Printer's ornaments and flowers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Printers’ ornaments are the devices used to decorate printed books in the hand press period. The term ‘printers’ ornaments’ encompasses hand-cut woodblocks and cast metal designs. Books were also decorated with ornamental pieces of type, known as printers’ flowers, or fleurons. Ornaments developed from the tooled flowers originally used to embellish bindings, into sophisticated head- and tailpieces and initial letters, often depicting elaborate scenes. This chapter charts the history of printers’ ornaments, from their roots in manuscript illuminations to the decline in their usage at the end of the eighteenth century. Different types of ornaments and flowers are described, along with methods of distinguishing between metal- and wood-cuts, and cast and hand-cut blocks. In addition to their importance for the history of graphic design and the book arts, printers’ ornaments can provide valuable bibliographical evidence. The chapter assesses the utility of ornaments for the identification of unknown printers and authors, and considers the advantages and pitfalls of the methods described.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook Parts
EditorsAdam Smyth, Dennis Duncan
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198812463
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019


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