Coster, Lawrence

, or Laurensz Jansz Koster, an inhabitant of Haerlem, who died about 1440, has acquired a name in the annals of printing, as the Dutch affirm him to be the inventor of that art about the year 1430, but this claim has been obstinately disputed. It is objected that it was not till 130 years after the first exercise of this art at Mentz, that the town of Haerlem formed any pretence to the honour of this invention; and that, to the known and certain facts, to the striking and incontestable proofs of its belonging to Mentz, the men of Haerlem oppose nothing but obscure traditions and conjectures, and not one typographical production that can in any way shew the merit of it to belong to Coster. All that such objectors allow to Haerlem, is the circumstance of being one of the first towns that practised the art of cutting in wood, which led by degrees to the idea of printing a book, first in wooden blocks engraved, then in moveable characters of wood, and lastly in fusile types. But it still remains to be proved, that this idea was conceived and executed at Haerlem; whereas it is demonstrated that Gutemberg printed, first at Strasburg, and afterwards at Mentz, in moveable characters of wood, and that the fusile types were invented at Mentz by Schojffert. The learned Meerman, counsellor and pensionary of Rotterdam, zealous for the honour of his country, supported the cause of Haerlem with all the sagacity and all the erudition that could be exerted, in a work entitled “Oru gines Typographies:,” printed at the Hague in 1765, 2 vols. 4to, and of which an abridgment may be seen in Bowyer and Nichols’s “Origin of Printing.” The question is too complicated for discussion in this place: we shall therefore only add the tradition respecting Coster’s invention. It is said that walking in a wood near Haerlem, he amused himself by cutting letters upon the bark of a tree, which he impressed upon paper. Improving this incident, he proceeded to cut single letters upon wood, and uniting them by means of thread, he printed a line or two for his children. It is added, that he afterwards printed a book, entitled, “Speculum salvationis.” Baron Heinecken, who | has minutely investigated the whole story, considers it as not entitled to the least credit; and pronounces the prints, attributed to Coster, to be the works of a later date. 1

1 Bowyor and Nichols’s Origin of Printing. Historv of Printing in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Strvtt’s" Engravers. Freheri Theatrum. —Foppen, Bibi. Bel. —Saxii Onomast.