Week 3: Chapters 5 – 8

God help us — for art is long, and life so short.” –Johann Wolfgang Goethe von Goethe, Faust http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/16721-faust-eine-trag-die

We continue the march through graphic design history, a tale sometimes surprisingly dramatic and bloodthirsty. Who knew that the DaVinci of typography, Gutenberg, was cheated of his own print shop? Or that in France in the 1700s unauthorized use of the state typeface was punishable by death?

Chapter 5: Printing Comes to Europe

Last week, we learned that movable type was not useful to the Chinese because of the great number of Chinese letterforms. This week, we discover that in Europe, movable type changed the European world.

Before movable type, as early as the 1300s, block printing was mass producing playing cards, devotional prints of saints, and eventually wooden picture books with religious function.
Some of the first propaganda was fed to the public in the guise of books on “the art of dying,” designed to convince parishioners to leave their worldly goods to the Church.
The first unions, in the form of trade guilds, kept progress at a slow pace by insisting on divisions between wood block designers and wood block cutters.
In the early 1400s, Gutenberg assembled the first movable type printing machines and shop, took on the arduous task of printing the forty-two line Bible, partnered with the devil in the person of Fust (proto-Faustus) who repossessed Gutenberg’s shop on the eve of the Bible’s publication. (Fust established the first powerful movable-type publishing family dynasty, but he did almost get burned at the stake for witchcraft when trying to sell printed Bibles as manuscripts. Even then, bible salesmen were suspect.)

Chapter 6: The German Illustrated Book

Human nature never changes. Scribes began to see the writing on the vellum as printing streamlined the work of publishing.In Genoa, scribes attempted to have printing banned, and in Paris scribes sued on the basis of “unfair competition.” Nonetheless, progress in printing continued.

More and more books became available to the public, and illiteracy slowly ceased to be the norm.
Printer Albrecht Pfister planted the beginnings of the illustrated typographic book when he added wood block illustrations to his books.
Travel books were created with lush illustrations.
Broadsides, the precursors to posters, became common. The everyday man was inundated with political and religious broadsides; Fox News’ ancestor, the broadside, spread such important information as deformed births.
The art of printing slowly spread from its birthplace in Mainz to Italy, to England and France. The first typographic book in English was printed by William Caxton in 1475. It seems that all of the advances in printing had not erased the heavy burden of those involved in bookmaking since the scribe Florentius complained (see blog, week 2); William Caxton wrote:
“”my pen is owrn, my hand is weary and shaky, my are are dimmed from too much looking at white paper” (Meggs, page 91.

 

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