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Reading Early Printed Books

A Guide to the Book as Artifact

Illustrations of Early Printed Books

In addition to images which illustrate the text within early printed books, printers enhanced the text with such decorative elements as initials, head- and tail-pieces, providing visual queues for the reader. 

Historiated headpiece and woodcut initial in Antonio Posio's Thesaurus Antonii Posii a Monte Ilicino Min. Con. in omnes Aristotelis, et Auerrois libros copiosissimus (Venice: Comin da Trino, di Monferrato, 1562) B749.P6 T43

Graphic Terms

Terms used in Special Collections for graphic elements in early printed books can be found in two sources: RBMS controlled vocabularies and the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials maintained by the Library of Congress, available at its Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

Term from the RBMS Thesauri include Illustrated works (such as Allegories or Emblem books)

Term from the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials include the method of illustration (such as Woodcuts or Engravings) as well as the type of illustration (such as Decorations or Coats of arms)

Terms are also used from the Library of Congress Subject Headings to identify Initials, Borders and Portraits; the latter is also used in conjunction with a the name of a person or group of people.

Search terms within each type used at USC can be found in the box to the left.

Search terms for Illustrations at USC

Follow the links to find books using the terms below. Click on the "Examples" link to see visual examples of each term.

Graphic Materials

Illustrated works

Other terms