Letters in Wood

Collectors of blockbooks


Watermark in Bodleian

Xylographic printing

Watermark in Bodleian blockbooks Watermark evidence [opens new window]

Arguments among historians about the origins of blockbooks began at the end of the 16th century. Not only the date but the place where blockbooks were first printed was disputed, some arguing that Haarlem in the Netherlands was the birthplace of blockbooks and therefore of printing, against the claims of Mainz, the city where Gutenberg set up his press. Evidence of the watermarks of paper in blockbooks, gathered in the 1960s, enabled scholars to match blockbooks with other books printed on the same stock of paper. This showed that virtually all known surviving blockbooks had been printed after 1450. Blockbook printing is now seen to have commenced in parallel with printing from movable type, rather than existing only as a first stage in the development of the printing industry.

[Link to Bibliography]