Five Centuries of Book Design: A Survey of Styles in the Columbia Library

Five Centuries of Book Design: A Survey of Styles in the Columbia Library

Five Centuries of Book Design: A Survey of Styles in the Columbia Library

Five Centuries of Book Design: A Survey of Styles in the Columbia Library

Excerpt

It is a well established fact that the early printed books, the incunabula of the fifteenth century, are to be considered as the immediate followers and imitators, if not counter- feiters, of late medieval manuscripts. Nevertheless it is very seldom that people take the trouble to study in original examples this close relationship. Of course there are not many places where this can be done. The most noteworthy examples in the Columbia University Library are relatively late, considering the date of the earliest printed books we know. There are two French Books of Hours illustrating the point very clearly, one written, illustrated and decorated by hand around the year 1500 and the other printed at Paris by Thielman Kerver in 1500, both in Gothic characters. Books of Hours were among the few families of books which, after the victory of printing, continued to be written by hand. Finally they, too, were printed. An interesting example of French Roman type in the fifteenth century, characteristic for the hidden Gothic quality expressed in its squareness and comparative heaviness, is a volume of Gasparini's Epistolae, with painted initials, reproduced on page 176.

Of German printing in the fifteenth century Gerson Donatus Moralisatus, printed in Strassburg by Martin Flach about 1474, is a fair example showing the vernacular Gothic type. This is the style based on German manuscripts written in several local variations of semi- formal late Gothic book hands. The variety of writing hands is reflected in the great number of different printing types used during the fifteenth century. Roman type in Germany was developed early and used frequently. An important place was taken by still another group of designs, types of a transitional character between Gothic and Roman. As a fine example of this, Turrecremata Explanatio in Psalterium, Augsburg, Joh. Schüssler, 1472, has recently been acquired in a very well preserved copy. Compare the illustration above.

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