a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
As we just know a very ruff biographical line of the life of Nicolas Jenson, it would be unnecessary to be retelling fantasies or theories about his life that are not certain and have been reconstructed over and over in the past ±540 years. According to Martin Lowry based on historical fantasies and are not based on any true source. Some fact are to be considered close to the truth like that he was sent to Mainz, Germany bij French King Charles VII to study the art of metal movable type under Johannes Gutenberg. Around 1470 he moved to Venice, where at that time the most influential printers where based to provide the intellectuals and Churches of the first printed books, writings of historians and philosophers. He probably lived the rest of his life in Venice where I should have had a printing workshop and where he—in between 1470 and 1473—cut his most revolutionary and influential type of his life and of all times. He probably died around 1480 but there isn’t much more known about his dead or further life than that.
His type from around 1470-1473 is considered to be the first true roman, because of it being a turning point in the history of type design and book print. Around the 1450s Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing in Europe and developed the moveable type as it would be used over centuries after his death. At the middle of the 15th century there where only Gothic types made and printed, this looks very time related and doesn’t improve the legibility. It is in big contrast with handwriting, that is more fluent and connects letters to form words. Jenson was created the first type based on a humanist script, where it was all about legibility, rhythm and harmony. He abstracted and cut his letters in such a way that they were optically perfect in connecting letters to make words, words to make sentences and to lead the readers eye trough the text. This humanist approach and connecting structure can be seen in his open letters like ‚a’ and ‚e.’ Because of the way they are designed they suggest optical movement to connect a letter to the next one, it looks like if there’s a fluent waving line leading you trough a text. A systematical imperfection of the characters itself connects them to each other. Also the big capitals played a role in the harmony of his type which was designed to be printed in small size. Jenson is also known for his perfection and harmony in his books, every detail is carefully positioned and spaced. Even today we could learn something form the perfection in his books. It seems not very time related since we are more or less still handeling the same principles in typesetting a book these days. After Jenson’s type—the foundation of all romans—others like Francesco Griffo in the really late 15th century and Claude Garamond in the middle of the 16th Century, started redesigning and rationalizing Jenson’s type. This leaded to more and more variations on the first true roman until today.
„The Making of Books, Nicolas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe by Martin Lowry for Oxford Press 1991”
The influence of such established circles in early Venetian printing should come as no surprise. Everywhere in Europe, the first exponents of the new craft assumed the colours of the literary and intellectual environment in which they were operating because advice, interest and investment were available there. In Bruges or London, Caxton cultivated the support of the Anglo/Burgundian aristocracy; in Rome, Sweynheym and Pannartz addressed themselves to the papal court; in Paris a decade or so later, Antoine Verard directed his attention to the princes of the blood. The books which these men produced naturally assumed the styles that would appeal to the exclusive groups whom they sought as customers, for they fashioned their types after scribal models produced in the same milieu?
But because of its delayed success, it is difficult to treat early Venetian printing with the same detachment. A page of Caxton or Verard now looks angular, archaic, even “quaint” to the eye of the interested but non/specialist observer, who is automatically conscious of the gulfs of time and outlook which separate him from those who designed and A read such lettering. A page of one of the Latin or Italian texts which jenson printed between 1470 and 1472. looks so familiar that it is hard to think of its being intended for readers who differed much from ourselves. The single block of roman type, the even spacing of lines, the square capitals heading a new section, the broad lower margin, have become architectural features of the page that are recognized throughout the western world. Jenson’s roman fount has exerted such an influence on later typographers that it has become enshrined as an ideal form of clarity, beyond the touch of time. It is the task of this chapter to set it back within time. That “perfect” roman was part of a system of book design so restricted and exclusive in appeal that its own creator was soon obliged to look further afield.
The printer’s immediate collaborators were his editors - men like Colucia, whose letters prove that he spent much time in the workshop; more occasionally Cornazzano and Zovenzoni; perhaps very occasionally the established scholars like Ggnibene or Merula. But behind or among them were the scribes and secretaries who supplied copy, acted as intermediaries with patrons, and might consequently be called upon for advice on the style of lettering that was likely to prove most acceptable. Unless, like Clement of Padua, they combined the function of printer with that of writing/master, their influence was always indirect and almost always anonymous. But it was so vital to this phase of transition between manuscript and print that we must at least assemble a short/list of possible contributors. One of the most powerful arbiters of scribal taste during the late I46OS was the eccentric Felice Feliciano, whom we met in chapter 2. His own brief foray into printing in 1475-6 gives him a direct connection with the craft, though it does not seem to have gone much better than his attempts to make gold. How his model Roman capitals came F to Venice is clear in outline but not, unfortunately, in the detail that we need to reach any precise conclusions about their use. During the I450s he had helped a doctor named Giovanni Marcanova to assemble a silloge or collection of designs and inscriptions copied from their antique originals: this was one of the badges by which really committed admirers of classical culture identified each other and competed for status?
Marcanova was a typical connoisseur: offspring of a solid but non patrician Venetian family, he appeared in the Faculty of Arts at Padua just as the classical style of Donatello and Mantegna was taking hold in the late 1440s and early 1450s. He went on to teach medicine in the universities of Padua or Bologna until his death in 1467. By that time he had established a library of 52.1 manuscripts, many copied by the most fashionable scribes and in the humanist hand whose influence was spreading outwards from Florence. He was a natural patron of Feliciano, whose quests for relics of the ancient world he sometimes accompanied! Preparing Marcanova’s collection of inscriptions must have encouraged Feliciano not only to produce copies for himself but to use his knowledge to design the first guide to the construction of antique capital letters according to precise geometrical principles.
Video: „Tros documentary about Bram de Does, Dutch typographer/typedesigner of Trinité and Lexicon for Enschede”
Special thanks to: Petra Luijkx-Evers and Rickey Tax - Museum Meermanno Den Haag