Manuscript Culture - Late Manuscript Culture - Manuscripts and The Arrival of Print

Manuscripts and The Arrival of Print

By roughly 1470, the transition from handwritten books to printed ones had begun. The book trade, in particular, underwent drastic changes. By this point German printing presses had reached the northernmost regions of Europe, specifically Paris. By 1500, print had stopped imitating manuscripts and manuscripts were imitating print. In the reign of Francis I (1515–1547) for instance, the king's handwritten manuscripts were based on Roman type. While quality rag paper had appeared before the arrival of the printing press, it was at this time that parchmenters lost most of their business. Paper was not only acceptable, it was preferable, and printers and scribes had both ceased to use parchment altogether. Many libraries decried these changes, because of the loss in individuality and subtlety that resulted. Many printed books and manuscripts were even created with the same paper. The same watermarks are often observable on them, that signified the particular paper dealer who created it.

Manuscripts were still written and illuminated well into the sixteenth century, some dating to just before 1600. Many illuminators continued to work on various manuscripts, specifically the Book of Hours. The Book of Hours had been the most commonly produced manuscript from the 1450s onward, and was among the last manuscripts created. By the sixteenth century, however, manuscripts were mostly illuminated by artists retained by nobles or royals. Their work was required (and manuscripts were created) only for unusual occasions, such as noble or royal births, weddings, or other extraordinary occurrences. The number of copyists had greatly declined, as these types of manuscripts were not intended for mass, or even student, consumption.

The traditional organization of book production fell apart; they were made up of libraries doling out quires to scribes and illuminators, who lived in proximity. The new, specialized system based on patronage didn't support them. Libraries, and not scribes, turned into printers, and served as a link between late manuscript culture and print culture. They had possessed reserves of manuscripts, and slowly supplemented them with printed books, until printed books dominated their collections. However, the cost and risks involved in making books greatly increased with the transition to print. Still, Paris and more northern areas of Europe (especially France) had been the foremost center of manuscript production, and remained a force in the printed book market, falling only behind Venice.

Read more about this topic:  Manuscript Culture, Late Manuscript Culture

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