1.2.1: 1460 - 1585 - Introduction

The production of printed books required much stricter organisation than the production of manuscripts, although the level of organisation of large scriptoria should not be underestimated. The production of a book, whatever its size, has always been, and still is, a process highly dependent on communication and that requires co-ordination. Printing brought new requirements for co-operation between the various people involved in the distinct processes of a printing house.

Organising is thinking ahead. Before a book could be taken in production, the printer-publisher had to procure the materials (paper or vellum, cast type, ink) as well as the capital required for financing the enterprise. He had to own one or more printing presses. He had to find and contract compositors and printers who had the necessary skills, and who were prepared to remain employed at least until the job was finished. He himself or his foreman had to ensure that they all worked together well and that they would take account of the interventions of a corrector, if there was one. And above all, the master printer had to ensure that texts were available that would make all this investment and effort worthwhile. Procuring texts was a permanent problem, whether it was from libraries that possessed valuable texts or from authors who had written new texts that were not less valuable.

The transmission and dissemination of texts is one of the main reasons for studying the production methods of early printers. A detailed analysis may lead to understanding the procedures of the printing house that produced a particular result. The preparatory calculation of a text for printer's copy, the work of the compositors, proof correction, the operation of the press and possible stop-press correction during printing, the gathering and storage of sheets and finally the consignment and trade in the finished books can all leave traces in the printed texts that are passed on to us.

author: L. Hellinga


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