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Coster

printing, books, letters and printed

COSTER, lcds'ter, or KOSTER, Laurens Janasoon, a reputed Dutch inventor of printing by movable types. By many he is regarded as a predecessor of Gutenberg, by some as a mythi cal personage. The first account of the inven tion which has any historical value appeared in 1499 in a book called 'The Chronicle of Cologne.' The author says that printing was invented in that city; he asserts, however, that the art was prefigured by the method used for printing certain schoolbooks or Donatuses in Holland. The next statement of importance in connection with the controversy is that of Hadrianus Junius, in his 'Batavia' (1588) to the effect that about 1460 Laurentius Joannes, surnamed eEdituus or Custos (literally sacris tan, Coster), who lived in Haarlem, fashioned the bark of a beech-tree into letters, which he impressed upon paper. He then made a num ber of wooden letters and invented an ink thicker and more viscid than the common sort, and afterward made, by the addition of his let ters, explanations for pictures engraved on wood; and eventually printed books. Among these was an edition of the 'Speculum Salutis.> He subsequently changed the wooden letters for others of lead, and these again for letters of tin. An assistant, who was a member of the Gutenberg family, stole the types and appli ances, going first to Amsterdam, thence to Cologne, and finally sojourning at Main; where he published various books. This statement has

been scoffed at as an invention or based on mere hearsay; but in recent years the trend of opin ion has been in favor of the Dutch claims. There are no specimens extant that can with absolute certainty be ascribed to a printer called Coster. Coster's claim was disproved by Van der Linde, who proved that Coster was a tav ern-keeper and was confused with Lauren Janszoon, a wine merchant and town officer. He asserts that Coster's claim to the invention was made by Gerritt Thomoszoon in 1550. Many fragments of books, however, have been discovere4 believed to be printed much before the date of Gutenberg's earliest work. These are known as Costerman, and their number is being gradually added to since the attention of librarians has been called to their importance. They are printed in a variety of types of Dutch design. All are without any name, date or place, and nearly all were discovered in the bindings of the 15th century manuscripts or printed books. Consult Van der Linde, 'De Haarlemsche Costerlegende> (1870), translated into English by Hessels as 'The Haarlem Leg end of the Invention of Printing' (1871) ; De Vinne, 'Invention of Printing' (1876) ; Hes sels, 'Haarlem the Birthplace of Printing' (1887); Morley, 'English Writers' (Vol. VI, London 1890) ; also Wysz,