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No point in the history of printing has been more rightly insisted on than that the early printers were compelled to make the very utmost of their new art in order to justify its right to exist. When a generation had passed by, when the scribes trained in the first half of the fifteenth century had died or given up the struggle, when printing-presses had invaded the very monasteries themselves, and clever boys no longer regarded penmanship as a possible profession, then, but not till then, printers could afford to be careless, and speedily began to avail themselves of their new license. In the early days of the art no such license was possible, and the striking similarity in the appearance of the printed books and manuscripts produced contemporaneously in any given city or district, is the best possible proof of the success with which the early printers competed with the most expert of the professional scribes.
All this is trite enough, but we are somewhat less frequently reminded that, after some magnificent experiments by Fust and Schoeffer at Mainz, the earliest printers deliberately elected to do battle at first with the scribes alone, and that in the fifteenth century the scribes were very far, indeed, from being the only persons engaged in the production of books.