Printers Mark on Gutenberg quartercentenary volume
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Modified Stanhope press used as logo on the title page by Eugène Duverger, who initials are visible at the center base of the logo.

Punch cutting from Gutenberg quartercentenary
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Note in the lower right corner the reference to L. Compoint, conducteur, presses mécaniques. This indicates that in spite of the Stanhope hand press on the title page much of this work was printed by printing machinery.

Detail map of Paris, Île-de-France, France Overview map of Paris, Île-de-France, France

A: Paris, Île-de-France, France

Exceptionally Wide Commemoration of the Quatercentenary of Gutenberg

Color from Gutenberg quartercentenary
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Portrait of Gutenberg.

About 2010 I acquired a thin folio publication entitled Histoire de l'invention de l'imprimerie par les monuments.(Paris: de l'Imprimerie Rue de Verneuil, No. 4, Juin 1840.) The work is characterized on its half-title as Album typographique éxécuté a l'occasion du jubilé Européen de l'invention de l'imprimerie.  This volume of about 50 pages is unusual in many respects. As an exhibition piece, the work to which the craftsman involved may have contributed without charge, the names of individuals responsible— the printer, engraver, and occasionally even typefounder, typesetter, and inkmaker—are identified in small type on many leaves. On the title page a decorative engraving depicts an iron press, seemingly of a Stanhope design modified by one of the Didots, used for printing this work, under which the artist and engraver are credited. This is followed by an elaborate leaf of dedication that would appear to be an engraving in calligraphic style, but which, the leaf states, is printed from movable type. This is followed by an elaborate chromolithographic profile portrait of Gutenberg. The work shows many illustrations of the methods of cutting punches, typefounding, and setting type. It includes remarkable facsimiles on hand-made paper of a leaf of Donatus printed by Gutenberg and preserved in the Bibliothèque royale plus a full-size double page opening of the Gutenberg Bible also in the same library, both of which were printed from type cast in facsimile of Gutenberg's original fonts. Finally, at the end of the booklet are proofs of some of the blocks used after they were cancelled.

According to Bigmore & Wyman I, 329, who attribute authorship to the printer Eugène Duverger, this work was printed in an edition of only 150 copies. A second edition was published in 4to, of which 850 copies were printed. Because the work was scarce and little-known the bibliographers provided an unusually complete summary of its contents. Initially I assumed that my copy was one of the first 150, but later I found that the initial copies had plates printed in two colors as per the digital facsimile at the Internet Archive. Mine, which is only printed in black except for the polychrome portrait of Gutenberg, appears to be of the standard issue.

In Old Books, New Technologies (2013) David McKitterick had this to say about Duverger's thin book:

"Until about 1840, the practice in preparing type facsimiles was to use type drawn from existing stock. While this restricted the choice of prints, it avoided the need for investment in re-cutting punches, making new matrices and casting new type. There was a sufficiency of old cases of type available. But at about that date a new mood set in. It was to be seen at its most acute form in a book celebrating the anniversary of Gutenberg. In 1840 Eugène Duverger's Histoire de l'invention de l'imprimerie par les monuments was printed in Paris, and published in Strasbourg by Treuttel & Wurtz. The celebratory tone of what was little more than an album was established by the limited number of copies printed, including 150 with polychrome colouring. Historical significance was incidental, though the bibliophile Charles Nodier for one was full of admiration for the way in which Duverger led his readers through the processes of printing. Mainly a collection of reproductions from early books, it has gained some notoriety thanks to a series of fictitious letters claiming to have been written by Gutenberg and full of detail about printing. More significantly, it included facsimile resettings of an early edition of Donatus, one of the earliest of all printed books, and of the 36-line Bible. These resettings were not in existing type approximating the original, but in newly cut copies by Charles Desriez, cast by Charles Mesnager. By using two qualities of paper, a softer and darker one for the Donatus, the printers were able to show off Desriez's considerable achievement, though they could not hide the fact that his types - both that for the 36-line Bible and the smaller quantity cast in imtation of B-42- were of different sets, or widths, from the originals" (p. 11).

In April 2013, while reading the Catalogue of the William Blades Library on the history of printing (1899) I noticed that Blades owned other commemorations of the quatercentenary issued in Vienna, Stuttgart, Hannover, Leipzig, Strassbourg, Zurich, Halle, Bremen, Dresden, as well as Paris. This set me to wondering how extensive the commemoration might have been. The best answer that I found was in Colin Clair's A Chronology of Printing (1969) where in his entry for 1840 Clair stated, "To celebrate 400 years of printing, no fewer than 143 memorial volumes were published."

Timeline Themes

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