Early Printing

. When the art of printing was first applied in Europe to the production of books, they were in imitation of, and sold as, manuscripts; and blanks were left at the com­mencement of the respective divisions of the work, for the illuminator to fill in with the proper letters and ornaments, as was usual in manu­scripts, and so close was the imitation that, even in our own time, it has required the assistance of a chemical test to ascertain which was manu­script and which was printed. When the secret of printing was divulged, and the decep­tion could not be continued, ornamental letters of a large size were introduced, and printed with two colours, generally red and blue, the letter being of one colour, and flourishes, extending the whole length of the page, in the other, so as to have the appearance of being done with a pen; then succeeded various grotesque figures, in attitudes to resemble letters; afterwards small Roman capital letters, with ornaments round them forming a square design; subsequently the block was pierced so that any letter could be introduced, and the ornamented part could be used for any initial; the next descent was for the letter-founders to cast the ornament in type metal, and pierce it for general use, and these cast ornaments for letters were called Facs, as an abbreviation, it is believed, for facsimile. The last descent was to the extreme, to put a plain Roman capital letter, frequently extending four or five lines in depth; and this is the substitute for a beautiful coloured drawing.

Taken from Gesta Typographica by Chas. Jacobi, 1897, page 4.

The first book produced in England



The Printers’ Devil

The decree of the Star Chamber

The first book produced in England

Early Printing



The first newspaper in England


Etienne Dolet



The first cylinder printing-machine

The first steam printing

Capitals and leads