Printing and Topography

Gerard Meerman
Origines typographicae
The Hague [etc.]: Nicolaus van Daalen [etc.], 1765

Origines typographicae, written by the Dutch jurist and bibliophile Gerard Meerman (1722 ­ 1771), examines the problem of the earliest forms of movable printing type. Marked irregularities in the types used in the first printed books led some later scholars to conclude that movable wooden type was used prior to cast metal type. While Meerman agreed that the very earliest printed works could not have been produced using movable cast metal type, he argued instead that the first movable types were fashioned from type shanks cast in four-sided molds. After these shanks had cooled, the "faces" (the letters or characters) were then carved by hand. As ingenious as Meerman's theory may be, later scholarship has all but proven that the first known printing shops such as those of Laurens Coster (fl. 1440) in Haarlem and Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1400-ca. 1467) in Mainz did employ movable cast metal type made with letter punch, matrix, and mold.

Pierre Simon Fournier
Les caractères de l'imprimerie
Paris, 1764

Pierre Simon Fournier (1712-1768), a member of the famous family of French printers, was one of the finest engravers and type-founders of the eighteenth century. Fournier was a consummate craftsman and artist who designed many new styles and characters of type, made important advances in music type, and produced tasteful emblems and ornamentation. He also developed a point system for standardizing the sizes of type and published several popular works which stimulated public interest in printing and typography. Les caractères de l'imprimerie (1764) is a specimen book of type similar to a larger collection found in Fournier's monumental Manuel typographique (1764 ­ 1766). Assembled in the Manuel are types which Fournier designed, those inherited from his family's business, and some on loan from noted shops in Germany and France. Fournier's foundry was celebrated throughout Europe, supplying many printers with a great variety of exquisite type.

Jean-François-Auguste Bastard d'Estang
Peintures et ornements des manuscrits
[Paris, 1835 ­ 1848]

Efforts toward the exact reproduction of medieval illuminated manuscripts began in the seventeenth century following the developments made in printing and engraving. With the invention of lithography at the end of the eighteenth century, it soon became possible to reproduce mechanically numerous facsimiles of precious manuscripts, duplicating the colors as well as the design of the original. A skilled and industrious early exponent of this use of chromo-lithography was the Count Bastard d'Estang (1792­ 1883). His most extensive project, Peintures et ornements des manuscrits, was originally conceived as a series of iso plates treating major schools of illumination from the fourth through sixteenth centuries. The revolution of 1848, however, deprived the Count of essential royal funding, and production of the grand and costly edition largely ceased. Published plates reproduce a variety of manuscripts, including Byzantine, Merovingian, and Gothic examples.