Welcome to Early Printed Books

Early Printed Books focuses on what was unique about books printed during the hand-press period in the West—those features particular to works printed between 1450, when the printing press began to be developed in Germany, and 1800, when the machine press began to take its place across the Western world. On this site you’ll find images showing details like title pages, woodcuts, signature marks, volvelles and flaps, and more. And if you’re looking for pedagogical exercises to use in teaching with old books, or resources for further study, those tools are here for you, too.

created by Sarah Werner

Sarah Werner is the author of Studying Early Printed Books 1450–1800: A Practical Guide (Wiley 2019). She is a book historian and digital media scholar based in Washington, DC, who has taught undergraduates about books and early modern culture at the Folger Shakespeare Library and elsewhere. Her work on digital book history, open-access libraries, and the nature of  facsimiles, as well as on a wide range of additional subjects, has been published and presented at a wide range of international venues.

Studying Early Printed Books 1450–1800: A Practical Guide

Designed to introduce students, researchers, and librarians to the first centuries of printing, Sarah Werner’s Studying Early Printed Books 1450–1800: A Practical Guide (Wiley 2019) is a clear and accessible introduction to working with books made in the first centuries of the printing press. Features described on this website are described in further detail in Werner’s guide, and users of one resource will find the other a helpful companion to better understanding how to work with early books.

For more information about Studying Early Printed Books, including copies of the table of contents, the introduction, and the index, visit this page.

{The images on this page are details from images included in this collection. From top to bottom: (1) an illustration of printers from the Encyclopédie; (2) the bass’s line from a Dowland song; and (3) a volvelle from Cosmographia. The favicon is a modified version of an initial letter from Dowland’s Second booke of songs. The links will take you to full images and more information about each.}