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You are here :  Exhibition >  19-20th C.: book and print. > 

Art Nouveau & the book art of the 20th Century

Columbia-Iron-Press about 1824.

19th Century
During the 19th century, the progressing industrialisation and mechanisation of the world of work spread to the book and printing industry. Jobs carried out by hand became easier. This lead to an immense increase in production which in turn caused the public to exhibit a greater need for information.


The Age of the Iron Printing Presses
Initially, 19th-century engineers tried to use manpower more effectively by improving materials. In c. 1780 Wilhelm Haas from Switzerland replaced the wood of the printing press with metal, in c. 1800 English engineer Walter was the first to construct a hand press made entirely of cast iron. This new type of printing press, named after its initiator and benefactor, Lord Charles Stanhope from England, allowed the flat platen to be doubled in size. This meant that with relatively little force yet with significantly increased printing pressure larger formats could be printed with one single pull of the bar. The use of iron enabled more complex, more efficient lever systems to be built for printing presses, something not possible with wood. An elegant and decorative example of a hand-lever press is George Clymer’s Columbia Press. Originally made in America, the Columbia was also manufactured in Europe from 1817 onwards. The model on display at the Gutenberg Museum was built later (1824) by the Zorge ironworks for Vieweg publishing house in Brunswick. Its rich ornamentation is impressive; the counterweight on the upper bar of the press is a griffin, the heraldic animal of the printers’ guild, with two inking balls clutched in its talons.
Other printing presses which merit attention here are those named after the special toggle levers used to transfer the load (toggle presses). Two manufactured by the Dingler company (in 1834 and 1840) are exhibited at the museum.
Despite their improved, more robust construction iron printing presses were still based on the principle Gutenberg used in printing, namely that of a flat printing forme combined with a flat, platen counterpressure surface.

Machines for Quicker Printing
The first printing machines were built not long after the invention of the iron hand press. In 1811 Friedrich Koenig and
Andreas Bauer, two engineers from Germany, had their steam-driven, automatic cylinder/flat-bed press patented in England, where the addition and application of the ink to the flat printing forme had been completely mechanised. The press was first put in use in 1812.
All that remained to be done manually was to lay the sheets of paper in the press.
Later, Koenig and Bauer added a second cylinder to their contraption and in November 1814 used it to print an entire issue of The Times in one night. A copy of the machine, scaled down to half its size, can be seen at the museum. Another Koenig and Bauer machine, an automatic perfecting press built as early as 1816, was capable of printing both sides of a sheet of paper in one operation, using a special system which automatically turned the paper over. Large numbers of impressions could now be printed within a short space of time, making the automatic cylinder press ideal for producing newspapers, magazines or even encyclopaedias.

Stereotyping
An additional increase in the number of impressions which could be printed in one operation and in the speed at which they could be printed was brought about by the introduction of the stereotype printing process in the first half of the 19th century. A mould (or moulds) of the type matter for a print job was taken, initially in plaster of Paris (1804) and later in papier-mâché (1829), leaving the letters used for the original type matter available for other prints. The advantage of stereotyping was not only that it considerably reduced costs but also that the flexible papier-mâché flongs or moulds could be bent into cylindrical formes. This lead to a further development in printing technology, to the creation of cylindrical formes and impression cylinders, both of which the American William Bullock incorporated into his rotary press in 1865. The principle of his invention was used for book and newspaper printing until the middle of the 20th century.
Stereotyping, however, was only one method of meeting the enormous demand for single letters and characters.

Casting Machines
The process of producing type matter was accelerated from 1822 onwards with the fabrication of hand-worked type casting pump and the first casting machines. In 1862 the first automatic type casters were able to spit out up to 40,000 single, press-ready characters per day (10 times the number produced by a hand caster), which did not even have to be laboriously finished by hand (example in the basement).

The Big Challenge: Typesetting Machines
The time-consuming task of the typesetter, working by hand, was a process which stubbornly resisted all attempts at mechanisation. It was not until the end of the 19th century (1886) that Ottmar Mergenthaler came up with a practical and – most importantly – financially viable solution in the form of his Linotype machine (= a line of type, a combined line composing and casting machine).
At the Gutenberg Museum you can see two different specimens of Mergenthaler’s fascinating Linotype machine in the basement, both of which can be demonstrated if required.

Paper from the Roll
The enormous amount of printed matter produced around the middle of the 19th century required progress to be made in paper manufacture to match the new technology of the printing industry.
In 1799 Nicolaus Louis Robert from France produced an endless wire paper-making machine (a model is in the paper department of the museum) which in principle could produce an endless roll of paper but which still used pulp extracted from linen rags, only available in limited quantities.
It was Friedrich Gottlob Keller’s discovery of wood pulp in 1840 and the manufacture of paper from cellulose by Hugo Burgess and Charles Watt in England in 1851 which offered practicable alternative materials, promising to now reliably meet the printing industry’s high demand for paper.

New Methods of Illustration
New technologies also infiltrated book and magazine illustration during the course of the 19th century. The woodcut, engraved on the hard, end-grain wood of the box tree, could be printed with the type matter using a letterpress technique. Lithography, a flat-bed printing method invented by Alois Senefelder in 1797, was of great significance for printed music and art prints as it could duplicate the original with an extremely high degree of accuracy. Yet for large editions a robust printing forme was needed with a high load capacity. Steel engraving, developed in c. 1800 to make forgery-proof banknotes, proved itself a suitable medium for reproduction; from 1820 onwards it began to be used in book illustration, in particular to print views of towns and works of art.

Industrialisation of Book Production
Bookbinding, the last stage in the book-making process, was mechanised in c. 1850. Prior to this date books were individually bound by hand in parchment or leather; industrial advance now meant that huge bookbinding factories could produce uniform covers in inexpensive materials (such as calico) for whole editions of a work. Cutting machines, gilding presses and folding and stitching machines ruthlessly superseded the practised skills of the traditional bookbinder, often at the expense of quality.

Private Presses
As with the methods of book production, the typography and decoration of the book (illustrations and ornaments) also fell prey to increasing criticism. Books produced industrially were marked by an insecurity of style, an inclination towards the over-ornate and cluttered and a tendency to not last very long. In an effort to try and counteract this negative development of the book, arts-and-crafts reformer William Morris founded the first private press, the Kelmscott Press, in England towards the end of the 19th century. Looking back to the traditional craft of the book, Morris tried to reintroduce the principles of legibility, beauty and durability to book manufacture. His books, all of which the Gutenberg Museum has a copy of, inspired many of his contemporaries. An enormous number of private presses followed in the footsteps of the Kelmscott Press, their aim being to preserve the virtues of quality and beauty in book production.


The 20th Century


Competing New Media
Developments in the book industry continued to stride rapidly ahead in the 20th century, yet the book found itself facing stiffer competition than in any previous century. The 20th century saw the rise of the radio, television and computer, prompting sceptics to declare the book dead on more than one occasion.

Offset Printing
The milestones of technical development can be viewed in the basement of the museum. One particularly successful innovation was offset printing which was perfected around 1904. Most of the printed matter we handle today is printed using this technique (the museum, for example, has on display and uses a Heidelberg GTO from 1985). Offset printing is not only incredibly fast and able to turn out large numbers of a print job; it also produces excellent reproductions of illustrations.
The second revolution in 20th-century printing took place in the pre-press stage of the printing process. For example, since the development of reproduction techniques using photography the original print has had to retreat to the field of art graphics and today is of practically no significance in printing. During the 20th century hand compositors gradually lost sight of the traditions of their trade. With increasing frequency from the 1950s onwards, they were required to set texts not in lead, as they had done up to now, but to feed them into photosetting machines and then expose them onto light-sensitive material.

Photosetting
Since the introduction of word processing via computer even photosetting machines such as Higonnet and Moyroud’s Lumitype (developed 1946-1954) and Hugo Heine’s Diatype (1952-1954) have become a thing of the past.
Adhesive bindings in place of sturdy, stitched covers, the rise of the brochure and of the modern paperback were further important steps taken towards turning the book into a consumer product. Yet these occurrences also had a positive side to them; they meant that books and thus the tools of education were now available to everyone.

The Book as a Work of Art: Fine Editions
The division of the book industry into cheap mass-produced articles (the majority) and quality goods (the minority) continued well into the 20th century. Examples of both are on the top floors of the museum.
Those who made quality their maxim (usually referred to as handpress printers) initially concentrated on turning the book into a complete work of art. They tried not to neglect any area of work concerning the book, whether this be the choice of font, typesetting, printing, illustration or binding. The book was also moulded by the artistic trend of the age, namely Art Nouveau or, in Germany, Jugendstil. Numerous magazines began to appear at the end of the 19th century which promoted the art of the period. The main protagonists in Germany were “Pan” (which started in 1895), “Jugend” (the magazine which gave Jugendstil its name, from 1896 onwards) and “Die Insel” (from 1899 on).

Jugendstil or Art Nouveau
Examples of work by the outstanding type designers of the age, such as Otto Eckmann and Rudolf Koch, and illustrators, such as Marcus Behmer or Thomas Theodor Heine, are on display at the Gutenberg Museum. This was also the epoch which saw the blossoming of applied graphics, as the book illustration by Franz von Stuck and poster by Alfons Maria Mucha indicate.
The tradition of the “classic” handpress printer’s remains unbroken to this day. A few shall be named here: the Bremer Presse (1911-1935), Count Harry Kessler’s Cranach-Presse (1913-1933), Trajanus-Presse (1951-1972) and Raamin-Presse (in operation since 1973). There is a large number of contemporary small publishing houses who produce either traditional or experimental work which the museum collects in its Small Press Archives.
There were also publishers of fine editions who pursued other interests. They considered literary or political subject matter more important than form, for example, or experimented with the elements of design. One thing all these books have in common is that they were almost always a medium of expression for the artistic styles of their period. The principle of rationality was only one determining course of direction, with plenty of scope for others to develop alongside it.

From the Bauhaus to Visual Poetry
The museum also has prints by Peter Behrens, by the Bauhaus, which with its credo of “Art and Technology – a New Unity” renounced the hostility of the age towards technology, and by El Lissitzky, the Russian Constructivist who trod similar paths. Expressionism and Dadaism, on the other hand, forged very different avenues, as work by Kurt Schwitters and Dada magazine boldly demonstrate. In Dadaism, form, rules and beauty count for nothing.

V. O. Stomps
After the Second World War the various paths in book art continued to diverge. Many followed the example of handpress printer and patron of modern literature Viktor Otto Stomps. Chronically short of money, Stomps printed on anything he could find which was vaguely suitable, even using worn fonts on wrapping paper, as in the exhibit. Others were poet, book artist and book designer rolled into one, such as Ken Campbell with his “A Knife Romance” from 1988. Others used the book form and the empty spaces between lines as their medium of expression, such as in Helmut Löhr’s “Visual Poetry” from 1987.

Unreadable Books
One section of the exhibition is devoted to book objects. Thoughts on the rôle of the book in our modern day and age have inspired a great number of artists to turn books into objects which often alienate or dispute the book’s purpose as an item to be read. One example is Karlheinz Zwick’s “Reiseliteratur” from 1991 which takes its title literally; this is literature which can travel.


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