Landau and Parshall 1994

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Landau, David and Peter Parshall. The Renaissance Print: 1470-1550. New Haven: Yale, 1994.

"To what extent did the print revolutionize the transfer of knowledge in the early modern world?" (V)

"Though the study is laden with references to the history of the book and to book illustration, in general we have not entered directly into this crucial aspect of early printmaking as a problem in itself on the grounds that it properly merits separate treatment." (Vi)

Framing the Renaissance Print

Woodblock printing on paper by end of 14c in Europe (earlier, woodblocks used on textiles)-- intaglio "undertaken in a serious way during the 1430s somewhere along th eUpper Rhine region of southwestern Germany," adapting techniques from gold/metalsmithing (1)

PAPER! "The one pratical ingredient required by all printmakers was a supply of paper in sufficient quantity to make printing worthwhile. The nature and availability of paper was indeed the critical factor in bringing about the success of the new medium." (1-2)

First woodcuts: inexpensive devotional images, "designed, cut, and printed in small monastic workshops or by independent craftsmen, including playing-card makers" (2) -- sometimes termed "saint makers" or "Jesus makers" in archival records

Convents -- "we have an inventory of a convent in the Flemish town of Mechelen in the 1460s which housed some sort of press along with a set of woodblocks for printing images." (2) --> note about this:

"J. W. Enschede, 'Een Drukkerij buiten Mechelen voor 1466,' Het Boek 7 (1918), pp. 286-92. The inventory was compiled on the occasion of the death of the Abbess of Bethania, and includes reference to nine woodblocks ('novem printe lignee ad imprimendas ymagines'), some sort of press apparatus ('primo unum instrumentum ad imprimandas scripturas et ymagines cum diversis modici valoris asseribus, una lectita sine lecto'), and various other trappings. The evidence for monastic sponsorship or production is concentrated in northern Europe. See Hind, History of Woodcut, I, p. 108, for a list of cases. The classic study of the early devotional woodcut is Adolf Spamer, Das kleine Andachtsbild vom XIV. Bis zum XX Jahrundert (Munich, 1925). Richard S. Field, 'Woodcuts from Altomunster,' Gutenberg Jahrbuch (1969), pp. 183-211, cites a document for an expensive paper purchase (p. 184) that suggests some of these houses may have produced very large editions of prints. See also H. D. Saffrey, 'L'arrivee en France de saint Francois de Paue et l'imagerie populaire a Toulouse au XVe siecle,' Nouvelles de l'estampe, no. 86 (May 1986), pp. 6-23, for monastic woodcuts in France."

Woodcut quickly tied to book printing in second half of 15c -- easiest way to illustrate text printed with movable type -- helped develop a market outside of that for devotional imagery -- "In many respects the early woodcut had a history very much its own, more closely connected to the activities of illuminators and other bookmen than to intaglio printing. Given the differences in origin, in working procedure, and in milieu, it was only around 1500 that the woodcut began to realize an important kinship with the engraved print." (3)

Intaglio printing seems to have arisen in same area where Gutenberg introduced movable type; this is "tantalizing and suggestive" -- was their a common etiology for invention of printing and moveable type? -- yet very different processes, useing different presses

Earliest italian engravings used technique (niello) different from that in Mainz

Early engravings more wideranging in subject than just devotional prints of woodcuts; "These non-religious preoccupations find their closest parallel in decorated metalwork, tapestry, and other luxury items such as carved ivory mirrors and jewelry boxes." -- some assume, then, a wealthier clientele, but not clear; artisans also needed figural models, etc.

Master of the Playing Cards -- engravings from 1430

Around 1470s, character of printmaking began to change; rise of "peintre-graveurs", name Adam Bartsch gave for masters who were painters who saw printmaking as extension of painter's art

Housebook Master; drypoints that could only print maybe a dozen, not made for mass market

Israhel van Meckenem, first printmaker to sign his work

"The luxury printed book was caught in a commercial and aesthetic struggle with the illuminated manuscript, a struggle that the former was destined to win for obvious practical reasons. But the period of competition led to experiments in which each mode of production adopted certain techniques and formal tendencies of the other. This development was critical for the evolution of the woodcut medium in that it eventually led to the rise of block cutters skilled in translating increasingly more intricate designs into relief for the type press. The consequent migration of woodcut-making from monastic contexts and the pedestrian workshops of cardmakers to the more demanding ateliers of bookprinters both secularized and professionalized the skill. Woodcut design and block cutting became sought-after and highly valued specializations in the last quarter of the fifteenth century." (5)

Examples of prints beginning to be collected in incunable period: print album of Jacopo Rubieri da Parma, Album of Jakub Beg in Istanbul containing 15c Italian engravings along with many other images of Turkish, Persian, and Chinese origin, harmann Schedel of Nuremberg's humanist library which "harbored large numbers of engravings and woodcuts pasted into his printed books and manuscripts" (5)

Peintre-graveurs flourished only for a few generations; "once printers were confronted with the obvious commercial opportunities presented by thep rint, the inventor became less important than the execution. This we can see anticipated by the emergence of the professional woodblock cutters in the 16c, among them many enterprising craftsmen who became small-time printers on their own, printers who ultimately pioneered the way to the large-scale publishing houses of mid-century" (6)

Craft Guilds, Workshops, and Supplies

Visual arts lumped together in guilds, but "Prints were especially inclined to elude conventional definition within he crafts. The planing and finishing of woodblocks and the cutting of their designs required the tools of the cabinetmaker and the sculptor. However, these tools were being used in order to make images on paper, typically a matter for the illuminators. An engraver, on the other hand, employed the tools and the materials of a metalsmith, but once again to different ends. Furthermore, the print meant relatively large-scale production slated for an open market rather than working under commission, and this sometimes involved another guild with priority in governing the trade in small objects." (7)

Composing a print not much different than painter's art, drafting; cutting it closer to metalworker -- early on, no exclusive guild for printmakers

Crafts related by tool and material -- ex. of carpenter Flotner who published his designs in woodcut prints

"Free arts" in Nuremberg: not bound by rules of guild or town councils; woodblock cutters and designers fall under this rubric, would be commissioned by printers for designs

"A survey of those towns spawning lively communities of printmakers reveals one significant attribute all of them held in common: the presence of an important book printing industry. Antwerp, Strasbourg, Basel, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Florence, and Venice were all major forces in printing through the early decades of the 16c." (10)

Book printing sometimes a "free art" but prints might voluntarily join a merchants guild; others operated outside the guilds

"As printing supplanted scriptoria, many illuminators, draftsmen, calligraphers, and others went with the independent printers, resulting in a decline in guild membership and finances." (11) -- resulting trend toward civic control of printing in response

"Unlike painters' workshops that were only partly engaged in printmaking, the book publishers frequently operated on a very large scale, were heavily staffed, and depended upon considerable sums of capital investment. Publishers therefore often surfaced among the entrepreneurial elite close to the centers of economic and political power. Several factors encouraged the larger publishers towards monopoly. It was once assumed that no exclusive and officially chartered corporation of printers came into being in Europe prior to the Venetian giuld stet up in 1548, followed by the London Company of Stationers in 1557. However, it appears that informal conclaves,and certain close business dealings among publishers, had been the practice long before." -- in Lyons, small number of powerful investors without printing houses "underwrote publications which they farmed out to various presses. Printers' guilds eventually were formed in order to resist the control exercised by this kind of financial oligarchy." (11)

Itineracy among printers and printmakers; family workshops, especially among cardmakers; "Women also played a role in printmaking workshops, most often as illuminators who hand-colored prints, but occasionally also as woodblock cutters." (11)

"In a testament from January 1531, 'Katherina Hetwigin formschneiderin' of Nuremberg lists her meager belongings, and notes that she is owed seven gulden for a cut woodblock in the possession of Pfaltzgraf Friederich in the Neuenmarckt. Johann Neudorfer remarks in his chronicle of 1547 that George Glockendon's daughters worked alongside him at his Nuremberg corner press. What evidence there is suggests that women labored primarily in subordinate roles, though it is surely significant that in Antwerp and Brussels, in the Netherlands, and very likely elsewhere, they were being admitted to the guilds."" (12)

"The increasingly indirect relation of maker to purchaser entailed in printmaking meant that speculation and experimentation became guiding principles within the aesthetic and iconographic preferences of the medium. Printers were quintessentially an open market commodity, and being relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute, they were supple in their ability to respond to the interests of their audience." (12)

Best archive of Renaissance printmaker's workshop comes from posthumous inventory of Francesco Rosselli (called Matassa), a Florentine merchant who died intestate in 1525; owned a substantial atelier for the printing and selling of maps, woodcuts, and engravings -- maybe not printing them himself, but acquiring them from printmakers; "the 1527 inventory is predominantly the recrod fo a printmakers workshop as it was in the first decade of the century, if not earlier" -- bc he inherited it from his father (13)

Major inventory of Cornelis Bos, printmaker in Antwerp; accused of heresy, he fled, and his household goods were confiscated, inventored, and sold in 1544-1545

Paper: made in large quantities in Italy and France already by 14c

Note 64: "Eva Ziesche and Dierk Schnitger, 'Elektronenradiographische Untersuchungen der Wasserzeichen des Mainzer Catholicon von 1460,' Archiv fur Geschichte des Buchwesens 21 (1980), cols. 1303-60, studies the paper stocks used for printing this incunabulum by photographing and comparing the sieves and their watermarks, identifying specific molds and pairs of molds, and thereby constructing a chronology for the use of paper in the printing. Such an investigation could be usefully applied to something like the 1511 edition of Albrecht Durer's three Large Books."

Watermark could indicate paper's quality or size, not necessarily source

Watermark paired with countermark enables more precision

"A careful look at the evidence makes clear that we know far less about printin gpresses in this period than the literature often assumes. Most scholarsly have simply imagined the regular availability of woodblock presses from the time of Gutenberg on and of roller presses from at least the latter part of the fifteenth century. Though this presumption is reasonable for woodblock presses, it is much less certain for intaglio presses." (28)

Portable presses: "Emperor Maximilian retained a portable type press for publishing his various pronouncements on his travels." (29)

Presses would be handmade and custom built by carpenters and screwmakers; could be made cheaper and smaller for printmakers, bigger and more sturdy with an iron screw for active presses -- "Perhaps there were tabletop models as simple as a bookbinder's press, or for that matter something like the average linen press employed in any well-outfitted middle-class household."

Borders around woodcuts and flights of birds serve to balance the block; "Lucas Cranach actually placed triads of dots at strategic points in the blank areas of his compositions for this purpose. Failing such precautions, the dampened paper would often sag into the irregularly chiseled depressions on the block and become badly smudged with ink." (29)

"Where we find blinding printing [blind impressions] it is good evidence that a powerfully constructed press was in use." (29)

Intaglio impressions in 15c maybe taken from hand-rolling a large drum over the sheet -- see Bos's inventory; first secure reference to a roller press is in the inventory of a Flemish book printer and dealer's shpo in Mechelen in 1540 (30)

Abraham Bosse's 17c treatise on engraving gives first description of how a roller press was built

Probably easy to append printmaking operation to a painters shop, but little evidence of contracts showing rates of production

A good engraving, even a small one, probably took at least a week of work; an etching, maybe a day

200 good impressions from a plate, maybe; plate exhausted after 3000

How Prints became Works of Art: The First Generation

"it has been calculated that fully one-third of all books printed before 1500 were illustrated. Nevertheless, the book industry has rarely been acknowledged as the dominant and moving factor in the emergence of the print as an independent art form of aesthetic statute and commercial success. Yet the fact is that those areas in which important schools of relief printmaking arose were also closely tied to the book industry." (33)

Early supreme achievement in woodcut illutration: Bernard von Breydenbach, Peregrinationes in Terram Sanctum (Mainz 1486)

Failed early project to illustrated printed text with engraving: Botticellie's drawings for Divine Comedy, abandoned in early stages

Stampiglia, basic woodcut stamp used to print a simple outline for coloring in; Venetian style of woodcuts with sparse lines may have originated from the technical limitations of stampiglia (36) -- these early Venetian illustratiosn were stamped into copies by hands after book was bound; "very few fifteenth-century Venetian books actually contained true woodcut illustrations"; same across Itally -- printers only had fonts and initiatils, illustrations were controled by guild of illuminators

Important projects in history of development of woodcut:

  • Koberger, influential printer in Nuremberg, responsible for Nuremberg Chronicle; project was a major collaboration in book illustration, involving printer, author Hartmann Schedel, two financial contributers, and two painters who were responsible for managing illustrations and woodcuts; example of printer being essentially "job printer" to financer-publishers; painters were not subordinates but entrepreneurs and almost-equal partners -- Another large illustration project financed by one of same "publishers," Archetypus triumphantis Romae -- never completed, possibly because of expense of designing and cutting blocks
  • Anton Kolb and Jacopo de' Barbari's View of Venice; appealed to Venetian authorities mentioned no woodcut of that size had been attemptend before; paper is larger than usual sheet of paper and may have been made special for the project, too; sold for 3 ducats a copy (twice as much as Nuremberg Chronicle wholesaled for!); "the undertaking itself and its technical achievement depended upon the entrepreneurial and artisanal expertise of Nuremberg as well as Venice"; conception derives from Reuwich's fold-out view of city in Breydenbach's Peregrinationes in Terram Santam, and orientation comes from Nuremberg Chronicle

Wolgemut, house draftsman for Koberger, trained Durer

Engravings not closely tied to book printing; earliest engravings in North may have been copies of more famous works of arts, part of a market for copies (47) -- maybe just more widespread conservative visual tradition, rather than reverence for specific masterpieces

Engravers catering to open-ended audience, had to come up with fresh designs themselves; woodcutters by contrast often catered to publishers needs

Around 1550, embroiderer Hans Plock of Halle "tuerned his two-volume edition of Luther's Bible into a kind of picture album. He ornamented the Bible with a selection of Grunewald'ds drawings as well as larger number of other drawings, engravings, and woodcuts which he pasted in between passages of text and onto the endpapers at the back." ( 52)

Master of E. S. Introduced printmaking on a large scale to Northern Europe; Schongauer carried it to technical refinement; Israhel van Meckenem realized its full potential as a commercial enterprise -- copying, pirating, reproducing images, including first engraved indulgence (57)

"Part of Israhel van Meckenem's genius for the market rested on what we would currently term 'packaging'. For example, like Schongauer he published a number of prints in small sets and cycles especially suitable for pasting into devotional books as illustrations or bound together and sold in suites. A bound copy of Israhel's Passion cycle was printed with two scenes to a sheet arranged so as to be folded into a quire. That is to say, the engravings were printed in pairs, not according to the Passion story but so that they would follow the proper sequence after they were bound together." (58)

Banderoles, left blank; "may serve as an invitation to interpret, to provide a witty aphorism for the subject; in this sense they represent an artist's ploy to engage the ingenuity of his client in playing at inventing a subject." (62)

"The happy and frequent combinations of printed images with inscriptions in the north results partly from the practical fact that woodcuts and engravings could so easily accommodate texts. But at a more complex level, the interplay of pictures and texts reflects a clientele that had as yet no sufficient aesthetic rationale for attending to or possessing an image for its own sake. Thus, an important endeavor of printmakers during the last quarter of the century was precisely tofind ways of making printedd images self-sufficient by providing them with the means for their own interpretation. The difficulty of managing this task without the help of words has much to dow ith the close association we find between prints and texts in our period, not just in book illustration but in the single-leaf print as well. This was a relationship that evolved over the Renaissance into a particular fondness for allegorical subjects, personifications, emblems, and literary conceits, as well as into more popular expressions such as broadsheets and instructional posters. Many prints were simply meant to be 'read' in the manner of an exemplum or an aphorism." (62)

Best early evidence of collecting: Hartmann Schedel; acquired several hundred prints during his lifetime, some 300 of which he used to ornament the books in his library (many now at Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich); loose sheets pasted onto boards at the front and back of his codices and blank pages; many hand colored (badly), "most likely by Schedel himself"; "Often the relation between the subject of an image and the text it accompanies is indirect if not completely irrelevant" but sometimes seems determined (64)

"The practice of pasting prints into books must have been very common, since so many prints were made in series as though they were intended to be kept together in this way, perhaps specifically intended as cycles of illustration for certain books ... I twas not a large step for someone like Schedel to begin to use prints rather randomly as book illustrations." (64)

Jacopo di Rubieri / Jacobus de Ruberiis; notary born in Parma around 1430, who moved around a lot; in Biblioteca Classense of Ravenna is a collection of his notebooks that have 46 wooducts, 4 engravings, and one dotted print pasted in. "Rubieri used the prints he acquired to adorn a mixed collation of juridical notes, mostly put together in the latter part of his life, and of which only five volumes divided in seven tomes have survived, although more must have existed, since he refers to others in his writings. Most of the prints were removed from the pages in 1938 in a destructive 'conservation program'; only two pages decorated with prints -- the ones in Pesaro -- have survived intact. From these, and from an incomplete set of photographs taken before 'restoration,' we can form an idea of what the original Rubieri albums looked like. It appears that he used these prints, mainly woodcuts, to enliven the pages of his causidical notes by pasting them onto the blank pages in between sections of text, although in most cases there was no meaningful relationship between the two." (91)

All religious subjects (with one exception -- ship) in a secular book; "This assemblage of prints may therefore represent a record of the shrines and places of pilgrimage he visited, or it may reflect a conscious effort to compile a rich variety of images." (91)