Printers Mark: symbol of early printers and publishers, orb and cross

Printers Mark: symbol of early printers and publishers, orb and cross

Markzware, the publisher of FlightCheck for preflighting before printing, came across an interesting symbol regarding printers and publishers from hundreds of years ago. The orb and cross was the symbol most used by them to leave their mark (aka, a “printers mark”* or logotype*; as in the colophon), in the days just after Johannes Gutenberg founded movable type and the modern printing press:

The Orb and Cross Printers Mark Contemporary Printers Mark by Paul Moxon of Fameorshame

Image Source:

This semester we will be looking at printer’s devices (symbols) used to identify the printer or publisher of a book. Many early printers use the orb and the cross which signified the earth and Christianity, shown above… This particular version is the mark of Joannes de Colonia of Venice, 1481.

On the right is a contemporary printer’s mark by Paul Moxon for his Fameorshame press. He explains, “A related sign the orb and cross, ‹literally the earth surmounted by the cross› is also the alchemical symbol for antimony an ingredient in type metal. Long before the development of printing, the 4 had been a mark of merchants to identify their wares. … 20th century master bookmen who have adapted the orb and four include: Warren Chappell and Fritz Kredel, Koch, & Giovanni Mardersteig, among others, chose the orb and cross.

Could this be the lost symbol in Dan Brown’s next novel coming out in a month or so? Anyway, just a little piece of interesting print-media history!

* Printers Mark = “a stamp or device, usually found on the copyright page, that identifies a book as the work of a particular printer.” See:

* logotype = “an identifying symbol (as for use in advertising)” See:
Additionally: “A logo is a graphical element (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign) that, together with its logotype (a uniquely set and arranged typeface) form a trademark or commercial brand.”

Historic symbols are amazing, as you can see on this presentation about the origins of the Christian fish symbol. Even the very word logo itself and its roots are amazing, as it comes from the Greek meaning of “Word.” It is also interesting to look at “ideograms.” As Wikipedia puts it, “Today there are many corporations, products, services, agencies and other entities using an ideogram (sign, icon) or an emblem (symbol) or a combination of sign and emblem as a logo” (source:

FlightCheck, software from Markzware for preflighting, can check documents during prepress to ensure printing quality. Markzware FlightCheck can preflight:

  • Adobe InDesign
  • QuarkXPress
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Acrobat PDF
  • and many more file types in prepress, to catch printing problems before you print.

FlightCheck, the preflight solution to check graphic design files, is available from Markzware via the FlightCheck page.

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