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Prints and Visual Communication Paperback – July 15, 1969

ISBN-13: 978-0262590020 ISBN-10: 0262590026 Edition: n Third printing

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; n Third printing edition (July 15, 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262590026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262590020
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is the first book that unequivocally declares and historically supports the dignity, the force, and the validity of the printed picture as a basic form of communication in all forms of the repeatable image, whether woodcut, photograph or photographic reproduction. Distinguished by wit and forthrightness, it is a lively illustrated survey of the search for methods of reproduction to give the visual image the flexibility that the language of words achieved through the printer's press.... Rarely does a technical work have authority coupled with imagination and readibility. Mr. Ivins' book exhibits both these qualities. Through the deeply sensitive pen of this scholar the visual image joins the sight and sound of words to take a place in the stream of human communication." Romana Javitz Picturescope

"William Ivins has made a more thorough analysis of the esthetic effects of prints and typography on our human habits of perception than anybody else.... He not only notes the ingraining of lineal, sequential habits, but, even more important, points out the visual homogenizing of experience in print culture, and the relegation of auditory and other sensuous complexity to the background." Marshall McLuhan

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of those wonderful books. It's written by a contrary, crotchety old man, full of opinions you won't hear anywhere else, and incredibly well-informed. The author was retired from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he had been curator of prints. I listen when he talks on the topic of prints, and I think I hear why he waited until retirement to write this book.

It starts with a diatribe against classical Roman culture as derivative from Greek, and against classical Greece as `predatory'. He argues that much of the Western classical period was powered by a steady stream of slave labor. As a result, the captors shunned practical arts as demeaning to free men (slave owners). Printed replication of text was well within their technology and would have suited their needs as a reading intelligentsia. The problem was that the presence of slave labor had weakened the slave-owners so much that they couldn't be bothered to carve a printing block. As a result, they created a weakened intellectual heritage, founded on what sounded good instead of what replicated the features of nature. Ivins ties the history of technological innovation to the history of the printed images that educate the innovators. Pictorial information, he argues, enabled the scientific and engineering efflorescence that started in the Renaissance.

Ivins supports that premise with a brilliant tour of the history of pictures on paper. He treats the hand-copied and re-copied manuscripts as the prehistory of true image capture. He traces that history forward through the many technologies of image-making, including woodcut, wood engraving, and intaglio print, on up through photos distributed by machine printing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amellia Camellia on December 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the most useful and thoughtful book about the History of Photography. You'll just have to stretch your brain a little.
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3 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth J. Kant on May 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book recommended by art instructor. Author is very erudite in words used and concepts presented. Much of what was presented was of little value to me. I did learn that there were different styles of engraving developed in different countries. Author's major concern seemed to be to have a consistently, accurately presentation of an idea or technique, which in his view was performed by photography. In terms of making my own prints, I learned very little.
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