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Page from the Historia naturalis by Pliny

This printed page does not appear very different, at first, from the leaves of contemporary manuscripts. Introduced from Germany to Italy in 1465, printing with movable type was a risky enterprise, requiring substantial investment. To appeal to wealthy bibliophiles, the early printers produced elaborate editions, illuminated by the leading artists of the time. Nicholaus Jenson was particularly attuned to demands at the top end of the market, and complemented the superbly legible font of the text with work by a range of Venetian illuminators. The production of his 1476 edition of Pliny’s Natural History was sponsored by the Florentine banking firm of the Strozzi, and is among the most beautifully illuminated of all early printed works. 

 

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