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I Love Typography

I Love Typography

Tag: typographic firsts

Pure Gold


Both the Roman Pliny (ca. 61–113) and the Greek historian, Herodotus (ca. 484–425 BC), mention gilding; the latter writing that the Egyptians gilded wood and metal. It has been used in decorating ceramics, in art, and at least from the fifth century in the production of illuminated manuscripts, reaching its peak in the especially exquisite […]

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The First Illustrated Books


The early history of illustrated printed books is also the history of woodcut. Woodcut illustrations long predate the mid-fifteenth-century introduction of movable type to Germany. They were used extensively in the printing of textiles many hundreds of years before in Europe and the Far East. Designs were cut in relief in wood, inked, then stamped […]

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The First Printed Children’s Books


Anyone who has children understands that books are a crucial part of their development. Parents also know that children’s books are likely to have relatively short shelf lives; torn pages, chewed corners, and crazed crayoning conspire toward the book’s inevitable annihilation. Fifteenth-century children were no different, and so it is no surprise that most of […]

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Printing the Stars


For tens of thousands of years, humans have looked up at the night sky in awe, intrigued by the motion, manner, and nature of the stars. And with our propensity for pattern recognition and our proclivity for causal inference, or attributing meaning or significance to coincidence, we joined the dots, so to speak, perceiving in […]

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Print Imperfect: from N to Z


Over the past couple of years I have been researching and writing a book about the fifteenth-century German printer, Erhard Ratdolt. He printed over 200 titles during his career, and part of my work is to study the content and typography of as many of those editions as possible. Recently, while writing a chapter titled, […]

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The First Printers’ Mark


The very first printers’ mark or printers’ device dates back almost to the very beginning of Western typography. In Mainz, Fust and Schoeffer, employed a printers’ mark in a Bible that they published in 1462. There is an earlier example in their Mainz Psalter of 1457, though many now believe that it was perhaps stamped […]

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Notes on the first Books Printed in Italy


In my recent article on The First Book Printed in Italy, I introduce the first books printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in the Subiaco monastery complex in the Sabine hills to the west of Rome from 1465.

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Murder in Italic


Most will be familiar with the name Francesco Griffo, born in Bologna in 1450, and forever associated with the Venetian printer-publisher Aldus Manutius for whom he designed and cut roman, Greek, and the first italic fonts. Their partnership was an especially fruitful one and their collaboration at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of […]

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The first Bible set in roman type


Sweynheym and Pannartz are credited with introducing printing to Italy via their press at the monastery of Santa Scolastica at Subiaco, outside of Rome in 1465. They appear to have been relatively successful, even sending quite a number of their books to Rome itself. However, in 1467 they move their press to Rome, where by […]

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Notes on the first Italic


St. Catherine, bad feet, & the first italic Whenever we think about the invention of the italic typeface we invariably think of the year 1501, when the italic type, commissioned by Aldus Manutius and cut by Griffo, was employed to set a new series of small pocket books, first published in 1501.

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The First Female Typographer


In the fifteenth century women had few career opportunities. Few, bar those in the higher social classes were even sent to school, and women were not admitted to universities (Oxford university didn’t permit women to matriculate or graduate until 1920). Their options were very limited and pessimistically and perhaps a little exaggeratedly summed up by […]

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The First Printed Page Numbers


The image below is a scan of a recto leaf printed by Arnold Ther Hoernen, Cologne, 1470 (Cologne’s second printer after Ulrich Zel). The book, Sermo in festo praesentationis beatissimae Mariae virginis (ISTC: ir00303000) is special in that it is the first (extant) book to include printed foliation (‘page numbers’*), here printed in the recto […]

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Unusual fifteenth-century fonts: part 1


Günther Zainer from Reutlingen introduced printing to Augsburg, Germany in 1468. He likely trained in Strasbourg with Johann Mentelin (who later went into business with Jenson and Johannes de Colonia in Venice). Zainer, during his decade-long career (he died in 1478), published some 100 books.

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The first book printed in Italy


During my research for an upcoming book* on the life and work of German Renaissance typographer Erhard Ratdolt, I spent quite some time looking at the introduction of printing to Italy (Ratdolt worked in Venice from 1476 to 1486, thereafter returning to his native Augsburg). The first printers in Italy were, unsurprisingly, from Germany, and […]

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