PhD Program in Design


Sixteenth-Century Print Culture in the Kingdom of Portugal


Sixteenth-Century Print Culture in the Kingdom of Portugal:
A comparative study of typographical specimens used in the printing houses of João de Barreira and João Alvares.

Celeste Pedro


Type design studies are still considered a minor aspect of the book studies: it is this thesis intention to look at typography as a scientific knowledge provider, combining bibliographic methodologies and visual analyses.

After a wide research on the History of Portuguese Typography, many questions are left unanswered. Finding answers now relies on searching for new methods of gathering data, and requires a set of comparative studies in order to interpret it.

Proposing a thesis based on the importance of a formal and visual analysis of typefaces makes it possible for design to contribute to the search for innovative methods: it can provide a deeper understanding of typographical materials, and it can support the development of strategies for collecting, interpreting data and classifying specimens in printed books.

This approach will try to answer the questions of how can new information be extracted with a more specific description of typefaces and by comparative formal analyses of type designs – with the objective of assessing by whom the types were used, who designed and cut the letter punches, when and where this happened, who bought them and for how much, for how long they were used and in what kind of books they were used in; and if an analysis of typeface specimens will contribute to our knowledge of the type market beyond archival and library documents.

In order to find the answers, three main research objects will be co-interpreted:

a) Book: Dictionaries (by Jerónimo de Cardoso) not only because of their role in fixing and regulating the orthography of the Portuguese language, but also because of the demands for specific technical processes in typographic composition related to their internal structure;

b) Actors involved: João Alvares and João de Barreira – two of the most prolific printers of the Sixteenth-century, responsible for printing over 15 different lexicographic volumes;

c) Sixteenth-century typefaces and the book trade market in a trans-national view.

The final results are expected to come with the interpretation of a combined set of theoretical considerations as well as a revised and revisited construction of the history of graphic design on the facts found and exposed for further/future interpretation.


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