It was the summer of 2002 in London when our obsession with letterpress first saw the light of day. Two and a half years earlier an omen of our life-altering experience was foretold in the pages of Life Magazine.
Life produced an issue devoted to the 100 incredible discoveries, 100 cataclysmic events, 100 magnificent moments of the past 1,000 years + the 100 most important people.
#1 was Gutenberg Prints the Bible.
"OF ALL THE millennium's technological revolutions, the most far-reaching started just before the era's midpoint. Throughout history, the ability to read and write had been confined mostly to tiny elites of nobles, priests and scribes. But in the 15th century, a literate middle class arose in Europe. Its hunger for knowledge led inventors to seek a way to mass-produce the written word. And when German goldsmith Johann Gutenberg succeeded--creating his masterpiece, a run of 200 gorgeously typeset Bibles, in 1455—he unleashed an information epidemic that rages to this day."
I've always been drawn to the notion of the first western book, having seen at least 12 different copies in various exhibitions at The Library of Congress, the J.P. Morgan Library and the New York Public Library. Its scale is somewhat unimaginable along with the intense black for the first run at a significant book that still looks as if was printed yesterday. It was stunning even for someone without any interest in the process required.
The photo that you can see above has a beautiful raking light hinting evidence of the dampened paper used in the 1450s and printed on a wooden hand press in Mainz, Germany. The warmth of the color and the choice of a rather non-descript page without any over-the-top illumination when you often see in photographs.
My eye was drawn to the credit line.
Photographer: Craig Cutler.
I had been Craig's major professor when he was a student of mine 17 years earlier. At the start of his senior year, he came to me and asked if he could major in applied photography while I was teaching advertising design. I suspect it took 0,5 seconds to agree. Craig is one of those students you dream of getting into a class. I don't think I taught him anything. I just went through the process with him. That is about all I could offer.
Thanks Craig for the warning that was getting ready to change our creative lives.