March 11, 2005 The Woodcut in Early Printed Books is Subject of Symposium to be Held on April 21

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer, (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Daniel De Simone (202) 707-3402
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at (202) 707-6362

An all-day symposium on the woodcut in early printed books will be held at the Library of Congress from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, in the Mumford Room, sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Organized by the Library’s Rare Book Forum and sponsored by the Gladys Kirieble Delmas Foundation, the symposium is free and open to the public but seating is limited.

The symposium features presentations by seven nationally recognized experts in the field of early book illustration, medieval and early Renaissance miniature painting and the single-leaf woodcut. These scholars will address the development of woodcut styles by noted Italian, German, and Dutch designers, including the work of Albrecht Dürer, Erhard Reuwich, Benedetto Bordon and Gerard Leeuw.

The symposium is planned in conjunction with an exhibition titled “A Heavenly Craft: The Woodcut in Early Printed Books,” which is on display at the Library of Congress April 7 through July 9, in the South Gallery of the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The exhibition features 84 rare books from the Library’ s Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection that are illustrated with woodcuts from the late medieval and early Renaissance periods.

In the early 1450s, Johannes Gutenberg mastered the art of printing with movable type. This method of printing can be credited not only for a revolution in the production of books, but also for fostering rapid development in the sciences, arts and religion through the transmission of texts.

During the same period, the woodcut attained a significant role in the illustration and decoration of books. Carving an image into a plank or block of wood, then impressing the image on paper or vellum, was a process commonly used in Europe early in the 15th century.

A decade after Gutenberg’s invention, printers found that they could combine woodcut blocks with metal type and print both image and text at the same time. The use of woodcuts in printed books made it possible for the first time to print identical copies of illustrated books, resulting in a powerful explosion of visual information, which greatly contributed to the standardization of knowledge throughout Europe.


Morning Session: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Richard S. Field

Curator Emeritus of Prints, Drawings and Photographs,

Yale University Art Gallery

Former Curator of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection

Title: “Apotheosis and Standardization in the Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer and his Contemporaries”

Peter Stallybrass

Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities,

University of Pennsylvania

Title: “Image Against Text: Dressing and Undressing Adam and Eve”

Lilian Armstrong

Mildred Lane Kemper Professor of Art,

Wellesley College

Title: “Benedetto Bordon and ‘Classical’ Woodcuts in Venetian Renaissance Books,


Afternoon Session: 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Helena Szépe

Associate Professor of Art

University of South Florida

Title: “Benedetto Bordon and Venetian Ducali”

Eric White

Curator of Special Collections,

Bridwell Library,

Southern Methodist University

Title: “The Woodcuts in Breydenbach's Peregrinatio and the Limits of 15th Century Empiricism”

Jeffrey Hamburger

Professor of Art and Architectural History

Sackler Museum, Harvard University

Title: “From Print to Manuscript: A Case Study in the Interaction of Incunabula and Illumination”

Daniel De Simone

Curator, Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection

The Library of Congress

Title: “Stylistic Influences on Ferrarese Woodcut Design at the Beginning of the 15th Century”


PR 05-053
ISSN 0731-3527