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Technologies of Writing in the Age of Print
Printing and Manuscript

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Printing and Manuscript

Aristotle. Physica and eleven other works. Manuscript, ca. 1300? (Detail)

Far from displacing manuscript, the earliest printed books required scribes and owners to "complete" them by adding large rubricated capitals and other navigational aids (including page numbers). The size of the margins and the space between lines was also calculated, as it was in medieval manuscripts, according to the intended uses of the book so that readers could add their notes.


Written on vellum, this medieval collection of writings by Aristotle is a good example of how both manuscript and printed books were made with the reader’s future writing in mind. The wide margins and even the small gaps between lines provided the necessary blank space for annotations, including pointing fingers that emphasize the role of the hand in finding and noting passages.


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Vitae patrum. Strasbourg, 1485

Exhibition Highlights

Early printed books often included decorative initials added by hand to mark the beginning of books or chapters. These helped as navigational aids. In this book, finding tabs have also been added to help the reader locate the beginnings of sections.

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