{Tidbit #5} The making of a book

Today’s tidbit: a 1925 silent movie about the making of books by the University of Oxford Press (Clarendon Press).

Five things you might not know about printing:

  1. We only know the approximate date of the printing of Gutenberg’s Bible. Some people think it wasn’t even the first book ever printed!
  2. The words “uppercase” and “lowercase”, as we use them today, originate from the fact the big initials were physically kept in the higher (the farther) boxes in the 15th century, while smaller, most common letters had to be kept ready at hand (4:31).
  3. The first typographers were jewellers and goldsmiths: people who were used to working with metals and wanted to see what else they could do with them – to make more money. We idealise early printers, but they were businessmen.
  4. One of the most difficult things to do with a handpress is figuring out the spacing between types. Seriously, it’s a nightmare. Spaces are called quads, thicks, mids, thins, em’s, and en’s depending on how big they are and it is absolutely confusing.
  5. Gold leaf is rather fickle to handle (14:30). The easiest way to do it is to stroke your hair beforehand so that you get some grease on your fingers.
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