Printing in London, from 1476 to Modern Times: Competitive Practice and Technical Invention in the Trade of Book and Bible Printing, Periodical Production, Jobbing &C

Printing in London, from 1476 to Modern Times: Competitive Practice and Technical Invention in the Trade of Book and Bible Printing, Periodical Production, Jobbing &C

Printing in London, from 1476 to Modern Times: Competitive Practice and Technical Invention in the Trade of Book and Bible Printing, Periodical Production, Jobbing &C

Printing in London, from 1476 to Modern Times: Competitive Practice and Technical Invention in the Trade of Book and Bible Printing, Periodical Production, Jobbing &C

Excerpt

BOOKSELLING is a trade; honourable in itself and useful to learning. Printing is more than a trade. Practitioners in this country have long called it an 'art or mystery', reminding us that craftsmanship is involved at every stage of the reproduction and multiplication of the single original. It would be bold to describe printing in London as an art during much of the sixteenth and most of the seventeenth centuries, a period with which this book may seem overoccupied. But the printing produced in the latter half of the sixteenth century and main part of the seventeenth has been either overlooked or summarily dismissed by commentators on English typography. It is desirable that we brace ourselves to discover why this period has acquired its evil reputation, and how far that reputation is deserved.

Certainly, standards of typography and production declined from the middle of the sixteenth century. Was this due to some incapacity in the English to respect taste as well as utility? Or was it, as is commonly said, due to Government restriction?

The sixteenth-century book was much like its successor today. The basic principles of letterpress production are still the same: ink is spread over the raised surface of the type and an impression taken on a sheet of paper. The printed sheets are folded and bound in a traditional manner, though the process today has been partially mechanized. And a book still communicates the message of the author in the same way: the reader interprets the arrangement of alphabetical symbols. For that message the printer is not, and never has been, responsible: he is concerned only with the multiplication of copies.

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