Alonso Víctor de Paredes’ Institution, and Origin of the Art of Printing, and General Rules for the Compositors (Madrid, 1680): A New Translation


by Pablo Alvarez

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Essay Series

Suave Mechanicals (bookbinding)

Papermaker's Tears (papermaking)

Historia Typographica (printing)


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Pablo Alvarez offers the first complete English translation of Alonso Víctor de Paredes’ Institucion, y origen del arte de la imprenta, y reglas generales para los componedores [Institution, and Origin of the Art of Printing, and General Rules for the Compositors]. This 96-page printer’s manual was issued in Madrid around 1680.

This treatise consists of eleven chapters, each of them dealing with different aspects of printing. An opening digression on the origin of printing is followed by chapters that describe the various stages of printing, including a detailed description of the different kinds of type sizes and their use, the rules of orthography and punctuation, the setting of numeric systems, imposition, casting off, the printing of university theses, and the correction of proofs. Some of the chapters are of unique relevance for the understanding of early printing in Europe. Chapter 8, for example, is the first recorded, comprehensive account of the practice of printing by forms/formes.

Alvarez’ transcription, translation, and notes greatly facilitate access to this important historical work, which is in fact the earliest known printer’s manual published in Europe – Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises was published in 1683 – and an extraordinary rarity: there are only two extant copies in the world! The book will also include reproductions of the copies held in rare-book ollections at the Providence [R.I.] Public Library and at the University of València, Spain.

Dr. Alvarez is Outreach Librarian and Curator at the Special Collections Library, University of Michigan.