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A: Firenze, Toscana, Italy

Printing Required the Simplication of the Graphic Form of the Book

Circa 1460
Vespasiano da Bisticci Miniatur

This portrait is believed to be Vespasiano da Bisticci from the Vita Giannozzo Manettis. A traditionalist Florentine bookseller, Bisticci favored manuscript books over the productions of the new technology of printing.

"The technical requirements of typography immediately introduced simplification in form, and all through the first half-century of printing we can see a relentless process of simplification of graphic form at work. This simplification consisted of a selection of those features of script that were essential for communication, and, conversely, the rejection of the endless variation in form and function that the writing hand can create. Written script forms can be ambiguous; there can be innumerable small distinctions in, say, the value of a capital as expressed by graphic means. In typography, on the contrary, such variation is impossible, once forms have become fixed in metal they force you to make decisions, either, for example to be seen as a capital or a lower-case character, and nothing in between. The often-heard observation that in the early years printed books imitated manuscripts fails to recognize a much more interesting phenomenon: a selection process of functional forms. It was the loss in subtlety and individuality that repelled some fastidious bookmen as diverse as the Florentine bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci and the Burgundian prelate Raffael de Mercatellis, who both eschewed printed books in favour of manuscripts" (Hellinga, "The Codex in the fifteenth century: Manuscript and Print," Barker (ed.), A Potencie of Life. Books in Society [1993] 65-66).

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