Maker’s Mark: A Look at Early Modern Printers’ Devices

By Emily Miranker, Events & Project Manager

Did you know that required trademarks go back to 1266? In England, bakers were required by parliament to use a distinctive mark on the bread they sold.[i] Fun design/history/bibliographic fact, the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room here at the Library features trademarks in its décor. More specifically, the room’s chandelier have printers’ marks. As an homage to book history and the art of the book, the chandeliers of our reading room are decorated with printers’ marks.

RBR chandelier

I got to know these marks beyond “those pretty design bits on the lights” when we created special bookplates (another age old way to ‘mark’ your stuff) for Adopt-a-Book donors. The virtual bookplates that donors receive features four of these marks keeping them connected with the legacy and art of the book.

TIna's first demo of bookplate sketches

Our incredibly talented graphic designer sharing sample sketches for the adoption bookplates; artistic inspiration courtesy of early modern printers, the architecture of the rare book room and the Academy building.

As the name suggests, printers’ marks are a device or emblem, like a logo, that early printers used to make clear the source of the item. According to Printer’s Marks, the first of these is Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer’s Mainz Psalter of 1457. Among the best well-known of these old printers’ marks is one that you will find on our library’s custom designed chandeliers and on our adoption bookplates (upper righthand corner) the device of Aldus Manutius: the dolphin and anchor.

 

Hippocrates_Omnia Opera_1526-printers mark_watermark

The dolphin twined around an anchor predates Manutius. Going back to Roman times, this pair symbolizes the adage, “Make haste slowly.” (The dolphin is haste, and the anchor is slow.)

Next to Aldus in the upper left corner of the bookplate, the ethereal hand manipulating the compass with the Latin motto Labore et Constantia (Work and Constancy) belongs to Dutch publisher Christophe Plantin (1520-1589). During his life, he used a large number of devices and they could vary in appearance. There are three primary types; the first features a tree and the second a scroll with a Latin motto twined around a grape vine; the third is the hand and compass and first appeared in 1557.[ii] The compass is symbolic of the motto: the leg of the compass turning around is work while the stationary point is constancy.

Below Plantin’s mark on the lower left, is the printer’s mark of Paris printer and bookseller Poncet Le Preux (1508 – 1551). His initials P L P are ‘tethered’ together by a tasseled cord.

Lastly, the monogram in the lower right corner of the bookplate that also adorns our chandeliers belongs to Badius Ascensius or Jodocus Badius (1462 – 1535). Originally from Flemish town of Asche, he set up a print shop in Paris, Prelum Ascensianum, in 1503. The initials in the monogram are I V A B, the A and V intersecting to form the diamond shape at the center, which stand for his Latinate name Iodocus Van Asche Badius.

Your Name Here bookplateWe invite you to come look at these gorgeous marks on the chandeliers and in the books themselves at our First Monday tours. The first Monday of every month at 12 pm we do a free tour of the Rare Book Room. Or adopt a book in our collection and receive a copy of these marks in the custom designed donor bookplate.

Bonus mark! This is the mark used by Badius’ printing house, Prelum Ascensianum (his monogram featuring at the bottom center, the shop’s name visible on the center crossbeam of the press itself) and my personal favorite because it is a printer in action.Beroaldi_Opvscvlvm _1511-tp-ornament_watermark

References:
[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark#History Accessed 4/18/18
[ii] Roberts, William. Printer’s Marks: A Chapter in the History of Typography (New York: George Bell & Sons, 1893).
printermark shop ad
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About nyamhistory

The Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health, which includes the Library, promotes the scholarly and public understanding of the history of medicine and public health and the history of the book. Established in 2012, the Center aims to build bridges among an interdisciplinary community of scholars, educators, clinicians, curatorial and conservation professionals, and the general public. The Center’s Library is one of the largest medical collections in the United States open to the general public, to whom it has been available since 1878.

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