Fall 2004: “Print Culture in Early Modern Europe”

The introduction of printing with moveable type and new techniques of pictorial reproduction had a major impact on European culture and society, comparable to that of the current computer and Internet technological revolution. This course offered an interdisciplinary study concentrating on the material and visual culture of prints in Italy and the north of Europe (Germany, the Netherlands, England) circa 1450 to 1650. 

Raises issues relevant to many projects beyond those specific to print technology, such as the regulatory role of censorship, the definition of “obscenity” and “copyright”, the nature of representational “authority”, the connection between print and a growing number of observational “sciences” such as medicine and cartography, the development of genres like urban guidebooks and New World travel literature, and the matter of different registers of circulation and reception (ranging from the “popular” to the “learned elite”). 

Also considers theoretical arguments about the cultural significance of reproductive technology and the rise in visual literacy within different social populations and cultural spheres. Utilizing the excellent collection of intaglio prints in the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the early illustrated printed books in the Harlan Hatcher and Clements Libraries, students will become familiar with a range of printing techniques (woodcut, engraving, etching, and dry-point) and the different categories and functions of prints, in both single-leaf issues and illustrated books.