the end of the 20th century, desktop publishing had made it possible for both type and images to be manipulated easily prior to printing on desktop or commercial presses. Digital imagesetters have enabled print shops to skip the step of photographing an real page layout, instead producing negatives for platemaking directly from digital input. Finally in the late 1990s, digital platesetters have eliminated film negatives by exposing printing plates directly from digital input (aka computer-to-plate printing).

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