How has technology impacted the relationship between word and image?
The invention of moveable type in the fifteenth century was a watershed moment in history. The ability to produce printed material in mass quantity not only led to increased literacy rates, but also had a major impact on visual culture. Through prints, artists could share works and techniques across long distances and a wider segment of the population could afford to own art than ever before. It is often suggested that the trade-off for these beneficial developments was the death of the “art” of writing and lettering. The two examples seen here, however, attest that mechanical reproduction never entirely erased the desire or the attempt to bring an artistic element to words.
Questions to Consider
- Both of these books employed recent print technology. How so? What did these new advances in media mean for the visual appearance and circulation of text in general?
- Both of these works take an artistic approach to the printed word. Compare and contrast these approaches. How do you think each responds to existing traditions at the time it was made? How has book printing continued to develop over time? Do you see artistic elements in the printed materials that circulate in your own visual and material culture today?
- What is the relationship between the artistry of these books and the content comprising them? Do you think the artistic choices are appropriate to the content in each case?
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