A quick selection of printer’s devices

by Josefin Jimenez, book conservator

During the condition survey of the Bolton Library, I had the opportunity to view almost every item in the collection, although there was very little time to make any in-depth examinations. During this time, I wound up with a large collection of snapshots of title pages, cartouches and printers’ devices. Having not worked extensively with printed collections before, but mainly in archives and museums, printers’ devices were new to me, and I found the images, with their sometimes funny, sometimes sinister, or perplexing imagery fascinating.

The following is a small selection of some of the printers’ devices, which can be found in the Bolton Library. A link to the Bolton Library catalogue entry has been supplied where it is available, but some of these items have not yet been catalogued.


Heinrich van Haestens (1566-1629)


photograph of printed image. The image is of a turtle with feather wings, with a scrolled banner above it, both framed by a leafy wreath. The banner reads: Cvnctanto Propero. The image is printed in black ink against a white page
Heinrich Van Haestens’ printer’s device


Image from Bolton Library B.18.8. Heinrich van Haestens was active in Louvain in Belgium. His device depicts a lovely winged turtle with a scrolled banner, framed by a leafy wreath. The banner reads: Cvnctanto Propero – speed delays – or “I slowly hasten”, this being a pun on the printer’s name Haestens, meaning haste or speed 1. It also recalls the printer Aldus Manutius (1449-1515) motto to “make haste slowly”. There are many different versions of this device but this turtle, particularly delightful, looks a little like it is laughing.


J. Mathiae Hovii (1648 – 1664)


Photograph of printed image. Image of an apple tree, a naked woman with a snake’s tail sitting in a fork in the tree, the tail wrapped around the trunk. The figure holds an apple in her right hand raised above her head. At the foot of the tree there are apples and a human skull. The word Cavete is on a rock next to the tree.
Printers mark of Jean Mathiae Hovii


This image is from Bolton Library E.2.4. This is possibly my favourite device. This very sinister looking device shows the serpent in the tree of knowledge of good and evil: here depicted as a half-snake, half-woman curled around the tree trunk, with fallen apples and a grinning human skull beneath her. The single word Cavete Beware – warns the reader. In other versions the device is less ambiguous, with the figure in the tree a snake, instead of the more mythological shape of a mermaid or lamia 2. The alteration makes the device less overtly religious and more unsettling. The beautiful woman and the skull serve as a warning to whomever wants to approach that the fruit of knowledge may be tempting but comes with danger.


Constantine Fradin (1475-1536)


photograph of a printed image. The print is black and red, it has a square frame of two pillars holding up a decorated cross beam, with decorative elements in red, underneath is a banner with the text Constantin Fradin. Inside of the square, there is a mermaid and a knight in armour holding a shield with the initials CF between them, with a tree in the background. The mermaid’s tail is rising from a fountain spouting water, and surrounding the tree are red strawberries.
Printer’s device of Constantine Fradin


This image is from Bolton Library I.15.19. This beautiful device belongs to printer Constantine Fradin 3. It is printed in red and black, to great effect. Seeing a two-tone printer’s mark is unusual and the stunningly vivid red really makes it stand out. The device depicts a mermaid and a knight in armour holding a shield with the initials CF between them, with a fruit tree in the background 4. The mermaid’s curling tail is rising from a flowing fountain, and surrounding the tree are ripe strawberries. The dubious leer on the knight’s face can perhaps explain why the mermaid is looking somewhat fed up. In this later version of the device a motto is added but the leer remains.


Christopher Froschauer (1490-1564)


Photograph of printed image. The image is of a chubby baby riding a giant frog in front of a tree, surrounded by smaller frogs. In the background there is a lake and houses in the distance. There is a banner wrapped around the tree with the text: Christof. Froshover. Zurich. The image is printed in black on white background.
Printer’s mark of Christoph Froshauer


The device is from Bolton Library C.1.10. This spectacular device of a baby sitting side-saddle atop a giant frog in front of a tree surrounded by smaller frogs, with a placid lake in the background, belongs to the printer Christopher Froschauer. Froschauer and later his nephew, Christopher Froschauer the Younger (1532-1585), were very prolific printers in Reformation Zurich.

The pun here seems at first rather obvious, even if delightful in its whimsy. Starting with a clear reference to the first part of the surname, Frosh (frog), it quickly grows more complex. Froschauer in its totality means “man from the frog meadow” and the tree in the image takes up the ending -auer (man from the meadow): in German Aue (meadow), synonymous with Weide (meadow), which in turn sounds like Weide (willow)5. And the tree in the device is indeed a willow.

There are several versions of the Froschauer device recorded, used by both the younger and elder Froschauer. Some which feature only the willow tree surrounded by frogs, and some with the large frog-and-putto equipage, where the putto is either empty-handed, as above, or wielding a willow lash 6. Here the jauntily outstretched arm puts me in mind of a rodeo rider, keeping his balance on a bucking mount.

This has been a very quick and shallow dive into the printers’ devices  of the Bolton Library. If you would like to see more printers’ devices in the collection, “Leopards and Lions abound in Paris” takes a look at different versions of the device used by the Parisian publisher Jehan (Jean) Petit (1429-1530).


Further reading:

Mann, Meredith (2014) Mark my words, New York Public Library blog

Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Library: Printers devices

Cantor Arts Centre, Stanford University: Printers device

Winger, Howard(1965) The Cover Design,  The Library Quarterly Volume 35, Number 4 p.387

Unversitat de Barcelona, Marques d’impressors

Frog-Meadow-Men: Woodcut Devices of the Froschauer Family | Special Collections Cataloging at Penn (wordpress.com) 


  1. Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive: Printer’s Device Heinrich van Haestens http://www.pitts.emory.edu/dia/image_details.cfm?ID=133409 ac.09/09/2021[]
  2. Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive: Printer’s Device Jean Mathias Hovius http://www.pitts.emory.edu/dia/image_details.cfm?ID=132562 09/09/2021[]
  3. Bibliotheque Nationale De France Data https://data.bnf.fr/fr/16016908/constantin_fradin/  acc.09/09/2021[]
  4. Marques d’impressors, Universitat de Barcelona https://marques.crai.ub.edu/ca/impressor/a1161013x/a1161013x_0 acc.01/09/2021[]
  5. Frog-Meadow-Men: Woodcut Devices of the Froschauer Family acc.02/09/2021[]
  6. Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive ((http://www.pitts.emory.edu/dia/search.cfm acc.20/08/2021[]