CFP: The lettering of prints. Forms and functions of writing in the printed image in 16th-century Europe.


lettering of prints

Call for Papers: The lettering of prints. Forms and functions of writing in the printed
image in 16th-century Europe.
Paris, Centre André Chastel, Institut national d’histoire de l’art
(INHA), November 17 – 18, 2016
Deadline: Mar 31, 2016


Words, titles, legends, commentaries, artists’ names, privileges –
necessarily – fine speeches, addresses to the “reader”, showy
dedications. Cursive and typographic writing, large and small
typefaces, ligatures, numbers and measures. Added words, associated
with figures or set apart by a frame, words that one notices, that one
watches, that one sometimes discovers within an image… What if prints
were also a question of words, of written composition, of comparative
reading within the written and figurative space of an image?

Before the relationship between artistic creation and writing was
completely rethought by the avant-gardists, prints were long the only
visual art in which words could be freely associated with figures and
in which the parts of the text, inserted in the composition, could form
a visual, logical and semantic whole with the drawing. This capacity of
prints to accommodate within a single graphical composition a great
variety of signs, forms and written material is primarily due to the
conception of printing plates and to the technical properties of
engraving. At a time when a mimetic conception of representation which
led more often than not to the exclusion of text from the figurative
field of the image was becoming widespread in Europe – painted,
inscribed or drawn text often relegated to the margins, hidden in a
detail or set apart by a frame – prints continued to accommodate words,
to draw texts to figures, to include inscriptions in the very
composition of engraved plates. During the Renaissance, professionals
of the genre showed remarkable wit and inventiveness in the artistic
conception of writing, the articulation of graphic registers and the
complementarity of written and figurative languages which generally
make up the printed image.

From this point of view, prints occupy a very specific place in
artistic production, visual culture and practices of writing in modern
Western society. We may even see in them the possibility of bringing
together in a single medium different forms of expression and dialogue
which were always deeply connected in the Middle Ages, which is one of
the reasons behind the economic success of prints and their rapid
assimilation by European society. For all those who needed both written
resources and images, prints offered a new medium, itself a subtle
intermediary between printed text and drawing. The 16th century in
Europe was not only the golden age of the printed book: it also marked
the application of engraving techniques to all sorts of iconographies,
the introduction of printed images in numerous spheres of activity, as
well as the birth, derivative of prints, of a new social practice of

The goal of the conference is to study the place of writing, its forms
and functions in 16th-century prints, from the production of images to
their use in extremely varied socio-cultural contexts. The propositions
of presenters, whether dedicated to specific corpuses or treating the
question in a more cross-sectional manner, should be founded on
consultation of engraved or etched inscriptions which constitute the
“lettering” of prints; on technical, linguistic and iconographic
analysis of these inscriptions in relationship to the images they
accompany; on historical interpretation of the objects, processes and
artistic and cultural phenomena thus brought to light. We invite
specialists in prints to widen their scope by taking into consideration
objects and inquiries from other disciplines: literary history, history
of the book, history of science (from medicine to cartography via
antiquarian studies), religious history or political history may all
contribute to collective thinking on the place of writing in the
conception and use of printed images in the 16th century.

Proposed themes for presentations:
– The lettering and the printmaker: is there a technique of writing in
the printed images of the Renaissance?
– How and why are images designed? The conception of the title, its
function and uses in prints.
– Signatures, addresses and privileges: affirmation of the “name” (of
the artist, printmaker, publisher, printer) and its signification in
– Texts with or without frames? The conception of frontispieces,
commentaries and legends.
– Readings, functions, uses: what knowledge of the lettering
contributes to the historical comprehension of printed images.
– The address to the “reader”: appeal to the client, promotion of the
artist or author, dialogue with the spectator and reader.
– The place of commentary, its literary form and its function within
the printed image.
– The cartographic lettering: seeing and describing the world in the
Renaissance (maps, views, maps of the world).
– The poetic lettering: poems, couplets, dedications, emblems in the
16th-century printed image.
– The religious lettering: the functions of writing in 16th-century
religious images, teaching and devotional practices.
– The political lettering: images and dissemination of propaganda in
the 16th-century European print.

NB: The conference proceedings will be published (language of
publication : French and English).

Papers submission: Proposals (title and summary of roughly 1000
characters, accompanied by a brief curriculum vitae, should be
addressed before Thursday March 31, 2016 to the following addresses:


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