6 Responses

  1. Lovely. I sent this to an editor friend who already knows this history but will appreciate the presentation.

  2. I’ve got nothing against Gutenberg, but he did not invent typography or the printing press. The first printing press was invented in China in the late 6th century CE. By 700 the first printed newspaper, created with woodblock printing, was available in Youzhou (today’s Beijing). A Chinese commoner named Pi Sheng invented movable earthenware type in the early decades of the 11th century, and his methods were refined by a magistrate of Ching-te named Wang Chen when he adapted Pi Sheng’s methods to wooden type in 1298. Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza, in a book published in 1585, states that Gutenberg got his idea for moveable type after seeing books that came to him through Russia and Arabia, along two well-traveled branches of the Silk Road. Credit where credit is due, eh?

    • Yes, but metal moveable type he did invent; that is different from wood block printing, and the metallurgy is complicated.

  3. Heavy is the head consumed by news.

    Refreshing, delightfull, interlude– your stock just went up.

  4. What’s this on Comic Sans hate? It can be a nice touch, if not overused.

    In my opinion, the “Times New Roman” that is the Word™ standard is unlovely and I find it annoys me more and more. Interestingly, the font called “Times” looks nicer… but not all applications seem to have it.

  5. There are too many historical errors to correct, except to say that everything historical is party or wholly incorrect. There are some who believe consistency is a virtue, but I am not one of them.

    John Baskerville (1706–1775) and Benjamin Franklin were good friends, and Franklin was Baskerville’s guest at his home near Birmingham, Easy Hill.

    Baskerville’s will and epitaph are interesting documents of these Enlightenment radicals. The conclusion of his will:

    “My further will & pleasure is and I Hereby Declare that the Device of Goods & Chattels as Above is upon this Express Condition that my Wife in Concert with my Executors do Cause my Body to be Buried in a Conical Building in my own premises, Heretofore used as a mill which I have lately Raised Higher and painted and in a vault which I have prepared for It. This Doubtless to many may appear a Whim perhaps It is so — But is a whim for many years Resolve’d upon as I have a Hearty Contempt for all Superstition the Farce of a Consecrated Ground the Irish Barbarism of Sure and Certain Hopes &c. I also consider Revelation as It is call’d Exclusive of the Scraps of Morality casually Intermixt with It to be the most Impudent Abuse of Common Sense which Ever was Invented to Befool Mankind. I Expect some shrewd Remark will be made on this my Declaration by the Ignorant & Bigoted who cannot Distinguish between Religion & Superstition and are Taught to Believe that morality (by which I understand all the Duties a man owes to God and his fellow Creatures) is not Sufficient to Entitle him to Divine favour with[out] professing to believe as they Call It Certain Absurd Doctrines & mysteries of which they have no more Conception than a Horse. This Morality Alone I profess to have been my Religion and the [Rule] of my Actions, to which I appeal how far my profession and practice have Been Consistent.”

    His epitaph:

    “Stranger
    Beneath this Cone in Unconsecrated Ground
    A Friend to the Liberties of Mankind Directed his Body be Inhum’d
    May his Example Contribute to Emancipate thy Mind
    From the Idle Fears of Superstition
    And the Wicked Arts of Priesthood”

    Baskerville’s printing plant was bought by Beaumarchais in 1779; his type was used to set a complete edition of Voltaire.

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