A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
A Brief History of 557 Years of Letterpress and Typography
An Essay in Six Parts
Design was thought about in terms of typography, and the hand ornamentation of printed books was becoming an increasingly rare thing. Famous scribes such as Arrighi even began to dabble in type design. The how to book was invented and scribes such as Arrighi, and Giovanni Tagliente created their own writing manuals using printing to teach hand writing.
It was during this time that famous printers and punch cutters such as Claude Garamond and Robert Granjon began to work. Many of you have probably seen Garamond listed as one of the possible typefaces available on your computer. Unfortunately, you may not realize that all but a few of the modern typefaces called Garamond are incorrectly based on a much later and inferior typefaces designed by Jean Jannon.
Although probably not the first to do so, Robert Granjon began to sell either type or matrixes or both that he made using the punches he had engraved. Previously it had been up to the printer to create their own type, now type could be purchased thus further expanding the growth of printing and the variety of typefaces available to any one printer. Granjon alone created nearly thirty different italic typefaces during his life besides Roman typefaces and ornaments.
Granjon seems to be the first to have perfected the
use of Arabesque type ornaments. The first use of type ornaments, or cast pieces of type shaped as flowers or other purely decorative motifs, first appeared in Verona in 1478. One of the most common and simple typographic ornaments still in use today is the “vine leaf” of which clear examples can be found in ancient Roman stone inscriptions. Granjon created a number of different type ornaments that would fit together like a puzzle to create a more complex all over pattern.
Previously decorative printed arabesque patterns had to be painstakingly carved in wood. Because of their repeating nature, being able to cast the component parts on demand made a lot of sense. My favorite of Granjon’s designs is his 6 piece Antwerp arabesque pattern. These ornaments are made up of six different designs and first appeared while Granjon was working in Antwerp.
Granjon designed the ornaments to be used in a single configuration for an all over pattern, however, almost immediately printers began to rearrange and combine Granjon’s ornaments to create borders, medallions, and head and tail decorations. These ornaments are so versatile that despite having been used on and off since they were designed, new arrangements and configurations are still possible.
See following page for bio...
***Rob LoMascolo began studying letterpress and book arts at Wells College, in Aurora, NY. There he studied with Terry Chouinard, Herbert Johnson, Mark Argetsinger, and Michael Bixler. He received his MFA from the University of Alabama. He is currently a freelance letterpress and book arts artist in Union Springs, NY. Some of his clients included The Frick Collection, members of the Grolier Club, Wells College, private book collectors, and conservators.
***To read all six parts of the essay, click on the print article link in the top right corner.