Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Invention and Discovery: Printed Books from Fifteenth-Century Europe


Originally exhibited February 2–May 3, 2010


Since 1962, Bridwell Library has built one of the finest collections of fifteenth-century printed books held in America. Numbering more than one thousand volumes, Bridwell’s collection of pre-1501 imprints is not merely a gathering of early typographic specimens. It is a rich and wide-ranging library of fifteenth-century reading material that reflects the mainstreams of European theological and humanist thought during the Renaissance period. Based on Classical, Christian, and medieval traditions, the early printed editions represented here helped lay the spiritual and intellectual foundations of the modern age.

This exhibition presents sixty books and broadsides printed between c. 1455 and 1500. The selections highlight unique copy-specific characteristics that focus attention on the various ways in which Europeans in past centuries discovered the power and potential of Gutenberg’s invention. Early readers were not content to leave their books exactly as they came off the presses, but were inclined to engage in their contents mentally and to intervene in their appearance physically. Employing local artisans to provide rubrication, illumination, and bindings, readers added their own annotations, inscriptions, and other signs of ownership and use. As a group, the exhibited items reflect the active participation of countless individuals in the initial spread of printing across Europe.

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Peter Schoeffer: Printer of Mainz


Originally exhibited September 8–December 8, 2003
Entry Hall


After Johannes Gutenberg (c. 13971468), Peter Schoeffer was the most influential individual in the early history of printing in Europe. Born about 1425 in Gernsheim, near Mainz, educated at Erfurt University, and trained as a calligrapher in Paris, Schoeffer had become involved in the new art of printing by 1455, serving as an employee of Johann Fust of Mainz, who was then financing Gutenberg’s “work of the books” – doubtless the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. As Gutenberg’s helper, later as Fust’s junior partner, and finally on his own, Schoeffer remained at the forefront of Europe’s printers for the better part of five decades, producing an impressive array of essential theological and legal editions. Before his death in 1503, he had done more than any other to introduce important publishing innovations and to set technical standards that would shape the history of the printed word.

This web-exhibition presents selected highlights from Peter Schoeffer: Printer of Mainz. A Quincentenary Exhibition at Bridwell Library, displayed from 8 September to 8 December 2003.

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