Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Newnham Printers' Marks: Part 2

 Carrying on from my last post, here is Part 2 of our feature on Newnham Library’s beautiful decorative ceiling, covering the eight remaining printers’ marks. Not sure what a printer’s mark is? Read Part 1 here

A map of Yates Thompson library, taken from a pamphlet written by Henry Yates Thompson in 1908.

6)    ALDUS MANUTIUS. This Venetian printer’s emblem is perhaps one of the most widely recognised in the world, due to its distinctive intertwined dolphin and anchor.  Manutius went on to form the Aldine Press along with Andrea Torresani di Asola and another businessman. The printing house specialised in portable Latin and Greek ‘pocket-sized’ books (known as octavo format) and was responsible for the creation of italic typeface, which allowed more words to be condensed into a smaller face than regular fonts.

7)    CHRISTOPHER PLANTIN. Originally a bookbinder from France, Plantin set up a print shop in Antwerp in 1555. He worked on a large scale and had a vast output with 22 presses in operation in his workshop – many more than was usual for the time. His printer’s mark depicts a compass held by a disembodied hand accompanied by the motto “Labore et Constantia” which means ‘work and perseverance’… an apt motto to inspire any Latin speaking students studying in the library! The outermost point of the compass is said to represent labour, while the stationary point emphasises the importance of consistency and perseverance.

8)    JULYAN NOTARY.  Records show that Notary was born in Brittany, France, but had established himself as a printer in London by around 1500. He tended to print religious and liturgical texts, mostly in Latin. He had close links with Richard Pynson and Wynkyn de Worde, and tended to reprint existing editions of their works, rather than printing original texts. Notary also only printed about one edition per year – not a lot compared to printers such as Plantin. However, he made a decent living out of the business and in 1522/3 his goods were valued at £36, 6s. 8d, which equates to around £25,000.

9)    ANTOINE VÉRARD. Another Parisian, Vérard was a publisher as well as a printer, and “endeavoured to compete with manuscript books, and issued at Paris many fine folios from 1480 to 1530 adorned with colourful woodcuts” (4). He had tastes for highly decorated and vividly illuminated pages, although Yates Thompson dismisses these as “but rude productions” compared to illuminations of the previous century! (5)

10) JOHANN FROBEN. Froben, or Frobenius, was born in Germany in the 1460’s, but worked predominantly in Switzerland. He is known for being a close friend of Erasmus, and subsequently printed many early editions of his works. He also employed the talent of Hans Holbein, famous for painting many of Henry VIII’s court, who was a talented illustrator and illuminator, and who was still in the early stages of his career at the time (Froben would later introduce him to Thomas More, advisor of Henry VIII) Froben’s print mark is also very distinctive – it depicts two crowned serpents weaving around a staff, on top of which a dove sits.

11) ANDREAS DE TORRESANI DE ASOLO. Born in Asola, Northern Italy, in 1451, Torresani learned printing under Nicholas Jenson, and bought Jenson’s printing establishment in Venice after his death. After settling in Venice, his daughter married fellow printer Aldus Manutius in 1505, and Torresani opened the Aldine Press with his new son-in-law and another businessman. Although the name of Aldus Manutius is better known and more commonly associated with the Aldine Press (since he was a scholar and patron of scholars as well as a printer), Henry Yates Thompson believed Torresani to be a far more skilled in his trade, regardless of his lack of classical knowledge,  and valued his workmanship as superior to most other printers. He considered Torresani’s printing of the Latin translation of Aristotle, a volume printed on “the whitest vellum” and beautifully illuminated, as “one of the most magnificent productions of any press”.

12) The ESTIENNE family. Henry Yates Thompson described the Estienne family as “perhaps the most famous family of learned printers ever known”. The printing house was founded in 1500 by Parisian Henri Estienne, and was succeeded by no fewer than 5 generations of Estiennes, and traded continuously until 1664. They certainly win the printers’ prize for longevity! King Francis I took a keen personal interest in the print trade, and was the friend and patron of Robert Estienne, second son of Henri. In 1538 he instructed that Estienne provide a copy of every Greek book he printed to the Royal Library  - effectively founding the first legal deposit library (the Cambridge UL is also one of these!) Their printers’ mark takes the form of three men harvesting the fruit of an olive tree.


13) CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS. Last but not least, is the emblem of Cambridge University Press, first used in 1601. It depicts a naked woman on a plinth, holding the sun in one hand and a chalice in the other. Underneath reads “Alma Mater Cantibrigia” – which means ‘Bountiful Mother Cambridge’ or ‘Nourishing Mother Cambridge’. The emblem represents the continual sustenance of knowledge and sense of belonging that the University (and indeed its press) provides to its students, past and present. It is accompanied by the university motto: Hinc lucem et pocula sacra, which literally means: [From here] we receive light and sacred draughts – hence the sun and chalice – but is a metaphor for receiving enlightenment and knowledge from the university, and its books! It sits in the domed alcove at the very end of the Yates Thompson library, and is the largest of all the printers’ marks.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the history of our library's ceiling… there’s certainly more of a story behind it than first meets the eye.  If you’d like to find out anything else about the history of the library, Henry Yates Thompson, or have any other sort of enquiry please email librarian@newn.cam.ac.uk

Thank you for reading!

Meriel Royal, Graduate Trainee 2013 - 2014

Works consulted:
- H. R. Tedder, ‘Notary, Julian (b. c.1455, d. in or after 1523)’, rev. N. F. Blake, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/20367, accessed 25 Feb 2014] 
- Duggan, Mary. Italian Music Incunabula: Printers and Type. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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