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

[i] 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

ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ

As ſpecial collections librarians, we have an abiding intereſt in the hiſtory of printing, books, and manuſcripts. As ſuch, it pains us that ſ, the long s, has not only been ſwept into the waſtebin of hiſtory, but also has no ſuitable digital equivalent.

Logo for the Society for the Restoration of the Long STo this end, we have founded the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ, a group dedicated to bringing back this neglected character. We invite you to join us by pledging the oath:

I, ________, ſolemnly ſwear to ſuſtain ſyſtematic uſe of the long ſ, in manuſcripts and print, on ſcreens and perſonal devices, for the ſake of myſelf and my ſociety.

The ſ has a ſtoried hiſtory. Before 1800, the lowercaſe letter s appeared in two forms, the one we uſe today and ſ, which typically looked like an f without the right half of its croſſbar. The italic form of ſ (ʃ) lacked the half-croſſbar.1 Our modern ſcreen equivalent also lacks this half-croſſbar, a development we deteſt and oppoſe!

Inaugural members of the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ after pledging the oath of memberſhip.

Inaugural members of the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ after pledging the oath of memberſhip.

The ſ goes back as far as Roman inſcriptions. By the 12th century, people uſed ſ at the beginning and middle of words, and s at the end of them. The ſ did not replace the capital letter s. Printers continued theſe conventions, as do we (with one exception: the capital S in our ſociety name).1

The ſ was on its way out beginning in 1782, when our ſociety’s menace, François-Ambroiſe Didot, cut a new “modern” typeface without the character. Other printers followed his lead.1 By the 19th century, the era of ſ in print (if not in handwriting) was over everywhere but Germany, where it remains today in the form of the Eſzett, or double s (ß).2,3

Join us! Petition Apple, Samſung, Microſoft, and other tech companies and printers to reinſtate the historic ſ! And ſhare your efforts on ſocial media.

Below we preſent a ſelection of collection items featuring ſ and ʃ, bolſtering our argument for the letter’s ſuſtained uſe. Click on an image to learn more.


1. Moſley J. The Long ſ. Print Hiʃt ʃoc Bull. 1991;31(Winter):32–33.

2. International Encyclopedia of Linguiʃtics, Volume 4. Oxford Univerſity Preſſ; 2003. Available at: Acceſſed March 16, 2016.

3. Gilder Lehrman Inſtitute of American Hiſtory. Inſide the Vault: The “Long ſ.” 2016. Available at: Acceſſed March 16, 2016.

Adventures in Rare Book Cataloging

By Tatyana Pakhladzhyan, Rare Book Cataloguer

At the October festival celebrating the 500th birthday of anatomist Andreas Vesalius, The Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room exhibited seven anatomical works drawn from the library’s extensive rare book holdings. Anatomy is one of the library’s major collecting strengths, including works by and related to Andreas Vesalius.

Visitors looking at books on display at 2014's Vesalius 500 festival.

Visitors looking at books on display at 2014’s Vesalius 500 festival. Photograph by Charles Manley.

Since the exhibited materials have been in the library’s collection for decades, I was curious to see how their online bibliographic records looked. As card catalogs turned into online catalogs at the end of last century, collection holdings became increasingly findable from far away. But in the process of converting card catalog records into online records, some items ended up with incomplete or incorrect information reflected in the online catalog. I found that the records of the seven anatomical holdings required some attention.

The purpose of rare book cataloging is to create elaborate catalog records for books printed during the hand-press period (c.1455c.1830) and to describe and record copy-specific information that would uniquely identify the library’s holding from other copies of the same title. Descriptive cataloging should be sufficiently detailed to represent the work.

Female flap anatomy from The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Female flap anatomy from The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Rare book cataloging requires complete and faithful transcription of the title page in its original language, greater detail in the physical description area, and careful and thorough recording of various distinguishing points in the note area, including signature statements, identification of bibliographic format, annotations, pagination errors, illustration techniques and creators, printing method, binding style, and provenance. Full and accurate descriptions allow researchers to find materials in online catalogs. Adding images or links to digital copies is another catalog feature that allows for more sophisticated experience for rare material users.

I was particularly delighted to update the catalog record for the 1559 edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa totius anatomiae delineatio, aere exarata (A complete delineation of the entire anatomy engraved on copper). This beautiful folio is simply a work of art! Read more about the work in a recent blog post.

Male flap anatomy from The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Male flap anatomy from The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

The title page is an engraved plate, with a hand-colored portrait of Queen Elizabeth at center and the royal motto “Dieu et mon droit” under the portrait. Facing the title is the leaf with arms of the Order of the Garter “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” decorated with jewels. (Thanks to my library colleagues for helping me prove that “Honi soit qui mal y pense” motto is, in fact, the motto of the Order of the Garter.)

The coat of arms, left, and title page, right, of the Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

The coat of arms, left, and title page, right, of the Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Checking standard bibliographies for corresponding period and making identifying references is an essential step to rare book cataloging. While consulting A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius by Harvey Cushing, (1943, no. VI.C-4, p. 128), I found his comment about known copies at that time, stating that the “leaf before title bearing royal arms and ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense,’ is missing in all copies but London (BM [British Museum]).” Our copy has this leaf, seen above left.

Rare book cataloging also requires pointing out differences between printings, or manifestations, of a particular work. While consulting the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) that lists more than 480,000 items published between 1473 and 1800, I found that the entry for this work has a note, “a variant state has B7 unsigned.” In the hand-press era, books were printed as sheets with varying numbers of pages per side, with signature marks as letters, numbers, or symbols at the bottom of each leaf to help binders assemble the sheets of a book into the right order. I was curious to find out if the NYAM copy was a variation with signature B7 unsigned, but it is signed, although not on the bottom of the page.

Note "B.vii" hiding at the bottom right of the page. The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Note “B.vii” hiding under the text at the right of the page. The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

The library’s 1559 edition, the English translation by Nicholas Udall, is a reissue of the 1553 edition, with a slightly different title page, a dedication, and a colophon leaf. Bookseller information from the colophon at foot of last leaf reads: “Imprinted at London within the blacke fryars: by Thomas Gemini. Anno Salutis. 1559. Mense Septemb.”

Final leaf with colophon. The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Final leaf with colophon. The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Cataloging rare books is an exciting process and sometimes even an adventure, as older books are unique and carry impressions of their formal owners. Our copy’s provenance includes bookplate of bibliophile George Dunn, “From the Library of George Dunn of Woolley Hall near Maidenhead.” It was a generous gift to the Academy library from Mrs. George S. Huntington, the wife of a prominent anatomist.