Origins of European Printmaking


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Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public

Peter Parshall and Rainer Schoch; With David S. Areford, Richard S. Field, and Peter Schmidt

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The first comprehensive history of late medieval printmaking, which transformed image production and led to profound changes in Western culture

This highly anticipated and beautifully illustrated book examines the evolution of early printmaking in late medieval Europe. Through their means of production and the evidence of their utility, prints are explored in a broad social and economic context. Key topics include the complex problem of reconstructing the beginnings of the European woodcut; the practice of copying and dissemination of models endemic to the medium; and the varied functions of the print from the spiritual to the secular.

A team of expert authors examines the many ways in which fifteenth-century woodcuts and  metalcuts reflect the nature of piety and visual experience. Replicated images helped to structure private religious practice, transmit beliefs, disseminate knowledge about material facts, and graph abstract ideas. Mass-produced pictures made it feasible for people of all stations to possess them, thereby initiating a change in the role of images that eventually helped alter the definition of art itself.

The Origins of European Printmaking is an essential book for art historians, students, and collectors, as well as the general reader with an interest in medieval history and culture.

Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition Schedule:

Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (December 14, 2005 – March 19, 2006)

National Gallery of Art, Washington (September 4 – November 27, 2005)

Peter Parshall is curator and head of the department of Old Master prints at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rainer Schoch is vice director and head of the graphic arts collection at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg


Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (December 14, 2005 – March 19, 2006)

National Gallery of Art, Washington (September 4 – November 27, 2005)

"One of the most comprehensive and impressive volumes to analyze and assess late medieval printmaking.  Scholarly, far-reaching and always informative.  A must for the serious artbook collector."—Art Times

""The catalogue, featuring contributions by Richard S. Field, Peter Schmidt, and David S. Areford, is a comprehensive history of late medieval woodcuts and explores the topic in a broad social and economic context."—

"The catalogue is a monument to print scholarship and its high production standards will be hard to emulate."---Burlington Magazine

"Gorgeous and substantial…wonderfully melds beauty with scholarship [and] recommended for all libraries with collections related to medieval printmaking."—Library Journal

"Subtle and informative...with an acute eye for detail... The exhibition and its catalogue provide a splendid and scholarly insight into the rich imagery of the woodcuts of the late Middle Ages."---Print Quarterly

"The authors and contributors...have produced a very important study because they ask new - as well as perennial, but differently nuanced - questions...The result of their interrogations is presented in this handsomely produced volume, which offers a range of new insights regarding these compelling and rare - often unique - objects...[Field writes with] thoroughness, clarity, and careful differentiation between fact and hypothesis...The authors share with readers the aesthetic pleasure they feel when looking at the prints. Unlike the writers of so many of our scholarly volumes, these authors willingly acknowledge the compositional refinement and affective drama that the pioneering printmakers instilled in their work, enthusiastically acknowledging the sensuous, pictorial qualities that, rather than mere luck, are more likely to be responsible for the survival of so many inherently fragile objets."---Bernard Barryte, The Art Book

"The array of materials and media offer much for contemplation, while the three essays touch on issues that introduce new parameters to the study of early printed objects and their audiences."—Susan Maxwell, The Sixteenth Century Journal
ISBN: 9780300113396
Publication Date: September 15, 2005
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington
376 pages, 9 1/2 x 12
53 b/w + 177 color illus.
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