Manuals of Printing

Bibliographers have long been assiduous readers of printing manuals. It cannot be doubted moreover that such texts provide a much more detailed and specialist account of the printing process than any manual of bibliography, with its multiple other concerns, could afford to do; see Frans A. Janssen, ‘L’emploi des manuels d’imprimerie par les bibliologues’ in Trasmissione dei testi a stampa nel periodo moderno. Vol. II. II Seminario internazionale, Roma-Viterbo 27-29 giugno 1985, a cura di Giovanni Crapulli (Roma, Edizioni dell’ateneo, 1987, pp. 33-42). Unfortunately none of the great Renaissance printers thought to consign to posterity a description of their art, though an interesting account of the internal organisation of Froben’s shop at Basle in 1534 by the Frisian scholar Wigle fen Aytta fen Swigchem is available in Johan Gerritsen, ‘Printing at Froben’s: An Eye-Witness Account’, Studies in Bibliography, vol. 44 (1991), pp. 144-163. Otherwise we have to make do with works written from the late Seventeenth century onwards. A helpful description of early manuals can be found in Philip Gaskell, Giles Barber, Georgina Warrilow, ‘An Annotated List of Printers’ Manuals to 1850’, Journal of the Printing Historical Society, vol. 4 (1968), pp. 11-32. In recent times a number of early manuals, mainly German, have been reprinted photographically at Darmstadt in a series edited by Walter Wilkes, which, although excellently conducted, has the demerit of not being available through normal bookselling circuits; see the round up by John Flood in The Library, s. 6, vol. 10 (1988), pp. 358-362.. Though the first proper examples of the genre are German, beginning in 1608 with Hornschuch’s Orthotypographia, invaluable from a bibliographical point of view are the following:

- Alonso Víctor de Paredes, Institución y origen del arte de la imprenta y reglas generales para los componedores, edición y prólogo de Jaime Moll (Madrid, El Crotalón, 1984). Written in about 1680, printed in a single copy “para que mi serviesse de memoria”, and only discovered in relatively recent times, this manual is still far too little known outside Spain and Spanish bibliographical scholarship.

- Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (1683-4), edited by Herbert Davis & Harry Carter (London, Oxford University Press, 1958 [2nd ed. with corrections, 1962, and reprints]). Moxon’s text fortunately is widely available in this excellent modern edition, providing a blow-by-blow account of all the phases in book-making, including the casting of type, in a London shop of his day. His great strength is to be bibliographically friendly, since his account not only describes what he considers standard practise but also comments on deviations and on the various tricks of the trade that sometimes explain an oddity in the final result. Such is his virtue. His vice is a prolix, intricate, involved prose style that often leaves a reader gasping for breath and requires a certain familiarity with Seventeenth-Century English for even basic understanding. Though his labours were endlessly plagiarised by successive manual authors, he remained unknown to foreign writers on printing and, except for brief extracts in the form of quotations, has never been translated into another language.

- Martin-Dominique Fertel, La science pratique de l’imprimerie, contenant des instructions très-faciles pour se perfectionner dans cet art (St. Omer, Martin-Dominique Fertel, 1723 [reissued St. Omer and Paris 1741]). The first French manual, not as detailed as Moxon, but nonetheless very helpful and much easier to read; see Giles Barber, ‘Martin-Dominique Fertel and his Science pratique de l’imprimerie, 1723’, The Library, s. 6, vol. 8 (1986), pp. 1-17. Its true worth is not easy to judge, however, in the absence of a modern critical edition. A photographic reprint was issued by Gregg International (Farnborough) in 1971, but seems rarer than the original.

- Encyclopédie des arts et métiers, Paris 1751-1765, followed by the Receuil de planches, 1762-72. Though not strictly speaking manuals, the entries concerning ‘Fonderie en caractères d’imprimerie’ (1751 and Receuil 1763), ‘Imprimerie’ (1765 and Receuil 1769), ‘Relieur’ (1765 and Receuil 1771) and so on have long been regarded by bibliographers as a prime source for information about contemporary printing and publishing practice; on the authorship of the various articles, see Frank A. Kafker, ‘The Enyclopedists as Individuals: A Biographical Dictionary of the Authors of the Encyclopédie’ (Oxford, the Voltaire Foundation, 1988). It should also be noted that, when the entries were reworked to be published in the later Encyclopédie methodique, some significant additions were made to the text. The relevant entries in the first edition of the Encyclopédie have been photographed and brought together in a useful compilation; see Book Making in Diderot’s ‘Encyclopédie’: a Facsimile Reproduction of Articles and Plates, with an introduction by G. G. Barber (Farnborough, Gregg International, 1973), but again it has the disadvantage of not being easy to find. In very recent times the Receuil de planches containing the entries for ‘Papetterie’ (see § 4), ‘Fonderie en caracteres d’imprimerie’, ‘Imprimerie en caracteres’, ‘Relieur’, ‘Imprimerie en taille douce’, and ‘Marbreur de papier’ have been brought together in an attractive single volume by the Bibliothèque de l’Image (2001); but the plates, however attractive, are of limited utility without the text of the main entries, here omitted. An on-line version of the Encyclopédie is also being developed in the ARTFL project at the University of Chicago.

- Pierre-Simon Fournier, Manuel typographique utile aux gens de lettres et à ceux qui exercent les différentes parties de l’art de l’imprimerie (Paris, imprimé par l’auteur, 1764-66). Well known in the English-speaking world also through the translation ‘Fournier on Typefounding’ edited by Harry Carter (both available in a recent re-edition by James Mosley, Darmstadt, Lehrdruckerei Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, 1995). Despite the title, Fournier’s detailed account does not go beyond the making of type, but it does nevertheless contain a lot of fascinating information.

- Zefirino Campanini, Istruzioni pratiche ad un novello capo-stampa o sia Regolamento per la direzione di una tipografica officina (1789), a cura di Conor Fahy (Firenze, Olschki; London, Modern Humanities Research Association, 1998). In the absence of a modern edition of Fertel, an important recent event is the publication of the earliest known Italian manual, discovered in manuscript in the Palatine Library in Parma. It should be observed that it does not tell us how to print a book but about how to run a printing shop, which is quite a different matter compared to the models of Moxon and Fertel, so that among other things Campanini provides useful information about the speed of typesetting and distribution.