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Chapter 24 - The Emergence of Modern Printing Technique

Table of Contents:

By the mid-15th century Johannes Gutenberg developed a printing technique from raised alphabet characters cast on movable metal types in Mainz, Germany. Using  a script called  "textura quadrata," he used about 300 kinds of type to print his 42-line Bible.  He closely replicated his manuscript lettering style by creating various types for all the contracted or abbreviated letters, as well as for ligatures, even creating many pieces of type, with different design for the same letter.

Visual communication artists of printed incunabula stylized different typefaces in order to closely imitate the rich verity of scripts in the  medieval European manuscripts.   In those early days there were no standardized punches, as the trade of craftsmen specializing in type casting had not yet been developed. Designers had considerable degrees of artistic freedom in creating their own punches,  and each designer used his own fonts in a printed incunabulum.  Nevertheless, there were those who purchased their punches from others, while others purchased only the matrices to cast the type themselves.  Today,  in incunabula studies,  we study  different early fonts as evidence for identifying the specific printer.

Printers combined woodblock illustrations with typeset text to create easily produced, illustrated printed books. They printed woodblock decorative borders and ornamental initials along with the type, subsequently having colour applied by hand to these printed elements. Printed calendars and almanacs became extremely popular in the fifteenth century and provided ordinary people with the basic knowledge required to plan their daily routines. The market for calendars was first tapped by Gutenburg, who published a calendar which calculated the times of new and full moons and planetary positions, with readings every two to three days. All earlier calendars, however, were superseded by those of Regiomontanus (1436-1476) whose masterful graphic design communicated clearly his far more accurate  predictions of times of eclipses of the moon and other astronomical information.

 Title page for Qvesta opra da ogni parte e un libro doro, 1476, by Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436 –1476), better known as Regiomontanus.

Visual Communication During Renaissance

During the European Renaissance, from the 14th through the 17th centuries, there was renewed interest in the classical literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, religion, and other fields of intellectual inquiry,  in Latin or Greek, as well as Italian, French, and German. By 1501, with 100 million people on the European continent, there were 250 printing centers that produced 27,000 known titles totaling 10 million books.Typeface designs evolved toward what are now called Old Style types. For instance, humanist minuscule, a lowercase handwriting style, developed by Italian scholar Poggio Bracciolini at the beginning of the 15th century. It was based on Carolingian minuscule that was thought at the time to be from ancient Rome, but is in fact from centuries later, about A.D. 800 to 1200.

Poggio Bracciolini, Historia Florentina, 1478

The familiar italic type was also invented in the Renaissance. Based on slanting calligraphic handwriting of Florentine Niccole de Niccoli in the 15th century, the italic typeface for printing was designed by punch cutter Francesco Griffo for the prominent Venetian publisher and printer Aldus Manutius, the Elder  who founded  his Aldine Press in 1495 to produce printed editions of many Greek and Latin classics. His innovations included inexpensive, pocket-sized editions of books with cloth covers.

Aristotle printed by Aldus Manutius, 1495–98 (Libreria antiquaria Pregliasco, Turin)

The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, an incunabulum, issued from the Venetian press of Aldus Manutius in 1499. is believed to be written by Francesco Colonna, that epitomizes a Renaissance book. Designed by the visual communication artists of the Aldine Press in 1499  it was   a stunning achievement in juxtaposition of type and  illustration in a well-organised and balanced layout. The work tells the tale of Polifilo in search of his lost love, Polia. His journey takes him through a fantastic dream-world of pyramids and obelisks, classical gardens, ruined temples and bacchanalian festivals, before finding her and gaining ultimate enlightenment at the temple of Venus.  The enigmatic woodcuts, that rapidly move from the image of a sleeping man into strange edifices and otherworldly scenes enhances the perplexity of the text that is written in a language that blends Latin and Italian without fully fading into either.

Colonna (Francesco)Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the height of Renaissance illustration, 1499.

The identity of the artist responsible for the renowned woodcuts has long been debated, but the Paduan miniaturist Benedetto Bordon, active primarily in Venice, is now widely considered their author.  The design of the work achieves an understated simplicity and tonal harmony, and its elegant synthesis of type and image has seldom been equaled. The layout combined exquisitely light woodcuts by an anonymous illustrator with roman types by Griffo utilizing new, smaller capitals; Griffo cut these types after careful study of Roman inscriptions. Importantly, double-page spreads were conceived in the book as unified designs, rather than as two separate pages.

During the 16th century, France became a centre for fine typography and  was experiencing a massive growth in the book and printing industry, with printers like Thielman Kerver that busily involved in the production of government and religious works as well as popular texts, like the Book of Hours.  In  the 1520’s,  the French printer and designer, Geoffrey Tory, laid out new standards for printing that disposed completely of the manuscript style and produced an entirely new design ethos specifically for the visual nuances of the printed word.  Tory produced a Book of Hours and a treatise on the French language called Champfleury which, together, completely revolutionized the face of printing and typography. His stylistic precedents are foundations for all generations of type designers and layout designers in the five centuries since then.   In his Book of Hours (1531), he framed columns of roman type with modular borders; these exuberant forms were a perfect complement to his illustrations.

Geoffroy Tory, Champ fleury, Paris, Geoffroy Tory e Gilles de Gourmont, 1529

Typeface designer and punch-cutter Claude Garamond (ca. 1480–1561), one of Tory’s pupils, achieved refinement and consistency in his Old Style fonts. Garamond  cut types for the Parisian scholar-printer Robert Estienne in the first part of the sixteenth century, basing his Romans on the types cut by Francesco Griffo for Venetian printer Aldus Manutius in 1495.  He refined his Romans in later versions, adding his own concepts as he developed his skills as a punchcutter. After his death in 1561, the Garamond punches made their way to the printing office of Christoph Plantin in Antwerp, where they were used by Plantin for many decades, and still exist in the Plantin-Moretus museum. Other Garamond punches went to the Frankfurt foundry of Egenolff-Berner, who issued the famous Egenolff-Berner specimen in 1592.  Printers commissioned types from him rather than casting their own, making Garamond the first independent typefounder not directly associated with a printing firm. Works by Tory, Garamond, and many other graphic artists and printers created a standard of excellence in graphic design that spread beyond France.

Christophe Plantin, 1572, illustrations with Roamn type, paragraphs, and side notes.

Rococo Communication Design

When Louis XV, a boy only five years old, succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV, the Sun King, who had made France the preeminent power in Europe, the late king's nephew, the duc d'Orléans, who ruled as the reagent for eight years set aside the austerity life style enforced by the late king  at Versailles. France turned away from imperial aspirations to focus on more personal—and pleasurable—pursuits. As political life and private morals relaxed, the change was mirrored by a new style in art, one that was intimate, decorative, and often erotic.   A  new decorative style  that emphasized pastel colors, sinuous curves, and patterns based on flowers, vines, and shells in a more delicate  manner emerged that was called "rococo," from the French word, rocaille, for rock and shell garden.  Painters turned from grandiloquence to the sensual surface delights of color and light, and from weighty religious and historical subjects—though these were never ignored completely—to more intimate mythological scenes, views of daily life, and portraiture. Similarly, sculptors increasingly applied their skills to small works for the appreciation of private patrons.

The  Rococo style impacted visual communication via the work of the French typefounder Pierre-Simon Fournier.   He was the author of the two volumes  Manuel Typographic, which was published in 1764 and 1766. The first volume is one of the major source books on the processes of making printing types in the era of the hand press. Volume two includes a comprehensive specimen of the types and ornaments of Fournier's own foundry, most of which he cut himself, and as such provides a record of one of the most remarkable personal achievements in the history of type founding.

Manuel Typographique,1764-66. Paris, Barbou, printed by Pierre Simon Fournier  -  Fournier's most important work, envisaged as four volumes but on his death only  two had been completed (the second volume was originally intended to be the fourth). The first volume discusses typefounding and punchcutting with the folding plates illustrating the tools then used in those processes; the second volume is basically a type specimen book with 303 full page specimens (including 101 ancient and modern alphabets and five folding engraved plates of music).

Son of type-founder Jean-Claude Fournier, Pierre-Simon became famous as a type theoretician. He created his own point system in 1737, fourteen years after the French government decreed that types should be standardized. In 1739, Pierre-Simon created his own foundry.  He pioneered standardized measurement through his table of proportions based on the French pouce, a now-obsolete unit of measure slightly longer than an inch. The resulting standard sizes of type enabled him to pioneer the “type family,” a series of typefaces with differing stroke weights and letter widths whose similar sizes and design characteristics allowed them to be used together in an overall design. When Louis XIV   ordered a committee of scholars to develop a new type for the Imprimiere Royal,  and commissioned new types for use during his reign,   he turned to Fournier. Fournier modèles des caractères were in use throughout Louis XIV's reign. The royal printing office established in 1640 to restore the quality of earlier printing. The result was a type called Romain de Roi, which could only be used by the royal printer, other use was a capital offence (punishable by death).    Soon other  printers, such as J.M. Fleischmann and J. Enschedé, started to imitate Fournier's style. In the 1750s, his career was at its peak. He advised royalty in Sweden and Sradinia on types, and set up a printing shop for Madame de Pompadour.

Modèles des caractères de l'imprimerie.  Pierre-Simon Fournier 

Development of Copperplate Engraving

Copperplate engraving became an important medium for book illustrations during this period. Lines were incised into a smooth metal plate; ink was pressed into these recessed lines; excess ink was wiped clean from the surface; and a sheet of paper was pressed onto the plate with sufficient pressure to transfer the ink from the printing plate to the paper. This allowed book illustrations to be produced with finer lines and greater detail than woodblock printing. The highly skilled craft of engraving, in which a wedge-shaped metal tool known as a burin was used to gouge clear, sharp furrows in a metal plate, appears to have been adapted from goldsmithing. Two of the great early masters of the technique in the North, Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer, had fathers who were goldsmiths, and in Italy the medium seems to have had its origins in the niello plaques—small engraved plates of silver or gold whose incisions were filled with a dark substance to shade the design—made by Florentine goldsmiths.

The entombment (c. 1480)   Martin Schongauer

The earliest engravings were produced in Germany in the 1430s, but the first monumental engravings, rivaling painting in their ambition, were created in the 1470s—in Germany by Schongauer and in Italy by the Italian painter Andrea Mantegna. Schongauer raised engraving from a minor craft to a major art form with compelling works like the Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons, in which deeply engraved lines create a vivid linear pattern against the white background. To create texture, Schongauer used a great variety of strokes—from the long, sinuous lines that create the beard of the saint and the curling fur of one of the demons, to the short flecks of the saint’s coarsely woven robe; he also made use of crosshatching in the deepest shadows to model the forms. Mantegna, on the other hand, interested above all in achieving the tone that would give his figures a three-dimensional presence, evolved a technique of shading his engravings with short lines of varying width, a method that seems to have derived from his drawing practice. Mantegna’s idiosyncratic approach was not well suited to printing large editions; however, early impressions of his engravings such as the Bacchanal with a Wine Vat  show the subtle tonalities that could be obtained with this method.

Andrea Mantegna (Isola di Carturo, circa 1431 - Mantua, 1506) Entombment (horizontal)
In 1550, in his "Life" of the artist, Giorgio Vasari described Mantegna as the inventor of copperplate engraving in Italy, thus creating a real myth. Specialists are still divided over this question: some consider that Mantegna never handled a burin himself but provided designs for printmaking. As court painter, Mantegna was under the strict control of the Gonzaga family who forbade him to sell his works. This new reproduction technique, in addition to its particular expressive qualities, enabled him to export his inventions outside Mantua. The contract signed in 1475 with Gian Marco Cavalli is explicit: the young goldsmith was obliged to keep his models and prints secret, under threat of severe penalties. For having done just this, Simone Ardizzoni, another engraver, was severely beaten on Mantegna's orders, and was to claim justice from the Marquis.
The Resurrection,     published 1511,  Albrecht Dürer 

Albrecht Dürer, a great admirer of Mantegna’s pictorial inventions, derived his engraving technique from Schongauer and other Northern engravers. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Dürer carried the technique to a degree of richness and detail that has never been surpassed. His Adam and Eve   contains an almost unimaginable density of fine distinct lines, whose great variety creates form, texture, and shading simultaneously. Dürer’s closest rival was the Netherlandish artist Lucas van Leyden, whose innovative approach to both subject matter and technique can be seen in The Poet Virgil in a Basket . Lucas’ style of engraving is characterized by long, flowing, gently curved strokes that impart grace to his draped figures, emphasize gesture, and unify the image. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Italian engraver Marcantonio Raimondi developed an influential technique that effectively translated Raphael’s drawings into prints without imitating the painter’s actual marks. Marcantonio’s system of uniform, equidistant, parallel lines that curve around the forms to give them a sculptural presence is beautifully illustrated by his Judgment of Paris .

Lucretia, engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi after a design by Raphael

It was a Flemish engraver, Cornelis Cort, who elaborated on this system by developing a flexible engraved line that became thicker and thinner along its length, thus allowing the engraver to vary the lightness or darkness in an area without adding more lines. Cort’s Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, after Titian, shows the coloristic effects that could be achieved through this technique, so well suited to conveying the color and painterly qualities for which the Venetian painter was famous. The swelling and tapering line was carried to new extremes by the virtuosic Dutch engraver Hendrick Goltzius, whose calligraphic line becomes a marvel in its own right in works like the Farnese Hercules. Goltzius and his students and followers represent the last heroic age of engraving. In the next century, while the difficult craft of engraving would still be practiced by professionals as a means of reproducing the artwork of others, the most talented artists would turn to the more easily mastered technique of etching.

Cornelis Cort, Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence

“Minerva” from the series “Three Deities”, 1596 engraving. Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617)
With the advance of technology the visual communication design began to focus on the physical attributes of spaces, objects, and visual messages in affecting the emotional experiences of consumers or audiences. To enhance the effectiveness of communication, the design turned into collaborative team work among various artists and artisans. The designer became a project manager who controlled forms that best achieved such results, and the profession placed high value on craftsmanship, surface novelty, and individual authorship.   One of the pioneering  example of Rococo book design was the  collaboration of Frenchman Charles Eisen, who illustrated   Jean de La Fontaine’s Contes et nouvelles en vers (1762; Tales and Novels in Verse). In this work, Joseph Gerard Barbou, the printer, used types and ornaments by Fournier, full-page engravings by Eisen, and complex spot illustrations and tailpieces by Pierre-Phillippe Choffard.
Modern or Neoclassical Typeface design - Didone

In the late 18th century, Modern or Neoclassical Typeface that was characterized by a vertical axis, high contrast between thick and thin strokes and flat, hairline serifs, was developed as a response to  the Rococo style.  The Englishman John Baskerville (1706-1775), who had a background as stone carver, writing-master, and japanning (a European imitation of Asian  heavy black lacquer-work which resembled enamel paint) decided to change the overall layout of the visual communication on the printed page, by  reviving the method of the early Renaissance printers and calligraphic writing.

 Baskerville Virgil Pages 234 and 235 (folios Gg1v-gg2r). Aeneidos. Liber Sextus

Baskerville spent seven years developing his  typeface style  in conjunction with developing new kinds of paper and ink, as well as  improving the work of previous punch-cutters.    The big difference between Baskerville and the early printers was that   he was breaking with the layout of his contemporaries,  by introducing  large margins, wide spaced text, and no Rococo ornaments, which at the time must have appeared highly radical.  In his books he used superbly designed types printed on smooth paper without ornament or illustration, which resulted in designs of stately and restrained elegance.

Giambattista Bodoni,  who was perhaps the first modern visual communication designer,  typographer, type-designer, compositor, publisher and printer,  decided to create a synthetic typeface based on the typography of   Pierre Simon Fournier and John Baskerville. Under the auspices of the Duke Ferdinando of Bourbon-Parma, who commissioned him to set up the la Stamperia Reale , one of the greatest Italian printing house in Parma, in 1768, he published the first  book in the long line of books titled Descrizione Delle Feste Celebrate In Parma L’Anno MDCCLXIX.  Shortly afterwards the publishing house began to produce the fine editions of classical and respected works, for instance, Gerusalemme Liberata of Torquato Tasso and Homer’s literary work.

Bodoni laid forth his design statement in Manuale tipografico (1788; “Inventory of Types”); another edition of this book was published in 1818, after his death, by his widow and foreman. Bodoni’s typefaces reflected his aesthetic sense represented in the simple forms and plain style fused with the purity of materials with sparse pages, generous margins and line-spacing, and severe geometric types. His powerful visual communication style eliminated  any noise and distraction from the act of reading.   In his lifetime, Bodoni had personally engraved 298 typefaces. Moreover, as the manager of several publishing houses he had helped produced roughly twelve hundred fine editions.  He also trained many amateur printers and among them The Amoretti Brothers became his best trainee.

Librairie de Firmin Didot Frères, Fils et Cie.

Firmin-Didot, a family of French printers, punch-cutters, and publishers, pushed the boundaries of modern visual communication design towards yet uncharted vast expanses.  The family's most lasting legacy is the Didot family of fonts, designed by Firmin Didot, which influences typography to this day. When Pierre Didot (known as Pierre l’aîné) inherited his father's business in 1789, he set about to employ technical perfection in reorienting the  visual communication towards artistic elegance, which he achieved by his printing of the lavish éditions du Louvre, which constituted three monumental works by Racine, Virgil, and Horace.  Pierre designed large, folio-sized books with wide margins, elegant type designed by his brother, Firmin,  which provided a crisp counterpoint to the engraved illustrations.  He  hired the French Neoclassical painter Jacques Louis David to edit the illustrations, which were executed by members of his studio, most significantly by Baron François Gerard and Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson. The idealized figures in ancient Roman environments in the éditions were engraved with flawless technique, obsessive detail, and sharp contrasts of light and shadow. Not only did this collaboration provide much-needed patronage to artists during the difficult revolutionary days, it also  extended the visual communication to the new demography of the Industrial Revolution who were reading books, and brought the work of artists from their isolation in the  royal palaces  towards the widening middle class of France.

Chromolithograph by FIRMIN DIDOT, PARIS. FRANCE XVIe SIECLE 16th Century

Visual Communication Design in the Industrial Revolution Era

The Industrial Revolution lowered the cost with mass-production methods, in which manufacturers produce things in large quantities without having orders for them in advance. They relied on visual communication design in the form of advertisement to enable selling the products later. Mass production is based on the principles of specialization and division of labor as first described by Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776, and as first practiced in places like Eli Whitney's gun factory in America in the 1790s.

Mass production and reproduction of images, text and artifacts create the visual experience of modernity. The production and reproduction of text are transformed during the nineteenth century by the invention and refinement of Monotype machines, which cast individual characters, and Linotype machines,  patented in the United States in 1884 by Ottmar Mergenthaler, which cast whole lines of type, made production of printed material readily available to masses. One Linotype operator could do the work of seven or eight hand compositors, dramatically reducing the cost of typesetting and making printed matter less expensive.

  New typographic styles, involving either finer serifs or the complete absence of serifs, for example, are made possible by the  use of Metal type. Thinner strokes are made possible by finer paper and more accurate printing presses; the look, the visual experience of typography, is altered by the means of production. As Robin Kinross points out, in 1800 most European and American printers were using processes and equipment that ' had not  changed for 300 years. By the end of the nineteen century these printers would be using power-driven presses, machine-made paper, composing machines to set type and powered collating and binding machinery.

One popular medium for advertisement was the poster. Posters printed with large wood types were used extensively to advertise new modes of transportation, entertainment, and manufactured goods throughout the 19th century. This was possible in part because typefounders developed larger sizes of types for use on posted announcements and innovated new typefaces including sans serif, slab serif, and decorative designs. An American printer, Darius Wells, invented a lateral router that enabled the economical manufacture of abundant quantities of large wooden types, which cost less than half as much as large metal types.

Wood-type posters usually had vertical formats; types of a mixture of sizes and styles were set in horizontal lines, as the type could only be placed in the press in horizontal rows, with a left-and-right alignment that created a visual unity. This technique also encouraged the proliferation of thousands of different typefaces, using a huge variety of shapes and  textures. A poster produced in 1854 for the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, for example, combined typefaces that were outlined, drop-shadowed, decorative, sans serif, slab serif, extremely wide, and narrow, all innovations that appeared during the 19th century.

Around 1870, however, lithography began to be developed and the use of wooden type declined. Lithography process which was discovered by Aloys Senefelder of Bavaria  and its colourversion, called chromolithographs, were widely used in the second half of the 19th century, and designers like  Jules Cheret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and many Art Nouveau  artists created vibrant colorful posters that decorated the walls of cities, publicizing events, traveling entertainment shows, and household products.

Lithography also changed the look of the packaging that the goods being advertised were sold in. Manufacturers quickly recognized that the addition of even one colour to their packaging made it stand out on the shelf.  Visual communication designers were now liberated from the technical restraints of letterpress printing,  since chromolithographic process,  may compose  messages in curve-linear  and even circular format and, unlike letterpress printing, is not limited to straight lines,  in horizontal  or vertical trajectories.  Many chromolithographs reflected an interest in the 1856 publication of English designer Owen Jones’s The Grammar of Ornament, a methodical collection of design patterns and motifs that contained examples from Asian, African, and Western cultures.

William Morris and the Kelmscott Press

One  side-effect of mass production of books in the 19th century was the use of trashy, low quality paper, second-rate presswork, dreary, muddy inks, and hideous fonts.   However, by the end of the century, a book-design renaissance began as a direct result of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. William Morris, the leader of the movement, was a well-respected writer, producing widely read translations, novels, essays and poetry. Eager to design as well as to write texts, he experimented with calligraphy and page decoration, and later set up his own publishing company, the Kelmscott Press.    Deeply concerned with the problems of industrialization and the factory system, he was interested in the Gothic Revival, a 19th-century fashion, that looked back to medieval forms and patterns, and which had brought the details of Gothic ornament into the public realm with books such as Owen Jones and Noel Humphreys' Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages (1844). In addition, Morris's friendship with F.S. Ellis, a publisher and rare-book dealer, gave him direct access to historical works, including a set of 16th-century Italian examples of calligraphy. He rejected tasteless mass-produced goods and poor craftsmanship in favour of the beautiful, well-crafted objects he designed.

This was the last book printed at the Kelmscott Press, and was sold by the trustees of William Morris

A page from 'Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis' -   using blue ink in addition to the typical black and red.

Between 1870 and 1875 Morris began to experiment with calligraphy, writing out and (in whole or part) decorating 21 manuscript books. Many of the texts were Morris's translations of 'The Sagas of Icelanders', a set of prose narratives based on events that happened in Iceland between the 9th and 11th centuries. In 1888  he decided to establish a printing press to recapture the quality of books from the early decades of printing.  Morris wanted to design his own type – but he lacked both the skill and the patience to hand-cut the steel 'punches' that form the first stage of the traditional print process. The type problem was solved in 1888 when Morris realised he could apply a projection technology he had recently been introduced to by his friend Emery Walker, who had wide experience of the printing trade and who ran a photo-engraving business. It enabled Morris to create intricate type designs at a normal scale, and then reduce them down for accurate translation onto the steel punches by skilled craftsmen. This relatively simple solution for getting round Morris's limitations meant that, quite suddenly, he was able to realise his ideal of integrated design in the production of books. His Kelmscott Press began to print books in 1891, using an old handpress, rich dense inks, and handmade paper.    Morris carefully designed Kelmscott's bespoke typefaces (first 'Golden' and then 'Troy'), initial letters, borders, ornaments, frames for illustrations, title pages and printer's marks. He was conscious of his limitations as a figurative artist and therefore relied on other people to design illustrations. Major contributions came from his old friend Edward Burne-Jones, who collaborated with Morris on Kelmscott's most celebrated book: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1896).

Morris set out to print books hoping that some would, as he put it, "have a definite claim to beauty". He sought to recreate the rich visual texture he admired in books printed in the second half of the 15th century. Morris was extremely particular about everything in the typographic process. He knew the importance of spacing between both letters and lines in getting type to sit well on the page. Although to modern eyes the Kelmscott type style looks very dense, Morris was committed to trying to balance his love of medieval style with readability.

The influence of William Morris and the Kelmscott Press upon graphic design, particularly book design, was remarkable. Morris’s concept of the well-designed page, his beautiful typefaces, and his sense of design unity—with the smallest detail relating to the total concept—inspired a new generation of graphic designers. His typographic pages, which formed the overwhelming majority of the pages in his books, were conceived and executed with readability in mind, another lesson heeded by younger designers. Morris’s searching reexamination of earlier type styles and graphic-design history also touched off an energetic redesign process that resulted in a major improvement in the quality and variety of fonts available for design and printing; many designers directly imitated the style of the Kelmscott borders, initials, and type styles. More commercial areas of graphic design, such as job printing and advertising, were similarly revitalized by the success of Morris.

The Private Press Movement

The Private Press Movement in book production that was heavily influenced by William Morris and Emery Walker, flourished around the turn of the 20th century, when  printers and designers established small printing firms to design and print carefully crafted, limited-edition books of great beauty. The Essex House Press was founded by C.R. Ashbee, who also ran the Guild of Handicraft. Ashbee bought the Albion printing presses from the Kelmscott Press following William Morris’s death, and employed one of the Kelmscott compositors, Thomas Binning.

The Essex House Press moved from London to Chipping Campden with the Guild of Handicraft in 1902, and produced 84 titles. The Doves Press was founded in 1901 between T.J. Cobden Sanderson and Emery Walker. Before that date Cobden-Sanderson, a friend of William Morris, had established a book binding workshop that bound many of the Kelmscott Press books.

The Ashendene Press was founded in 1895 and continued until 1935, with a break during the First World War from 1915 to 1920. C.H. St. John Hornby was a partner in W H Smith & Sons who set up his own press to print books for his family and friends. Ashendene books are often in very small print runs, and were sold through a subscription service. Unlike the product of Kelmscott Press and Doves Press, many of the Ashendene books have elaborately tooled leather bindings.

The Vale Press was founded by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon in 1896 for which Ricketts designed the very fine ‘Vale’ typeface. In its relatively short life (it closed in 1904), the Vale Press produced forty-six books, all printed at the Ballantyne Press in London.

The Ballantyne Press had a hand operated press and a press operator skilled in its use set apart for the work of the Vale Press. The publisher George Allen also made use of Ballantyne’s hand press for a number of his arts & crafts inspired titles in the 1890s.

The Chiswick Press was started in 1811 by Charles Whittingham to produce cheap editions of the classics but when his nephew, also named Charles, took it over in 1838 he began to revive old typefaces and seek ways to improve the quality of printing. Whittingham printed a number of works for both William Morris and Emery Walker and his brother-in-law Robert Dunthorne in the 1880s. The Chiswick Press continued until 1962. The Chiswick Press also was used by George Allen for some of his specialist arts & crafts titles.

Visual Communication Designers of Book in the US

In the United States, the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement on the revitalization of typography and book design moved forward in the hands of two young men from the Midwest who fell under the spell of the Kelmscott Press during the 1890s. Book designer Bruce Rogers and typeface designer Frederic W. Goudy had long careers filled with a love of books and diligent work. They carried their exceptional sense of book design and production well into the 20th century.

Goudy is regarded as one of the preeminent forces in American design, completing a staggering 122 original typefaces during his career. And, even though he developed his first unique alphabet at the age of 30, he refused to acknowledge himself as a professional typographer until he was 46. His approach to design grew from the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement—a marriage of form and function—where legibility and unique but careful design work went hand-in-hand. Goudy lectured on the importance of legibility above all, while at the same time insisting on an original creative presence. Goudy also opined against the nascent style of modern design, reasoning that over-polished or streamlined techniques lacked the character and idiosyncrasies of the hand of the artist. This predilection is evident in his work, as Goudy developed almost no sans serif types . His treatise on what made good design was guided by three governing principles:
“[F]irst, simplicity, that is, a form having no unnecessary parts; second, contrast, as shown by marked differences in the weight of the lines composing the individual letters, and also as shown in the varying width of different letters; and third, proportion, each part of a letter having its proper value and and relation to other letters—these three things in connection with the aspects of purpose and use.”
In 1894 he established the Camelot Press with a friend but left the following year due to disagreements. In 1908 Goudy established the Village Press where he then designed his first typeface called Camelot. The Dickinson Type Foundry in Boston paid Goudy $10 for this typeface. In 1899 he went off to be a freelancer in Chicago. Nine years later, in the year of 1908, the Village Press burned down and was completely destroyed. Goudy ceased his efforts as a printer in that same year. Instead, he turned his attention to the cutting, casting and designing of typefaces. He initiated a long association with Langston Monotype Company, which ended up commissioning his finest fonts.

On May 30, 1936, Goudy received a commission from Laurence Siegfried, the editor of the journal The American Printer, for a new typeface that would effectively be his one hundredth font. In accepting the editor’s offer, Goudy was agreeing to “draw all of the letters, make eighty patterns to scale, engrave matrices and cast type in time to meet the magazine’s deadline.” He completed these tasks in just sixteen working days, He wrote:

As I worked, the idea came to me that I might dedicate this ‘one hundredth type’ to my beloved helpmate, Bertha M. Goudy, who had worked with me so unselfishly for so many years, and for   first use of the new type I would print a little tribute to her memory. The type, at first unnamed, I later gave the name ‘Bertham,’ by combining her first name and middle initial.” 

 William Addison Dwiggins was a man of many skills and did not limit himself to one trade, although he said that he would like to most be remembered for his type design. He was in his late 40s when he began his career in type design. Born in 1880 in Martinsville, Ohio he spent his childhood and adolescence in a series of towns in Ohio and Indiana. He attended the Frank Holme School of Illustration in Chicago where his fellow students included Oswald Cooper and the faculty included Frederic W. Goudy. From 1901 to 1903 he shared a studio with Goudy before returning to Cambridge, Ohio to set up a private press. Dwiggins built up a thriving career doing lettering, decorative work and illustration for printers, advertising agencies, magazines, book publishers, paper mills and a wide range of local businesses. Most of his clients were in Boston and New England, but some were as far away as New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Dwiggins is probably most noted for coining the term 'Graphic Designer' in 1922 which he used in reference to himself. His work encompassed book design, lettering, typography and calligraphy. He created several typefaces including two that are still used often today for the Linotype corporation Electra and Caledonia. He was one of the most influential book designers of the 1920s and 30s, and his work re-kindled public interest in book design.  In 1928 he wrote and published the book 'Layout in Advertising' which, at the time, was considered to be the reference text for the field. He used his time away from work to construct a set of 12" marionettes and a marionette theater, all carved by hand out of wood.

Albert Bruce Rogers was born in Linwood, now part of Lafayette, Indiana, he never used the name Albert and was known to associates as "BR." Rogers received a B.S. from Purdue University in 1890, and was quickly recognized in his studies of illustration, allowing him to work with University catalogs, lettering for the yearbook, and the College Quarterly Magazine. He is acclaimed by some as among the greatest book designers of the twentieth century.   At Purdue, he worked with political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon on the student newspaper and yearbook. After graduation, Rogers worked as both an artist for the Indianapolis News and as office boy for a railroad. After seeing several Kelmscott Press editions, Rogers became interested in producing fine books, and so moved to Boston, then a center of publishing, where he free-lanced for L. Prang and Co.

In 1896 Rogers joined the Riverside Press. He became the designer of this Press’s new department for high-quality limited editions in 1900. During this period he applied the ideal of beautifully designed books to commercial production and so set the standard of 20th century book design. He left the Riverside Press in 1912 to become a freelancer. The typeface he designed in 1915, called Centaur, is one of the finest of the numerous fonts he designed that was inspired by Jenson and was used for the first time in The Centaur, by Maurice de Guerin. This was one of his most elegant book designs. He was known for his "allusive" typography, rejecting modernism, seldom using asymmetrical arrangements, rarely using sans serif type faces, often favoring faces such as Bell (at the time known only as Brimmer), Caslon, his own Montaigne, a Jensonian precursor to his masterpiece of type design Centaur.

Rogers was a very intuitive designer with an outstanding sense of visual proportion and “rightness.” One of his life philosophies is that “Design is a decision-making process; the culmination of subtle choices about paper, type, margins, leading between lines, and so on can combine to create either a unity or a disaster ” According to him, the ultimate test in considering the employment or the rejection of an element of design or decoration would be to contemplate whether the page design would survive without the element or not.

Linn Boyd and Morris Fuller Benton, father and son, each played crucial parts in the development of modern typefounding in the United States and the world. Both worked at the American Type Founders Company, which as a general policy did not promote or advertise the importance of individual employees. Although Morris “sublimated his talents to the needs of a commercial type foundry,”¹ nevertheless “his scores of remarkably successful designs . . . form the backbone of American type design.” At the same time, “the mechanical wizardry that made the profusion of these types possible in the great mechanical age of typefounding is due in no small measure to the efforts of his illustrious father.” Morris F. Benton  designed important revivals of Bodoni and Garamond in collaboration with Thomas Maitland Cleland, whose borders, types and images were inspired by the Italian and French Renaissance. Benton’s revival of Jenson’s types was issued as the Cloister family. Between the years of 1901 – 1935, Benton designed over 225 typefaces including 9 additional members of the Goudy family and over 24 members of the Cheltenham family.Type historian Beatrice Warde wrote that Rogers “managed to steal the Divine Fire which glowed in the Kelmscott Press books, and somehow be the first to bring it down to earth.”

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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  1. Very interesting article, thank you ! Michael Freyburger was actually my ancestor. Best regards, Pierre

  2. thank you so much for this wonderful blog, I'm a graphic design student and I find it fascinating and so detailed! Great work!