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Distributed for Bodleian Library Publishing

Typographic Firsts

How were the first fonts made? Who invented italics? When did we figure out how to print in color?

Many of the standard features of printed books were designed by pioneering typographers and printers in the latter half of the fifteenth century. Johannes Gutenberg is credited with printing the first books in Europe with moveable type in the fifteenth century, but many different European printers and publishers went on to find innovative solutions to replicate the appearance of manuscript books in print and improve on them throughout the Renaissance. The illustrated examples in Typographic Firsts originate in those early decades, bringing into focus the influences and innovations that shaped the printed book and established a Western typographic canon.

From the practical challenges of polychromatic printing and sheet music printing to the techniques for illustrating books with woodcuts and producing books for children to the design of the first fonts, these stories chart the invention of the printed book, the world’s first means of mass communication. Also covering title pages, maps, printing in gold, and printing in color, this book shows how a mixture of happenstance and brilliant technological innovation came together to form the typographic and design conventions of the book.

208 pages | 60 color plates | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2018


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"Tracing the entire history of printing as it developed over the centuries, this volume includes discussion of woodcuts, relief printing, the creation of inks, illuminated manuscripts, and women's involvement in printing. Boardley goes back to first universities of the 11th and 12th centuries and the rise of literacy rates and subsequent demand for books. . . . The time line is very helpful, as are the author's notes at the end of the volume. This a great book for those studying typographic history and for anyone with a love for print."


"Profusely, gloriously illustrated, Typographic Firsts is a scholarly dive deep into the history of type. Readers will learn the precise recipe Gutenberg used to cast his metal type, how long it took for a punch cutter to make a complete set of punches, and the difference between rustic capitals and square capitals produced in ancient Rome. . . . Jenson. Bembo. Aldus. Caxton. Caslon. Today, we know their names, immortalized as typefaces. Their contributions would define and codify the conventions of the book for the next 500 years. In Typographic Firsts, Boardley brings their contributions to life."

Sam McMillan | Communication Arts

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