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Stephan Füssel, ed. Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, no. 91

Stephan Füssel, ed. Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, no. 91. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2016. 296p. ISBN: 9783447105453. € 85.00.

A notable feature of this volume is the number of English-language contributions. It would seem highly appropriate for a review in a periodical published in English to concentrate primarily on these.

The first article in English is an account of a museum of typography located in Crete, and run by Yiannis and Elene Garedakis. A unique institution of its type in Greece, it aims to foster research, gather information on various topics, showcase machinery, and organise exhibits on typography and printing.

In May 2015, the museum acquired a donation which included rare editions from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Venice, which had ruled Crete from the thirteenth century on. One feature of Yiannis Garedakis’ style which I found slightly annoying was his use of the third person in referring to his earlier career in journalism.

For me, a trained librarian and bibliographer with much experience of collection building, the most interesting contribution is Robert Beasecker’s account of his efforts to build up a collection of incunables for Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His experience over a decade shows what can be done with a limited budget, a modicum of good fortune, a few opportunities and high aspirations. One can see the success of his policy in the fact that between 2002 and 2015 he acquired two hundred and five incunables. His text demonstrates his clear grasp of what can and what need not be achieved, unlike a (nameless) former professor at the University of Edinburgh, who recommended to me that the National Library of Scotland should build up a collection of emblem literature. I pointed out the prohibitive cost of such a venture, allied to the fact that a world-class collection of such material exists forty miles away in the University of Glasgow Library, to which he could gain access. Beasecker is clearly not a man to rest on his laurels, for there are plans to digitise all the incunables.

Renzo Baldasso discusses the variant typesetting of the first edition of St. Augustine’s De civitate dei (Subiaco, 1467) in four copies of which the entire first quire differs from that found in the other forty-five surviving copies. Manuscript and typographic evidence in the four copies make it clear that the quire was reset by Sweynheym and Pannartz not to correct misspellings and textual issues but to enhance its graphic appearance. While it is impossible to say when the decision to reset the first quire was taken, the survival rate of reset copies suggests that it was taken early on in the print run. The four variant copies remained in Subiaco for the use of the Benedictine monks, which hints that they were not regarded as fit for sale. Besides its importance as the last of the three works printed in Subiaco by Sweynheym and Pannartz, this edition of De civitate dei marks a transition point in their career. The length of time, eighteenth months, between the issue of the first and second of their imprints and this, even allowing for the resetting of the first quire, can be explained by their planning not only their move to nearby Rome but also a new, stylistical set of types. Another early concern of Sweynheym and Pannartz, the improvement of the right margins of their texts, may have been their reaction to publications coming from north of the Alps, particularly those of Johann Mentelin in Strasbourg. This concern may have motivated the rejection of a two-column layout, which makes right justification more difficult to maintain.

Erika Squassino traces the extraordinary development of printing and publishing in Venice from the introduction of the black art in 1469 until the opening of the Council of Trent in 1545. In order to safeguard the commercial interests of the Republic’s mainland and maritime dominions, Venice introduced a system of privileges which were known already in other areas of business. The rapid development saw numerous instances of underhand competition and of speculative practices in the printing industry. The mention of the Council of Trent is significant for up until that event the printing industry had become the leading centre not only in Italy but also in Europe. Marked by the high quality of the 13,000 editions published there up to 1540, Venice was also characterised by a tolerant and flexible attitude on the part of the city’s officials. However, a less tolerant attitude set in as the Council of Trent sought to suppress all Reformist tendencies. While many printers applied for a privilege to protect their commercial interests, archival evidence points to the fact that over half of applicants were authors. This was an important development in two senses: the concept of authorship began to assume something of its modern connotation and the high number of privileges granted to authors showed the Republic’s concern to protect the writers’ interests in order to encourage the printing of new works, which would increase readership and promote economic and cultural growth. A contravention of a privilege by producing, selling, possessing or importing counterfeit editions invoked a fine or an administrative sanction. The piece ends with a list, running to over twelve pages, of authors who applied in person for a privilege, with the titles of their works and the location of a copy, where one has been found.

Claire Bolton looks closely at sixty-nine copies of an indulgence preserved in Memmingen’s town library, as they provide an excellent opportunity to study printing practice in the early sixteenth century. The sheets were never issued nor folded or sewn into a book, they did not have their edges trimmed, nor were they rubricated or pasted together to form binder’s waste. Bolton’s examination shows how the printer, Albert Kunne, positioned his sheets in relation to the text and used some kind of centreline guide on the tympan. What she was unable to determine was whether Kunne had a one- or two-pull press, or perhaps both.

William Macdonald and John Miller discuss the comments of a Lutheran pastor, Georg Agricola (1554-1630), on the introduction of printing in Mainz. Using four sources, which are studied closely, Agricola examined the evidence pointing to Johannes Gutenberg’s or Johann Fust/Peter Schöffer’s claim to the credit as the inventor(s) of printing. A modern reader’s surprise that Gutenberg’s place in history should be questioned is bolstered by Agricola’s opting for Fust/Schöffer’s claim.

The writing and reading of manuscripts in Germany in the sixteenth century is discussed by Eef Overgaauw. One variety of manuscript whose production was severely affected by the invention of printing was the text of the Bible. Another variety which was still copied in large numbers during the second half of the fifteenth century was Latin classical texts. Quite a few of these were direct or indirect copies of printed editions, but newly copied manuscripts diminished rapidly after 1480, not only in Germany but also elsewhere in Western Europe. A more complicated instance of the transition of manuscript to printed book concerns liturgical works, which had been part of the equipment of all ecclesiastical institutions from the Carolingian period onwards. Thus we find a large number of editions of missals and breviaries among early printed books. The decisions of the Council of Trent, the compliance with which was mandatory, ended the previous diversity of liturgical practice. The remaining redundant manuscripts often survived as fragments used in bindings or wrappers for printed items. While Bibles and liturgical manuscripts were written mainly in monastic workshops during the Middle Ages, the evidence available for books of hours and prayer books suggests that they were produced predominantly by professional scribes and illuminators in small, secular workshops. The former category was printed in very large numbers from the 1480s onwards, particularly in France and the Low Countries, but from the 1490s onwards the production of both categories diminished strongly, except for written de luxe books of hours produced in Flanders, the Rhineland and southern Germany. A very different kind of sixteenth-century manuscript contained chronicles of the writers’ own town, bishopric or region. Most of these were written in German, but some used Latin, and were rarely illuminated. A variety of manuscript which was not invented in the sixteenth century concerned armoury. The medieval tradition of books on weapons and warfare lasted long after the year 1600. Manuscripts of this genre must have been conceived and written by experts for a public with knowledge of the subject. The genres not included in Overgaauw’s article include law, medicine, alchemy, botany, architecture, sermons and academic lectures.

The volume also contains obituaries of two important figures in book studies, Hermann Zapf, b. 1918, and Hans-Joachim Koppitz, b. 1924. Denied in 1934 the chance to study electrical engineering because his father was an active trade unionist, a denial which he came to regard as providential, Zapf turned to calligraphy. Later, he divided his time between teaching and free-lance work before joining the type-foundry of D. Stempel. After leaving this employment, he continued his free-lance career, working for, among others, Suhrkamp, S. Fischer and Hanser. Although mocked by some contemporaries for his early championing of the application of computers to typographic design, he combined later his teaching duties in Germany with a chair in computer typography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Koppitz studied German, history and philosophy in Tübingen and Bonn, where he took his doctorate in 1955. His career included some time teaching aspiring librarians in Bonn, before he moved in 1976 to become the third holder of the chair of book studies in Mainz, remaining there until his retirement in 1992. His tenure of the chair saw a rise in the number of students from eighty to over three hundred. His publications included numerous studies which had their origin in his early training as a medievalist. Some of these appeared in the Gutenberg Jahrbuch, which he edited from 1976 until 1993. In his later years, he devoted a number of studies to the history of his native Silesia. As usual, the visual and technical appearance of the volume is due to the expertise of the publisher, Harrassowitz Verlag.

W. A. Kelly
Scottish Centre for the Book, Edinburgh Napier University

Published inBook review

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