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Early Printing
by [?]

[Footnote 2: They are small square blocks of metal, with the name in raised letters within a border, precisely similar to those used by the modern printer. Sometimes the stamp was round, or in the shape of a foot or hand, with the potter’s name in the centre. They were in constant use for impressing the clay-works which supplied the wants of a Roman household. The list of potters’ marks found upon fragments discovered in London alone amounts to several hundreds.]

[Footnote 3: Another reason for the omission of a great initial is given. There was difficulty in obtaining such enriched letters by engraving as were used in manuscripts; and there was at this time a large number of professional scribes, whose interests were in some degree considered by the printer. Hence we find in early books a large space left to be filled in by the hand of the scribe with the proper letter indicated by a small type letter placed in the midst. The famous Psalter printed by Faust and Scheffer, at Mentz, in 1497, is the first book having large initial letters printed in red and blue inks, in imitation of the handwork of the old caligraphers.]

[Footnote 4: The British Museum now possesses a remarkably fine series of these early works. They originated in the large sheet woodcuts, or “broadsides,” representing saints, or scenes from saintly legends, used by the clergy as presents to the peasantry or pilgrims to certain shrines–a custom retained upon the Continent to the present time; such cuts exhibiting little advance in art since the days of their origin, being almost as rude, and daubed in a similar way with coarse colour. One ancient cut of this kind in the British Museum, representing the Saviour brought before Pilate, resembles in style the pen-drawings in manuscripts of the fourteenth century. Another exhibits the seven stages of human life, with the wheel of fortune in the centre. Another is an emblematic representation of the Tower of Sapience, each stone formed of some mental qualification. When books were formed, a large series of such cuts included pictures and type in each page, and in one piece. The so-called Poor Man’s Bible (an evidently erroneous term for it, the invention of a bibliographer of the last century) was one of these, and consists of a series of pictures from Scripture history, with brief explanations. It was most probably preceded by the block books known as the Apocalypse of St. John, the Cantico Canticorum, and the Ars Memorandi.]

[Footnote 5: This was Raoul le Fevre’s Recueil des Histoires de Troye, a fanciful compilation of adventures, in which the heroes of antiquity perform the parts of the preux chevaliers of the middle ages. It was “ended in the Holy City of Colen,” in September, 1471. The first book printed by him in England was The Game and Playe of the Chesse, in March, 1474. It is a fanciful moralization of the game, abounding with quaint old legends and stories.]

[Footnote 6: Robert Stephens was the most celebrated of a family renowned through several generations in the history of printing. The first of the dynasty, Henry Estienne, who, in the spirit of the age, latinized his name, was born in Paris, in 1470, and commenced printing there at the beginning of the sixteenth century. His three sons–Francis, Robert, and Charles–were all renowned printers and scholars; Robert the most celebrated for the correctness and beauty of his work. His Latin Bible of 1532 made for him a great reputation; and he was appointed printer to Francis I. A new edition of his Bible, in 1545, brought him into trouble with the formidable doctors of the Sorbonne, and he ultimately left Paris for Geneva, where he set up a printing-office, which soon became famous. He died in 1559. He was the author of some learned works, and a printer whose labours in the “noble art” have never been excelled. He left two sons–Henry and Robert–also remarkable as learned printers; and they both had sons who followed the same pursuits. There is not one of this large family without honourable recognition for labour and knowledge, and in their wives and daughters they found learned assistants. Chalmers says–“They were at once the ornament and reproach of the age in which they lived. They were all men of great learning, all extensive benefactors to literature, and all persecuted or unfortunate.”]

[Footnote 7: Plantin’s office is still existing in Antwerp, and is one of the most interesting places in that interesting city. It is so carefully preserved, that its quadrangle was assigned to the soldiery in the last great revolution, to prevent any hostile incursion and damage. It is a lonely building, in which the old office, with its presses and printing material, still remains as when deserted by the last workman. The sheets of the last books printed there are still lying on the tables; and in the presses and drawers are hundreds of the woodcuts and copperplates used by Plantin for the books that made his office renowned throughout Europe. In the quadrangle are busts of himself and his successors, the Morels, and the scholars who were connected with them. Plantin’s own room seems to want only his presence to perfect the scene. The furniture and fittings, the quaint decoration, leads the imagination insensibly back to the days of Charles V.]