Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Fifteenth-Century Printing Practices of Johann Zainer, Ulm, 1473-1478

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Fifteenth-Century Printing Practices of Johann Zainer, Ulm, 1473-1478

Article excerpt

Clare Bolton, The Fifteenth-Century Printing Practices of Johann Zainer, Ulm, 1473-1478, Oxford Bibliographical Society Publications, Third Series, vol. VIII; Printing Historical Society Publications 18 (Oxford: The Oxford Bibliographical Society; London: Printing Historical Society, 2016). xvi + 289 pp. ISBN 9-780901-42059-6. ?57.20.

Johann Zainer and his elder brother Günther were inducted into the art of printing at Strasbourg by Johann Mentelin who must have learned it from Gutenberg himself. The Zainers moved to Augsburg around 1467, but in 1472 Johann established his own business at Ulm where, for a while at least, he flourished thanks to the municipal physician Heinrich Steinhöwel (†1478) who supplied him with projects to print and offered essential financial support. In the early 1470s, when the craft was barely twenty years old, printing techniques were very much still a matter of trial and error. In this excellent study, Clare Bolton describes Johann Zainer as 'a clumsy printer, leaving many marks on his printed pages' (p. 3), showing a lack of mastery of foliation when using Arabic numerals (p. 54) and considerable variation in the numbers of lines on a page suggesting 'anarchy in the print room' (p. 62). Precisely because his books show less technical skill than those of some other printers, they furnish telling clues as to his methods of working. To uncover these, Bolton has examined 244 copies, representing 38 editions of works printed by Zainer and dated or datable to between 1473 and 1478. Her approach combines meticulous observation of details, presented in good-quality illustrations embedded in the text at the point where they are being discussed, coupled with a fair amount of experimentation, informed by her own long experience as a practising printer, to try to recreate, however uncertainly, some of the practical realities faced by fifteenth-century printers. …

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