Uses for prints in a pre-1600 world: an ongoing series

It can be very hard to understand not only the importance, but the scope, of printed materials in the Pre-Industrialised world. It’s easy to come up with the analogy of the printing press being ‘the computer of Medieval/Renaissance/Early Modern Europe’, but that misses so many facets of the reality of the situation that I feel less and less inclined to use it.

In the modern era, the majority of people look at the many forms of visual, fine and technical arts (however you would care to categorise them) in a pure or decorative sense, print included. You may purchase a print, in the same way you might purchase a hand-woven scarf, and see it as a beautiful object (and it is), but there is usually a genuine disconnect not only with the process from start to finish, but the significance of the process, or indeed the many processes involved along the way. Exploring that process is, of course, the main objective of this website.

Yet just as we have lost a deeper understanding/appreciation of the process, I believe we have also lost a genuine appreciation of how important the use of print (both relief and intaglio) was across all classes of society, with applications which we would never consider.

There were so many different uses for prints in pre-1600th century Europe that one article will not be enough to go into any depth. Rather, this post will serve as a starting or collection point for a series of posts on various applications of printmaking. As they appear on 21st Century Renaissance Printmaker, they will also be linked back here to create a resource.

Most of the articles will be based on images of extant examples. As many of the images have been collected over a number of years, in various formats (and on different electronic devices), it won’t be possible to credit the source of all of the images used. Most of them come from museum sites, but I would ask that if you know the source (or are the source) of an image, and would like to be credited, please contact me, and I will do so.

Topics so far:

Book Plates or Ex Libris

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