Historical Importance of Engravers
Engravers in the Middle Ages had an important influence on history. With the start of printing in the mid 1400's and with engraved images increasing in quantity and importance in about 1500, historical information was, for the first time, passed on quickly and widely through illustrated printed books. Remember that prior to this, printed material was produced by hand one at a time in manuscripts.
Some of the books published during the first one hundred years after the printing press was invented, contained prints or plates of illustrations that were produced separately and then bound into the book. Most 16th century engravings contained multiple symbols and the engraver of an image that was to be included into a book, to some extent, influenced history. Remember that a large degree of printed, illustrated material at that time was religious and often times was included in illustrated bibles.
The printing medium of that era was the woodcut. The image was engraved into the end of a block of wood, it was inked and then each woodcut engraving was pressed one by one. These prints were executed on hand-made laid paper using the only available source of light - daylight or candlelight. Very few of these woodcuts were colored at the time of publication due to the high cost of coloring and the extra time required for the hand coloring process.
A good example of a woodcut engraver that influenced history was Virgil Solis (1514-1562) of Nuremberg, Germany. He was an associate of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and executed the wood engravings for Luther's first illustrated Bible in 1561, (Also called the "Bible of Palantine"). Solis is said to have "changed the Epoch of Bible illustrations". Because of these changes, he influenced the history of the Reformation.
Solis's busy engravings, with several activities occurring in different parts of the small antique print at the same time, were much more exciting than those used in other bibles of his time such as the Calvin Bible. His work is also said to have influenced the first bibles produced later in the English language. His style is 16th Century German Mannerism with a Renaissance border. This style and Solis's symbols continued to be used in Europe for at least two centuies.
Unfortunately, Solis lived at a dangerous time and even though he and Luther escaped being put to death as martyrs, Solis died of the plague in 1562.
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