Meet the Oldest Multicolor Printed Book


At Hyperallergic, Allison Meier offers a history of the oldest multicolor printed book, recently digitized and published online by the Cambridge University Library system.

The manual [the 17th-century Manual of Calligraphy and Painting (Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu)] is the earliest known book with polychrome xylography, where each image involved several printing blocks with different colors of inks, giving the completed print the appearance of having been painted by hand.

Michelle Vider is a writer based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Toast, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Atlas and Alice, Baldhip Magazine, and others. Find her at or @meanchelled. More from this author →