Head Pieces

An additional feature of ornamentation in early books are illustrations at the top or bottom of the page - headpieces and tailpieces. In handwritten manuscripts like the Septum Dolorum, these illustrations were inked in by hand and sometimes included highlights in color.

In printed books, the process for creating head- and tailpieces was the same as with a typical illustration. Woodcut pieces were made using stamps carved out of wood blocks; engraved pieces using etched copper plates. With either design, the printer inked the design and pressed it into the appropriate place on the page.

Because these were individual stamps separate from the printers text block, head and tailpieces would occasionally come out crooked in comparison to the text. Whether this was the result of careless apprentices, overworked printers, or intentional offsetting is unknown at this late date, and may vary by printing house.