The Scientific Woodblock to 1800

Roger Gaskell and Caroline Duroselle-Melish

A 40-minute presentation followed by 30 minutes of Q&A held on Thursday, 19 November 2020, 12–1:10 p.m. ET, via Zoom.

In this presentation Roger Gaskell and Caroline Duroselle-Melish considered not so much the woodcut—that is the impression on the paper—but the woodblock, the printing matrix. Who made woodblocks? How were they made? And how were they combined with type to print the book? The presenters discussed three collections of surviving blocks: the blocks cut for Ulisse Aldrovandi in Bologna; the botanical blocks assembled from various sources at the Plantin Press in Antwerp as a resource for printing books by different authors and in different countries; and the mathematical diagram blocks cut for Sir Isaac Newton in London and printed in Cambridge. These examples were used to illustrate the relationships among authors, printmakers, and publishers, the proofreading and correction of blocks, and woodblocks as embodied knowledge.

This lecture was presented live in November 2020. You are invited to watch the recording of the event below via our RBS YouTube channel. 

Follow the conversation on social media using hashtags #RBSOnline and #RBSwoodblock.