Printers and Printer’s Marks – Omeka Workshop Reflection

Emily Fairey talks about her journey in her process of archiving all the photos she collected over her 1 month internship at Columbia University, specifically in the Treasure Room of Diamond Law Library. In there she became fascinated with the ‘printers mark’ of the books, or the frontispiece– the decorative or informative illustration facing a book’s title page. Over the course of a month she collected over 200 photos of 50 books. (link to full presentation here)

After collecting these photos she wondered how to showcase them to the world, in order to explain why these are of importance. The frontispiece is thoroughly integrated into the context of the book– so it would only make sense to extract it as an ‘artifact’ of the book. They were complex self-definitions, sometimes to individuals printers themselves and other times of fraternities. Stating in clusters of symbolism what values they held preeminent.

Antonio Pinelli, A River God-The Tiber? Wolf with Romulus and Remus. Papal hat with tassels, coat of arms. 1610

First she used Drupal do develop a database of the photos she collected, to include credits to the printer who made them and a description of the traditional meanings of the symbols illustrated in the marks. However, the project was short lived, as the site became vulnerable to hacking and had to be taken offline.

Her next attempt was on At the time it had the largest file size upload limit: 128 MB for individual files and 500 MB for site storage. She notes, however, that the free version is limited in terms of webs design, and not a platform in which dynamic presentations can be made. Her idea was to combine StoryMaps and ArcGIS, an online mapping tool, with the archived photos on Omeka, in order to use the mapping tool to her benefit to produce a geological storyline to this project.

Altobellum Salicatium, A consortium of 4 printers from different houses, with 4 mottos, devices, and symbol-windows. Located at Altobello Salicatio in Venice, 1582

One of the most difficult part of this project was an attempt to find the real locations of the printers’ workshops or homes as she could. The best source she discovered were CERL, Consortium of European Libraries, which were mostly in French, Italian, Polish, and German and the website Marques d’impressors of the University de Barcelona.

In the end, she concludes that her attempts to archive these images are not perfect in itself or completed. She says it is still a work in progress that could benefit from usability studies, redesign of certain elements, and more editing and research.

Personally from this webinar I learned about the process of archiving photos, and how much organization it takes. I like how she wanted to incorporate ArcGIS to add a geographical narrative to the project, and I also enjoyed looking up the archives she mentioned so I can peruse them myself.