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Apocalypse. Single leaf from a blockbook.
[Germany, c. 1465].

Shortly before c. 1460, when books printed with moveable types began to be illustrated with woodcuts, artisans in Germany and the Netherlands had developed the “blockbook” medium as a means of producing editions of illustrated texts. In blockbooks the entire page, including both the text and the picture, was carved in relief from a single wooden block that was inked for printing. In most examples the illustrations consisted of simple outlines that were colored by hand.

The Apocalypse blockbook represented by this single hand-colored leaf originally included forty-eight full-page illustrations of the Book of Revelation. Although blockbooks enjoyed a brief period of success in mid-fifteenth-century Europe, they could not convey much textual content and soon were surpassed in popularity by books printed with moveable types and woodcut illustrations.