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Illustrating Moveable Type

The use of woodcuts to illustrate moveable type books is credited to Albrecht Pfister, a printer based in Bamberg who inserted wood blocks beside the text.

Guest feature by Dr. Sandra Herron

The use of woodcuts to illustrate moveable type books is credited to Albrecht Pfister, a printer based in Bamberg who inserted wood blocks beside the text.[1] This combination was quickly adopted as woodblocks and moveable letters could be printed on the same press, unlike the intaglio images which had to be printed separately. The rapid rise in popularity of illustrated books was due in part to the flourishing printmaking industry in fifteenth century Germany. The purpose of images such as the ones in this exhibit was to amplify and support the text not to produce individual works of art.[2] The efficacy of images to persuade the viewer was based on an established visual vocabulary, the reading and understanding of which could then be directed by the accompanying text. The value of images to accompany and support text in order to present a specific message was understood and employed in both religious and secular works, dating from the outset of printing. Read more on our Rare Books Online Showcase. See these items in the current Link Gallery exhibition.



[1] Lucien Febvre, Henri-Jean, Martin, The Coming of the Book The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, (London: NLB,1976), 90.

[2] Febvre, The Coming of the Book, 91.

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