The Period before Printed Books


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In the 15th century, printing with stamps was already known. Leather book bindings were stamped using single letters and decorative stamps in a rotogravure process to produce entire texts and complicated ornaments.

Leather book binding, ornaments made by stamps.
On the right: detail

Konrad Forster, a monk at the Dominican Monastery in Nuremberg, used this technique from 1431 until his death in 1459/60. Evidence of this is found on the bindings of texts where references to himself as a bookbinder and dedications to the persons who did the illuminations are usually found.

It is assumed that Gutenberg, during his period in Strassburg from 1440 on, was aware of Forster's work and this technique. Stamp printing can to a certain extent be viewed as a kind of forerunner to the invention of letterpress printing.

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Gutenberg's Epoch-Making Achievement