Fifteenth and sixteenth century printers, like other manufacturers, put a proprietary mark on their goods to protect against piracy. A forged copy of a good printer's mark could be detected with comparative ease, even if the body of the book had all the appearance of being genuine. Printers son realized the ornamental value of the mark, however, and began to employ artists to create them. The earliest printer's mark on record dates from 1462, shortly after the invention of printing with movable type. Initially, the mark, a design cut on wood or metal, was printed at the end of the book but it soon became a feature of the title page. In fact, the printer's mark predates the title page (as we know it) by at least two decades.
In form, the printer's mark generally consists of a pictorial device, sometimes with ornament, sometimes with a motto. It could be a simple geometric design (#1) or a more elaborate engraving (#24). Some indication of the printer's identity was often included - his name (#3), initials (#1) or a personal sign. Printers often used more than one mark (#6 and #15) or variations on the same mark (#5 and #16). The marks themselves might contain a pun on the printer's name or a reference to his shop sign. Some designs were symbolic; others were personal-the picture of a press, a portrait of the printer. Occasionally, marks took the form of a heraldic device (#12). The mythological designs were often the liveliest (#7 and #16).
The meaning of some devices can sometimes be discovered, though often the meaning has been lost and can only be guessed at. Sometimes the meaning of the mark can be inferred from the motto. The compass device of Christophe Plantin (#14) has the motto "Labor et Constantia." The point of the compass turning around signifies work,and the stationary point, constancy. While the mark identified the printer, those who designed marks generally remained anonymous. In only a few instances can a mark be connected with a specific artist, e.g. the mark of Swiss printer Andreas Cratander (#8) is known to have been designed by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Designs passed from press to press and from country to country. In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the printer's mark gave way on the title page to an engraved vignette. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the mark came back in fashion, though in its later use it usually denotes, not the printer, but the publisher. A variation on the Dolphin and Anchor mark used by Aldo Manuzio (#2) was revived in the nineteenth century by the English publisher William Pickering (1796 - 1854) and is currently used by Doubleday.
The printers' marks on display have been selected from the sixteenth and seventeenth century holdings of the Queen Elizabeth II Library's Archives & Special Collections. The photographs were taken by Chris Hammond of Memorial's Marketing and Communications' Image Services.
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1. Giovanni Tacuino (1482-1541)
was an Italian publisher and printer. He also signed John Tacuinus de
Tridino, Ioannis de Cereto alias Tacuinum de Tridino or Zuanne de Trino said Tacuino
or Zuan Tacuino (the initials Z. and T. appear in his mark). He was active in
Venice from the last decade of the fifteenth century until the fourth decade
of the sixteenth century. He is known to have printed at least 160 editions
Mark: Concentric circles with double cross and initials.
2. Aldo Manuzio (1449 or 50 - 1515) or Aldo Manutius was
the most renowned Venetian printer of the Renaissance. Aldus pioneered the printing
of Greek classics in the orginal language, often in pocket editions. His device
of dolphin and anchor may have been that of the Roman emperor Augustus and is
found on medals of Vespasian and Domitian. A version of the dolphin and anchor
device was used by William Pickering in the 19th century and is currently used
Mark: Dolphin and Anchor.
|3. Jean Petit (d. 1530) was a French printer, bookseller and
entrepreneur who dominated the Paris book trade in the early decades of the sixteenth century.
Between 1493 and 1530 he published more than a thousand titles and became on of the great
official printers for the University of Paris. This is Petit's second or third
device and probably dates to 1496.
Mark: Shield suspended from a tree and supported by a lion and a leopard. Shield initials are intertwined with a cord.
4. Thomas Platter (1499-1582) or Thomam Platterum was a
Swiss humanist and scholar. He worked in Basel as a teacher and printer.
In 1536 he published at the first edition of Calvin's Institutes.
He is known to have printed at least 115 editions.
Mark: Minerva, polished shield, Gorgon's head, and owl. The motto is line 285 from Horace's Ars Poetica: "Tu nihil invita facies dicesve Minerva" or "you will say and do nothing without Minerva."
|5. Sebastien Gryphe (1493-1556) or Sebastianus Gryphius
was a Lyon printer of German origin (Greiff), also known as Gryphe. He settled
in Lyon around 1520. He specialised in pocket editions of Latin classics, but
also published the works of his contemporaries, including Rabelais.
Mark: Griffin, block, chain and winged globe. His motto: "Virtute duce comite fortuna" or "Under the guidance of valour, accompanied by good fortune" is still used in present-day Lyon.
|6. Robert I. Estienne (1503-1559) or Robert Stephanus was the
second son of Henri Estienne, founder of the Estienne publishing dynasty which, over
the course of 162 years, or five generations, printed more that 2,000 editions. Robert
was appointed royal printer in Greek.
Mark: One of ten devices used by Robert Estienne: Olive tree with falling branch and a figure sometimes identified as St. Paul. Motto: "Noli altum sapere" "Be not high-minded."
|7. Henrich Petri (1523-78) or Hericus Petrus was a printer of Basel.
He was the son of Adam Petri who printed popular editions of Luther. Henrich printed many editions
in his lifetime, including Sebastian Munster's Cosmographica, one of the most successful
books of the sixteenth century.
Mark: Thor's hammer, held by a hand issuing from the clouds, striking fire on the rock, while a head, symbolizing wind, blows upon it.
|8. Andreas Cratander (1485-1540)was a Swiss typographer,
printer and bookseller. Initially a proof reader and editor with Adam Petri, he
established his own print shop in Basel around 1518. He published the classics and
also Reformation works.
Mark: Occasio, Roman goddess of opportunity, designed by Hans Holbein the Younger.
|9. Johann Beyer (1551-1596) or Johannes Beyerus was a Leipzig printer
and book seller. He is known to have had three active presses. Beyer published devotional works
and music. Worldcat identifies twenty-one works under his imprint, seventeen in German and four
Mark: Child with one winged hand and one hand shackled to a weight.
|10. Giovanni Varisco or Ioannes Variscus was a printer active in Venice
between 1558 and 1588.
Mark: Mermaid or siren. The twin-tailed siren is an amalgamation of the two legs of a woman applied to the single tail of the fish. The twin fish-tail represents duality or conflicts.
The twin-tailed mermaid is the logo of the Starbucks coffee chain.
|11. Henri II Estienne (1528 or 1531-1598) or Henricus Stephanus was a sixteenth-century
French printer and classical scholar. He was the eldest son of Robert I. Estienne (and grandson of
Henri Estienne). In 1555 he established his own press in Geneva. He took over his father's printing business
in 1559. His Thesaurus of the Greek language (1572), in an updated edition, remains a key source for
Mark: A variation on the olive mark used by the Estienne family. Motto: "Noli altum sapere" or "Be not high-minded."
|12. Etienne Prevosteau or Stephan Prevosteau was a publisher, bookseller
and printer, active in Paris between 1579 and 1610. he succeeded Guillaume Morel
Mark: The mark of escutcheon with chevrons and stripes is not the one normally associated with Prevosteau. The printer's mark most often associated with him is based on the theta letter of the Greek alphabet.
|13. Henri II Estienne (1528 or 1531-1598) or Henricus Stephanus was a
sixteenth-century French printer and classical scholar. He was the eldest sone of Robert I Estienne
(and grandson of Henri Estienne).
Mark: Another variation on the olive mark used by the Estienne family. Motto: "Be not high-minded."
|14. Christophe Plantin (c. 1520-1589) was an influential Renaissance humanist, book printer
and publisher. Born in France he moved to Antwerp where he opened a print shop in 1555.
Mark: One of the many variations on Plantin's compass device, first used in 1557. Plantin saw the compass as a symbolic representation of his motto "Labor et Constantia." The point of the compass turning round signifies work, and the stationary point constancy.
|15. Robert I Estienne (1503-1559) or Robert Stephanus was the second son of Henri
Estienne, founder of the Estienne printing dynasty in France. Robert I was known as a Greek, Latin and
Hebrew scholar as well as a printer.
Mark: Robert Estienne used ten different marks, of which seven are variations on the olive device, and three are variations on the motif of serpent on a rod intertwined with a branch of a climbing plant.
|16. Sebastien Gryphe (1493-1556) or Sebastianus Gryphius was a Lyon printer of
German origin (Greiff), also known as Gryphe. He settled in Lyon around 1520 and from his base there
became the most prolific French printer of his time.
Mark: One of eight variations of his Griffin mark, this one without a motto.
|17. Frederic Leonard (1624-1711) or Fredericum Leonard was born in Brussels. He apprenticed as a
printer in Antwerp before moving to Paris in 1643, where he became ordinary printer to the king, the
Grand Dauphin, and the clergy of France.
Mark: The Lion of St. Mark holding a book with the inscription: "Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista Meus" or "Peace to you, Mark, evangelist of mine." There is also a motto: "Virtute Invidiam Vince" or "Virtue Overcometh Envy."
|18. Gijsbert van Zijll (active between 1645 and 1680) and
Dirck van Ackersdijck (active between 1643 and 1670) were printers in Utrecht.
Mark: Minerva sits beneath a tree, surrounded by symbols of wisdom, including the owl and the wheel. The motto is "Pax Artium Altrix" or "Peace, a sustainer of the arts."
|19. Christopher Barker (c.1529-1599) was printer to Queen Elizabeth I.
Born in Yorkshire, he began trading in London in1559 under the sign of the Grasshopper in
St. Paul's churchyard. In 1573 he secured the lucrative royal patent to print the Bible.
By 1586 he operated six presses and had the largest printing office in England.
Mark: In many of the bibles he printed, Barker used Queen Elizabeth I's coat of arms rather than his own mark, indicating the royal patent.
|20. Daniel Elzevier (d. 1680) was a cousin of Louis Elzevier II. Together they
ran the Amsterdam wing of the Elzevier publishing business from 1655. Daniel continued the business after
his partner retired in 1664.
Mark: The armillary sphere or spherical astrolabe was one of the minor marks used by the Amsterdam office of the Elzeviers.
|21. Wetstein Family were Amsterdam booksellers and publishers.
Heindrik Wetstein (1649-1726) or Henricum Wetstenium and his sons Rudolph (1679-1742) and Gerard (1680-1755) published
scholarly books in Latin and French. Heindrik was a native of Geneva. He moved to Amsterdam in 1669 where he
was trained by Daniel Elzevier
Mark: Minerva. Motto "Terar Dum Prosim", "May I Be Consumed In Service."
|22. Paolo Manuzio (1512-1574) or Paulus Manutius was the third and youngest son of Aldo
Manuzio. He was both a scholar and a printer. He took over the family business in 1539, printing books as the "Sons
of Aldus," focussing on Latin editions, especially Cicero. Between 1561 and 1570 he was official printer to the pope
in Rome, maintaining print shops in both Rome and Venice.
Mark: Dolphin and Anchor with cornucopia and putti.
|23. Pierre Haultin (c. 1510-20-1587) was a French printer and punchcutter. He
published Protestant Bibles and devotional works at Paris, Lyon and La Rochelle.
Mark: An angel in tattered dress holding a book with Hebrew script and standing on a skeleton. Motto: "La Vray Religion Chretienne" or "The True Christian Religion."
|24. Poncet Le Preux (1481-1559) or Poncetum le Preux was active as a printer in Paris
between the years 1498 and 1559.
Mark: Wolf, griffins, tree and owl with the Latin motto: "Quic Quit Agas Sapienter Agas Respice Finem," or "that which you do, do wisely, considering the end."
|25. Hieronymus Froben (1501-1563) or Hieronymus Frobenius was the eldest son of Johann Froben.
Hieronymus, together with his father and his brother-in-law Nicolaus Episcopius, is noted for having a close working
friendship with Erasmus and for making Basel an important center of Renaissance printing.
Mark: A peace pole, supported by two hands, on which there is a dove. The pole is entangled by two snakes.