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Printing 1450–1520

Uncut sheet of woodblock-printed playing cards, by Gilles Savoure, Lyon, France, 1490-1500. Museum no. E.988-1920

Part of an uncut sheet of woodblock printed playing cards, by Gilles Savoure, Lyon, France, 1490-1500. Museum no. E.988-1920

The invention of printing allowed books and images to become household objects. Both could be reproduced quickly and in large numbers, whereas before this revolutionary technology they could only be drawn, painted or written by hand.

The use of woodblocks to print text had been known in the East since the 8th century. In Europe the technique was first applied to textiles, but shortly after 1400 it was adopted also for images.

The final major breakthrough in printing came in the 1450s, when Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz produced a Bible using a new method based on moveable type, with individual metal letters and characters. Widespread printing was also made possible by the increasing availability of paper. Much cheaper than parchment it made printing economically viable.

This short film focuses on woodcut printing. Printmaker and artist Anne Desmet was commissioned by the V&A to make a copy of sheet of playing cards in the Museum's collections. The orginal sheet of cards was printed onto paper with a woodblock. The sheet was then hand-coloured using stencils.

This film was supported by William and Valerie Brake.

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Printed objects from the V&A's collections

The objects displayed below reflect the different printing techniques used in Europe between 1450–1520.

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Bowie Face No.1 (2010) Limited Edition Print

Bowie Face No.1 (2010) Limited Edition Print

Bowie Face No.1 (2010) Print by John Dove and Molly White. Signed, titled and numbered en verso. Limited edition of 100. Screen print on hand-made…

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Bejewelled: Treasures of the Al-Thani Collection

This sumptuous book invites the reader to examine in exquisite detail, spectacular jewelled and enamel objects, drawn from a single private collection, and to explore the broader themes of tradition and modernity in Indian jewellery.

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Event - Where Technology Meets Tradition

Sat 11 June 2016–Sat 18 June 2016

2 DAY PRACTICAL WORKSHOP: Create your own bespoke surface design by combining laser cutting and screen printing processes.

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