Archived: Frederik Muller Lecture (online): Where is the colour in book history?
Print heritage is not black-and-white; it only seems to be. In the last ten years, a wave of publications and exhibitions has transformed the history of prints by revealing that art history has ‘erased’ colour in prints since the field developed 300 years ago. It is now established that colour-printed images were far more common than had been thought possible: they communicated ideas, clarified scientific knowledge, and aided religious devotion, for example. But new research reveals that the history of colour printing is centred in books, not artworks, and that book history has similarly been ‘bleached’ by academic conventions, collecting practices, and cataloguing protocols. This talk is a call to bring the colour revolution from printed imagery to texts. By exploring the role of printers (not designers) and focusing on varied kinds of content including texts and diagrams, it lays the groundwork for a parallel, vibrant transformation of the history of books in pre-industrial Europe.
Dr Elizabeth Savage is Senior Lecturer in Book History and Communications, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, and Honourary Fellow, Centre for the Study of the Book, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University. Her research into pre-industrial European printing techniques across text and image, especially for colour, has won awards including the 2020 Schulman and Bullard Article Prize. Her latest book is Early Colour Printing: German Renaissance Woodcuts at the British Museum (2021). She regularly curates and contributes to exhibitions, most recently at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe and Musée du Louvre. She teaches at London Rare Books School.