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For five and a half centuries it has educated, shocked and placated; it has admonished through treatise and praised through poetry; it has fomented war and promoted peace. Whether by letters of lead alloy or wood or the intangible digital letters of font files, typography, ‘the first agent of mass communication’, revolutionized the way we communicate. The following ‘typographic firsts’ tell the story of how such a revolution began. The origins of typography and of books printed by movable metal type are well known and often told, and for many Johannes Gutenberg, Nicolaus Jenson and Aldus Manutius are familiar names: a talented typographic trinity hailing from Germany, France and Italy who irrevocably revolutionized communication, enriching and broadening our cultural and intellectual horizons.