Ingenious Impressions: The Coming of the Book exhibition

001-a-Untitled-1In a previous post, I reflected on my response to being told, “calligraphy?… computers can do that!”

A current major exhibition in Glasgow has made me consider how medieval scribes would have reacted to being told, “calligraphy?… a printing press can do that.”

The scribes surely cursed Johannes Gutenberg for perfecting the revolutionary technique of printing by moveable type, and for bringing an end to an era of hand-lettered manuscripts.

The exhibition, Ingenious Impressions: The Coming of the Book, explores how the invention of mechanical printing impacted on late medieval society. It charts the development of the early printed book in Europe, showing how printing revolutionised book making, and was instrumental in the emergence of the Renaissance. 001-a-Untitled-1

There are a number of key themes, including the transition from scribal to print culture, the design, decoration and illustration of the earliest printed books, and the technology and challenges of printing. There are also demonstrations on a replica 15th century printing press.

I assume that, with the advent of mechanical printing, the majority of scribes would have found their services gradually dispensed with in the mid 15th century. But it’s heartening to know that during the early years of printing, the same artists who provided illuminated decoration in manuscripts were employed to illustrate printed books, a space having been left on the pages for them to add illustrations by hand.

Eventually, as featured in the exhibition, woodcuts were used to provide illustration on the printed page so, despite being granted a reprieve, these talented artists inevitably followed the same fate as their fellow scribes.

This fascinating exhibition is being held in The Hunterian Art Gallery, within the University of Glasgow, and runs from 27 February till 21 June 2015. It is open daily, except Mondays. Admission is free. More information is available here.

There are various related events taking place throughout the term of the exhibition, but I was drawn to the title of one event in particular. Considering it is part of an exhibition about 15th century printing, Johnny Depp and Old Books: Incunabula in the Movies definitely caught my attention. If you are as curious as I am about the subject matter, maybe I’ll see you in The Hunterian on 27 May.

If you live in central Scotland, or are willing to travel, then I would definitely recommend visiting Ingenious Impressions: The Coming of the Book.

The exhibition had initially slipped under my radar, so I’m grateful to Phil, one of my intermediate calligraphy students, for bringing it to my attention. Thank you Phil… just one instance of the teacher learning from the student!

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