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


type areas

Definition: 1. written part of a page in a manuscript; 2. in printed matter: position and dimensions of the type area on the page and the relationship to the surrounding white margins.

type size

Definition: height of the typeface, measured from the top of the ascender to the bottom of the descender; expressed in number of (Didot or pica) points.

type-casting machines

Definition: machine used in a foundry to cast individual letters.

type casting

Definition: the manual or mechanical making of printing type from molten lead by means of casting moulds.

type foundries

Definition: establishment or company where type material is cast.

type founders

Definition: someone who practises the craft of casting type material.

type designs

Definition: process of designing new typefaces; from the first drawing on paper up to and including the assessment of the typographical result.

type designers

Definition: person who designs new typefaces.

type cutters

Definition: person who designs metal letters (for hand composition) and makes punches of them that can be used for making matrices.

type families

Definition: indication of the versions in which a typeface can be designed, e.g. roman or italic, light-face or bold, narrow and wide, etc.

machine-cast type

Definition: type made by means of a type-casting machine.

type areas

Definition: rectangle within which, on a page, text and possibly illustrations are printed.