Some remarks to the printing of books
and a comment to Peter Lemesurier's last two articles on the HP of
After transcribing almost all the writings of Nostradamus and
studying his works for over 20 years, I think I can give a comment
about the "Hypothesis",
which Peter Lemesurier has set up here. I can understand his
against the "code-addict", like he call's every one which does not
with his interpretations, but we should stay with the facts and not
take a hypothesis as a dogma, even if it comes from the very good
authority Brind' Amour.
The "Hypothesis" of P. Lemesurier, about "setting from dictation
aloud" can not be proved in any way, because is was not used by
time in a printing - office. The only "dictation aloud", which can be
proved, was used at
the hand - writing - offices (Scriptorium),
where from one text have been made
more copies at the same time. But this allways was in a extra room, where
3 to 6 writers have been sitting and one person was dictating the text
from a manuscript.
By the time when Gutemberg did start his printing with movable letters,
the setting from the manuscript was used in every office and not the
dictation , as we can see on all the images from the first printers. If
we take a close look at the history of the printing, we can see,
that all the "first
printers" in France and Italy have been German people, which have been
their job at first in the "Gutemberg - office" and then did start
on other places their own offices.
So if we take a look at the first handpainted image, which we have from
we have on the right side of the image the "Corrector" reading a
"Test-print", which contains 4 pages.
The next person, in front
of him, is the "Composer", which is setting the text from a book
(manuscript), laying in
front of him, and the 3rd person on this side is the
which is again searching the printed page for "errors", like missing
letters or other "printing-errors" !
Even 100 years later, at the time of Nostradamus, the paper still
was the most expensive part of printing a book and it was for sure
cheaper to reprint one page, then to reprint the whole book !
The German printer Johannes Froben ( in
1500), which did print the books of Erasmus von Rotterdam
(1469-1536), did say this very clearly :
But now to Brind' Amour and the first reference of P.
"Wer ein Buch voller Fehler besitzt, hat in Wahrheit kein Buch
sondern einen Haufen Ärger."
( The person which has a book with many errors, has in truth not a
book, but a great bunch of troubles ! )
In his first book "Nos. Astrophile, 1993", he writes on page 14 :
> > Il faut comprendre aussi
comment procédaient les imprimeurs de l’époque : un ouvrier lisait le
texte à haute voix pendant qu’un autre assemblait
les caractères sur leur support.
L’élocution du premier, l’oreille du second et ses habitudes
orthographiques achevait de transformer le texte;
et on ne trouve pas
d’indices, dans cette littérature populaire, d’une correction des
épreuves. < <
Here he mixes his own opinion with the text of "Nina Catach", as
we can see in his second book "Les premieres Centuries ... 1996", page
XX - XXI, where he writes:
> > On sait qu'il n'y avait
guère de revision des épreuves par les auteurs à cette époque (3).
and then he quotes the text from "Nina Catach, L'orthographe francaise,
> > (3) Pour les épreuves, il
était rare qu'elles soient, même après 1550, transmises à l'auteur.
La pratique des placards semble
bien postérieure à cette époque.
Les révisions d'auteurs devaient
avoir lieu très rapidement et les épreuves corrigées revenir aussitot
en raison de l'organisation artisanale des ateliers.
Les épreuves n'étaient revues par
l'auteur que lorque celui-ci habitait tout près, ou meme venait, comme
l'a fait J. Peletrier du Mans, s'installer,
en vain d'ailleurs, chez son
imprimeur. < <
She does not say one word about "dictating", only about
proving the prints !
Here is one "miss-understanding", because the "not correcting", was
for "La pratique des placards ...", which have been printed only
on one page or sheet of paper.
So if Brind. quotes on the same page the "Hozier ...
procuration from the 11.11.1553 ...", then this shows, that Nos. did
get a finished print of the "Prono. 1554" with many
"corrections or missprints" (une copie corrompue et mutillée),
which did change his own text, and then we also read:
"Nostradamus charge donc son mandataire d'imprimer
textuellement ladite pronostication d'après leurs accords : ... "
this means that "Bertot" did change or "corriger" the text and "Antoine
de Royer", should now print it "textuellement" = like it is written at
the manuscript and
"d'après leurs accords" = like Nostradamus did tell him !
After "Brind. Nos. Astro." page 31, did Nos. write his Alma. and Prog.
between Janvier and Octobre, because they had to be printed in Novembre
and then sold at the "Faires".
The question is now : why did he write the first ones (1554 - 1561) in
the "springtime" and the later ones in the "fall" ?
At the early ones, it did take so much time (half year) to get the
"correct print" from the printer and the "test-prints" had to be
delivered to Nos. and back to the printer. By the time he had the
"right" printer, he could write the manuscript
later and send it to the printer, which did know, that he had to print
the text without "correcting" the "odd" words, which have been written
by Nos. in the manuscript.
The only manuscript we have from Nos., is the "Orus Apollo" and if we
search in this one for "odd words", or a "special kind of writing",
then we can find them
and no one can say this are "printing-errors" !
Brind' Amour in his "Nos. Astrophile .. " also writes on page 218, C
I,54, rem. 24 (Deux) :
> > Il s'agit la d'une erreur fréquente,
occasionnée par le fait que les typographes se faissaient lire les
textes qu'ils composaient, plutot qu'ils ne les lisaient eux-memes.
so it looks to me, that he was by himself, not so sure about the
"only dictating" of the text !
The next reference which P. Lemesurier counts on is "Jacques
Grévin, publié en 1567" :
Jacques Halbronn did find the text and it is from the BNF copy pX 394
Dialogue IX, L'Ecriture et l'imprimerie, page 242
> > Le compositeur attache
la coppie sur
laquelle il veut besongner à un visorion qui est un bois de long qui
soutient la dite coppie & de
peur qu'il se replie, il y met le mordant qui est un autre bois fendu
au travers. Cela fait, il prend
son compositoir qui est un autre bois sur lequel il compasse ses lignes
à mesure qu'il le fait il les met
dedans une galère où il parfait les pages < <
This text does not tell us something different that in the text above.
The composer did set his letters after the manuscript in front of
him and not by dictation !
Now let us come to the beginning of the discussion:
After I have identified the image as a copper-engraving of "Jan
van der Straet, (1523-1605)", did P. Lemesurier post the following
message in the forum:
> > Please see Wilhelm's
most recent post, with its URL:
The text he reproduces is from
the Metropolitan Museum of Arts website, and merely reflects what each
commentator in turn has said ever since
the erroneous notions involved
were first proposed (that's very normal in historical research: one
person gets it wrong, and
then everybody else just takes it
as read, without ever looking at the evidence closely for themselves).
On the last part (that's very normal in historical research: ... ), I
think P. Lemesurier is talking about himself !
The original text from the Museum is:
> > Here, in plate 4 of the
Nova Reperta, we see the steps involved in the printing of early books.
On the left side of the image are three
Because there was no "dictating" in this text and it did not fit into
the "Lemesurier - Hypothesis", it must be wrong !
compositors who, using the page of text pinned to the wall above
them as a guide, assemble the pieces of type stored in their
(each compartment contains a different character) into lines of
text on the small composing stick held in one hand. These lines will
be locked into a framework called a chase; the completed body of text,
comprising all the pages that are to be printed together onto one
sheet of paper, is known as a forme. If the text were to include
woodcut initials, tailpieces, or even large illustrations, the blocks
could be fitted into the chase alongside the metal type. < <
Here now is my Interpretation of the picture on the
For a better image please follow this link : http://www.ulg.ac.be/wittert/fr/images/i_11/b11777x.jpg
On the left side of the image we see two Composers, each of
them with one page of the
Manuscript in front of them on the usual Scriptholder.
They are picking the letters out of the different cases and
setting the text line per line; after each line they move the
Linemarker on the Scriptholder.
This Scriptholder was still used by the time when machines have been
used for setting the letters.
The original pages of the manuscript are laying on the small
table at the left hand of the two Composers.
The small stack is already set and the bigger stack they still have to
Behind the two Composers - on the floor - we see two Leather - balls,
which where used to make the first Test - print for the Corrector.
The two Composers are watched from another person, which is talking
with the one Composer and showing him may a mistake.
This man takes the finished pages from the Composers and makes the Test
- print of each page.
Then he puts the single pages together to a Printing - form, which
contains 2, 4, or 8 pages.
This depends on the letter- and also on the sheet -size which was used
for the manuscript.
The next person is the Corrector, which had to read the Test - pages
and mark the "printing-errors".
He is telling the 3rd Composer in front of him, what he has to
Behind this two persons we see on the table the stacks of the
ready Forms of the pages for the first Printer.
In the background of the image we see a person, which is on the
way to bring new wetted paper into the office.
The wet paper had to be used, that the printing - color did not spread
out and to get a sharp contrast of the letters.
The first Printer is putting the black paint with his Leather - balls
on the Printing - form of the first side of a sheet.
Then he puts this form into his press, lays a wet paper on top of
it and prints the first side of the sheet.
After pressing the sheet, he hangs it on the first (left) line, from
which the second Printer takes it and prints with the next (second
page-) form the second side of the sheet.
This second Printer is talking with the Owner of the office,
which is standing next to him.
For the reason, that both lines are shown full with sheets, the Printer
allways has to take one sheet down and give it to the apprentice, which
is piling the finished prints.
If the apprentice finds a "bad" page with a black spot or a
missing line, then he was permitted to tear the page apart and he had
to put it on the side for a reprint.
If all the pages have been printed, the hole stack goes to the
Let me see now if I can answer Peters questions:
1. How could the decidedly diminutive apprentice have
got up to the ‘clothes-line’ on the right to collect the finished and
dried pages to collate in the
In a large "printing-office", like the one shown on this picture, there
have been to much different noises, that it was for the composer,
(no means of getting up there is shown, unlike the ladder leading
against the left-hand wall)?
The second printer has to take one sheet down, to hang the next
one on the line and he is handling the sheet to the apprentice.
2. Why is he looking at the compositor's back, rather than at what he
is allegedly doing?
May there was a fly sitting on his back !
I guess piling pages (after 100 of them) you can do even with closed
But dictating without looking at the text is impossible !
3. Why is he evidently calling out to the compositor (note his open
May he is singing a song !
For sure he is not the only one with a open mouth on this image.
4. Why do the alleged ‘printed pages’ in front of him (four per sheet,
apparently) contain only 5 or 6 lines apiece
(unlike any known book from the time, apart from those with large
Maybe on this shown sheet there are only two pages with 10 - 12
lines on each page !
The riped page on the table also shows only two pages.
5. Why does each of those pages have irregular margins (again unlike
any known book from the time apart from centered poetry)
A copper - engraving is not a foto - camera !
6. What are the apparently torn-in-half sheets on the end of the table
in the foreground doing?
This one riped page has been sorted out by the apprentice for a
7. What is the extra large sheet that he is holding in his hands?
Again, a copper - engraving is not a foto-camera !
8. Where is the all-important author’s manuscript, if not lying in
front of the apprentice?
It is on the left side of the picture, on the small table, beside
the two Composers !
How is the apprentice reading from the "double-pages" in front of
him, without putting his finger on the line he is actually reading ?
We have two Composers and one man talking with them !
We have one Corrector talking to the 3rd Composer in front of him
We have the Owner of the office talking with the second Printer !
We have the apprentice, which is "dictating" the text - without looking
at it - for the 3 Composers and they don't have to look at him,
because he is yelling so loud, that they can hear and understand every
word he says !
impossible to listen and understand the text which another person was
reading aloud or dictating !
In the time between 1450 and 1600, the paper was the most expensive
article used at the printing !
So all printers had a corrector for not wasting any sheet of paper !
For the reason that almost all of the first printing-offices in
other towns, have been founded by German printers, they all did work
because they did learn it from him !
That's just my opinion about the
printing of the Nostradamus - manuscript's and it's not a "Dogma"
© by Wilhelm Zannoth, July 2006