Martin Schongauer. Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons, 1470-74, detail. Engraving. Metropolitan Museum, New York. Public domain.

Online courses

The first century of printmaking in fifteenth-century Europe

  • Begins: Wednesday 24 April 2024
    Until: Wednesday 22 May 2024
  • Lecturer: Dr Ursula Weekes

Printing was one of the great technological inventions of the fifteenth century. This course takes a deep dive into the impact of this media revolution in artistic, social, religious and economic contexts. Printing made images affordable to a wide range of new audiences, many of them cheap ephemeral items that survive against the odds, tucked into books and manuscripts. The ealiest surviving prints were quite coarse woodcuts, but soon goldsmiths started taking impressions of their work on paper, in which themes of courtly love and chivalry were prominent. The invention of moveable type, meanwhile, meant that texts could be disseminated like never before. By the end of the century, the first great painter printmakers such as the young Albrecht Dürer had refined the techniques of woodcutting and engraving to a breathtaking degree. Their works would have an impact all round the globe in the next century.

The invention of printmaking played a vital role in expanding the nature and scope of knowledge as the Medieval era gave way to the Early Modern Period. Prints and printing were crucial in changing people’s ideas of themselves, of the world around them, of God and the universe.


24 April         The Arrival of Paper and the Earliest Woodblock Prints
1 May            Gutenberg and the Invention of Moveable Type
8 May            Early Engravings in Renaissance Chivalric Culture
15 May          Cheap Prints for Monasteries and Pilgrims
22 May          The First Painter Printmakers

This online course will be recorded and each session available to ticketholders for two weeks after the event.



Dr Ursula Weekes is an independent Art Historian. Educated at St John’s College Cambridge and the Courtauld Institute of Art, her first major book was Early Engravers and their Public (Harvey Miller, 2004). Ursula has worked as Supervisor of the Western Art Print Room at the Ashmolean Museum and as Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Her more recent work concentrates on the art of Mughal India.

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