All Things Green Man & The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

The Green Man as a Printers Device

Paul Ferguson contacted me with a query about the use of the image of the green man as a printer’s device. He wondered if any of our members or blog viewers could shed any light on these images. He is especially interested in the meaning of the two rings hanging around the moustache. Originally I wondered if this was just an accidental addition to the image but as further examples came to light it seems obvious that it is an intentional motif.
According to David Gentleman (Design in Miniature, p. 28) the Green Man is found as a printer’s device in Augsburg as early as 1477. I would like add these and any other images to our archive and so would appreciate it if anyone  knows of any other examples or have any theories regarding the use of the rings.

As always I can be contacted at

2 responses

  1. I have been doing some more reading about printers’ devices and it would seem that, far from being commercialised or passed around between printers, they were often unique to the printer and jealously guarded as a way of identifying a book as being the work of a particular printer, e.g. :

    “Even as early as incunabula decorative printer’s devices occur, which were intended to fulfil a sort of trademark function as proof of authorship, copyright and quality seal…”

    One reason why I am interested in this topic is that I want to trace the printer of a book by the Polish alchemist Sendivogius entitled DE LAPIDE PHILOSOPHORUM TRACTATUS DUODECIM, in which the lower of the two illustrated greenmen appears. Neither the printer nor the place of publication is mentioned on the title-page of that book, although it is traditionally supposed to have been printed in Prague. If the specified greenman vignette is unique to the printer and we can find other examples of it then we can solve the mystery! Many thanks for any help you can provide,


    Jul 22, 2013 at 6:07 am

  2. I would characterize this image as a vignette rather than a printer’s device. I’ve now seen it in two different works, published in different countries,about fifty years apart. In one, it is on the title page; in the other, a multi-volume work, it appears several times as a tailpiece.

    Aug 10, 2013 at 12:16 am

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