Intern Insights: Printers’ Devices

Guest post by Brooke Jackson

As an intern working in Vanderbilt’s Special Collections Library, I have come across many old books, some dating as far back as the 16th century! We’ve learned throughout this internship of the many artifactual qualities that make books rare, including bindings, handmade papers, ornamental endpapers, and more. Another interesting characteristic is a printer’s mark (also called a printer’s device). Printers often put a specific ornamental design on the title page or last page of the books they printed as a trademark of their printing house (Howard, 2005). Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer used the first known insignia of twin shields hanging from a tree branch in the book Mainz Psalter published in 1457. Mainz Psalter was the second book printed with movable type in the West and the first printed book to include a publisher’s mark, giving the book the name of the printer and date of printing (Norman, 2016). After Mainz Psalter, the practice of using an emblem was adopted by other printers who used marks of their own. In addition to be aesthetically pleasing, the printer’s mark became important in order to market and advertise printing companies (Howard, 2005).

Below are examples of printer’s marks I’ve come across from within the University of Nashville Collection:



Here are a few online databases of printer’s marks:



Howard, N. (2005). The Book: The Life Story of a Technology. Westport, CT: Greenwood. doi:

Norman, J. (2016). “The Mainz Psalter…without ‘Any Driving of the Pen,’” Retrieved from

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