History of The Birth of Typography in Germany
The development of modern typography started in Germany with the printing of the Gutenberg Bible by Johann Gutenberg in 1455. Gutenberg successfully brought together existing technologies and slightly tweaked them to print the first major Western book using moveable metal type with a press. Gutenberg used a variant of blackletter type called Textura which was based on the historical calligraphic writings of medieval scribes. Blackletter type would become intertwined with the national identity of Germany. Gutenberg’s printing company would be taken over by Johann Fust. Fust and an assistant would begin to use woodblock illustrations in the same book with type further expanding the possibilities of the new medium. In 1493 the creators of the Nuremberg Chronicle would take it to the next step by integrating woodblock illustrations and moveable metal type on the same page thus giving us what we would consider a modern appearing book.
Around that same time in Italy the Humanist movement was looking to their historical past as an era of superior philosophy and art. The Renaissance was a rebirth of classical styles to create better art, literature, and culture. They modeled their handwriting on an official cursive used in ancient Rome. The Humanist’s handwriting was turned into a type called Roman. Aldos Manutius printed the first work in italic Roman type which allowed more words per line than previous types. Whereas the blackletter type of Germany had heavier lines and a weightier feel the new Roman type had more graceful lines and was easier to read. In France the Royal Government commissioned a new typeface be created for their official documents. This new type called Romain du Roi was a variant of the Roman type. Romain du Roi brought the creation of type letters to a mathematical precision to type by using a sixty-four square grid that ultimately was broken down into thousands of squares. Fournier introduced the first system by which to measure type in what was called points. Francois Didot improved on Fournier’s point system by making it a more consistent measuring tool which would be used throughout Europe. France led the way in creating a systematic and structured way to create and measure type. England also contributed to the development of typography through several advancements by typographers. William Caslon created a very functional and readable Roman type with Dutch influences named Caslon type. William Caslon used this type as a basis in the creation of over two hundred different types. Caslon type was so popular that it would become de facto the national type of England. Another English typographer John Baskerville would create another Roman type that had very thin lines causing him to develop new inks and a heated printing process to successfully achieve maximum readability of his type on paper.
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