再读《活版》

I Love Typography 昨天的新文章 The Prints and the Pauper 的摘录了来自 Keith Houston 的新书《The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time》章节 The Prints and the Pauper: Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of movable type, 比较了中西世界中的印刷术的差异,用西方视角重新审视了我们在中学课本里沈括老先生《梦溪笔谈 · 卷十八 技艺》里的的《活版》选段,给人一种耳目一新的感觉。

不过,我最感兴趣的是下面两段

But as enticing as Chinese ink was to calligraphers and doctors, it was a stumbling block for Chinese printers who tried to move beyond simple woodblock printing. Water-based inks did not adhere well to metal, earthenware, or porcelain and produced blotchy, indistinct images.

Another famed Chinese invention bound up with books and bookmaking also proved to be an obstacle to the wider adoption of movable type. Chinese paper was too delicate to withstand the pressure required to form a crisp impression, requiring that printers use handheld brushes rather than firm mechanical presses to impress their paper onto their type. Not only that, China’s water-based ink tended to seep through the paper and made it impossible to print on both sides of a sheet.

在这两段里 Keith Houston 指出了两个我们在《活版》的教学过程中通常不被提及的我国传统活版印刷与现当代印刷术的有趣差异:

  • 油墨的不同:中国的水性墨与金属、陶瓷难易结合,导致印刷不清晰。
  • 纸张的不同:中国传统的宣纸薄而脆,韧性差,难易使用机器快速压制;而且由于采用水性墨会洇到背面导致双面印刷困难。

现在想想当年要是能有印刷相关专业的人,或者是字体排印的爱好者来给当年的我们讲当年的那篇文章可能的确会是另一番风景呢。

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