An Introduction to the History of Printing Types: An Illustrated Summary of the Main Stages in the Development of Type Design from 1440 up to the Present Day: An Aid to Type Face Identification

By Geoffrey Dowding | Go to book overview

Roman VENETIAN

German printers spread the new art all over Europe in a little over a generation, the sack of the city of Mainz in 1462 accelerating the process. Of this disaster Mr Updike says that it 'influenced the spread of typography, for it wiped out commerce there, and the consequent lack of money led printers, who were established in a kind of industrial group, to scatter widely. This accounts for the German names we find among the earliest printers in other countries throughout Europe.'1

Many of these printers went to Italy, the country which in the previous century had witnessed the birth of the Renaissance--that 'fructifying of the human mind through contact with the classical world of Greece and Rome.' The Renaissance humanists, in transcribing the works of classical authors had rejected the gothic hand and copied the script in which many of these works were written out--a clear, regular hand perfected some centuries earlier in the reign of Charlemagne (b.743--d.814) and known to us as the Caroline minuscule--a style of writing which we have no difficulty in recognizing as the forbear of our upper- & lower-case today. The scribes modified this hand, making it even more beautiful. Thus it is understandable why this neo-caroline minuscule had, by the time the first printers arrived from the North, to some extent ousted the gothic script in Italy.

When Conrad Sweynheym & Arnold Pannartz set up the first printing press in Italy at the Benedictine Monastery at Subiaco near Rome

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1
In Printing Types, Their History, Forms, and Use. Harvard University Press, Cambridge ( Mass.) Vol I. Second Edition 1937.

-19-

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