This woodcut, depicting a type of lettuce, was printed from the woodblock that appears next in this gallery. The inked black lines visible under the hand coloring correspond to the uncut areas in relief on the block. The hand coloring was likely made for or by an early owner of this 1562 Czech edition of Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s famous herbal.
This woodblock was used to print the lettuce image included in this gallery. A draftsman first made a detailed drawing on the surface of the block. This guided the work of the cutter, who carved out the areas between the drawn lines, leaving them to be printed in relief. Such a detailed design required extreme precision. When the lettuce image was no longer needed, a portrait was cut into the back of the block for use in another book.
This etching belongs to a set of twenty-six prints by Bohemian printmaker Wenceslaus Hollar, depicting fashionably dressed women. Hollar produced several series of such prints, a genre that had become popular in England earlier in the seventeenth century. The maid in this image is the only woman of lower rank portrayed in the series, and perhaps reflects a rising interest in depicting working people.
By placing the North Pole at the center of his projection chart of the North Atlantic, Luke Foxe avoided the distortion of coastlines near the pole visible in other projection maps, which take their measurements from the equator. This engraved map from 1635 shows Foxe’s attempt to find a northwest passage to Asia. The search for a route to reach the spice markets in Asia without going across the American continents led to several expeditions in the late 1500s, which were recounted by Foxe before the report about his own trip, and his discovery of uncharted parts of Hudson Bay. More than his text, Foxe’s map was regarded as the most valuable part of his book.
This portrait of Ethiopian cleric Abba Gregory is a rare image of an early modern African scholar. It was included in a book by the German scholar Hiob Ludolf, on Ge’ez—an ancient Ethiopian language—and on Ethiopian customs. In his book, Ludolf included information provided by Gregory, and described the abbot’s life, praising him for his learning. Ludolf’s inclusion of Gregory’s portrait shows his admiration. This portrait is mezzotint print, made with a different intaglio technique than the ones used for engravings and etchings.
In the first edition of his manual on intaglio printmaking, published in 1645, Abraham Bosse included duplicate impressions of several of the plates so that they could be viewed facing the text when it ran on to another page. In this later edition, published in 1745, the plates are printed with wide, blank margins so that readers can view them while turning the pages. This etching depicts the printing of an intaglio image on a rolling press. Freshly made impressions hang to dry behind the printmaker.
Many of the women portrayed in this 1631 volume are fashionably dressed, but the text makes it clear that they are courtesans. The engraving also leaves no doubt as to the clientele of the book: male customers buying art as a substitute for physical companionship. Several trilingual editions were made throughout the eighteenth century by copying earlier versions; this one copied a 1630 edition. They were published anonymously, due to their overtly sexual content.
Folded plates were a means to include larger images in books. Six large etchings were folded and inserted in this 1690 libretto for a ballet created for the Duke of Parma’s wedding. The size of the prints reflects the magnificence of the stage designs created by the Bibiena brothers—two of the most prominent theater artists of the time. Mercury and a cherub were suspended in the air while Venus, the goddess of love, moved among the ruins of a palace.
Meet the Curator
Caroline Duroselle-Melish is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has co-curated several Folger exhibitions, including Age of Lawyers: The Roots of American Law in Shakespeare’s Britain and First Folio! Shakespeare’s American Tour. Duroselle-Melish has worked with a wide range of collections in university and independent rare book libraries. Most recently, she was Assistant Curator at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. She has published on a range of topics associated with early modern book printing and printmaking.