Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The leaves of such books were printed on one side only in grey, water-based ink by rubbing the sheet against an inked block and then colouring them by hand.

It was once believed that blockbooks pre-dated Gutenburg’s use of moveable type, but no blockbook edition, says Christie’s, can be dated earlier than 1460 – some five years after the appearance of that extraordinary typographic achievement that is the first Gutenberg Bible.