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Typography That's Fit to Print: A Concise History of the Origin and Progress of Printing (1770)




LUCKOMBE, Philip. A Concise History of the Origin and Progress of Printing; with Practical Instructions to the Trade in General Compiled From Those Who Have Wrote on This Curious Art. London: Printed and Sold by W. Adlard and J. Browne in Fleet Street, M DCC LXX [1770].


First edition. (210 x 130 mm) pp. 502 + 4 page table of contents at the end. Signatures: A- 3T 4. Each page with fully decorated border and many vignettes and examples of typeset throughout. Bound in full leather with two panels, outer somewhat textured, inner has a tree-calf pattern, gilt pattern around the two panels. Fore edge ownership mark, J. Sydenham 1801, interior clean. Marbled endpapers from 19th century. Lacks frontispiece of Gutenberg; corner of 53 chipped, tear to 157, final page has been crinkled and slightly torn at bottom near gutter. Back cover loose. Spine has been significantly worn and shows two areas of chipping. Overall GOOD with mentioned flaws.


ESTC no. T31123.


The intricate work of hand-laying each letter, each ornament, each musical notation and mathematical symbol, along with every woodblock illustration of the various tools and apparatuses used for printing, seems deceptively effortless in Philip Luckombe’s 18th century tour-de-force of typography. Alongside the text explaining the history, and contemporary methods, of printing, this book about books features 42 pages of various alphabets, ranging from types of the Latin alphabet used for English, Italian, French, and Anglo-Saxon printing, to Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Ge’ez, as well as samples of decorations and non-alphabetic characters.

Within the first half of the book, the history of print is laid out, with European printing centres, and individual printers, identified and, of course, a heavy focus on England and the various seats of printing on the island. The second half of the book explains the mechanics of printing, with woodblock illustrations of the parts of the press and the tools used to set the page. Diagrams of how to most effectively organise drawers of print blocks and how to cut sheets of paper from folios into smaller pages instruct the reader about the complexities of creating a book.


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