Accessibility statement

Period Band B
Curatorial Rating: 1

The Rise of the Print in Europe, 1400-1800

Tutor: Nicola Sinclair


Prints played a critical role in early modern European visual culture. Comparatively inexpensive and lightweight, and ranging from cheap popular images to sophisticated artistic productions, they reached a wide range of audiences and circulated easily across geographic boundaries. This module analyses the beginnings of European printmaking around 1400, when woodcuts were first widely circulated, and follows its dramatic expansion in formats, themes and audiences up to 1800. We will address a range of issues including the technical production of prints, processes of marketing and circulation, and the subject matter that appeared in printed images, often well in advance of other artistic media.


By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • understand the origins of European printmaking in the 15th century and its subsequent development up to 1800
  • distinguish between different types of prints including woodcuts, engravings and etchings, and understand how each is produced
  • understand how prints were circulated, marketed and used
  • analyse the subject matter that commonly appeared in prints, and how subjects changed according to time, place and audience

Preliminary Reading

You may find it useful to purchase some of the following books to have to hand during this module, all of which are fairly inexpensive:

William M. Ivins, Jr. (rev. by Marjorie B. Cohn), How Prints Look (any edition)- a very useful analysis of print techniques.

Dover Fine Art editions of the following- these are mainly image reproductions, with brief introductions, so not a lot of information but very useful for visual reference:

  • The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer
  • The Complete Engravings, Etchings and Drypoints of Albrecht Durer
  • The Graphic Worlds of Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • The Complete Etchings of Rembrandt
  • Etchings by Jacques Callot
  • The Prisons by Piranesi
  • Songs of Innocence by William Blake
  • Los Caprichos by Francisco Goya

You might also want to read around more generally on these artists before the module begins.



Altdorfer, Spruce and Two Willows

Module code HOA00041I