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The Early Modern Book as Visual Enterprise, 1500-1650

Posted By Erika M. Boeckeler, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 27, 2016

The Early Modern Book as Visual Enterprise, 1500-1650


With its printer's flowers, tapered texts, woodcut decorated initials, printer’s rebuses, and varieties of fonts, the quotidian early modern book could offer quite a surprising visual program. What, if anything, did the visuals of the workaday printed book aspire towards? How did they inform a reader’s experience of the text? What aspects of manuscript culture did they draw upon, and what trends did print invent for its own purposes? Rather than focus on illustrated books--e.g. containing a series of woodcuts or engravings-- this session seeks papers on the run-of-the-mill visual elements that populate early modern books from 1500-1650.

Suggested approaches:

Note continuities with visual manuscript practices and/or divergent trends.

Trace a particular visual feature

Outline the visual program of a book or a set of books by an individual printer

Examine text-image relations

Uncover printing house practices as mechanical determinants for a book’s visual appearance

Locate ways readers responded to the visuals of a text

Identify interactions/contact between printers through visual pieces or programs

Point out the visuals of text


Please send proposals to Erika Boeckeler ( by Friday, June 3, 2016.

As per RSA guidelines, proposals should include the following: paper title (15-word maximum), abstract (150-word maximum), keywords, and a very brief curriculum vitae (300-word maximum). See

Tags:  bibliography  book history  fonts  material culture  text and image  typography 

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