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Paul Needham and Blaise Aguera y Arcas Gutenberg Talk at Princeton

The Friends of the Princeton University Library will present "How Were the
Earliest European Printing Types Made?" with Librarian Paul Needham and
Library Research Associate Blaise AgŁera y Arcas on Thursday, March 15,
2001 at 5:00 PM in McCormick 101 on the University campus.  Paul Needham,
Librarian of the Scheide Library (the private collection of William H.
Scheide housed in Princeton's Firestone Library) and Blaise AgŁera y Arcas,
a 1998 Princeton graduate with a degree in physics, will discuss and
illustrate their recent findings, which are based on the extraordinary
collection of early printing in the Scheide Library.

By common consent of historians and bibliographers, the essence of Johann
Gutenberg's invention was the creation of individual character punches,
from which matrices could be struck and multiple identical castings
made.  Various alternative opinions from the eighteenth century onward,
hypothesizing woodcut letterforms, casting in sand and other possibilities,
have never occupied the center ground.

AgŁera y Arcas devised a method to analyze printed texts with a computer,
through a system that superimposes every letter with each other. Through
this automated comparison of digital images of individual letterforms in
early incunables (books printed before 1501) all of these opinions can be
tested, and none of them meets the evidence.  Needham and AgŁera y Arcas
propose an alternative, previously unrecognized system of typemaking that
began with Gutenberg and may have held the ground in European printing
shops until approximately the mid-1470s.  At that time it began gradually
to be replaced by fonts cast from whole-letter punches and matrices.

When Needham and AgŁera y Arcas began their work, they had no pre-conceived
idea of what they would find.  The pair believed that by examining
individual damaged types in the highest detail, and the frequency of their
occurrence, they would gain a more accurate picture of how early printing
had been done. In their talk Needham and AgŁera y Arcas will illustrate the
inconsistencies they discovered, and what the implications of their
discovery might be.

The talk is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a
reception in the Main Exhibition Gallery at Firestone Library.

For those wishing to attend this talk, information about traveling to
Princeton as well as the location of the talk may be found at

Robert J. Milevski
Preservation Librarian
Princeton University Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544
(609) 258-5591
Fax:  (609) 258-4105
Email:  milevski@phoenix.princeton.edu

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