Interactive and Sculptural Printmaking in the Renaissance


Suzanne Karr Schmidt's Interactive and Sculptural Printmaking in the Renaissance tells the story of a hands-on genre of prints: how innovative paper engineering redefined the relationship of early modern viewers to art, humanism, and science.
Interactive and sculptural prints pervaded the European reading market of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Single sheets and book illustrations featured movable flaps and dials, and functioned as kits to build three-dimensional scientific instruments. These hybrid constructions—part text, part image, and part sculpture—engaged readers; so did the polemical, satirical, and, occasionally, erotic content. By manipulating dials and flaps, or building and using the instruments, viewers learned to think through images as well as words, interacting visually with desires, social critique, and knowledge itself.

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Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Ph.D. (2006), Yale University, is the Newberry Library's George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts. Her publications include Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life (Yale University Press/Art Institute of Chicago, 2011).

“This book is a masterclass in how to find odd things, make sense of them and tell their story in order to reinterpret the historical record. […] Although Karr Schmidt has not gone as far as tasting Renaissance prints, her deep understanding of personal engagements with these objects rewrites standard assumptions about early modern print culture. The book is generously illustrated with colour images. It goes far beyond most publications by showing artefacts in different states, illustrating how an image can change, from its closed to open form, from male to female or devotional to obscene. It offers side-by-side comparisons of related interactive works in other media, from ivory carvings to monumental furniture, also in their different states. […] This book constructs a wholly new approach to the history of printed material, one that begins with the cutting, sewing and tactile reading of this hardback volume itself.”
Elizabeth Savage, University of London. In: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 160 (November 2018), pp. 980–981.

“This is the cutting edge of a thriving scholarship on prints as a versatile and dynamic art form. It would be of interest to historians interested in prints, art, science, medicine, religion and culture.”
Sachiko Kusukawa, Trinity College, Cambridge. In: Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews, March 2019.

“extremely well-researched […] heavily illustrated […] the book makes a substantial contribution to current development in print scholarship by foregrounding the materiality and actual use of prints.”
Ashley D. West, Temple University. In: Print Quarterly 36.3 (2019).

“fascinating work […] it breaks new ground […] an important contribution to the history of the book”
Sheila McTighe, Courtauld Institute of Art. In: The English Historical Review, Vol. 134, Issue 569 (August 2019), pp. 987–989.

“authoritative and beautifully illustrated […]. With its meticulous reconstruction of the processes of printing and its close readings of the multitude of ways in which readers procured knowledge, this study will become a necessary point of reference for all scholars working on early modern religious and scientific print culture.”
Pollie Bromilow, University of Liverpool. In: Journal of Jesuit Studies 6.3 (August 2019), pp. 534–537.

“Schmidt’s volume delves into the subject ambitiously, turning long overdue attention to the contrivance of the medium [of interactive prints]. … the cases she presents are stimulating and might well inspire scholars to work out other facets of these artifacts and their historical contexts.”
Charley Ladee, University of Utrecht. In: Nuncius 34.1 (February 2019), pp. 198-200.

“innovative […] the discussions of the sensory aspects of flaying, disrobing, and penetrating into other realms of knowledge adds a new dimension to the significance of the ownership and reception of printed images in early modern Europe.”
Evelyn Lincoln, Brown University. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 1 (Spring 2020), pp. 251–253.

List of Illustrations


Revelatory Playthings: The Religious Origins of the Interactive Print

1 Handling Religion

2 Folding Triptychs

3 Dials and the Printed Host

Anatomy of the Reformation: Nosce Antichristum

4 Anatomies both Normal and Deformed

5 Bodily Shame

6 Indecent Exposure to the Anatomically Incorrect

Instrumentle auff Papir: Georg Hartmann of Nuremberg and the Printed Scientific Instrument Trade

7 Georg Hartmann as Interactive Printmaker

8 Instrument Printmaking before Hartmann

9 Hartmann as Collaborator

Consumption and Exploitation: The International Expansion of the Interactive Book

10 Conspicuous Consumption and Private Presses

11 Lotteries, Gaming, and the Public Reaction

12 Liftable Skirts and Deadly Secrets

Afterword: A User’s Guide to Art?

Historians of art, the book, early modern Europe, religion, and science. Academic and museum libraries, print curators, paper conservators, students, and educated laypeople interested in early printmaking and material culture.