Work Type stipple etching with hand coloring Date 1797
A r t 1 0 0
U n d e r s t a n d i n g V i s u a l C u l t u r e
• what is printing? what is a print?
• where is printing inventeD?
• recording things: how do we keep records?
• clay tablets [Sumeria]
• papyrus [Egypt]
• bamboo, silk, paper [China]
• qipu [Andes]
• parchment [Europe]
what is "printing"?
• Complex term:
• 1. Creation of a single controlling surface from which
multiples can be generated; the intention is that all resulting
copies are identical (though there may be differences in
practice). Just because it's possible to make multiples
doesn't mean that you are required to.
• 2. When printing, the controlling surface is covered in ink or
some other pigment, and then transferred to a receiving
surface through pressure.
• 3. "Printing" can also refer to the creation of written materials
using moveable type.
what is a "print"?
• An image or design impressed or stamped on a support
such as paper or fabric. The term encompasses a wide
range of techniques used to produce multiple versions of
an original design.
• There are many different techniques for printing. Today,
we'll discuss two of them:
• wood block printing
• Woodblock printing
• Invented during the Tang Dynasty (618-907)
• Popularized during the Song Dynasty (960-1279)
• Moveable metal invented in Korea during the 9th century; many
extant copies of Korean metal-type printed texts from the 12th and
• There were also sets of moveable wood type.
what else is needed for
• a receptive surface. The Chinese were technologically
advanced in this way as well.
• Silk makes an excellent receptive surface and was used for
texts and images as well as clothing.
• Paper! Printing on paper dates to the 8th century in China.
• Buddhism, which emphasizes that sacred texts should be
produced in mass quantity, to multiply their blessings and
spread their faith, was a key force in the development of
• This is why we see paper, print, and Buddhist content joined
together in the earliest extant woodblock printed image in
British Museum Society Tablet
Mespotamian, Late Uruk
clay with impressed cuneiform
3.7 in H x 2.7 in W x .91 in D
record of beer consumed on
account of different workers;
impressed with five different types
of numerical symbols
calligraphy on bamboo strips
c. 300 BCE
Paper and Systems of Notation
• rise of paper production in Baghdad late eighth/early ninth
sparks production of books, scholarly activity, development of
• it also impacts the develop of systems of notation, new ways of
representing human knowledge in various fields
• math (numerals)
• commerce (numerals, coinage, standard accounting
• geography (cartography)
• music (counter-example of dance notation)
• battle plans
qipu or khipu (pronounced KEE-poo): based upon the Quechua word for "knot,"
an unique record-keeping system developed in the Inca Empire.
Data is stored in the position of the strings, their
length, and the number, size and position of the knots.
The Inca Empire expanded
rapidly in the 15th century.
Thousands of miles of roads
were built across the Empire;
soldiers needed payment;
temples required maintenance.
The qipu were stored and
used by “khipucamayuq”—
administrators of the Inca
Empire who used them to
encode census and tax
In the West the
technique of printing
from woodblocks on
dates from the early
15th century. Prints of
this kind that have
religious images and
playing cards. As we
might predict, printing
in Europe was
developed after paper
began to be
So what was this
monk writing on?
animal hides were stretched,
dried and treated to create velvety
smooth surfaces for writing
1454 or 1455
printed using moveable metal type; ¼ of the copies printed on parchment, the other ¾
printed on imported Italian paper
Jost AMMANN (1539-1591)
“The Printer's Workshop,” from The Book of Trades
114 woodcuts illustrating different trades, each with
In the background, two men are selecting letters
from a double-type case, which they would
in a line on a hand-held tray according to the
manuscripts pinned beside them.
In the foreground, the man on the right is inking the
lines of type, while the man on the left removed a
completed page from the hinged frame.
The whole assembly is then slid under the press,
which is forced down by one horizontal pull of the
Woodcut blocks can be printed in this press at the
same time as text.
early printed format
broadsheet/broadside: a single sheet that was used to
print announcements or notices on one side only.
could be posted publicly and read/viewed by all
broadsheet titled "A scary
story of the devil and a terrible
woman that happened at
Schilta during Holy Week
Georg Mack the Elder
Broadsheet recording the sighting of
a comet at Nürnberg in November
woodcut, colored single leaf