Monday, January 9, 2012

The Making of Books in 1850

The title page of this 1850 Dutch book, Bevallig en Nuttig, translates literally to Graceful and Useful. It's a nicely illustrated title page, and I presume the publisher is referring to the process of making useful books with grace, but I have to trust in the Google for my iTranslation. This endearing book is part of the "Tetterode Collection" included in the Special Collections at the University of Amsterdam. The beautiful chromolithograph prints nicely illustrate the entire bookmaking process. The 3 spreads below are the only available online, but they leave me hungry to see more. Do click on each for enlargements.

On left is The Typesetter. The caption suggests Laurens Koster of Haarlem invented the printing press in 1423 and later perfected it. The typesetter deals with assembling the words from lead type. 
      Sidenote: Legend actually has it that Laurens Koster of Haarlem first invented moveable type in 1423 after a walk in the woods with his grandchildren. He cut a letter from some bark of a tree and dropped it in the sand and noticed the impression it made there. He went on to experiment with block printing, inks and printing books, and received much fame for his work. Koster employed the lettercutter Johann Faust (sometimes spelled Fust) to assist him, and who later made off with all of his equipment when he was near death. This is the same Faust who eventually resurfaced in Mainz, where he began his own printing venture and later formed a contemptible partnership with Mr. Gutenberg. Today, there are no books in existence which carry Koster's name as printer, however the city of Haarlem has celebrated his achievements for hundreds of years. At the bottom of this entire post, you can see two photos I took a few years ago of an enormous bronze statue of Koster which sits in the big market square in Haarlem. He's holding a large book and say, a 300 point piece of (bronze) metal type.
      The page on right illustrates the Essentials of Printing. In order to print books, you need these items: No.1, a barrel (!) of printing ink; No.2, lead type; No.3, an ink table; No.4, a pressure roller; No.5, a composing stick.
      Oddly enough, no typesetters were employed in setting any text in this book, as it appears to be all hand-lettered.
The Steam-printing Press on left. Besides the regular (iron) press, the printer also uses the steam press. This works much faster, as it can print 12,000 sheets an hour.
      The right page (above) has something to do with imposition. Composers make certain all of the leaves, or pages of the book will be folded and paginated in correct order when fitting the lead type in the imposition frames.
The Proofer on left. Before any printing takes place, there are 2 or 3 samples printed to check and improve it. It is necessary as words can be misspelled.
      On right is The Printer. It is essential all the errors are now corrected. After the type has been inked, it is placed with the paper under the platen and the sheet is printed with one pull.
      The "Tetterode Collection" is the official Typographical Library at the University of Amsterdam which they acquired from the Dutch type foundry, "N. Tetterode NV" in 1971. Today the library contains one of the largest typographic collections in Europe, covering all aspects of the book, paper, type and illustration from design, production and distribution of the book. The collection includes some 70,000 books, 12,000 documentation files on printers, publishers and booksellers, 13,000 type specimens, 10,000 book covers and thousands of examples of special graphics technology and design.

1 comment:

  1. The lettering was probably done as part of the lithography directly on the stone, which is why it looks 'handletterered' - that is, it was handlettered, but not in each book ;-)

    Lovely stuff in any case!



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