McKitterick 2003

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McKitterick, David. Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

The printed word and the modern bibliographer

"assumptions about the apparent authority of print, the reality of its creation, and the combination of conservatism with a creative training in readers, may be questioned, in order that we may better understand the expectations that have underlain a principal means of communication" (3)
"With some notable exceptions, this extra dimension, of time, is underestimated or ignored by many who have written about the creation of a book in the printing house." (7)
"Perceptions of books change with time;and with them there change also our ways of using and looking at books." (7)
"In amalgamating manuscripts of all kinds, old codices and contemporary papers, the librarians (and, be it added, booksellers) of the seventeenth century confirmed assumptions that had only ever been partially true: that printing displaced manuscripts, and that the two media were definable most appropriately by their means of production. Differences were more important than similarities. Such widespread and ever more deeply rooted assumptions have coloured understanding of the history of authorship, books and communication generally ever since. They have defined how our libraries are organised; and therefore how readers are encouraged to pursue their goals; and therefore how to think. In the interests of connoisseurship, itself defined according to headings based on this distinction, the bibliophile and art market reflects genres and nedia, rather than historical fact." (17)

Dependent skills

"By the seventeenth century, and for many purposes much earlier than that, to print was not just to give a wider circulation. For some -- if emphatically not for everyone -- it was to establish an authority." (27)
"The history of printing reveals less often a search for standardisation than for the formalisation of the written word and image, their setting out and reproduction in coherent and due order." (29)

for many readers "in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the differences between the printed and the manuscript word were less important than their similarities." (31)

"Pen and type were wielded together in order to produce fully functioning copies. Quite apart from the experiments of Schoeffer, and for many other kinds of books, the pen was an assumed part of the production process." (33)
"All the emphasis, by printers at the time and by others since, tends to be on the achievement of printing -- the innovation that transformed not only the production of books, but also the ways in which they could be employed. But in order to understand the nature of this revolution, it is helpful to ask the opposite question: what did printing not achieve? To answer part of this large and complicated question is to view the mid-fifteenth-century book not as a printed book to which manuscript marks were added, but as a book parts of which were printed." (34)
"The design of the page had, of course, to be modified by the mechanical limitations of type and of the printing press; but the essential features remained those of books: commonly held properties, appearances and (to a great extent) materials. Decoration and other guidance for the reader was not added in order to make a printed book look like a manuscript; it was added because that was expected of some kinds of books, for some audiences, markets or individuals. For many kinds of books, it was essential as a guide to the reader. The distinction may appear to be a subtle one; but it is fundamental to framing any coherent understanding of how printing attained its dominant position." (36-7)
"Demands for maps, diagrams of all kinds, technically ambitious features such as volvelles, sorts not available within the typographical resources of a particular printer: all were readily and easily answered in manuscript. In 1469, Ulrich Han, possessing no Greek type when he printed Cicero's Tusculanae quaestiones, left spaces into which it could be written. In 1579, the Edinburg printer John Ross similarly left spaces into which Greek or Hebrew was written." (38)
"Music printing offers a microcosm of the ways in which technical change, available equipment and customer need were accommodated one with the other. It was not developed to the point where both staves and notes were printed together until the 1470s. It remained an area for experiment, and for making do with lack of appropriate materials, for many years after that; and it is noticeable that even printers who possessed the requisite equipment do not appear to have used it consistently." (40)

Constance Gradual -- earliest book in which both staves and notes were printed together

"Notwithstanding questions of technical difficulty, or of investment in specialist type that might only be used occasionally, there were frequently commercial advantages to employing only a single impression, for one half of the process of reproducing music. In liturgical books, the blank staves permitted the insertion of local uses at the appropriate places, and so afforded a much wider circle for possible sales. Suitable hymns or other music could be added locally in manuscript, using either roman or gothic notation. In this way the ability of the printing press to produce many copies was accommodated to the otherwise comparatively small potential sales of some of these complex liturgical books." (41)
"Despite so much recent scholarly emphasis on decoration and on illumination, it remains that most books of this period, whether written or printed, were plain, and devoid of ornament. ... It should, however, be borne constantly in mind that the majority of surviving books printed in the second half of the fifteenth century, just as in later centuries to an ever increasing degree, had little orno manuscript decoration or other textual addition of any kind, not even rubrication." (43)
"The widespread practice of binding up manuscripts of like dimensions according to individual need or taste, well-established in the fifteenth century, was just one of many habits that did not die with the advent of the printed book. The Sammelband, assembled by owner, librarian or binder, was a feature familiar to libraries of all sizes, and offers its own commentary on ways of thought. By dismantling such volumes, the intellectual thread is broken." (51)

Dutch Plenariam, printed by Govaert Bac at Antwerp (1496), provided "at an early date withe xtra narratives of the Passion and gospels for various days, in a book used by a woman in Utrecth" (51)

Pictures in motley

"It is difficult to comprehend just how general was the practice of purchasing woodcuts or (more expensively, and therefore less frequently) engravings for insertion into manuscripts or into printed books. This is partly because, over the last two or three centuries, there has been a dividing of interests between manuscript and print. Innumerable print collectors and dealers have thought nothing of removing images from their fifteenth-century homes in order to integrate them into their own particular modern conceptions of collecting." (55)

separate sheets; many prints made by Martin Shongauer "were designed to be pasted into religious books, by their owners and not necessarily by their booksellers"; Albertus magnus, Mariale (1473); 16c Dutch prayer book "written out by a woman in her eighties, and decorated with a mixture of 95 engravings and woodcuts of the 15th and 16th centuries" -- "testify not only to bibliographical interlacing of a kind that has been largely destroyed, but also to ways of thinking about and using what was available" (56)

Hartmann Schedel; "occupies an unusual position as a humanist, a wealthy doctor and a voraciosu bibliophile"; "Besides his printed books, Schedel also wrote out manuscripts for himself. In these, he designed his pages so that woodcuts, metalcuts, engravings or painted miniatures could be inserted at appropriate places: thus his own books, destined for his private use, were designed from the first in mixed media." (58)

"It must be emphasised that the mixture of manuscript and print was in some respects only a minor development, in the sense that there were precedents. The practice of re-using pictures from older manuscripts, and pasting them into new ones, was grounded in custom." (60)
"As with so many historical phenomena, the roots are to be found in earlier generations. The development of early 15c Germany of small woodcuts, usually of a devotional nature, was intimately involved with a growing taste for pious iconography. woodcuts enabled more rapid production for changing needs, and some of the techniques of printing on cloth were adapted to printing on paper. Some of these cuts were intended to be pasted onto walls, or onto pieces of furniture or other household objects. Others found their way into manuscripts, either as illustrations having some immediate relevance to the text or as additional matter." (60-61)
"The unprecedented quantities of pictures loosed onto the market in the late fifteenth century, either in woodcut or, more expensively, in the new engravings, presented ever greater opportunities. In the southern Low Countries and in the lower Rhine region, print and manuscript were mingled in the organised manufacture of book illustrated with engravings whose quality has suggested the term 'mass production'. Coarse though much of this work is, such a term tends to distract from the range of artistic quality that is actually to be found. However, it does emphasise the purpose of these plates: to be used alongside manuscript texts whose script and presentation was otherwise in no way ambitious." (61)
"Small prints were excellently suited to circumstances where there was no desire or need for the services of a skilled artist. A leaf from a late 15c manuscript prayer book, now in Washington, bears a Flemish engraved and coloured Image of Pity, 39 mm. in diameter, pasted into an initial O, evidence of what was clearly a common practice." (62)
"The make-up of some of these small volumes, all of them of a religious nature, was designed so that the prints could not only be printed onto paper to be bound up, if wished, with the rest of the book (rather than be pasted in), but also to appear with a structural regularity. In other words, print and manuscript had been jointly conceived from the start; and there were elements actually in the design of the book that were intended to take advantage of different skills, or perhaps of different origins if the engravings had been obtained at some distance from the place of writing. The simplicity of printing from small woodcuts or engraved plates, requiring no press, permitted considerable scope in organisation of illustration and written pages, though the engraved plates seem generally to have been executed first -- the reverse order of later practice." (63)

A house of errors

Perfect and imperfect

The art of printing

"the evidence for many of the same processes is so much less explicitly prolific in the period after the mid-18th century. This is especially pertinent when we recall that the major technological revolutions in printing (or in papermaking, or in binding) did not occur until at least two generations later still" (168)
"The success of the various books, pamphlets and magazines that provided details of the technology of printing and its associated trades was a part of a wider culture of improvement that developed in the first half of the eighteenth century." (172)

Re-evaluation: towards the modern book

Machinery and manufacture

"By creating for the printing trade a historical context dating back three centuries, stationers and master printers gave a new status to the skills of the printer and to the organisation of the printing house." (209)
"The whole was, in Babbage's eyes, a series of copying processes. Since few of his readers were necessarily aware of the sequence, or its constituent parts, he set them out" :
  1. They are copies, by printing, from stereotype plates.
  1. These stereotype plates are copied, by the art of casting, from moulds formed of plaster of Paris.
  1. Those moulds are themselves copied by casting the plaster in a liquid state upon the movable types set up by the compositor. [It is here that the union of the intellectual and the mechanical department takes place. The mysteries, however, of an author's copying, form no part of our inquiry, although it may be fairly remarked, that, in numerous instances, the mental far eclipses the mechanical copist.]
  1. These movable types, the obedient messengers of the most oppiosit thoughts, the most conflicting theories, are themselves copies by casting from moulds of copper called matrices...
In his intervention, set in square brackets, Babbage sought to identify the moment when the manual became the mechanical, when the mind was obliged to release its control of what it had done. He emphasised that he had no concern at this moment with the author, but with processes of manufacture: the point at which hand-set type was finally captured, the letters that had been composed and set, sort by sort, in a composing stick, then transferred to a galley and then tied up into pages. The loose type became a fixed mass, a point of no return." (215)

Instabilities: the inherent and the deliberate

"The pedigree of this condition of instability may be traced back to the nature of the changes in procedures and methods of book production in the mid-15th century. Instability is characteristic of each stage in the production of a book even after it has left the author's hands." (218)
"the printed word or image exists within a set of technologically established rules and conventions, and is thereby defined. As we have seen, even such stability may itself be a delusion. The modern concept that equates an edition with uniformity forgets the historical burden of such terms: that they imply series of compromises which are the result of the processes of manufacture. But these same words and images are also endlessly mobile in another way, in that each generation and each individual applies subjective as well as received understanding to what is seen, and so interprets differently as societies and as individuals." (222)
"So far from conceiving a single author, a person whose existence was given full legal status in Britain only in 1710, who was granted only a strictly limited life (on more nearly his or her own terms, rather than solely on those of others) in 1774 when copyright was confirmed as not being perpetual, and whose very existence has been questioned by some modern literary theory, we may not transfer from maker to made, and speak of texts -- literally a weaving together of different contributions." (225)