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Gutenburg

 
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     By the beginning of the 15th century, the demand for books grow extremely great, for population in Europe increased, communications opened, trade expanded, new universities established, and literacy spread. The scribing methods of the time however were unable to deliver the demand due to the slow and expensive process known and available at that time. Making a 200 page volume book needed at least 5 months of work. In addition, books were considered as a prized possession and a symbol of social status.
     It was time for the creation and discovery of typography; and printing to come along, especially that paper was already something common in Europe since the 14th century. The first primitive printing attempts were made in the form of woodcuttings and block printings. It was Johannes Gutenberg, who first printed a book using movable typography, around 1440-1450. Further on, his fourty-two-line Bible includes a typeface without subtle curves, which is hardly to distinguish from good calligraphy.
     The typeface used was the popular gothic (textura) in character of that period. Besides its popularity, it was easier to imitate and create it, because of its lack of curves that made the engraving much easier and faster. In order to imitate this style properly Gutenberg created a set of over 300 characters.
     The letters were created by an alloy of lead, tin and antimony, while as ink, he used boiled linseed oil colored with lampblack. The printing machine itself was an adaptation of the presses used in the wine and cheese businesses. The final outcome was so good that the design of the printing machine stayed the same, with only minor improvements with in the next 400 years. As to the blackletter designs cut by Gutenberg, they were employed until the 19th century in Germany.
 
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Johann Gutenberg, Mainz, c. 1455
Bible in Latin (42-line)
11 x 16 inches
On vellum
Johann Gutenberg, Mainz, c. 1455
Bible in Latin (42-line)
11 x 16 inches
On vellum
 
       
© 2004 Natalia Rifai