The History of Printing

Eras and Geographies

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The history of the technology of type is very poorly documented, which is why I've had to reprint so much elsewhere on CircuitousRoot. By way of contrast, the history of printing is much better documented (for certain periods, at least) and for the most part better sources exist. This Notebook simply contains a few random items that I didn't wish to misplace.

See also A Typographer's Florilegium for (random) examples. For the history of type making and letterform design, see Type & Type-Making History and Design.

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The Geography of Printing

(So far just a few notes on Chicago.)

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The "Artistic Printing" Era

[NOT DONE] The great figures of the "Heroic Age" of American printing (q.v.) despised the late 19th century period of "Artistic Printing." They were wrong, and if you still agree with them you remain blinkered by the ideology of early modernism. The era of Artistic Printing represents a high water mark in type and printing in America.

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Late 19th Century

[NOT DONE] By separating the "Artistic Printing" movement of the late 19th century (above) and the "Heroic Age" of the early 20th century (below), I've boxed myself into a corner. Many fine printers (but not necessarily Fine Printers) of the late 19th century did not subscribe to the Artistic Printing movement and had more in common either with simple mainstream commercial printing as it has always been or with the Fine Printers of the early 20th century. Theodore Low DeVinne would be chief among these. But these printers are perhaps the most neglected in American history. Colonial printers have been studied well. The Fine Printers of the Heroic Age were the best there ever were (we know this is true because they told us so). Even the long-despised Artistic Printing movement is getting some attention now. But with the exception of DeVinne, ordinary good 19th century printing is little remembered.

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The "Heroic Age" of American Printing

The period of Joseph Blumenthal, Will Bradley, Thomas Cleland, Oz Cooper, William Addison Dwiggins, Edwin & Robert Grabhorn, Frederic W. Goudy, Carl Purington Rollins, John Henry Nash, Will Ransom, Bruce Rogers, William Edwin Rudge, Daniel Berkeley Updike, et. al. The list of names alone defines an era of work. This period, modernist by the calendar but emerging from the Arts & Crafts movement, still represents the accepted idea of fine printing in America.


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