The Sunday after Christmas we were in Pasadena visiting our son and his fiance. They took us to the Huntington Library and Gardens, a place that requires multiple visits to enjoy it all. One of the buildings held a vellum Gutenberg Bible, among other ancient texts. Being in the printing business for many years, seeing this was especially interesting to me. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, of course, and although the Bible wasn’t his first project, it was his most important. You can read more about it here.
In the same room were some reproductions of woodcuts depicting the craftsmanship of book and manuscript production in the 1500s, a century after printing with movable type was invented. These images first appeared in Panopleia, by Hartmann Schopper in 1568, Germany. I was drawn to these for one in particular seemed familiar. It’s the one reproduced here. (Sorry it’s not very sharp. The room was very dim and I had to shoot this handheld.)
Within minutes of returning home from the 6-1/2 hour drive, I took a closer look at a drawing made by my great-grandfather in 1879, which hangs in our living room. He was a typecaster in the Boston Type Foundry and an artist. My dad had this hanging on the wall in his den for as long as I could remember and my brother owns a painting of just the bottom image. It depicts typecasting in ancient and “modern” times, the modern being 1879. He obviously copied the image for 1564 from this same woodcut. You can play a game of “what’s different in these two pictures?” They’re very close, but not exactly the same.
This drawing is also a self-portrait. My great-grandfather, William A. Robinson, Sr., is depicted as the man on the right of the large image. Notice the city of Boston outside the windows. Although he never had formal artistic training, he left behind a few paintings and drawings that demonstrate his talent and understanding of techniques. This drawing is one of my treasures and it was exciting to me to discover this little connection.