Perspective and Printing Press - The First Information Revolution
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences,
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
- Pigments minerals or organic. No organic synthetic colors until 19th century.
- Fresco - pigment on plaster.
- Tempera - pigment plus water or egg.
- Linseed oil - 15th century.
- Use of paint as wood preservative very recent.
- First ready-mixed pigment and vehicle sold only in 19th century.
- Conceptual. Scale and object - surrounding relations subjective.
Size reflects importance or symbolic content, not position
- Byzantine-Christ shown as miniature adult, not as baby
- Often used as diagnostic clue for children; e.g. an abusive parent might be drawn as enormous and the child very tiny.
- Polydimensional-several viewpoints
- Egyptian: head and legs in profile, torso in front view.
- Picasso: nose in profile, eyes front.
- Native American Totem: animals represented spread-legged, common in non-technological societies.
- Medieval Europe: buildings often shown from horizontal view, ground shown from aerial or vertical view.
- Maurits Escher: deliberate violation of single-perspective styles.
- Vanishing point
- Size reduction with distance
- Conventions are cultural and learned. Small children often find perspective drawings confusing. Non-technological peoples often prefer non-perspective to perspective drawings of the same object as more "realistic."
Development of perspective
- Distance cues were known and used, but not systematically
- Size - distance relations
- Near objects overlap distant ones
- Convergence of parallels (pre-perspective examples are common, but lacked geometrical consistency.)
- Disasters of 14th century led to graphic depiction of often unpleasant realities. Art climate was ripe for greater realism.
- Introduction of Ptolemy's Geographia about 1350 re-introduced projection techniques.
- Camera obscura as aid in drawing.
Effects of perspective technique
- Delight in new technical mastery? (How often are innovations expanded this way--out of sheer delight in new-found powers?)
- Discovery of power of close observation and attention to detail
- Power of mathematics to explain nature
- Power of simple principles to achieve great effects
- Paper! (Cheap, abundant, smooth and absorbent. Far better for printing than papyrus or vellum.)
- Means of printing impressions. Chinese wood-block printing. Wood block used in Europe in 14th century for religious pictures and cards. Laurenz
Janzoon (1420-30) used blocks for individual letters.
- Press-adapted from wine-making, book-binding, paper-making.
Advent of movable type
- Metal type used ca. 1430 in Holland to stamp copper plates. Lead poured on to copper to make printing face. Hard to maintain uniformity.
- Gutenberg ca. 1450 used dies as masters to cast copies of letters.
- Early type letters Pb-Sn (for corrosion resistance) - Sb (for hardness). Basically modern composition. Type metal is one of the oldest unchanged industrial materials.
- By 1480, there were printing presses in 110 towns. Ten million
books in print by 1500.
- Aldus Manutius of Venice (d. 1515). First cheap mass-market books.
Effects of printing
- Vast increase in literacy.
- Rapid dissemination of ideas.
- Standardization of spelling.
- Stimulus toward accuracy, since works were now more likely to be read by others as knowledgeable in a subject as the author.
- Change in our concept of "fact"
- Before printing, documents were suspect as too easily forged. Eyewitnesses and personal testimony were considered more reliable.
- Printing made documents more authoritative than personal testimony. Hard to fake printed documents.
- Before printing, people relied on memory to store facts.
- Printing changed the concept of "fact" to "printed fact"; "show me in black and white."
The modern printed word
- Stereotyping, 1790.
- Cylinder Press, 1780-1820.
- Electroplating, 1848.
- Linotype, 1880.
- Offset, 1904.
- Computers and Word Processing.
The printed image
- Wood-cut along with type.
- Itaglio-engraved metal. Copper plates with engraved lines; did for pictures what type did for text.
- Zinc plate, 1868.
- Photography-halftone method.
- Xerography, computer graphics, etc.
In pre-printing days, documents were suspect because handwritten documents were so easy to forge. Printing changed that; at least a forger would have to invest in a printing press or hire a printer (and thus leave witnesses.)
Computer technology has made forgery of documents and photographs easy. There is serious concern about how to maintain authenticity of documents (almost back to the pre-printing situation). Watermarks and holograms are a temporary solution, but will not stop people who are willing to spend the money and time to acquire forging technology.
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Created 27 Dec 1996
Last Update 20 May 1997
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