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New Media

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The Hereford world map: Mappa Mundi

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William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion

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The Gutenberg Bible

Advances in printing technologies and the ability of conservationists to identify specific pigments and formulations for inks used by the original authors and illuminators has allowed for spectacular treasures to be replicated on much larger or even smaller scales than ever imagined. The Hereford Mappa Mundi, or Map of the World, made from a single, untrimmed sheet of vellum, or calfskin, represents the world as it was understood circa 1300. Large-scale printing machines were able to produce a facsimile that is nearly to scale, measuring 143 by 120 cm.

      Facsimiles also chart technological advances in book production. In the late 1940s and 50s, painstaking reproduction by collotype enabled the creation of prints that could mimic the copperplates of William Blake’s Jerusalem. The facsimile prints were combined with watercolor applied by hand with stenciling to produce Blake’s watercolor effects as closely as possible to the originals. This process is comparable to that used to make the famous Gutenberg Bibles. These were the first books printed with moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-1400s. Even though the text of the bible was printed, the illustrations were still hand-painted by illuminators following medieval traditions for luxury books. Tracing the tradition back to Gutenberg’s printing press, the desire to produce copies of books has pushed forth the need for newer technologies to replicate these books as accurately as possible and for the benefit of a wider audience to interact with these objects. Just as technology has led to new types and appearances of books, the same innovation enables greater and greater possibilities for their replication. For example, for the first time deluxe facsimiles are being printed directly onto vellum—a novel marriage of old and new book manufacture.


New Media