I hope that Designers will find much of interest in my online book.
Eventually, this section will contain a Design Contents list, so that those who are interested primarily in the visual elements of early printed books can go directly to the documents and commentary in Humanism For Sale without worrying too much about the scholarly trappings of the monograph. It's an experiment. At this point, you can find plenty of examples here, but if you want to get deeply into individual subjects, you need to use the Table of Contents, look at my discussion, and then follow the links to the footnotes and bibliography. (323KB PDF file)
Way too cumbersome! So I want to do better for you -- sooner or later.
Below is a list of the issues I think might interest designers. I also hope to create a separate Design Bibliography. Meanwhile, I definitely welcome suggestions about how to make the site and this section more useful.
Blackletter vs. Roman. This issue was debated largely on philosophical grounds.
Single type size. The earliest printers had only one size to work with. Boy did they work at it!
Display types were invented only gradually and used sparingly.
Use of italics. Invented around 1500, italics quickly became a tool for clarifying content.
Origin of the title page. Title pages derived from the needs of booksellers.
Layout of title pages evolved slowy as display types became available.
Illustration, Ornament and Diagrams
True illustration was a fairly rare device in schoolbooks. Music and geography books offer some exceptions.
Diagrams also turn up in math books and other technical textbooks.
What we think of as ornament often had important philosophical import for early textbook publishers.
The emblem book was an entirely new form of the 16th century that combined picture and text for recreational, philosophical and educational purposes.
Design for Marketing
Title pages were the principal site for marketing books, using advertising blurbs.
Indexes were frequently touted as selling points.
Printer's prefaces and afterwards offer explanations of what innovations were on offer.
Printer's marks were important for marketing and for communication between printers and readers.
Authors sometimes exerted control, but there is relatively little evidence.
Printers were usually their own desingers, responsible for the look of the book.
Publishers assumed this role increasingly as the 16th century progressed.