The modern book

During the Renaissance, the printed book in all its forms underwent a profound transformation. Modern book design emerged in the period between 1520 and 1540, based directly on typography. The printed book became an object in its own right, fully emancipated from the medieval manuscript.

This shift in design was first evident in a change in book size. Until the 1520s, the quarto was the dominant format, but it slowly gave way to the octavo, a smaller, more manageable format comparable in size to the modern paperback. It was invented in Italy, and lent credibility by the Venetian Aldus Manutius who published editions of the Latin and Greek classics in this format in the early 16th century.

Modern book design was born in the period between 1520 and 1540. The printed book became an object in its own right, fully emancipated from the medieval manuscript.

Title pages, which were at first lacking in incunabula, and poorly organised when they did appear, underwent a significant evolution in the first half of the 16th century. After a lengthy development, standard layouts emerged, and finally included all of the elements needed to identify a work – author, title, place and date of publication, and the name of the bookseller, frequently accompanied by his engraved printer's mark. Not only were the various elements of information present, the page layout served to rank them in order of importance.

Roman and italic typefaces, designed by punch-cutters like Claude Garamont, were used to create handsome, beautifully-spaced pages. Pagination in Arabic numerals, tables of contents and indices, and chapter divisions signalled by elegant engraved initials all contributed to making printed books readable and more easy to use.

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