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Library Catalog No. WEST1608

“Typographia” [“The Printing Press”] and “De & pro Typographis” [“On and for Printers”] from Parthenicôn Elisabethæ Joannæ Westoniæ, virginis nobilissimæ, poëtriæ florentissimæ, linguarum plurimarum peritissimæ, Liber I. Operâ ac studio G. Mart. à Baldhoven, Sil. collectus; & nunc denuò amicis desiderantibus communicatus. Pragae: Typis Pauli Sessii, [1608?]. Fol. D3r–D4v.
   Rpt. in Elizabeth Jane Weston: Collected Writings. Ed. and trans. by Donald Cheney and Brenda M. Hosington, with D. K. Money. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 84–89.

by Elizabeth Jane Weston (aka Elisabetha Joanna Westonia)

e-Copyright © 2013–2017 < >

First Issued:  18 October 2013
Revised (substantive):  n/a

Part II: Weston’s poem on printing

BELOW: 2-page spread on “Printing.” From Charles Hoole’s 1659 English translation of the first illustrated children’s primer, Orbis sensualium pictus. Hoc est, omnium fundamentalium in mundo rerum & in vitâ actionum pictura & nomenclatura, by the great pansophist and Czech educational reformer, Jan Amos Comenius (1592–1670).

facsimile of mid-17th-century book page  facsimile of mid-17th-century book page

Comenius’ Orbis Pictus [The World Illustrated] aimed at giving readers a multilingual (Latin and vernacular) “picture and nomenclature of all the chief things that are in the world; and of mens employments therein.” This encyclopedic survey of the phenomenal world was completed by Comenius in 151 illustrated chapters, with Chapter 93 devoted to the printer’s trade.
  First published at Nuremberg in 1658, by the bookseller Michael Endter, Comenius’ Orbis Pictus, with its wonderful copperplate engravings and innovative approach (teaching words and things together, hand in hand) had an enormous circulation, and was translated into most European languages, along with some Oriental languages as well. It remained for a long time the most popular textbook in Europe, and was used to instruct girls as well as boys.
  Weston’s 2 poems on printing were written and published half a century before Comenius’ Orbis Pictus, but the print trade didn’t undergo any revolutionary changes in the interim. Printing was still very hard work in 1683, when Joseph Moxon documented the mechanical side of the art in his Mechanick Exercises: or, the Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the Art of Printing. “From no other book can one glean so many evidences of the poverty of the old printinghouse. Its scant supply of types, its shackly handpresses, its mean printing-inks, its paper windows and awkward methods, when not specifically confessed, are plainly indicated.” (J. Moxon, Mechanick Exercises ... Applied to the Art of Printing, ed. T. L. De Vinne, 2 vols., 1896, 1.xvii)
  Printers still labored at sometimes dangerous work — e.g., making ink by boiling oil in large iron pots over an open fire, being “carefull that it rise not at the begining, nor yet when it doe boyle, least it endanger the house,” as John Evelyn warned in his recipe for “Printers Inke,” communicated to the Royal Society in 1662 — and they did it under difficult conditions, at the mercy of the weather — e.g., positioning the press to the west or north so that the sun would not dry the paper during a run of work; relying on widows made not from glass, but from oiled paper, to admit light and defend “against cold, which was sometimes so severe that work had to be suspended. Then, as now, printers preferred the upper floors of the building for composition, and these upper floors were usually lighted by small windows near the ceiling. The English printing-house of the seventeenth century was rude, bare, and small. It was a large printing-house that had four hand-presses and a dozen frames.” (J. Moxon, Mechanick Exercises ... Applied to the Art of Printing, ed. T. L. De Vinne, 2 vols., 1896, 2.402)
  The English gloss for Comenius’ chapter on “Printing/Typographia,” with 15 numbered callouts, reads in full: “The Printer hath Copper Letters in a great number put into Boxes. 5.  ¶  The Compositor 1. taketh them out one by one, and (according to the Copy, which he hath fastened before him in a Visorum 2.) composeth words in a composing-stick, 3. till a Line be made, he putteth these in a Gally, 4. till a Page 6. be made, and these again in a Form, 7. and he locketh them up in Iron Chases, 8. with coyns, 9. lest they should drop out, and putteth them under the Press, 10.  ¶  Then the Presse-man beateth it over with Printers-Ink by means of Balls, 11. spreadeth upon it the papers, put in the Frisket, 12. which being put under the Spindle, 14. on the Coffin, 13. and pressed down with the Bar, 15. he maketh to take Impression.” (J. Comenius, Orbis Pictus, trans. C. Hoole, 1659, 190–1)

[ O R I G I N A L   L A T I N ]


Anno Christi 1440. die 2 Januarij ab
Johanne Guttenbergero Strasburgensi,
Moguntiæ excogitata.

MIra typIs LIbros ars qVæ CeLerI eXCItat aCtV

GVttenbergerI genIo est InVenta JohannIs.

     Divinum cælo demissum munus ab alto,

Quo melius nil prima tulit, licet aurea multis

Nominibus, postrema nihil simile adferet ætas.

Jlli debemus nostra otia, libera curis

Otia solicitis; nam quæ nos tempora Musis

(Seu meditando aliquid, seu scripta aliena legendo)

Non ingrata damus, perdebant illa Priores

Longa exscribendis ducentes tædia chartis.

     Illi debemus millena volumina legis

Æternæ variata notis, sed consona verbo.

Illi debemus veterum donata Sophorum

Scripta novâ luce, & nostris magis usibus apta.

Illi debemus, quód nunc parvo ære parantur,

Magna quibus prisci impendêre æraria Regis

Et quòd nobilibúsque ignobilibúsque leguntur

Secreta antiquæ Sophiæ discrimine nullo,

Denique quód nitidis oculos distincta figuris

Scripta minus lædant; quód sint secura ruinæ

Squallentisque sitûs, ut quæ revocentur in auras

Quovis tersa manu doctorum excultius anno;

Quódque tot innumeris habeamus scrinia libris

Plena, Typographiæ hoc debemus muneris uni.

     Quis talem ergó vehat condignis laudibus Artem

Quæ laus tota sua est: lege libros, otia laudas

Parta Typographiâ. Libros eme, tædia damnas

Scribendi, atque brevis producis tempora vitæ.


[ M O D E R N   E N G L I S H ]


The printing press contrived
at Mainz on January 2, 1440,
by Johannes Gutenberg
of Strasbourg.

The remarkable art which speedily brings forth books from type

was invented through the genius of Johannes Gutenberg.

     A divine gift, sent down from heaven on high:

that first age, albeit golden in many respects, brought nothing

finer, nor will the last days bring anything like it.

To it we owe our leisure, leisure free

of troubling cares; for those not unpleasing

hours we give the Muses (whether composing something

or reading another’s writings) earlier generations spent

in that long tedium of copying pages.

     To it we owe thousands of volumes of ageless law,

varied as to notes but identical as to text.

To it we owe the writings of wise men of old,

newly brought to light, and better fitted to our uses.

To it we owe the fact that now we may cheaply buy great works

for which our predecessors spent a King’s treasury,

and that secrets of ancient wisdom are read

by noble and humble folk indiscriminately;

and finally that a distinct script with clear fonts

less offends our eyes; that these works are saved from decay

and filth, for they may be brought to light at any time

and dusted off by the hand of scholars;

and that we may have chests full of innumerable books —

we owe this blessing to the printing press alone.

     Therefore, whoever practises such an art, to fit praise,

that praise belongs to it alone. By reading books, you praise

the leisure born of printing. By buying books, you banish

the tedium of copying, and extend the duration of a short life.



De & pro Typographis.

Qui mirâre Typographos bibaces

Omne impendere poculis lucellum,

Colluctantem operis adi officinam

Et vide, ut bibulæ typos papiro

Imprimant alacres! ut ore toto,

Vt totâ facie manuque sudent,

Ex humoribus intimis madentes!

Non te, non poteris tenere dextram

Sudantum miseratione fratrum,

Quin grossum patulâ eximas crumenâ

Exsuccisque novum pares liquorem.

Et tum, mira tibi videbitur res,

Quód ipsos quoque se suásque chartas

Suspensâ arte nimis laboriosâ

Udis tradere differant tabernis

Ex tanto madidi labore FRATRES.




On and for printers.

You who marvel at bibulous printers

spending all their money on drink,

go to their strenuous work-place

and see how fast they print the type

on the thirsty papyrus so that all their

mouths and faces and hands sweat,

dripping their bodily fluids!

No, you couldn’t extend your hand

in commiseration for your sweating brethren,

without freeing a sum from open purse

and offering new drink to the thirsty.

And then, the remarkable thing you will see

is that these brethren, moist from so much labour,

suspend their overly laborious art,

and scatter to transfer themselves as well as their pages

to the moist taverns.



FINIS tail-piece from William Derham's 1726 edn., _Philosophical Experiments and Observations of the Late Eminent Dr. Robert Hooke_

Part I: Editor’s Introduction for Library Cat. No. WEST1608 pointer

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go up a level: Table of Contents page for the LIBRARY

1440 — “[George] Carolides’ [of Karlsberg, Citizen of Prague, Master of the Liberal Arts, and Imperial Poet] source for this date is not known; documents of 1441 and 1442 show Gutenberg (ca.1398–1468) was still in Strasbourg.” (Cheney and Hosington edn., 87n::

art — “The capitalized letters in the first two lines [of the original Latin poem] spell out the date of 1440 in Roman numerals.” (Cheney and Hosington edn., 87n::