The ornate symbols reproduced on the banners that hang in the main gallery of Davis Library are called printers’ or publishers’ devices. They have been used from the advent of printing with moveable type in the fifteenth century until the present. Devices were introduced to distinguish the production of a particular printer and served, at first, purely as trademarks to protect books from illegal printing. It was not uncommon for the marks to pass from one printer to another, often with only slight modifications, as for instance, the orb and cross, which appears in countless devices. In the sixteenth century, printing and publishing began to evolve into independent businesses, and in most cases the publisher retained the trademark. After 1700, the use of printers’ devices virtually ceased. It was only at the end of the nineteenth century, with the revival of fine printing by private presses and specialized publishers, that the printers’ mark reappeared.
These banners display the devices of presses represented in the Libraries’ Rare Book Collection, and are hung in chronological order, according to the date of each press’ founding.
Fust and Schoffer
The twin shields of Fust and Schoffer is the earliest know printers’ device. It first appeared on their Biblia Latina of 1462. Johann Fust (fl. 1450-1466), a lawyer in Mainz, Germany, is remembered as the financial backer of Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of printing from moveable type. In the middle of the fifteenth century, he advanced Gutenberg the funds that enabled him to develop his new invention. About 1457, Fust entered into partnership with Peter Schoffer (fl. 1449-1502), a calligrapher. Together, they issued the Mainz Psalter, the first successful attempt at color printing.
Nicolaus Jenson (1420-1480), punchcutter-printer, set up shop in Venice, where he perfected the design of the roman typeface. French by birth. he probably studied in Mainz, the city of Gutenberg, and eventually established himself at Venice in 1470. He published more than seventy books between 1470 and 1480, mostly Latin and Greek classics. His work has inspired generations of printers, especially those involved in the nineteenth-century revival of fine printing. The device shown was used by his successors; however, it is based on the orb and cross motif of his sometime partner, Johann of Cologne.
William Caxton (ca. 1422-1491), translator and publishers, was England’s first printer. He mastered the craft because his “pen became worn, his hand weary, his eyes dimmed” with copying, so he “practiced and learnt” at great personal expense how to print. His first book, and the first book printed in English, was his translation of Raoul Le Fevre’s Recueil des histoires de TroyeMorte Darthur. Caxton used only one device, which appeared for the first time on the last page of the Sarum Missal printed for him in Paris by Guillaume Maynyal in 1487.
The dolphin entwining an anchor symbolizes the press established in the late fifteenth century by Aldus Manutius (1450-1515), Venetian scholar-printer. According to Erasmus, a friend of the printer, the anchor represents the period of deliberation before a work is begun, the dolphin the speed of its completion. (Traditionally, they represented the state and the ruler.)
Aldus Manutius introduced inexpensive books in small formats bound in vellum that were read much like our paperbacks. He also commissioned the Francesco Griffo (fl. 1499-1518) to cut a cursive type known today as italic. Aldus’ press continued to flourish after his death through the diligence of his family, who adhered to his standards of book production of the highest technical and scholarly quality.
The Estienne Family
The Estienne (Stephanus in Latin) family was the most important aggregate of scholar-printers of the sixteenth century. Based in Geneva and Paris, they edited, translated and published the best scholarly and literary works of the Renaissance. They accomplished outstanding philological, editorial and textual work, whose excellencies have rarely been matched, insuring that the most significant writings of both the Classical and Christian worlds were transmitted to later centuries through beautiful scholarly editions. Over twenty devices have been attributed to Estienne publications; however, the most common device contains an olive tree with the motto “noli altum sapere, sed time,” which means “be not high-minded, but fear.”
William Morris (1834-1896), poet and designer, became the leader of the revival of book design when he founded the Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith, London, in 1891. His books are noteworthy for their use of roman types based on those of Nicolaus Jenson and their elaborate use of woodcuts. The fifty-three books produced by the press during the eight years of its existence had a great influence on commercial publishers in England, Germany and the United States. They helped to reestablish in the mind of the public the idea that printing could be an art. The Kelmscott Chaucer stands as the most spectacular book of the press.
The Doves Press
The most important press after the Kelmscott was the Doves Press, founded by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922) and Emery Walker (1851-1933) in 1900. The books from this press are not illustrated but are characterized by a stark simplicity that is in complete contrast to the Kelmscott books. The most remarkable book issued by the press was a bible (1903), in five volumes, entirely set by hand by a single compositor and printed on one hand press. It is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful books of all time. The device of the press is its watermark; the outline of two doves molded into the fabric of the paper, rather than printed.
The thistle in banner eight is the personal device of Bruce Rogers (1870-1957), distinguished American printer and typographer who is widely recognized as one of the most talented book designers of all time. He was associated primarily with the Riverside Press, a private press founded in 1888 by Henry Houghton in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin of Boston. In 1896, Rogers was appointed director of the press which, until it closed in 1911, issued limited editions of some sixty books.
Mountain House Press
Banner nine represents the rather unusual mark of Dard Hunter’s Mountain House Press. Hunter (1883-1966) was a commercial artist from Steubenville, Ohio who traveled to Europe to complete his studies. While in London, he became interested in papermaking and subsequently became the leading writer and authority on the subject. His device, which also serves as the watermark in his papers, is a compilation of historical watermarks, but with a twist; for, with each succeeding volume issued by his press, he added an additional leaf to the stem in the device.
The Ashantilly Press of Darien, Georgia, was started over twenty-five years ago by William G. Haynes, Jr. The press is one of the most distinguished in the South, having produced many fine books, several of which won typographical awards. The press takes its name from Haynes’ home, Ashantilly, a century-old house on the Georgia coast. Haynes’ device, which he engraved on wood, “was intended to represent a marsh hen of Georgia shore and marsh