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Grolier Club Exhibitions

In the Beginning



Johann Fust (c. 1400–1466), Peter Schöffer (c. 1425–c. 1503). Mainz, 1457. Folio.

Sometime shortly before the completion of the 42-line Bible, Gutenberg’s banker (Johann Fust) and foreman (Peter Schöffer) established a partnership to publish books exploiting the recent invention of multiplying text through individual cast characters. As Gutenberg had done immediately before them, Fust & Schöffer achieved a superlative level of beauty in their printed volumes.

Fust & Schöffer brought the added element of color to their printed pages. There are only ten copies known today, all printed on vellum.

LENDER: The Morgan Library & Museum

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Nicolas Jenson (c. 1420–1480). Venice, 1470. Folio.

Jenson was a Frenchman who worked at the Royal mint at Tours. In 1458 he was sent to Mainz by King Charles VII to learn the secrets of the art of printing. He moved to Venice in the late 1460s, establishing himself as the first non-German printer in that city.

Jenson’s roman inspired many of the typefaces of the private press revival as well as several commercial fonts of the twentieth century, including Centaur and Adobe Jenson.

PROVENANCE: The American Type Founders (ATF) library; later Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library



Erhard Ratdolt (1442–1528). Venice, 1482. Folio.

Ratdolt was a typographic innovator. Like Jenson, he migrated from his native country to Venice, but unlike Jenson he returned to the city of Augsburg (where he was born) after several decades of productive work in Italy. Among the pioneering firsts in Ratdolt’s oeuvre are the first title page, the first woodcut border and the first type specimen.

For his edition of Euclid, Ratdolt created geometric diagrams which are so finely wrought that the method of manufacture still baffles historians of printing.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly



Aldus Manutius (1450–1515), Francesco Griffo (d. c. 1518). Venice: Aldus, 1498. Folio.

Aldus’ Greek types were based on the cursive, sloped, highly ligatured writing of the scholars active in Venice in the late fifteenth century.

The Aldine Greek types have not been universally admired; the great scholar of Greek printing types Victor Scholderer famously wrote that Aldus‘ Greek types were “a disaster from which Greek printing did not recover for generations.” While not necessarily benign, their influence remained essentially intact for centuries.

LENDER: From the library of T. Kimball Brooker, author and collector of the Aldine Press

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Aldus Manutius (1450–1515), Francesco Griffo (d. c. 1518). Venice: Aldus Manutius, February 1495/6. Octavo.

The roman type cut by Nicolas Jenson was a turning point in the history of typography; Francesco Griffo’s roman was the next great leap forward in the development of roman typefaces.

Like Jenson’s roman, Griffo’s was copied often. That it formed the basis for Garamond’s influential roman types is certain. However, by the time of the private press movement in the late nineteenth century, the Griffo roman was all but forgotten until Stanley Morison revived the Aldine/Griffo types in the early twentieth century.

LENDER: The library of T. Kimball Brooker, author and collector of the Aldine Press

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Aldus Manutius (1450–1515), Francesco Griffo (d. c. 1518). Venice, 1501. Octavo.

Aldus Manutius had several goals when he developed an italic typeface for a series of portable, octavo format publications. Foremost in his mind was publishing less expensive books which far more people, including students who were not wealthy, could afford.

Aside from being narrow and sloped, the chancery script had frequent joins between letters. Therefore, to adequately imitate a page in the chancery hand, Aldus’ punchcutter, Francesco Griffo, needed to cut hundreds of punches, including about 60 ligatures, to achieve a similar effect.

LENDER: The library of T. Kimball Brooker, author and collector of the Aldine Press


Johann Schönsperger (1455–1521), Leonhard Wagner (1453–1522). Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger, December 1513. Folio.

To commemorate the opening of a new library, the Emperor Maximilian (1459–1519) commissioned a new font based on the fraktur style of calligraphy used in manuscripts. Scholars believe that the calligrapher Leonhard Wagner was enlisted to design the face, while the printer Johann Schönsperger was charged with producing the font, which was cut by Jost de Negker. The result is a type of exceptional beauty and refinement.

[Shown in the facsimile published by F. Bruckmann in Munich, 1907.]

LENDER: Jerry Kelly



Johann Schönsperger (1455–1521). Nürnberg [Augsburg]: Johann Schönsperger, 1517. Folio.

Theuerdank (“Noble Mind”) is an allegorical poem describing the feats of the Emperor Maximilian in overcoming obstacles while pursuing his bride, Mary of Burgundy, whom he married in 1477. The volume’s importance to typography lies in the beautiful fraktur typeface, with many alternative characters and a large assortment of swashes, large and small. These were set as separate pieces which, in combination with the cast letterforms, form a remarkably close approximation to the appearance of handwritten manuscripts by scribes employing pen-made decorations.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly

In the Beginning