Jost Amman, The Printer's Workshop, a woodcut

Germany, dated AD 1568

An illustration from 'The Book of Trades'

In the background two men are selecting letters from a double-type case, which they then would assemble in a line on a hand-held tray according to the manuscripts pinned beside them. On our right, a youth is inking the lines of type with dabbers, while his companion lifts a printed page off its spikes from the hinged frame. A further hinged frame would be closed over a new sheet, to hold the paper in place as it is folded over the type. The whole assembly is then slid under the press, which is forced down by one horizontal pull of the handle. Woodcut blocks can be printed in this press at the same time as text.

This small, but informative, print is one of 114 woodcuts by Amman (1539-1591) illustrating the 'ranks' of society or trades, from paper-maker to pope. Amman has been inspired by Holbein's Dance of Death to produce an encyclopaedia of contemporary life, perhaps for children. Each picture was accompanied by a poem by Hans Sachs (1494-1576), Nuremberg's most popular poet, who noted under this image that 'printing was first practised in Mainz'. It was in Mainz that Johannes Gutenberg had applied his invention of printing with movable type to complete the first printed Bible in 1455.

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More information


A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)


Height: 79.000 mm
Width: 60.000 mm

Museum number

PD Book 159.D.11 (Bartsch 371)



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