katherine kerr of the Hermitage, her site

AS Challenges: Printing

Printer's Mark, Star Chart, Book of Hours
Rat Letters

Other A&S Challenge Topics
Garb & Accessories Rat Garb
Stuff; Rat Stuff
Heraldry; Rat Heraldry
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G14: Printer's Mark

I do remember an apothecary…
And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes,
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
Remnants of packthread and old cakes of roses,
Were thinly scatter'd to make up a show.

That's a lovely evocation of a vocation; the Gubbins 14 challenge calling for an item used in an occupation, trade, or task, e.g. a tool, equipment, etc.

Father was always interested in Things Mechanikal and invested some money in a printing operation in Venice. When we returned to Scotland, he brought a small press with him and I grew up watching the activity in the workshop. It stood me good stead for taking over the operations, and I now have a printers’ mark of my own which will appear on my works.

Printers’ marks arrived with the birth of printing as a means of identifying the printer responsible for the works. The most famous is that of Aldus Manutius, the anchor and the dolphin of the Aldine Press in Venice (Williams pg 220-222). Many examples of printers’ marks bear a close resemblance to each other (eg Georg Wolf Paris 1494; de Bougne Angers 1500, Julian Notary London 1507, Jean Granjon Paris 1517).

They include a tripartite circle standing for the globe (being Europe, Asia and Africa); it is said that it is also used for its resemblance to the alchemical symbol for antimony, the “magic” substance which made lead type functional. The use of the 4, forwards and backwards is thought to be related to old merchant's marks or for Hermes, the god of tradesmen and scribes. Interestingly enough, when we came to break down the Green Man sign at Canterbury Faire, we were rather stunned by the 4 shape the top of the sign so clearly made, all the proportions correct -- that long cross-bar used for holding the sign. Given how every printer used the phrase and are to be sold at the sign of the.., maybe there's something in that!

I’ve based my printers’ mark on the extant example, with some subtle references. It has the tripartite world containing my initials (as per Wolf, Notary and Granjon); the K is taken from the first Roman type used, the 1470 Venetian type designed by Nicholas Jenson.

The 4 comes from the Aldine typeface Bembo, made by Francesco Griffo in 1495, and used in the fabulous Hypnerotomachia Poliphi, still considered one of the most beautiful examples of the printers’ art ever.

The flowery cross is a reference to the map convention of pointing towards a cardinal point (typically a cross for East and Jerusalem, a fleur-de-lis for North); cartography is a strong interest of mine. The actual cross artwork is based on the croce used on the obverse of the Venetian scudo coin, this particular one having been issued by Doge Andrea Gritti (in office 1528-1538, the Venetian leader for almost all katherine’s time in Venice 1526-1536).

Boardley, John; The First Printers Mark
Linda Hall Library collection
Roberts, William; Printers' Marks, A Chapter in the History of Typography; Project Gutenberg EBook, 2008
UCLA, Printers and their Marks Exhibition

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VPC6 : For Science!

The Music of the Spheres,
Or a Modest Collecktion of Stars as seen above Canterbury Faire

This Challenge topic was a tricky one to settle on as there was lots of stuff I wanted to do and lots of projects which had a science bent. Many of my early maritime projects could be construed as science-related: I could go out and take soundings of the estuary with my sounding line (Project 11: String Theory), or use the kamal (Project 22. Oh Say Can You See?), or finish off the traverse board which was my first maritime project attempt.

My initial idea was to produce an astronomy booklet for my book signatures, but I cut this back to a small pamphlet which could be used as a giveaway for the Canterbury Faire Padrones. Even better, I managed to shoehorn a musical reference from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice on the front page in honour of the visiting bards Mistress Marian of Heatherdale and Ben Deschamps. The rear woodcut shows the relationship between the Muses and the planets, in line with the music of the spheres theme.

The pamphlet covers the major constellations seen above Canterbury Faire (eg Orion, Taurus, Canis Major and Minor, Gemini), using information from Hyginus, a 2C BC astronomer whose work was printed in Venice as the first major star atlas in 1482. The illustrations provided by the printer Ratdolt were more decorative than actually useful, so I took as the model for my illustration the work by Alessandro Piccolomini, who produced 47 reasonably rendered woodcuts of the constellations in his work De Le Stelle Fisse, printed in Venice in 1548 (see Orion above).

The narrow ratio of the pamphlet mirrors period practice but was really because the initial layout was to use up some old card stock. Problems with collation ensued and I ended up with a lot of misprints….

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VPC18: Tis the Season: Book of Hours

This project centred around a Book of Hours personalised for Her Excellency Ginevra, Baroness of Southron Gaard.

This was based on the Book of Hours quire/gathering I had put together for my bespoke books project -- more properly termed a sammelbund project, as it was intended to provide people with a batch of quires they could have bound together.

A number of entries were replaced with ones specifically requested by Her Excellency, to cover her personal, preferred saints and other material.

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