Graven Images: The Art of the Woodcut

Overview

(British Library Publishing, 2017) by Jon Crabb

The invention of the printing press led to an explosion of cheap printed materials in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ballads were no longer limited to oral tradition, agitators no longer confined to the soapbox. Mass communication was now possible. The broadsides pasted on walls and disseminated among the masses, together with the written ballads hawked at street corners, represented the zeitgeist of popular culture in early modern Britain. Frequently designed in “blackletter” gothic type and accompanied with distinctive woodcut illustrations, this dynamic, lively form encompassed the obsessions and characteristic humor of the times. This beautifully designed book highlights some of the most striking and amusing examples from the British Library’s collections and provides brief commentary on the political and social background of the times. Frequent topics of illustration include monsters, witches, criminals, drinking, war and politics.

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