Transformations in print

The Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press continues experimenting with techniques from the hand-press period. This transformation print  [see pictures of the original] held at Bodleian MS Wood E 25(10) is one of several from the 17th and 18th centuries containing the same general theme under the title, ‘The beginning, progress, and end of man’.  The Bodleian’s copy has the imprint, ‘Printed for J. Deacon, at the Angel in Guilt-spur Street‘.  The same images appear in an edition at Harvard with the imprint, ‘London: Printed by E. Alsop for T. Dunster, 1654‘; another version, ‘Printed by B. Alsop for T. Dunster, 1650‘, is in the Thomason collection at the British Library. Several other versions exist, and the Bodleian also holds a manuscript version from the 18th century.

At Broadside Day 2017, in the Weston Library, Jacqui Reid-Walsh will speak about ‘The beginning, progress, and end of man’ as an interactive text.

Meanwhile, Richard Lawrence at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press is experimenting with printing transformations using two blocks; here using reproductions in zinc based on the Bodleian’s copy. From this experiment it appears that the transformation could be achieved using two blocks, ‘Adam’ and the ‘mermaid’; one printed on the centre of the sheet, and the other printed over this on the outside, after the upper and lower edges were folded to meet in the middle. As further evidence for this hypothesis, the Bodleian’s copy shows blocks printed over the deckled edges of the paper.  We still wonder why, in these 17th-century editions at least, the title (on the outer side) and imprint (on the inner side) are interrupted by large gaps at the latitude of the join.

Thanks to Kim Vousden for graphic design to prepare the images for reproduction as printing blocks.

Collections containing over 30,000 ballads in Bodleian collections are accessible online at

Register for Broadside Day 2017, to hear more about broadsides and street literature.

One comment on “Transformations in print

  1. I loved these images!! Am a woodcut artist/ artist book maker and now I too want to make these types of images. I make toy theaters and love paper toys and movable parts. I wish I could come to Broadside day, but, alas am an ocean away.

    I hope to see the copy at Harvard, since I am in the next town. Thank you for your work and for posting about these transformations.
    Bookishly,Annie Silverman

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