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Tag: paratext

Make the Letter Bigger

A brief history of the drop-cap: Decorated or illuminated initials were an important part of medieval manuscripts for a thousand years. From luxurious gold and silver letters to plain drop capitals, they functioned to illustrate, commentate, and adorn the text. Learn their history and purpose, why they eventually went out of fashion, and what replaced them.

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Point, don’t point

The pointed finger must surely be one of the oldest human gestures. In deep prehistory, long before the evolution of spoken language, and when we were considerably hairier, it is not difficult to imagine one of our primitive human ancestors pointing to a lion, a landmark, or a lemon.

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A Brief History of the Index

On the rare occasions when I get to browse paper and ink books in a brick and mortar bookstore, after a brief flirtation with the cover and blurb, I’ll scan the table of contents, then gently — for the book is new, the clean pages crisp — thumb through the final leaves until I locate […]

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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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