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Joseph Athias and the early history of stereotyping

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There is circumstantial and documentary evidence that printing from stereotype plates was being undertaken by Joseph Athias in Amsterdam no later than September 1673. The terms of an agreement of that date between Athias and the Widow Schippers and Anna Maria Stam imply that he had two English bibles in plates, one a twelvemo, the other an eighteenmo. The eighteenmo can be equated with an edition with engraved title-page with the imprint 'Cambridge, Roger Daniel, 1648', the last in a sequence of four with the same imprint, each of which carries over from its predecessor a certain amount of setting. The earliest in the sequence appears to have been printed by Joachim Nosche in Amsterdam. That the fourth was impressed at least six times is suggested by the fact that it was printed on six or more discrete papers, thus implying that it was either kept standing or plated. That it was indeed plated at some stage of its life, and that the plates consisted of columns (not pages), is confirmed by the observable differences in alignment of the columns from exemplar to exemplar, particular alignments agreeing with particular papers. Athias's primacy in the history of stereotyping is thus established. From among the many librarians who have assisted me during this investigation I should like to thank in particular Dr Lotte Hellinga, whose advice in the early stages proved especially helpful. Earlier versions of the text were presented to: The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, Adelaide, August 1985; The Centre for Bibliographical and Textual Studies, Monash University, September 1985; The Bibliographical Society, London, April 1992.


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