Pet Book # 4: The Value of an Image

Although my pet book does not have images per se in the modern sense, the choice of font, the decorated initials or capitals, and the printers’ ornaments allow this book to further extend our knowledge of what an image can do to further a text. The same way in which these printers’ ornaments and capitals were set with the text, “the visual collaborates with the verbal in a typeset book”(Boeckeler 1). Images allowed for early modern readers to not only adjust to print from the manuscript, but furthered its own identity and purpose in print.

The most prominent image within Iani Gruterus Pericula is the font. Although traditionally this is not seen as an image, a typeset font was considered a craft of visual art in the early times of print. The font present through the whole work is an italics developed by Robert Granjon, “ an artist of the stature of his countryman an near-contemporary Garamont and one of the greatest all-round type designers of any period” (Gaskell 24-25). His italics were a “perfect complement to the Parisian romans” and “set the pattern for the standard renaissance founts of the later hand-press period”(Gaskell 25). It was an artist who created this font and it took thought, time, and effort. This type of font pairs perfectly with a book of Latin elegies because the font in itself expresses the desire for art within the return to the classics during the Renaissance times. It is this font that sets the tone for this book and the type of knowledge that it will express.

The printers’ marks within this book allow for further exploration of images. “Pictorially striking, erudite, sometimes cryptic, often laden with iconographic significance, these marks function beyond mere identification of the printer”(Boeckeler 1). I would like to begin with the first image seen: the cover. This cover is pretty modestly bound in calfskin with a little use of gilt on the edges, but the front and back both show the decorative technique of blind tooling. On the cover there is a rectangular structure placed vertically with a thick border and at each corner there is a foliage stamp that appears to be a fleuron. These stamps were made of brass and mounted on wooden handles, and then pressed into the dampened leather after being heated. This simplistic design lends some meaning in the sense that this book was maybe not one of ornate or high quality. Its lack of complexity and lack of gold leaf lend to its common nature. It might have been used to classically educate, therefore it could be seen as a textbook.

The next image that provokes further information about this work is the woodcut image placed on the title page. Pericula and Numerius have separate title pages, so this woodcut image appears twice and is most likely used as a printers’ device to identify. The image is of a mermaid, who is nude above the waist, holding up flowers in each hand. Both hands are positioned at the same height, which suggests that the flowers weigh the same. She is also draped in some form of a decorative shall and has a headpiece on. It almost alludes to an early rendition of lady justice and connects to this text’s classical nature. It appears to be some form of a goddess weighing the odds, which can relate with elegies’ serious nature.

The final form of an image within this text is the decorated initials and an example of a printers’ ornament. The beginning of each section of elegies is greeted with a decorated initial or capital. Although “printers’ ornament were first used to give fifteenth-century readers, who had grown up with manuscripts, some approximation of what they expected to see when they opened a book,” as time progressed, “ornaments such as frontispieces and printers’ mark began to elaborate and fill function associated specifically with print”(Fleming 168-169). These decorated initials play directly with the text and allow for the reader to focus on the beginning of each section. The manner in which these capitals are decorated allude to an arabesque design and share many features with the printed flower’s appearance. “ Flowers are imprecisely said to ‘rest the eye’, or alternatively, to ‘focus’ concentration” and I believe this capitals are performing at the same physiological level (Fleming 169). There is a total of 5 decorated initials in this work to designate the beginning of a section, while the individual elegies in each section are separated by a straight black line and begin with a capital letter in plain unitalicized font.

What is really interesting though is that there is only one historiated initial towards the end and only one printers’ ornament. The section titled “Harmosynae” is the only section with a historiated capital and I believe that is meant to make this section stand out. The image is of a bare footed laborer pushing a hay roll. This capital might allude to the nature of this section or say something to the context of this book. Either way, this section stands out amongst the rest for the use of this woodcut and adds to the meaning of the book itself. While there is only one historiated capital, there is only one printers’ ornament located half way through the book at the beginning of another section. This section also stands out amongst the rest and this mark makes the reader focus on the title before they move on to the rest of what is written. The printers’ ornament seems to be some form of printed flower. It separates the main title from the subheading, which allows for organization and is most likely appeasing to the eye of an early modern reader. I view this printers’ mark as a method of preparing a reader for a completely new section of Despositum.

It should be noted that all these images are meant to visually play with the text and are integral to the reading of this work. “ Sixteenth century readers recognized a certain tension, as well as a certain complicity, between the visual pleasures and ideational purposes of the printed book “ and I believe the images in this work allow for the early modern reader to gain the full meaning of this book (Fleming170).

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