Letterpress Printing

Page 4 of 4



The first printed works were printed only in black. All of the colored components of the text, for example splendid initials, colored column headings and even lavish foliage, but also rubrications were added later by hand. The reader should not immediately notice that these were printed works. They were supposed to resemble manuscripts as closely as possible. Gutenberg even took the trouble not only of manufacturing one galley for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet - a logical step - but also of creating several versions of each letter - each slightly different from the other. Moreover he also produced numerous sequences of letters, called ligatures. Altogether he developed more than 290 different types of his alphabet. The end-result made machine-printed books appear to be hand-written.

When you touch this detail of the Bible with your mouse, you can see how the page looked like before the rubricator had done his work.

After the printing, illuminators and rubricators colored and decorated the pages. This did not usually take place in the printing shop but was carried out by painting schools and commissioned by the buyer. Finally the individual pages were assembled into quires and these were bound into complete volumes.


Bookbinder - Woodcut of J. Amman 1568

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4


The "Work of the Books"