The Printed Book

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

Spread of the Printing Arts

For a few years Mainz held a monopoly of printing, but by 1461 the new art had been carried to Strassburg and to Bamberg; and soon, aided probably by the disturbed state of Mainz in 1462, it spread abroad to other places. At Cologne, Ulrich Zell, who set up a press there in 1466, was folwwed by upwards of thirty other craftsmen before the end of the century. Two years later Gunther Zainer produced the first dated Augsburg book, and the incunabula printed at this important home of wood engraving include a considerable number of illustrated works. Nuremberg saw its first press in 1470. The most prolific printer in that busy centre of the book trade was Anton Koberger, printer of that somewhat over-rated book the Nuremberg Ohronicle of 1493. Other towns followed in rapid succession, and by the end of the century printing had been practised in ~fty-one towns in Germany.

In the meantime the invention had found its way into other countries. Italy received it at the hands of two Germans, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold P.annartz, who, in 1465, set up a press in the Benedictine monastery at Subiaco. After printing four books there, the first of which was the ubiquitous Donatus, they moved on to Rome in 1467. Apparently, success did not attend their enterprise, for in March 1472 they sought the aid of Pope Sixtus IV. Their plea, which discloses some interesting details concerning the operations of their press, gives a list of the twenty-eight different works they had up to that time printed, with the 'J number of copies of each, usually 275. Including separate editions of these twenty-eight books, they had printed in all a total of 11,475 volumes.

Rome was followed by Venice in 1469, and more printers worked in Venice during the fifteenth century than in any other town. These, about 150 in number, included Nicolas Jenson, notable for the beauty of his roman letter; Erhard Ratdolt, from Augsburg, whose books, mainly mathematical and astronomical, are adorned with some particularly fine ornamental borders; Bonetus LocateUus, whose books are more numerous than interesting; and Aldus Manutius, of world-wide fame. At Milan, which in company with Florence and five other Italian towns first adopted the art in 1471, was published the earliest book printed in Greek, the Grammar of Lascaris (1476); and the editio princeps of Homer issued from a Florence press in 1488. Printing now spread very rapidly through Italy, the pioneers in many cases being Germans; and by the year 1500, presses had been at work in more than seventy different towns 'South of the Alps. France, also, was indebted to German workmen for the new art, and Paris was the first town to receive it. It was at the instance of two of the professors that Martin Crantz, Ulrich Gering, and Michael Friburger started an active press at the Sorbonne in 1470, and Paris soon became a busy centre of the craft. The only other French towns in which printing was carried on to any considerable extent during the century, were Lyons and Rouen, the latter of which became notable for the production of books of hours and other liturgical works.