Online Talks

Rediscovering the Legacy of Johann Schott: Colour Printing and the Holy Roman Empire

World Art Research Seminar, University of East Anglia
26 October 2022

This talk explores the research behind the article ‘Identifying Hans Baldung Grien’s Colour Printer, c.1511–12,’ Burlington Magazine 161 (October 2019): 830–839, which was awarded the Association of Print Scholars’s Schulman & Bullard Article Prize.

Of the artists trained by Albrecht Dürer, the painter, print designer and draughtsman Hans Baldung, nicknamed ‘Grien’ (‘Green’; c.1484/85– 1545), was arguably the most influential. His drawings of deviant, erotic witches made c.1514–15 famously demonstrate his mastery in harnessing the expressive power of graphic techniques with a restricted palette. Using only black lines and white highlights on paper that had been prepared in a muted colour, he rendered three-dimensional figures that are exceptional in the history of drawing. Of his seven hundred prints, five stand out on account of their colour printing technique. These single-sheet woodcuts from the 1510s also build up three-dimensional forms from black, white and an earthy mid-tone, but their colours are printed: black from a key block; colour from a tone block; highlights are from the white of the paper. Today, Baldung’s five colour woodcuts are among the best-known early colour prints in the West. However, their attribution is only partial. Research has treated them as outliers and their printing technique as an artistic curiosity. This research aims to identify the printer who could have enabled Baldung to realise their vibrant, three-dimensional effects. In doing so, it reveals a wholly different context of production and offers a model for a new, printer-led approach to understanding early modern printed imagery.

Celebrating the 9,000,000th Acquisition: 900 Woodblocks from the Propaganda Fide Press

Relaunch of the Hanes Lecture Series in Bibliography
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
8 September 2022

The Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has just announced a landmark ‘volume’ for its 9,000,000th acquisition: nearly 1,000 woodblocks, most wrapped in sheet of paper with an identifying impression. They were produced for the press of Propaganda Fide, the Roman Catholic Church’s evangelisation arm, between its foundation in 1626 and c.1850. This acquisition contributes to an internationally significant research trend to understand ‘printing things’, such as woodblocks and copper plates, as cultural heritage objects in and of themselves—independent of the materials they were used to print. This talk introduces what these centuries-old woodblocks can reveal today, as well as why this kind of collection is so important for the future of book history.

The Making of Tristram Shandy

Lecture with Helen Williams
Bodleian Library, Oxford University
27 May 2022

Laurence Sterne’s multi-volume work, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, is one of the most creatively printed novels of the handpress period. Sterne personally intervened in the printing, insisting that each copy have different material features to make readers handle and interpret the text in an entirely new way. Explore the pages of this novel with Helen Williams and Elizabeth Savage, who will guide us through the unique features which bring the book itself into the story.

Presented by Novel Impressions, a project run by Helen Williams (Northumbria University) and funded by the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Awards. It is a series of research- and practice-led events that will create network of early career researchers, printers, and curators producing print workshops for public audiences inspired by eighteenth-century literature.

This event coincides with the workshop Storylines: Printing Tristram Shandy at Bodleian Printing Studio, Schola Musicae, Old Bodleian Library, featuring Peter Lawrence (wood engraving), Louise Brockman (paper marbling), and Richard Lawrence (letterpress printing).

Linda Hall Late: After Hours with Erhard Ratdolt

Lecture with Jamie Cumby
Linda Hall Library, Kansas City, Missouri
14 April 2022

European printers of the fifteenth century were working with what was, to them, an experimental technology. These early print workers helped define what a printed book could look like, eventually re-creating a number of features that were originally left to scribes. One of the most challenging to execute was printing in more than one color. Indeed, Johannes Gutenberg tried and almost immediately abandoned two-color printing in his 42-line bible! Though we normally associate color printing with art or even biology, the very first two-color woodcut prints were a striking series of eclipse diagrams, executed in Erhard Ratdolt’s Venice workshop in 1482. Throughout Ratdolt’s remarkable career, he mastered a color printing process that remained in common use for hundreds of years. His ambitious printing program innovated with color to produce clearer scientific diagrams, and successfully produced two and even three-color printed text, images, music, initials, and calendars.

Join scholar and printer Elizabeth Savage and the Library’s Assistant Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts, Jamie Cumby on a journey through Ratdolt’s experiments in color printing, as told through copies in the Library’s collection.

‘Printing History: Flongs — a show and tell of paper molds used in 18th C/19th C printing’

Roundtable hosted by Glenn Fleischman
16 October 2021

Journalist and printing-history researcher Glenn Fleishman hosts a live “flong show-and-tell” in which early-book researchers and experts display historic printing molds, called “flongs” from their collections or their institutions. Flongs were used to produce full-page metal plates, often for newspaper printing, from the 1800s through the 1980s. While largely forgotten, some who study the history of printing have found or purchased examples of flongs used for cartoon syndication, advertising production, full-page newspaper printing, tickets, and many other purposes. Read more about flongs at Flong Time, No See. Participants in this first flong show-and-tell:

  • Glenn Fleishman, journalist, printer, designer, and creator of the Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule (Twitter @glennf)
  • Elizabeth Savage, flong aficionado and Senior Lecturer in Book History and Communications, Institute of English Studies, author of “Early Colour Printing: German Renaissance Woodcuts at the British Museum” (Twitter @leusavage)
  • Dennis Duncan, lecturer in English Literature at UCL in London, author of “Index, a History of the” (Twitter @djbduncan)
  • Paul W. Nash, bibliographer, librarian and printing historian, amateur printer, and current editor of the Journal of the Printing Historical Society (Twitter @PrOGPaul)
  • Sarah Werner, book historian, Shakespearean, and digital media scholar, and author of “Studying Early Printed Books 1450-1800: A Practical Guide” (Twitter @wynkenhimself)

‘Where is Colour in Book History?’

2021 Frederik Muller Lecture in Book History
Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam
15 September 2021

Print heritage is not black-and-white; it only seems to be. In the last ten years, a wave of publications and exhibitions has transformed the history of prints by revealing that art history has ‘erased’ colour in prints since the field developed 300 years ago. It is now established that colour-printed images were far more common than had been thought possible: they communicated ideas, clarified scientific knowledge, and aided religious devotion, for example. But new research reveals that the history of colour printing is centred in books, not artworks, and that book history has similarly been ‘bleached’ by academic conventions, collecting practices, and cataloguing protocols.

This talk is a call to bring the colour revolution from printed imagery to texts. By exploring the role of printers (not designers) and focusing on varied kinds of content including texts and diagrams, it lays the groundwork for a parallel, vibrant transformation of the history of books in pre-industrial Europe.