The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Fifteenth Century Books Part 4

One of the best known of these devices is the anchor and dolphin of Aldus of Venice, which made its first appearance in 1502. Among other notable examples are the fleur-de-lis of the Giuntas, the compass of Plantin of Antwerp, and, somewhat later, the sphere of the Elzevirs. A favorite form in France, as well as in this country, was the canting device, containing punning allusion to the name of the printer: the galley of the Paris printer Galliot du Pre; the griffin of Gryphius of Lyons; the mill and miller of Scotland's first printer, Androw Myllar; and the tun embodied in the devices of Grafton, Norton, and other English printers whose names ended in 'ton.' Badius Ascensius, the sixteenth century scholar-printer of Paris, adopted as his mark a scene in a printing office with a press at work.

John of Westphalia, a busy printer at Louvain from 1474 to 1496, occasionally used a small woodcut portrait of himself; and the English Elizabethan printer John Day also displayed his portrait, but in larger and handsomer fashion. Besides this, Day had another device, depicting a sleeper being awakened, with the motto 'Arise, for it is Day.' It was not till near the end of his career that Caxton made use of his well-known bold device. For a time the sizes of printed books followed the lead set by manuscripts. Certain works, such as Biblefj, books of canon law, and the commentaries of the schoolmen usually took the shape of ponderous volumes in large folio. What may be called the two standard sizes were the ordinary folio, standing about 12 inches high, used for books that could pretend to any importance; and the quarto, measuring about 71 by 6 inches, a favourite size for works of small extent or popular in character. An especially large number of these quartos were printed by Ulrich Zell, the first printer in Cologne, and by Richard Paffroed and Jacobus de Breda, the two fifteenth-century printers at Deventer. Smaller sizes were comparatively uncommon, and were generally reserved for books of devotion and similar religious works.

Various estimates have been made of the number of different books and editions printed in the fifteenth century, mostly varying from 25,000 to 30,000; and some have even attempted to compute the total number of volumes printed: but these are rather fruitless speculations. It is of more interest to know that of the whole output, approximately rather more than one-third was produced in Italy, about one third in Germany, while somewhat less than a third represents the combined effort of all the other countries. /p>




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