Christmas Countdown: 12 More Sleeps!


The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, folio unknown, c. 1490

The book from which this image was taken is a second edition incunabulum of The Mirror of the Blessed Life, printed by William Caxton (the guy who brought printing to England). It’s held in the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections.

A brief summary of this copy of The Mirror, provided by the University of Glasgow “Book of the Month” series reads: “The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ is a fifteenth century English translation of the Latin Meditationes Vitae Christi, a work usually described as being pseudo-Bonaventuran. A devotional life of Our Lord, intended to be used for meditation, this work was immensely popular all over Europe and was rendered into the vernacular of most continental countries.  Divided into some 63 chapters, this version covers the events of the life of Christ in imaginative detail; the sections devoted to the childhood and the passion are especially powerful.”

The image above was made from a woodcut, which is pretty much a big stamp. Making woodcuts is surprisingly difficult, as one has to carve around an image – the uncarved part of the wood is what will print. It would really be much easier if one just had to carve the image itself into the wood, but that’s not how relief printing works.

I’m always so impressed by a good woodcut, like the one above. Those lines on the stable’s roof, the little building in the very back, the ox’s eyes… there’s much to appreciate. This carver knew what he was doing.

If you and your family want to make woodcuts this Christmas, check out Martha Stewart’s tutorial. I wish you the best of luck.

… you’re going to need it.

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