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Tile Designs in the Historical Society Building

This design, dating from 1502,
was the mark of Aldus Manutius,
the head of the printers of Venice.
The anchor and the fish reflect
the city-state's maritime economic

As you walk through the lobby of the Society building you may have noticed the  designs in the floor tiles. The designs are printers' marks - the device put on their products by printers in the days when printing was a creative, highly individualized hand craft.

It is uncertain just who suggested the idea which appropriately fit in with one of the Society's mandates, to preserve printed documents and books concerned with the state. Ferry and Clas, the architects, adapted the designs where necessary to conform to the medium. Reuben Gold Thwaites, the executive officer of the Society at that time, supervised the design of the interior of the building and probably influenced that decision too.

The next time you are in the Society building lobby, take a minute to find these printer marks and marvel at the workmanship.

One of the earliest English printers, William Caxton, designed his mark in 1489.
One of the earliest English printers, William Caxton, designed his mark in 1489. The initials W and C flank a symbol most usually interpreted as the figures, 74, probably referring to 1474, when printing was introduced into England.

Mark of Jehan Frellon, a prominent Lyons, France, printer from 1540 to 1550.

The stamp of Melchior Lotter, a Leipzig printer from 1491-1536, was inspired by the meaning of his name. LOTTER is an old German name for vagabond, and the design represents a beggar in a suppliant position.

This mark, of the Riverside Press, was chosen to represent American printers.  The French text on the American design translates as "All Good or Nothing."

The Elzivirs, Amsterdam printers in 1620, were known by this illustration coupled with the motto NON SOLUS (not alone), symbolized the companionship of learning and the preference of the wise for solitude.


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