4456 entries. 93 themes. Last updated October 19, 2014.

1450 to 1500 Timeline

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The First Printed Newsletters Circa 1450

Printed newsletters begin circulating in Europe.

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Model Book for Manuscript and Printed Book Illumination Circa 1450

The Göttingen Model Book, dating to the mid-15th century, contains instructions for the ornamentation of books and the creation of pigments. These methods can be seen in practice in several early Gutenberg Bibles. (View Larger)

The Göttingen Model Book, preserved at Niedersächische Staats- und Universitäts Bibliothek Göttingen,

 "is a painting book for the drawing of leaves, initials and patterned backgrounds in different color combinations; even the composition of the colors is described in detail. The book decorations described in this manuscript can be found in the earliest period of printing in several Gutenberg Bibles, including the Göttingen copy of the B42" 

The manuscript arrived in Göttingen in 1770 with the bequest of the library of Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach. It was published in print as Lehmann-Haupt (ed) The Göttingen Model Book. A Facsimile Edition and Translation of a Fifteenth-Century Illuminators' Manual (1972). 

In August 2014 a digital facsimile of the Göttingen Model Book was available at this link

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"The Greatest Memorial of Medieval Cartography" Circa 1450

The Fra Mauro map, created by the monk around 1450, is oriented with the South at the top, and depicts Asia, Africa, and Europe. The artistry is exceptionally detailed, and quite acurate for its time. (View Larger)

About 1450 Venetian monk Fra Mauro completed the Fra Mauro map, a circular planisphere drawn on parchment and set in a wooden frame, about two meters in diameter. The map was discovered in the monastery of San Michel in Isola, Murano, where the Camaldolese cartographer had his studio. It is preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice.

"The Fra Mauro map is unusual, but typical of Fra Mauro's portolan charts, in that its orientation is with the south at the top, one of the usual conventions of Muslim maps, in contrast with the Ptolemy map which has the north at the top.

"Fra Mauro was aware of the Ptolemy map, and commented that it was insufficient for many parts of the world:

"I do not think it derogatory to Ptolemy if I do not follow his Cosmografia, because, to have observed his meridians or parallels or degrees, it would be necessary in respect to the setting out of the known parts of this circumference, to leave out many provinces not mentioned by Ptolemy. But principally in latitude, that is from south to north, he has much 'terra incognita', because in his time it was unknown." (Text from Fra Mauro map)

"He recognized however the extent of the East given by Ptolemy, thereby suppressing the central position that Jerusalem had held on previous maps:

"Jerusalem is indeed the center of the inhabited world latitudinally, though longitudinally it is somewhat to the west, but since the western portion is more thickly populated by reason of Europe, therefore Jerusalem is also the center longitudinally if we regard not empty space but the density of population." (Text from Fra Mauro map)

"Fra Mauro regarded the world as a sphere, although he used the convention of describing the continents surrounded by water within the shape of a disc, but had no certainty about the size of the Earth:

"Likewise I have found various opinions regarding this circumference, but it is not possible to verify them. It is said to be 22,500 or 24,000 miglia or more, or less according to various considerations and opinions, but they are not of much authenticity, since they have not been tested." (Text from Fra Mauro map)

"The depiction of inhabited places and mountains, the map's chorography, is also an important feature. Castles and cities are identified by pictorial glyphs representing turreted castles or walled towns, distinguished in order of their importance."

"Fra Mauro also probably relied on Arab sources. This is suggested by the North-South inversion of the map, an Arab tradition examplified by the 12th century maps of Muhammad al-Idrisi, and the detailed information on the southeastern coast of Africa, which was brought by an Ethiopian embassy to Rome in the 1430s" (Wikipedia article on Fra Mauro map, accessed 01-12-2009).

A critical edition of the map was published by Piero Falchetta in 2006.

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The Hours of Philip the Good, Illuminated with Miniatures Using the Grisaille Technique 1450 – 1460

Detail of page from Philip the Good's Book of Hours.  Please click to view entire image.

Detail of portrait of Philip the Good. Please click to view entire image.

 

The Book of Hours of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, was written between 1450 and 1460 by author, translator, manuscript illuminator, scribe and priest Jean Miélot (Miéllot), who served as the duke's secretary from 1449 to Philip's death in 1467. Many of the illuminations were created by Jean le Tavernier, a miniaturist from Oudenaarde, Belgium, who specialized in grisaille— a technique executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of gray.  A number of these grisailles depict Philip the Good praying.

"For a long time it was thought that this book of hours from the KB [Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands] collection is the one mentioned in an archival record from 1455, in which Philip the Good orders a payment to be made to Jean Le Tavernier for grisailles. However, recent research has shown that this reference actually is to another book of hours in Philips' library. The manuscript has, at a certain point, probably around 1500, been enlarged by adding new texts and images. The scribe and illuminator of the additions have done their utmost to make them as similar as possible to the existing ones. The book holds no less than 165 miniatures; 126 of them can be ascribed to Jean le Tavernier or an associate; the remaining 39 are by the anonymous illuminator of the additions, who is known as the 'Master of the Prayer Books of c.1500' " (http://www.kb.nl/en/digitized-books/book-of-hours-philip-of-burgundy/introduction, accessed 11-03-2013).

When I visited the website of the National Library of the Netherlands in November 2013 the site indicated that a digital facsimile of the Hours of Philip the Good was available; however, the link to the facsimile did not operate. 

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Establishment of the Vatican Library April 30, 1451

A hall of the Vatican Library. (View Larger)

With a Brief on April 30, 1451 "pro communi doctorum virorum commodo" (to facilitate the research of scholars) Pope Nicholas V established the Vatican Library by combining some 350 Greek, Latin and Hebrew codices inherited from his predecessors with his own collection and extensive acquisitions.

The Vatican Library, as originally established by Nicholas V, included manuscripts from the Imperial library of Constantinople, rescued or plundered before that library was burned in 1204 when Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade.

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The Earliest Surviving Remnant of Any European Book Printed by Movable Type Circa 1452 – 1453

The Sibyllenbuch fragment, the oldest surviving piece of a European book printed with movable type, contains a portion of a German poem about the fate of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Sibyllenbuch fragment, also known as Fragment vom Weltgericht, a small portion of a leaf from an early printed medieval poem containing prophecies of the fate of the Holy Roman Empire, may be the earliest surviving remnant of any European book printed by movable type.  It was printed in Mainz using an early state of the DK font later used in the 36-line Bible. This state of the type was assigned by George D. Painter to the press of Johannes Gutenberg prior to his partnership with Johann Fust.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC no. is00492500) dates the Sibyllenbuch fragment to "about 1452-53," making it older than any other European document printed by movable type.

"The Sibyllenbuch fragment consists of a partial paper leaf printed in German using Gothic letter. It is owned by the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. The fragment was discovered in 1892 in an old bookbinding in Mainz. The text on the fragment relates to the Last Judgment and therefore sometimes is also called “Das Weltgericht” (German for "Last Judgment"). The text is part of a fourteenth century poem of 1040 lines known as the 'Sibyllenbuch' (Book of the Sibyls) . . . . The British Library identifies the fragment as coming from a quarto volume, which is a book composed of sheets of paper on which four pages were printed on each side, which were then folded twice to form groups of four leaves or eight pages. From analysis of the location of the watermark on the fragment and the known length of the entire poem, it has been estimated that the complete work contained 37 leaves (74 pages) with 28 lines per page.

"The type face used in the Sibyllenbuch is the same as that used in other early fragments attributed to Gutenberg, an Ars minor by Donatus (a Latin grammar used for centuries in schools) and several leaves of a pamphlet called the Turkish Calendar for 1455 (likely printed in late 1454), and has been called the DK type after its use in the Donatus and Kalendar. Scholars have identified several different states of this type face, a later version of which was used in about 1459-60 to print the so-called 36-line Bible. For this reason, the various states of this type have collectively been called the '36-line Bible type.'

"Due to the 'less finished state of the [DK] font', scholars have concluded it was 'plausibly earlier than 1454', the approximate date of the publication of Gutenberg’s Bible. Although at one time some believed it dated to the 1440s, it is now believed to have been printed in the early 1450s. George D. Painter concluded that 'primitive imperfection' in the type face of the Sibyllenbuch indicated it was the earliest of the fragments printed in the DK type" (Wikipedia article on Sibyllenbuch fragment, accessed 07-10-2009). 

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The First Latin Translation of Thucydides 1452 – 1483

Lorenzo Valla (View Larger)

In 1452 Italian priest, humanist, rhetorician and orator Lorenzo Valla finished the first complete Latin translation of Thucydides (Θουκυδίδης, Thoukydídēs) History of the Peloponnesian War. Valla's translation was commissioned by humanist Pope Nicholas V as part of the pope's project–never completed for obvious reasons–to have all Greek literature translated into Latin. Valla began the translation in the spring of 1448, and the difficult task occupied him for two years. The manuscript of the final text, written by the scribe Johannes Lamperti de Rodenberg, with numerous corrections and explanatory notes in Valla's hand, is preserved in the Vatican Library (Vat. lat. 1801). An image of this is published in Grafton, "The Vatican and Its Library," Grafton (ed) Rome Reborn. The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture (1993) 35. Specifically Valla sanctioned this manuscript as the archetypus, the standard text from which he expected the text to be diffused through copying.

In his dedication of the manuscript to the pope Valla compared "Pope Nicholas V to a Roman emperor who, while he himself remained in Rome, bade his generals conquer foreign lands and add them to the Empire, i.e., translate their literature into Latin. . . . Valla's province, Thucydides, had proved especially arduous. Valla also mentioned in the dedication that it was Bessarion who suggested to the pope that he commission the Latin Thucydides from Valla" (Pade, "Thucydides," Brown, Hankins, Kaster [eds] Catalogus translationum et commentariorum VIII [2003] 120).

Valla's translation was widely copied, and in the process corrupted. When Valla's text of Thucydides was first printed, probably in Treviso by Joannes Rubeus Vercellensis in 1483, the editor, Bartholomaeus Parthenius, stated that the copy or copies of Valla's translation to which he had access were so corrupt that he had to refer to a Greek manuscript to determine the correct text. Nevertheless Parthenius's printed text was also widely criticized by later scholars. Remarkably, Parthenius's edition was the only printed edition of Thucydides issued in the 15th century. (ISTC no. it00359000) In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first printed edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

The Greek text or texts from which Valla worked do not seem to have been identified. During the Middle Ages in Europe, in which there was limited knowledge of Greek and Greek texts generally, Thucydides was known in the West only through mentions in the Latin writings of ancient Rome. The earliest surviving translation of Thucydides is a translation into Aragonese of thirty-eight speeches from the Historiae made at the request of Juan Fernández de Heredia, Grand Master of Rhodes, who also commissioned Aragonese translations of other classical works. Pade (p. 111) believed that this translation was done from "an intermediary version in demotic Greek compiled for Heredia by the Greek scholar Dimitri Calodiqui between 1384 and 1396."

The earliest surviving Greek text of Thucydides may be the tenth century codex preserved in Florence at the Laurentian Library, Plut. 1xix.

(This entry was last revised on 04-24-2014.)

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The Earliest Portrait Miniature and Possibly the Earliest Formal Self-Portrait 1452 – 1455

The self-portrait miniature painted by Jean Fouquet.

Portrait of a Man in a Turban by Jan van Eyck.

In 1452 or 1453 French panel painter and manuscript illuminator Jean (or Jehan) Fouquet painted the first portrait miniature, a circular self-portrait, preserved in the Louvre. 

Fouquet's self-portrait miniature might be the earliest sole self-portrait surviving in Western art. However, most art historians believe that Jan van Eyck's painting known as Portrait of a Man with a Turban, painted about twenty years earlier in 1433, and preserved in the National Gallery, London, is a self-portrait.

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Filed under: Art / Art Trade

The Giant Bible of Mainz: Possibly the Model for the Typography in the Gutenberg Bible April 4, 1452 – July 9, 1453

The Giant Bible of Mainz, copied by hand in large characters as to be read from a lectern, shares many artistic characteristics with the Gutenberg Bible, and may haver served as a model for it. (View Larger)

The so-called “Giant Bible of Mainz,” one of the most magnificent Middle-Rhenish manuscript books of the fifteenth century, was written by a single scribe in two columns on parchment in gothic letters on leaves measuring 570 x 400mm.  The scribe, who has not been identified, dated his work in various places in the manuscript, finishing on July 9, 1453.

Around this time large Bibles, designed to be read from a lectern, were returning to popularity for the first time since the twelfth century. In the intervening period, small hand-held Bibles had been most widely used.

The similarity in format and calligraphic style between this manuscript and the typography of the Gutenberg Bible issued just two years later is striking, suggesting that this manuscript might be the model for the typography Gutenberg used in his 42-line Bible. There is also a striking similarity between the illumination of this manuscript and the illumination of the William H. Scheide copy of the Gutenberg Bible at Princeton University. In addition, both styles of illumination bear a strong relationship to the style of certain engraved designs by the Master of the Playing Cards, the first "major master" in the history of printmaking, and "the first personality in the history of engraving." In Gutenberg and the Master of the Playing Cards (1966) Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt suggested that the creators of these illuminations and the Master of the Playing Cards may have used a common model book which is now lost.

The manuscript is preserved in the Lessing Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress.

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The Inca Road System 1453 – 1533

A map of the Inca road system. (View Larger)

"Among the many roads and trails constructed in pre-Columbian South America, the Inca road system, or Qhapaq Ñan was the most extensive and highly advanced for its time. The network was based on two north-south roads. The eastern route ran high in the puna and mountain valleys from Quito, Ecuador to Mendoza, Argentina. The western route followed the coastal plain except in coastal deserts where it hugged the foothills. More than twenty routes ran over the western mountains, while others traversed the eastern cordilla in the montana and lowlands. Some of these roads reach heights of over 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) above sea level. The trails connected the regions of the Inca empire from the northern provincial capital in Quito, Ecuador past the modern city of Santiago, Chile in the south. The Inca road system linked together about 40,000 km of roadway and provided access to over three million km² of territory.

"These roads provided easy, reliable and quick routes for the Empire's civilian and military communications, personnel movement, and logistical support. The prime users were imperial soldiers, porters and llama caravans, along with the nobility and individuals on official duty. Permission was required before others could walk along the roads, and tolls were charged at some bridges. Although the Inca roads varied greatly in scale, construction and appearance, for the most part they varied between about one and four meters in width.

"Much of the system was the result of the Incas claiming exclusive right over numerous traditional routes, some of which had been built centuries earlier. Many new sections were built or upgraded substantially: through Chile's Atacama desert, and along the western margin of Lake Titicaca, as two examples.

"Spanish chroniclers frequently described lengthy journeys made by the Inca ruler, carried on a litter, and surrounded by thousands of soldiers and retainers, to various parts of his empire.

"Because the Incas did not make use of the wheel for transportation, and did not have horses until the arrival of the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century, the trails were used almost exclusively by people walking, sometimes accompanied by pack animals, usually the llama.

"Relay messengers, or chasqui, stationed at intervals of 6 to 9 km, carried both messages and objects such as fresh marine fish for the rulers in the sierra. Messages consisted of knotted-cord records known as quipu along with a spoken message. Chaskis could cover an estimated 240 km per day.

"There were at least 1,000 and perhaps 2,000 way stations or tambos, placed at even intervals along the trails. These structures were intended to lodge and provision itinerant state personnel.

"Various means were used to bridge water courses. Rafts were used to cross wide meandering rivers. Bridges built of stone or floating reeds were used in marshy highlands. Inca rope bridges provided access across narrow valleys. A bridge across the Apurimac River, west of Cuzco, spanned a distance of 45 meters. Ravines were sometimes crossed by hanging baskets, or oroya, which could span distances of over 50 meters. Bridges were sometimes built in pairs" (Wikipedia article on Inca Road System, accessed 07-24-2009).

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The Ottoman Turks Capture Constantinople May 29, 1453

A portrait of Mehmed II by Gentile Bellini.

On May 29, 1453 a 70,000 man Ottoman Turkish army, under the leadership of Mehmed II (Mahomet II,) using European artillery experts and European artillery, broke Constantinople's fabled defensive walls, captured Constantinople and killed the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos.

With the death of Constantine XI, the Byzantine Empire, which had lasted for one thousand years, came to an end. The conquest of Constantinople completed the destruction of the Roman Empire.

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Byzantine Greek Scholars Carry Manuscripts to Italy Circa June 1453

A depiction of the siege of Constantinople, painted in Paris in 1499. (View Larger)

As a result of the Fall of Constantinople, around June 1453 numerous Byzantine Greek scholars travelled westward to Europe, bringing with them Greek manuscripts of the highest cultural value—source material for Renaissance study of classical texts.

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The 42-Line Bible is Partially Printed 1454

Johannes Gutenburg.

By 1454 Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz printed at least part of the 42-line Bible (B42; Gutenberg Bible). This was the first book printed in Europe by movable type. It has been stated that printing by movable type was the first major invention in Europe associated with the name of an individual inventor, though ironically no surviving documents prove that Gutenberg actually invented the process.

________

Peculiarly, in 1952 the United States Post Office issued a 3-cent stamp commemorating the "500th Anniversary of the printing of the first book, The Holy Bible, from movable type, by Johann Gutenberg." The correct 500th anniversary could have been 1954, but, more accurately, 1955 or 1956, as the 42-line Bible was completed in 1455 or 1456. 

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Possibly the First Printed Edition of the Most Widely Used Medieval Grammar Circa 1454

About 1454 an edition of the Ars minor by the fourth-century Roman grammarian Aelius Donatus was printed in Mainz in the type of the 36-line Bible (sometimes also called the DK-type). The year of printing is uncertain.

A fragment containing leaves 6/9, preserved in ULB Darmstadt, and catalogued by the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue as ISTC No.: id00314700, might be the earliest of the circa 435 different printings of the small grammar book printed in the fifteenth century. Nearly all copies of all editions of this work survived only in fragments, indicating that copies were mainly read out of existence. One other fragment preserved in Berlin is also estimated to have been printed in 1454: ISTC No.: id00314850.

Because so many of the surviving copies of Donatus are fragments we may deduce that there may have been further fifteenth century printings, of which no copies survived.

Fuessel, Gutenberg and the Impact of Printing. Translated from the German by Douglas Martin (2003) 30.

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The Earliest Dated European Document Printed by Movable Type October 22, 1454

The 31-line indulgence preserved in the Scheide Library at Princeton.

For centuries prior to the introduction of printing by movable type in Europe the Catholic church sold Indulgences as a method of raising funds. These sheets of parchment, and later of paper, were reproduced by manuscript copying. After the Turks conquered Constantinople on May 29, 1453, a new round of Indulgences were sold in order to finance a crusade against the Turks.

The earliest document with a fixed date printed by movable type is a 31-line Letter of Indulgence, printed in the so-called DK type, issued at Erfurt on October 22, 1454. The year 1454 is printed; the month and day is filled in by hand. This Indulgence, of which the only surviving copy is preserved in the Scheide Library at Princeton, was probably printed by Johannes Gutenberg.

The earliest printed Indulgence in the British Library is dated 1455.

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Completion of the 42-Line Bible 1455 – 1456

The 42-line Gutenberg Bible, completed in in 1456 by Johannes Gutenberg, Johann Fust & Peter Schöffer, is the earliest European book printed from movable type, by a process of Gutenberg's own invention. (View Larger)

Johannes Gutenberg, working with merchant and money-lender Johann Fust and printer Peter Schöffer, completed printing the 42-line Bible (B42) (Gutenberg Bible), the first book printed in Europe from movable type, in Mainz during 1455 and 1456.

To accomplish this monumental task Gutenberg, previously a goldsmith, invented a special kind of printing ink, a method of casting type, and a special kind of press derived from the wine or oil press. This complex set of integrated technologies has been called the first invention in Europe attributed to a single individual. Printing books was also the first process of mass production—the process that centuries later became the model for the Industrial Revolution.

Yet the process of printing from movable type, for centuries attributed to Gutenberg, without supporting documents on the technical aspects of the process, except for the surviving examples of his printing, seems to have evolved in stages from the early 1450s, and may or may not have involved other inventors besides Gutenberg. In 2002 physicist and software developer Blaise Aguera y Arcas and Paul Needham, Librarian of the Scheide Library at Princeton University, working on original editions in the Scheide Library, used high resolution scans of individual characters printed by Gutenberg, and image processing algorithms to locate and compare variants of the same characters printed by Gutenberg.

"The irregularities in Gutenberg's type, particularly in simple characters such as the hyphen, made it clear that the variations could not have come from either ink smear or from wear and damage on the pieces of metal on the types themselves. While some identical types are clearly used on other pages, other variations, subjected to detailed image analysis, made for only one conclusion: that they could not have been produced from the same matrix. Transmitted light pictures of the page also revealed substructures in the type that could not arise from punchcutting techniques. They [Agüera y Arcas and Needham] hypothesized that the method involved impressing simple shapes to create alphabets in "cuneiform" style in a mould like sand. Casting the type would destroy the mould, and the alphabet would need to be recreated to make additional type. This would explain the non-identical type, as well as the substructures observed in the printed type. Thus, they feel that 'the decisive factor for the birth of typography', the use of reusable moulds for casting type, might have been a more progressive process than was previously thought. . . . " (Wikipedia article on Johannes Gutenberg, accessed 02-08-2009).

When the punch-matrix process of typefounding which became dominant was introduced, and by whom, remained an unsolved problem in 2010.

References:

Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Paul Needham, "Computational analytical bibliography," Proceedings Bibliopolis Conference The future history of the book', The Hague: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, (November 2002).

Agüera y Arcas, "Temporary Matrices and Elemental Punches in Gutenberg's DK type", in: Jensen (ed) Incunabula and Their Readers. Printing , Selling, and Using Books in the Fifteenth Century (2003) 1-12.

ISTC no. ib00526000


It has been determined that there were three phases in the printing process of the B42:

1. The first sheets were rubricated by being passed twice through the printing press, using black and then red ink. This process was soon abandoned, with spaces left for rubrication to be added by hand.

2. Some time later, after more sheets had been printed, the number of lines per page was increased from 40 to 42, presumably to save paper. Therefore, pages 1 to 9 and pages 256 to 265, presumably the first ones printed, have 40 lines each. Page 10 has 41, and from there on the 42 lines appear. The increase in line number was achieved by decreasing the interline spacing, rather than increasing the printed area of the page.

3. The print run was increased, probably to 180 copies, necessitating resetting those pages which had already been printed. The new sheets were all reset to 42 lines per page. Consequently, there are two distinct settings in folios 1-32 and 129-158 of volume I and folios 1-16 and 162 of volume II. 


It is believed that  approximately 180 copies of the Bible were produced, 135 on paper and 45 on vellum. When illuminated, the vellum copies would have even more closely resembled traditional medieval manuscripts. 47 or 48 copies survived, but of these only 21 are complete. Others are missing leaves or whole volumes. The 48 copies include volumes in Trier and Indiana which seem to be two parts of one copy. There are a substantial number of fragments, including numerous individual leaves. Twelve vellum copies survived, of which four are complete, and one is the New Testament only.

See White, Eric M. "The Gutenberg Bibles that Survive as Binder's Waste," Wagner & Reed (eds) Early Printed Books as Material Objects. Proceedings of the Conference Organized by the IFLA Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Munich, 19-21 August 2009 (2010) 21-35.

♦ When I checked the ISTC in January 2010 there were four different digital facsimiles available online, from the British Library, Keio UniversityNiedersächische Staats- und Universitäts Bibliothek Göttingen, and the Library of Congress. The British Library site offers the opportunity to compare in a virtual sense their copies printed on paper and on vellum.

In 2008 Stephen Fry made a 60 minute film on Gutenberg's development of printing by movable type for the BBC entitled The Machine that Made Us. For the film Fry's team reconstructed what may have been Gutenberg's original press, cut punches, made matrices, cast type, and even made paper, before printing a page on the press. The film did not take into account the discoveries at Princeton in 2002 regarding the method that Gutenberg probably used to cast type for the B42.

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"The Sale of a Printed Bible" March 12, 1455

An image of Pope Pius II in blessing, from a biographical fresco in the Cathedral Library of Siena. (View Larger)

On March 12, 1455 Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II, reported in a letter to Juan de Carvajal, the Cardinal for whom he worked, that in Frankfurt the year before, "a marvelous man" had been promoting the sale of a printed Bible. Piccolomini stated that he saw parts of the book, and that it had such clear, large lettering that one could read it without eye glasses. He also noted that every copy had been sold.

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Fust Files a Lawsuit against Gutenberg to Recover Money Used for the "Work of the Books": The Helmasperger Notarial Instrument November 6, 1455

The notarial document, drafted by Ulrich Helmasperger, clerk of the Bishopric of Bamberg, royal notary and certified public recorder at the Court of the Archbishop of Mainz, which provides the only contemporary account of the suit filed by Fust against Gutenberg. (View Larger)

On November 6, 1455 Johann Fust, a merchant and money-lender, filed a lawsuit at the Court of the Archbishop of Mainz against Johannes Gutenberg to recover money that he had advanced to Gutenberg beginning in 1450. This is one of the few extant documents that may imply Gutenberg's place in the history of printing by movable type, though nothing concerning printing is specifically mentioned in the document. It is also possible, according to Paul Needham, that the surviving document may be Gutenberg's personal copy, endorsed in his hand.

Fust's total claim against Gutenberg was 2026 gulden with interest. As a result of the lawsuit Gutenberg most probably paid back Fust's investment plus interest. Whether Fust gained possession of Gutenberg’s press and equipment, used for what the document calls the "Work of the Books," is unclear. Gutenberg seems to have resumed printing before 1460.

The record of this lawsuit, preserved at the Niedersächische Staats- und Universitäts Bibliothek Göttingen, is formally known as the The Helmasperger Notarial Instrument.

"Ulrich Helmasperger, clerk of the Bishopric of Bamberg, royal notary and certified public recorder at the Court of the Archbishop of Mainz wrote the Instrument which bears his name. This is the only contemporary account of the business relations between Gutenberg and Fust and of Gutenberg's invention, the "Work of the Books". This account of the legal proceedings documents that the citizen of Mainz, Johannes Fust, swore the following under oath: He had lent Gutenberg the sum of 1550 guilders which he himself had had to borrow at an interest rate of 6%. In his view the money he lent Gutenberg which was not used for their mutual benefit for the Work of the Books was a loan and thus he demanded that the interest on this loan be refunded to him. The Instrument briefly discusses the first legal complaint - the demand for repayment of the money - and describes the judgement which was unfavorable for Gutenberg. The Instrument does not mention the final judgement - Fust's demand that the partnership with Gutenberg be dissolved and the consequences of this" (http://www.gutenbergdigital.de/gudi/eframes/index.htm, accessed 01-17-2010).

♦ You can view a digital facsimile of the document, in whole, and in enlarged parts with transliterations and English translations, from the Niedersächische Staats- und Universitäts Bibliothek Göttingen website at this link: http://www.gutenbergdigital.de/gudi/eframes/index.htm, accessed 01-17-2010).

Needham, The Invention and Early Spread of European Printing as Represented in the Scheide Library (2007) 8.

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The First Known Medical or Scientific Work to be Printed, Surviving in Only One Copy 1456

The Aderlasskalender for the year 1457, also known as the Laxierkalender, was issued in Mainz, printed in the type of the 36-line Bible, presumably in 1456. 

It survives in only one incomplete copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ISTC No. ia00051700).

"Bleeding- and purgation-calendars, which gave details of the lucky and unlucky days on which to bleed or take medicine in a given year, were popular in the Middle Ages. They maintained their popularity with the coming of the printed book. According to Osler, 'forty-six of these bleeding-and purgation-calendars were printed before 1480; one hundred of them before 1501 have been collected. . . .' The Mainz Kalendar for 1457 is much more a purgation-than a bleeding-calendar" (Berry & Poole, Annals of Printing [1966] 13).

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The Bulla Turcorum of Calixtus III, of Which One Copy Survives June 29, 1456

Johannes Gutenberg printed the only surviving copy of the Bulla Thurcorum, which instituted special prayers for Christians during the Turkish encroachment in the Balkans as part of an effort to galvanize European unity in preparation for another Crusade. (View Larger)

On June 29, 1456 Pope Calixtus III promulgated the Bulla Turcorum, announcing the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, and seeking funding for another crusade against the Turks, who were advancing into the Balkans.

"A copy of the Bull reached Mainz and was printed by Johann Gutenberg; only the present copy in the Scheide Library survives. A German translation was also printed by Gutenberg. It too survives in only one copy, in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. Although no surviving example of early European printing is signed by Johann Gutenberg, early evidences and reports converge to show that he was the inventor of European typography. In particular, the “DK” (Donatus and Kalendar) type appears to be his first printing type. It was used in part to print the 31-line Cyprus Indulgence, of which the earliest datable copy, executed in Erfurt on 22 October 1454, is in the Scheide Library: this is the first fixed date at which we know that printing was being carried out in Mainz. Several other DK-type fragments, such as the Sibyllenbuch partial leaf at the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, show a much less finished state of the font, and are plausibly earlier than 1454. In the late 1450s, the DK type was apparently sold to Bamberg, where it was used to print the 36-line Bible (not after 1461), and other books, some of which are signed by Albrecht Pfister. . . .

"Acquired by John H. Scheide from Maggs Bros., London, May 1939. The single gathering of 12 paper leaves was disbound from some unidentified volume; it appears that Maggs acquired the work from some European bookseller without knowing of its earlier survival context. On the first three pages of the two final blank leaves is a densely written tractate concerning crusades and crusading indulgences; it is signed at the end as from the Charterhouse of Erfurt. Unpublished research by Dr. Hope Mayo strongly suggests that the tractate was composed by the Erfurt Carthusian Johannes Indaginis, a prolific writer and determined ecclesiastical reformer. Presumably, therefore, this copy of the Calixtus Bull belonged to the Erfurt Charterhouse. Curiously, the unique Berlin copy of the German printing of the Bull likewise belonged to that convent" (http://diglib.princeton.edu/xquery?_xq=getCollection&_xsl=collection&_pid=whsS2.4-calixtus, accessed 07-10-2009).

ISTC no.ic00060000.

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Die Bulla widder die Turcken, also Printed by Gutenberg, of which One Copy Survives Circa July 1456

Pope Calixtus III.

The Bulla Turcorum of Pope Calixtus III, announcing the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, and seeking funding for another crusade against the Turks, was translated into German by Heinrich Kalteisen and printed by Johannes Gutenberg in the DK type, as Die Bulla widder die Turcken.

Like the Latin edition probably published only days earlier, only one copy survives, in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

ISTC no. ic00060100.

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The Mainz Psalter. . . .without "Any Driving of the Pen" August 14, 1457

The colophon of the 1457 Mainz Psalter, featuring the first printer's mark. (View Larger)

On August 14, 1457 Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, a scribe who adopted the new technology of printing, published the Psalterium latinum (Mainzer Psalter) at Mainz. The work is cited in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue ip01036000 as Psalterium. With canticles, hymns, capitula, preces maiores and minores. There are two issues: "a) of 143 leaves b) of 175 leaves, the latter designed for use in the diocese of Mainz." All known copies are printed on vellum.

This magnificent book was:

• The first printed book to include a colophon giving both the name of the printer and the date of printing.

• The first work to incorporate color printing, with initial letters printed in red, light purple, and blue (from an engraved compound metal plate).

• The first printed book to include music— two lines of music printed with a 4-line staff.

The colophon of the Mainz Psalter boasted of the new technology involved in its production. The colophon reads in translation:

“The present copy of the Psalms, adorned with beauty of capital letters, and sufficiently marked out with rubrics, has been thus fashioned by an ingenious invention of printing and stamping without any driving of the pen. . . .”

The color printing in the Mainz Psalter was accomplished by means of compound printing. In this process the metal type for the initial letters was made in two interlocking sections. These could be taken apart for separate inking with the colors, and then reassembled for printing in a single passage through the press. Compound printing required great skill in metal working, and the inking and printing process was unusually laborious.  After using the process once again for their second Psalter of 1459 Fust and Schöffer reverted to conventional printing. According to Gascoigne, the compound printing process was not revived until it was applied in England to prevent forgery in bank notes in the nineteenth century.

Ten copies of the first Mainz Psalter survived, and according to the ISTC, nearly all surviving copies are either incomplete or fragmentary.

The only complete copy of the 175 leaf version is preserved in the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. That copy is also the only one to include on its colophon leaf the first printer's mark: the two linked shields of Fust and Schöffer hanging from a branch, the first of which was inscribed with the Greek letter χ for Christ, the second inscribed with the Greek letter Λ (for logos = word).  None of the other extant copies of the 1457 psalter include this mark, and it is unclear whether it was originally published with only some of the edition, or might have been added to the colophon leaf of unsold sheets at some later date, after much of the edition had been distributed. (My thanks for Paul Needham for clarifying the problem of the printer's mark in the first Mainz Psalter.) In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the copy in Vienna was available at this link.

Gascoigne, Milestones in Colour Printing 1457-1859 (1997) 1.

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A Scribe and Illuminator Adopts the New Technology Circa 1458

A bust of Johannes Mentlin in the Humanist Library of Sélestat. (View Larger)

 

About 1458 Johannes Mentelin, formerly a scribe and illuminator, decided to embrace the new technology, and set up a printing press in Strasbourg. Mentelin's was the second printing press known to have been established after the Gutenberg/Fust and Schöffer press in Mainz.

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Charles VII Orders a "Well-Qualified Agent" from his Royal Mints to Travel to Mainz to Learn Printing October 4, 1458

A portrait of Charles VII of France by Jean Fouquet.

According to manuscript records of the French royal mint on October 4, 1458 Charles VII of France ordered the masters of his mints to find a well qualified agent to go to Mainz to learn the art of printing, which had recently been invented by Johann Gutenberg, a man adept at cutting punches and 'caractères'. Nicholas Jenson, (Nicolas Jenson), for some time master of the mint at Tours, was selected for the mission.

This was the first contemporary reference acknowledging Gutenberg as the inventor of printing.

Berry & Poole, Annals of Printing (1966) 14.

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The 36-Line Bible Circa 1459 – 1461

The 36-line Bible, the second printed edition, was most likely published in Bamberg, Germany, around 1458-1460. No printers name appears in the book, but Johannes Gutenberg may have been involved in its publication. (View Larger)

A 36-line Bible, in the so-called DK types (also known as the type of the 36-line Bible), and either printed in Mainz before 1460 or printed in Bamberg not after 1461, may be the third printed edition of the Bible. ISTC No. ib00527000.  

Arguments have been made for this work to have been printed by Gutenberg; another theory is that it was printed by Albrecht Pfister in Bamberg.

There is a copy in the Scheide Library at Princeton:

"Only 14 copies survive, all on paper. Scheide's copy once belonged to the Benedictines of Würzburg, whose convent was dissolved in 1803, and to Earl Spencer. When Scheide bought it at an auction in November 1991, no copy had been on the market for 200 years" (http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/02/q2/0524-scheide.html, accessed 01-15-2011).

♦ In November 2013 there were several digital facsimiles of the 36-line bible available. That at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek was available at this link

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The 1459 Mainz Psalter August 29, 1459

An illuminated page from a copy of the 1459 Mainz Psalter preserved at the Bodelian Library. (View Larger)

On August 29, 1459 Fust and Schöffer completed a revised edition of their 1457 Psalter, with twenty-three lines per page as compared to twenty lines in the 1457 edition, using the same types and initials as the 1457 edition. 

For this Psalter Fust and Schöffer once again employed the process of compound printing, first used in the first Mainz Psalter of 1457, to print the initial letters in two colors.

The first edition of 1457 was intended for use in non-monastic churches. In the second edition the material was arranged for use in monastic services. The British Museum Catalogue states that the psalter was printed "in accordance with the reformed Monastic Breviary of the Union of Bursfield, known also as the Observantia per Germaniam

"The colophon states that the book was printed 'to the glory of God and in honour of Saint James' which suggests that the psalter was commissioned by, or associated in some way with, the Benedictine monastery of Saint James in Mainz" (Berry & Poole, Annals of Printing [1966] 14).

Thirteen copies are known, all printed on vellum.

ISTC No.: ip01062000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Book Set in Fere-Humanistica or Gotico-Antiqua Types October 6, 1459

The first page of Guillelmus Duranti's Rationale divinorum officiorum. (View Larger)

On October 6, 1459 printers Fust and Schöffer of Mainz completed their edition of Rationale divinorum officiorum by Guillelmus Duranti (Durandus)— a work explaining the meaning of the various services of the Catholic church and the ceremonies used in them. The folio volume has one large (thirteen-line) capital letter, and two smaller capitals printed in two colors— red and dull blue-gray, and a number of small capitals mostly printed in red, though some were omitted by the printer and put in by hand. All surviving copies are printed on vellum except for one on paper preserved at Munich.

The 1459 Durandus was the first book printed in type based on rounded script— less formal than the Gothic Textura or Textualis bookhand, on which Gutenberg and Schöffer based their first types.

"The type cut by Peter Schoeffer on the model of this hand is rounder and more open that Textura, the ascenders are more pronounced and give more white on the page, 'there is a greater differentiation of letters and therefore inscribed legibility'. The letter 'shares some characteristics of the Renaissance and others of the Middle Ages. Hence it has been called the Fere-humanistica or Gotico-antiqua. . . .The hand is gothic but with considerable roman tendencies' (A.F. Johnson Type Designs, 1959.) It was a letter much copied in Germany; less so outside. It was taken as a pattern by William Morris for his Troy and Chaucer types" (Berry & Poole, Annals of Printing [1966] 14).

ISTC  No.: id00403000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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An Intermediate Form Between a Collection of Prints and a Blockbook Circa 1460 – 1465

It appears that no blockbooks (block books) in the literal sense were published in France in the 15th century. An example of an intermediate form between a collection of prints and a blockbook printed in France about 1465 was a collection of three woodcuts with text, printed on one side of three sheets, entitled Les neuf preux. This is known from a single copy preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

"It consists of three sheets of paper, each of which contains an impression from a block containing three figures. They are printed by means of the frotton in light-coloured ink, and have been coloured by hand. The first sheet contains pictures of the three champions of classical times, Hector, Alexander, and Julius Caesar; the second the three champions of the Old Testament, Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeaeus; the third, the three champions of mediaeval history, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Boulogne. Under each picture is a stanza of six lines, all rhyming, cut in a body type.

"These leaves form part of the Armorial of Gilles le Bouvier, who was King-at-Arms to Charles VII of France; and as the manuscript was finished between 9th November 1454 and 22 September 1457, it is reasonable to suppose that the prints were executed in France, probably at Paris, before the latter date. The verses are, at any rate, the oldest printed specimen of the French language" (Duff, Early Printed Books (1893) 17-18).

Les neuf preux is described by Ursula Baurmeister in Catalogue des incunables de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (CIBN), Vol. 1, fascicule 1 (Xylographes) no. NN-1.

The Armorial of Gilles le Bouvier is BnF Ms. fr. 4985.

In "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth-Century Europe (2009) 39-91 Paul Needham discusses publications related to Les neuf preux.

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The Second Printed Edition of the Bible 1460

The Latin Bible printed by Johannes Mentelin in Strassbourg before 27 June 1466. ISTC No.: ib00624000.

 

A bust of Johannes Mentelin in the Humanist Library of Selestat.

The Biblia Latina, printed by Johannes Mentelin by 1460 was the second edition of the Bible and first book printed in Strasbourg.

Twenty-eight copies survive, all on paper. There is a copy in the Scheide Library at Princeton. "Until Scheide's purchase in 2001, no copy had been sold for more than 75 years."

ISTC No. ib00528000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from USB Köln at this link

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Gutenberg's Last Production? An Early Form of Stereotyping? 1460 – 1469

In 1460 an edition of the encyclopedic and lexicographical work by the 13th century Dominican of Genoa, Johannes Balbus (Giovanni Balbi), entitled the Summa grammaticalis quae vocatur Catholicon, was issued in Mainz by "the printer of the Catholicon", (ISTC No. ib00020000). The was the first printed book to name its place of printing. It was also called the first work printed that was not entirely religious in content, though in its non-religious aspects it was clearly preceded by the bloodletting calendar of 1456, of which only one copy survived. 

From the standpoint of lexicography Balbi became "the first lexicographer to achieve complete alphabetization (from the first to the last letter of each word)" (Oxford History of English Lexicography [2008] 30). The first four sections of of Balbi's work concerned orthography, prosody, word derivations and syntax and figures of speech. Throughout his work Balbi quoted not only from the Bible and writings of the saints but also from the Latin classics. It remained the most widely-used lexical resource during the 14th and 15th centuries, and had no serious rival until the early 16th century.

The colophon of this book reads in translation:

"This book was produced not with a reed, stylus, or quill, but by the admirable design, proportion, and adjustment of punches and matrices."

The means by which this book was printed continues to be the subject of research:

"As early as 1905 Gottfried Zedler recognized that the Catholicon edition dated Mainz 1460 exists in three impressions printed from a single setting of type but associated with three presses (with different pinhole patterns) and printed on three distinct paper stocks. In 1982 Paul Needham presented evidence that the three issues were printed at three different times, according to the datable use of their paper stocks: copies on Bull's Head paper (with which are classed the vellum copies) in 1460, copies on Galliziani paper ca. 1469, and copies on Crown and Tower papers ca. 1472. Moreover, Needham argued that the three impressions were produced, not from standing type, but from two-line 'slugs' cast from the type and capable of being reassembled for subsequent impressions. According to this theory, the first impression of the Catholicon was produced by Gutenberg himself in 1460; the 'slugs' then passed into the possession of Konrad Humery with Gutenberg's other typographic material after the latter's death in 1468 and were re-used by Humery, probably with the help of Peter Schoeffer, ca. 1469. In this view, which has aroused prolonged controversy among incunabulists, the 1460 Catholicon represents not only Gutenberg's last production but also his final achievement, the invention of an early form of stereotyping" (The Nakles Collection of Incunabula, Christie's New York, 17 April 2000, Lot 2).

"Three issues can be distinguished in spite of identical typesetting: a) printed on vellum or Bull's Head paper; b) on Galliziani paper; c) on Tower & Crown paper. This has given rise to the theory that issue a) was printed in 1460, issue b) in 1469 and issue c) about 1472; see P. Needham, in BSA 76 (1982) pp.395-456 and the articles "zur Catholicon-Forschung" in Wolfenbütteler Notizen zur Buchgeschichte 13 (1988) pp.105-232. For an alternative theory that all three states were printed about 1469, see L. Hellinga in Gb Jb 1989 pp. 47-96 and in The Book Collector (Spring 1992) pp. 28-54" (http://istc.bl.uk/search/search.html?operation=record&rsid=220621&q=0, accessed 12-28-2009).

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayarische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Integrating Illustrations into the Printed Text Circa 1460 – 1490

A page from Der Edelstein printed by Albrecht Pfister showing the integration of images with the printed text.

An illustration on folio 12v from the Vienna Genesis showing the story of Jacob.

A miniature of the Annunciation from a French Book of Hours showing very elaborate manuscript illumination.

The Abbot, a woodcut from the Dance of Death series by Hans Holbein the Younger.

"Book illustration in printed books seems to have completed in one generation (ca. 1460—ca. 1490) a cycle which took about 1,000 years in manuscript illumination. In early blockbooks and in the typographically produced books of [Albrecht] Pfister, illustrations performed an almost separate function; they were not subservient to the text. (In the earliest extant illuminated manuscripts from the Vth—VIth century, as for example the Vienna Genesis, illustrations were similarly 'independent.) Beginning in the 1470's illustrations in printed books became more and more integrated into the text, achieving an aesthetic harmony of the two elements. (In illumination this development lasted from the IXth to the XIVth century). By the end of the XVth century illustrations in many printed books began to outgrow the text page; the artist freqeuently paid less attention to the character of the type, and the unity of type and illustration decreased. (This development is examplified in many Books of Hours where, outside the calendar illustration [which remained subjunct to the text], the pictorial aspect occupied an inordinately large place; in manuscripts we can observe this from the early XVth century on.). This dichotomy did not apply to incidental illustrations, used to adorn title pages or the text, nor to some of the finest XVIth-century illustrated books (like [Hans] Holbein's Dance of Death)" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling, Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 120; there are 3 footnotes in Hirsch's book, which I have incorporated into the quotation where indicated, using parentheses).

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Printing Required the Simplication of the Graphic Form of the Book Circa 1460

"The technical requirements of typography immediately introduced simplification in form, and all through the first half-century of printing we can see a relentless process of simplification of graphic form at work. This simplification consisted of a selection of those features of script that were essential for communication, and, conversely, the rejection of the endless variation in form and function that the writing hand can create. Written script forms can be ambiguous; there can be innumerable small distinctions in, say, the value of a capital as expressed by graphic means. In typography, on the contrary, such variation is impossible, once forms have become fixed in metal they force you to make decisions, either, for example to be seen as a capital or a lower-case character, and nothing in between. The often-heard observation that in the early years printed books imitated manuscripts fails to recognize a much more interesting phenomenon: a selection process of functional forms. It was the loss in subtlety and individuality that repelled some fastidious bookmen as diverse as the Florentine bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci and the Burgundian prelate Raffael de Mercatellis, who both eschewed printed books in favour of manuscripts" (Hellinga, "The Codex in the fifteenth century: Manuscript and Print," Barker (ed.), A Potencie of Life. Books in Society [1993] 65-66).

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The First Book Printed in German and the First Dated Book with Woodcuts February 14, 1461

On February 14, 1461 Albrecht Pfister of Bamberg, characterized as "a church dignitary and amateur printer," issued a book of fables: Der Edelstein by Ulrich Boner, a Dominican monk. Containing 101 woodcuts, this was also the first book printed in German, and the first dated book with woodcut illustrations.

"The woodcuts were impressed by hand in blanks left for the purpose in the printed text—much as though they had been rubber stamps" (Ivins, Prints and Visual Communication [1969] xi).

Only one copy of the original printing survived. It is preserved in the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel. ISTC no. ib00974500.

A second edition issued by Pfister about 1462 contains 103 woodcuts. ISTC no. ib00974550. Of this too only one copy survived at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the second edition was available at this link.

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The First Combination of Text and Illustrations in One Printing Forme 1462 – 1463

This Biblia Pauperum, or 'pauper's bible,' is the first known work to combine the woodcut images and movable type. (View Larger)

Printing the Biblia pauperum, a kind of illustrated précis of highlights in the Bible— intended for laymen or lower clergy who could not afford a complete Bible— represented a major technical challenge in the integration of the relatively brief text with the numerous woodcuts on each page. In spite of these difficulties, the first printed edition may have employed movable type.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue lists ten editions of the Biblia pauperum printed during the 15th century. The earliest of these are three editions issued in Bamberg by Albrecht Pfister, two of which are estimated to have been printed in 1462, one in German and the other in Latin, and another Latin edition in 1463: ISTC  nos. ib00652700, ib00652750, ib00652800.

 In November 2013 a digital facsimile of ib00652750 was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München website at this link.

"The first woodcuts used to illustrate copies of the 'Biblia pauperum' printed with movable types were not produced in Mainz, where printing was first practised, but rather, using types from Mainz, in Bamberg in the printing workshop of Albrecht Pfister. Since 1460, Pfister had his printed editions illustrated with woodcuts. Initially, the integration of pictures in printed text proved to be a difficult task. . . . His edition of the 'Biblia pauperum' for the first time combined text and illustrations in one printing forme.

"Even after Pfister's edition was published, the 'Biblia pauperum' continued to be produced as a blockbook, which also allowed the combination of woodcuts with printed text. In the production of illustrated books for religious edification or for practical purposes which had previously been copied by hand, woodcuts successfully came to replace pen drawings. . . ." (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] no. 6).

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The First Explicitly Dated Bible, with the First Printer's Mark August 14, 1462

The Schöffer & Fust bible of 1462 was the first dated bible as well as the first to include a printer's mark. (View Larger)

On August 14, 1462 Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer at Mainz issued the fourth printed Bible, and the first explicitly dated Bible, sometimes called the Biblia pulcra because of the new Gotico-Antiqua typeface which Schöffer developed specially for the edition. 

After its colophon printed in red, the edition contains the first printer's mark ever used, also printed in red—two linked shields hanging from a branch, the first of which was inscribed with the Greek letter χ for Christ, the second inscribed with the Greek letter Λ (for logos = word). Fust and Schöffer's printer's mark first appeared in a single extant copy of the 1457 Mainz Psalter preserved in Vienna. The other 9 extant copies of that work do not contain the mark. The 1462 Bible is the first work to include the printer's mark in the entire edition.

"Printers' marks had no precedent in text manuscripts, though they had an affinity with notarial signets that had been in use for a long time in legal contracts and official documents. It may seem surprising that, in spite of these early examples, so many incunables were issued without the name of the printer, and often without place and/or date. Since it was not at all common for scribes to sign their names, printers presumably did not consider identification important until they saw in the complete imprint a detail which would increase their sale and satisfy their ego. E. von Kathen made a statisical survey of all the entries in volumes I-VII of the Gesamtkatalog and found in this sample (which covered ca 20% of the total XVth-century production) that up to the year 1480, 57.4% lacked indication of printer, 53% in the next decade, and 35.3% in the last decade of the XVth century" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 25).  

•The lack of printers' names, or even place or date of printing, in so many 15th century printed books created huge research challenges for historical bibliographers of early printing during the 19th and 20th centuries.

ISTC no. ib00529000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 53. Clair, A Chronology of Printing (1969) 11.

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Warfare Accelerates the Spread of Printing October 27, 1462

The coat of arms of Archbishop Diether von Isenberg, as depicted in the modern stain glass of the Mainz Cathedral.

A feud between Archbishop Adolf II von Nassau, named archbishop for Mainz by the Pope, and Archbishop Diether von Isenburg, who was supported by the people, caused Adolf II to send troops to raid the city of Mainz on October 27, 1462, plundering and killing 400 inhabitants. At a tribunal that followed, those who survived lost all their property, which was then divided among those who promised to follow Adolf II. Those who did not promise to follow Adolf II (among them printer Johannes Gutenberg) were driven out of the city or thrown into prison.

The new Archbishop denied Mainz its town rights and made the city an archepiscopal capital. This debacle stopped printing in Mainz for the next few years and contributed to the spread of printing:

"It wiped out commerce there, and the consequent lack of money led printers, who were established in a kind of industrial group, to scatter widely. This accounts for the German names we find among the earliest printers in other countries throughout Europe" (Updike).

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The First Publication with a Separate Printed Title Page 1463

Manuscript Title page of Bulla Cruciata Contra Turcos "Ezechielis prophetae" printed by Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer in 1463 (Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany). Click on the image to see the entire image.

Peter Schöffer.

With his edition of Pope Pius II's Bulla Cruciata contra Turcos in 1463 printer Peter Schöffer of Mainz issued the first publication with a separate printed title page. It is thought that this title page was an experiment, as "the Aschaffenburg copy has a title-page in Psalter type; the Paris copy has a woodcut title; the Musée Condé copy has a title in MS" (ISTC no. ip00655750 citing two copies in France, three in Germany and one in Holland).

• The separate title page did not begin to come into widespread use in printed books until the end of the 15th century.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from HAB Wolfenbüttel at this link.

Smith, The Title-Page, its Early Development 1460-1510 (2000) 38-40.

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The First Book Printed in Italy Circa 1463

Page from the first book printed in Italy. Click on the image to see the entire image.

In 1927 a unique fragment of the Passione di Cristo printed in Italian was discovered by the Munich antiquarian bookseller Jacques Rosenthal. It was believed to have been printed in Northern Italy, perhaps in  Bologna or Ferrara, and possibly by printer Ulrich Han, about 1463. In January 2013 a digital facsimile of this fragment was available from the Princeton University Digital Library, which provided this commentary:

"The leaves apparently had been retrieved as waste material from some unidentified binding. As a complete work, it would have consisted of 17 leaves, printed with 16 full-page metalcut scenes of the life of Jesus from the entry into Jerusalem to the Last Judgment, each facing a page with a related printed prayer in Italian. The full set of metalcuts is preserved in a unique incunable in the State Library of Munich, being a German-language counterpart to the Italian fragment, printed with the type used also to print the unique Scheide copy of the Almanac calculated for Vienna, 1462. Other incomplete fragments of printed German versions of the prayerbook also survive. On various grounds, the distinguished incunabulist Konrad Haebler proposed that the Italian fragment had been printed in northern Italy, in the vicinity of Bologna and Ferrara, about 1463: two years or more before the traditional candidate as the first Italian incunable, the works of Lactantius printed at the ancient monastery of Subiaco (50 km east of Rome) by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, 29 October 1465. The Passione di Cristo fragment was purchased by a learned New Orleans attorney, Edward Alexander Parsons, whose massive library was acquired by the University of Texas in 1958, but Parsons retained the Passione di Cristo, which remained within his family until its 1998 auction. Thus, for more than seventy years it was not available for scholarly investigation. When cataloguing the fragment for sale, Felix de Marez Oyens studied the two partially preserved watermarks, and determined that in terms of localization and date, they matched almost precisely what Haebler had hypothesized on other grounds. Because the Passione di Cristo follows the Munich German edition, Leiden Christi, page for page, the entire edition can be reconstructed. The first five leaves are missing. Of the remaining leaves, the six with printed text are fully preserved (fos. 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16). Of the six leaves with metalcut images, one (fo. 17) is preserved in full; one (fo. 7) preserves about of each of its two metalcuts; and four (fos. 9, 11, 13, 15) preserve only narrow vertical strips on which the inner margins of the metalcuts are visible. The strip of fo. 11 is so narrow that it has not been reproduced" (http://pudl.princeton.edu/objects/9880vr06v#page/1/mode/2up, accessed 01-31-2013).

The fragment was purchased by William H. Scheide for the Scheide Library at Princeton at Christie's sale of November 23, 1998, lot 18.

Haebler, Die italienischen Fragmente vom Leiden Christi, das älteste Druckwerk Italiens: Eine Untersuchung (1927).

Paul Needham, "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth Century Europe (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2009) 38-91.

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Perhaps the First Book Printed in Italy; One of the First Printed Editions of a Classical Text 1465

The first page of a manuscript of De oratore by Cicero, written and illuminated in Northern Italy in the 15th century, and preserved in the British Library

Sometimes considered the first book printed in Italy, an edition of Cicero’s De oratore, was issued from the press of the German printers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz at the monastery of Subiaco in 1465. The date of September 30, 1465 was inferred for the edition by scholars because, as the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue reports, "The Leipzig copy, now in Moscow, contains annotations dated 30 Sept. 1465" (ISTC no. ic00654000).  

More reliably the Lactantius Opera, also printed at Subiaco, which bears the issue date of October 29, 1465, should be considered the first full book printed in Italy. This was also one of the first books printed in Roman type, and one of the first three printed editions of a classical text. The edition size has been estimated between 100 and 275 copies. 18 copies remain extant.

"The introduction of printing in Italy (Subiaco-Rome) was almost certainly arranged by highly placed persons in the entourage of Pope Paul II. This and other similar beginnings, especially common in Italy, i.e. the establishment of presses by invitation rather than upon printers' initiative, are nevertheless a sign that the importance of printing had been recognized" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 106).

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The First Atlas of Pediatric Surgery 1465

Sabuncuoglu Serafeddin.

In 1465, at the age of 80, Ottoman surgeon and physician Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu (Ottoman Turkish:شرف الدّین صابونجی اوغلی) published in manuscript Cerrahiyyetu'l-Haniyye (Imperial Surgery), an illustrated surgical atlas. This was also the first medical textbook written in Turkish, probably the first atlas of pediatric surgery, and the first surgical atlas to show women surgeons. The atlas covers 191 topics in three chapters.

Three copies survived, all different, and all incomplete. One is preserved in Istanbul’s Fatih Millet Library, another at the Capa Medical History Department of Istanbul University, and a third in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

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One of the First Three Printed Editions of Classical Texts 1465

Detail from page of De officiis with Paradoxa Stoicorum.  Click on the image to see the entire page.

In 1465 Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer issued De officiis with Paradoxa Stoicorum. Hexasticha XII Sapientum de titulo Ciceronis. Horatius Flaccus: Ad T. Manlium Torquatum (Car. IV 7) from Mainz.

This edition, and coincidentally two other editions of texts by Cicero also printed in 1465, were the first editions of classical texts issued through the medium of printing.

 ISTC No.: ic00575000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Probably One of the Three Earliest Printed Editions of a Classical Text Circa 1465

The explicit of Cicero's De oficiis printed by Ulrich Zell at Cologne ca 1645. Click to view larger.

About 1465 printer Ulrich Zell issued Cicero's De officiis from Cologne. Zell learned printing in Mainz at the shop of Fust and Schöffer, and is thought to have begun printing in Cologne as early as 1463. However, a number of his books are undated, as is this edition of De officiis. If it was issued in 1465 it is one of the three earliest printed editions of a classical text, all of which appeared in 1465. Coincidentally, one of the other two was an edition of the same title issued by Fust and Schöffer under the date of 1465. The other was an edition of Cicero's De oratore issued at the Abbey of Subiaco, Italy by Sweynheim and Pannartz in September, 1465.

ISTC No.: ic00575500

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Depiction of Mary Reading from a Manuscript Book by Hans Memling Circa 1465 – 1475

The panel painting by Hans Memling depicting the Annunciation, with Mary reading from a manuscript. (Click on the image to view larger.)

One of the largest surviving Netherlandish depictions of The Annunciation, the panel painting by Hans Memling preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is based upon a design by Rogier van der Weyden. The painting is notable for depicting the Virgin Mary reading from what appears to be a small manuscript codex during the very early years of the transition from manuscript to print, from about 1465 to 1475.

". . . this imposing painting may have been the left wing of a triptych commissioned by the Clugny family, whose coat of arms decorates the carpet and window. The composition is based on a design by Rogier van der Weyden. Possibly commissioned before his death in 1464, it was painted by Hans Memling who, technical evidence suggests, was a journeyman in Rogier's workshop before establishing himself in Bruges in 1465" (http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/110001941, accessed 10-25-2011).

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The First Dated Book Printed in Italy, Containing the First Printing in Greek October 29, 1465

Detail of page from Lactantius' Opera containing Greek text.  Please click on link to open and resize larger image showing full page.

Detail of page from Lactantius' Opera showing a space left blank for Greek text to be added later.  (Please click on the image to see the full page.) 

Lucius Lactantius.

On October 29, 1465 printers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, clerics from the archdioceses of Mainz and Cologne respectively, working at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Scholastica (Abbazia di Santa Scolastica) at Subiaco, Italy, and assisted by the monks at the monastery, issued the Opera of the third century Christian scholar Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius who became a religious advisor to Constantine I, and in his old age tutor to Constantine's son, Flavius Julius Crispus. This was the first dated book printed in Italy. It also contained the first printing in Greek by any printer, using a font that was apparently cast in the process of printing the text, as in the earliest printed quires the space for Greek passages are left blank. This is the only appearance of this Greek type; Sweyheym and Pannartz cast a second Greek font for their books printed at Rome. In January 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1465 Lactantius was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link. ISTC No.: il00001000.

Sweynheym had probably learned the craft of printing in the shop of Fust and Schoeffer in Mainz. Also in 1465 Peter Schoeffer at Mainz printed a few words of Greek, using a crude, partial font, in an edition of Cicero's Paradoxa (issued as an addendum to an edition of Cicero's De officiis). In July 2014 a digital facsimile of Schoeffer's 1465 De officiis with the Paradoxa was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link. ISTC No. ic00575000. 

A copy of the 1465 Lactantius in an extremely rare 15th century binding thought to have been produced at Subiaco was sold at Christie's, London on November 29, 2000 (Sale 6417, Lot 26) for £751,750.

(This entry was last revised on 08-25-2014.)

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The Value and Difficulty of Preparing an Accurate Manuscript for Printing 1466

Portrait of Augustine of Hippo by Philippe de Champaigne.

Tiffany stained-glass window of St. Augustine, in the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, Florida.

In his preface to a corrected version of Aurelius Augustinus's (Augustine of Hippo's)  De arte praedicandi (Book IV of De doctrina christiana) printed in Strassburg by Johann Mentelin an anonymous scholar described the value and difficulty of preparing as accurate a manuscript text as possible for printing, probably for the first time in any printed book:

"Nevertheless I have thought it by all means worthwhile that I should first expend much labour over what would be to the common utility of the Church: that I may have this most useful little book- worthy of all esteem - correct, in order that, after correction this way, I would be able to communicate it more usefully to all those wishing to have it. Therefore, as God is my witness, I have taken great pains in the correction of it, in such a way that I have sought out diligently all the copies which I have been able to discover for this purpose in any of the libraries in the school of Heidelberg, in Speyer and in Worms, and finally also in Strassburg. And since in the course of this I have learned by experience that that particular book of Augustine is rare to come by even in the great and well stocked libraries, and even rarer can it be had for copying from any of those same libraries; and also, what is worse, that when it can be found in there it is more rarely corrected or emended; on that account I have been moved to work most carefully to this end; that, according to my exemplar- now corrected at least by as much care and labour as I am capable of- the said little book can be multipled in this state, and in such a way that it may become rapidly and easily known in a short time, for the use of many and to the common advantage of the Church. On account of which, since I judged that this could not be done more expeditiously by any other method or means, I have persuaded by every means that discreet gentleman Johann Mentelin, inhabitant of Strassburg, master of the art of typography, to the end that the might see fit to undertake the responsibily and toil of multiplying this little book by means of printing, having my copy before his eyes. . . ." (M.B. Parkes, Introduction to Peter Ganz (ed) The Role of the Book in Medieval Culture [1986] 15-16).

ISTC no. ia01226000 

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The First Printed Editions of the Speculum humanae salvationis 1466 – 1471

A medieval manuscript bestseller, the Speculum humanae salvationis was also a bestseller during the first fifty years of printing, undergoing four blockbook editions (two Latin and two in Dutch) and sixteen editions printed from movable type by 1500. 

According to the British Library Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), the first printed edition of the Speculum humanae salvationis was a blockbook printed in The Netherlands about 1466-67. This edition, cited by the ISTC as is00656000, has also been recorded as "printed in Utrecht? by the Printer of the 'Speculum humanae salvationis, not after 1471." In November 2013 a digital facsimile of this blockbook was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

The first edition of the work printed from movable type was an edition in Latin and German printed in 1473 by Günther Zainer of Augsburgh as Speculum humanae salvationis cum speculo S. Mariae Virginis, edited by Frater Johannes, of the monastery of SS. Ulrich and Afra of Augsburg. (ISTC no.  is00670000.) In November 2013 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Edition of the Bible in a Modern Language June 1466

The German Mentelin Bible, published by Johann Mentelin in 1466, was the first bible published in a modern language. (View Larger)

In June 1466 printer Johann Mentelin of Strasbourg issued the first edition of the Bible in German—the first edition in any modern language. ISTC no. ib00624000.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München at this link.

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The First Printed Encyclopedia 1467

Adolf Rusch's printing of the encyclopedia 'De Sermonum Propietate,

Before July 20, 1467 Adolf Rusch, the "R" printer, of Strasbourg, issued the first printed edition of De sermonum proprietate, seu de universo, written by Hrabanus Maurus (Rabanus Maurus), Archbishop of Mainz in the first half of the ninth century. This was the first printed encyclopedia, and the first printed book to contain a chapter on medicine. That section may also be the first significant printed text on a scientific subject.

ISTC no. ir00001000:

"Dating is based on a MS. note in a copy at Paris BN (cf. CIBN). P. Needham in Christie's, Doheny 16, disputes the date, placing the types 1473-75 and regarding Mentelin in association with Rusch as responsible for the work of the R-printer."

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The Alberti Cipher 1467

An engraved portrait of Leon Battista Alberti. Engraved by G. Benaglia and published in the 18th century.

An Alberti cipher disk.

Italian author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cryptographer and general Renaissance humanist polymath Leon Battista Alberti wrote De Cifris describing the first polyalphabetic substitution with mixed alphabets and variable period. Compared to previous ciphers of the period, the Alberti Cipher was impossible to break without knowledge of the method. This was because the frequency distribution of the letters was masked and frequency analysis - the only known technique for attacking ciphers at that time - was no help. To facilitate the encryption process employed the first mechanical device, known as the Alberti cipher disk, also called formula. 

The cipher disk "is made up of two concentric disks, attached by a common pin, which can rotate one with respect to the other.

"The larger one is called Stabilis [stationary or fixed], the smaller one is called Mobilis [movable]. The circumference of each disk is divided into 24 equal cells. The outer ring contains one uppercase alphabet for plaintext and the inner ring has a lowercase mixed alphabet for ciphertext.

"The outer ring also includes the numbers 1 to 4 for the superencipherment of a codebook containing 336 phrases with assigned numerical values. This is a very effective method of concealing the code-numbers, since their equivalents cannot be distinguished from the other garbled letters.

" The sliding of the alphabets is controlled by key letters included in the body of the cryptogram" (Wikipedia article on Alberti cipher disk, accessed 03-30-2012).

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Possibly the Earliest Printed Book for which the Printer's Manuscript Remains Extant June 12, 1467

The first edition of St. Augustine's 'De Civitate Dei,' meaning City of God, is the oldest printed work for which the original manuscript remains. (View Larger)

On June 12, 1467 printers Sweynheym and Pannartz issued the first edition of St. Augustine, De civitate dei from their press at the monastery of Subiaco, Italy. It is thought that the monks at the monastery participated in printing the edition. 

The manuscript on which they based this printed edition remains preserved in the Monastery of St. Scholastica:

"That the codex was used for the printing is clearly shown by the frequent editorial corrections, the inky fingerprints, and the scored marks in the margins to indicate the end of the text page. The texts of the printed pages correspond almost exactly to these markings" (Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle [1976] 34).

This may be the earliest printed book for which the printer's manuscript remains extant. ISTC no. ia01230000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the printed copy at the Bibliothèque Saint Geneviève was available from the Internet Archive at this link.

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The Earliest Illustrated Printed Book Published in Italy December 31, 1467

An engraved portrait of Juan de Torquemada from 1791. (Click on the image to view larger.)

The first printed book with illustrations issued in Italy was an edition of the Meditationes seu Contemplationes devotissimae of the Spanish Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (Johannes de Turrecremata) issued in Rome by Ulrich Han (Udalricus Gallus) on December 31, 1467.

The woodcuts, "though modeled after frescoes in Santa Maria di Minerva in Rome, were the work of a German artisan" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 120, footnote 25).

ISTC No. it00534800.

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Printing Decreased the Costs of Books by 80% 1468

Portrait of Pope Paul II by Cristofano dell'Atissimo (1525-1605).

A painting of Saint Jerome by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi in the early 17th century entitled St. Jerome Visited by Angels.

Portrait of Pope Sixtus IV by Justus van Gent and Pedro Berruguete circa 1473-1475 in the Louvre.

In 1468 humanist Giovanni Andrea Bussi (Joannes Andreae de Bussis), bishop of Aléria, and the chief editor for the printing house of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz after it moved from Subiaco to Rome, wrote to Pope Paul II:

"In our time God gave Christendom a gift which enables even the pauper to acquire books. Prices of books have decreased by eighty percent" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 1).

Hirsch mentions in a footnote that this statement was printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in their edition of St. Jerome, Epistolae, Rome, 1468, but does not mention that Bussi edited that edition. 

"Bussi also produced for Sweynheym and Parnnatz editions of the Epistolae of Jerome (1468), the Historia naturalis of Pliny the Elder (1470), the complete works of Cyprian (1471), and the works of Aulus Gellius. Though his edition of Pliny [ISTC no. ip00787000] was not the first (a 1469 printing at Venice preceded it), nonetheless it was criticised by Niccolò Perotti in a letter to Francesco Guarneri, secretary of cardinal-nephew Marco Barbo. Perotti attacks Bussi's practice, then common, of adding one's own preface to an ancient text, and also the quality and accuracy of his editing" (Wikipedia article on Giovanni Andrea Bussi, accessed 01-04-2009).

Bussi dedicated most of his editions to Pope Paul II, whom he served as the first papal librarian. That a bishop and papal librarian served as chief editor for printers suggests a both a recognition of the importance of printing by the church and a close relationship between the printers and the Vatican. 

ISTC no. ih00161000

(This entry was last revised on 07-16-2014.)

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The First Printed Editions of Virgil 1469 – 1470

Detail of page from Sweynheym and Pannartz's edition of the Opera of Virgil at Rome. (Please click on image to view the entire page.)

Detail of page from Mentelin's edition of the Opera of Virgil at Rome. (Please click on the image to view the entire page.)

In 1469 and 1470 printers Sweynheym and Pannartz issued an edition of the Opera of Virgil at Rome (ISTC no. iv00149000); printer Johannes Mentelin issued another edition at Strassburg (ISTC no. iv00151000).

These were the first printed editions of Virgil, and the ISTC estimates that the Mentelin edition appeared the year after the Sweynheym and Pannartz edition.

One of the most widely copied and read authors during the Middle Ages, Virgil was also one of the most frequently printed authors in the 15th century, with about 100 editions issued.

♦♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the copy of the Rome edition in the Bibliothèque de Saint Geneviève was available from the Internet Archive at this link.  Also in November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Strassburg edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The Earliest Books Printed in Hebrew 1469 – 1472

The 'Rome Incunabula,' a collection of six Jewish texts, are thought to be the oldest works printed in Hebrew. (View Larger)

Though the names of the printers are not known, and the books are not dated, it is generally accepted that the six so-called "Rome incunabula" were the earliest books printed in Hebrew.

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The Productivity of Venetian Printers Circa 1469 – 1550

"From 1469 to the end of the fifteenth century, 153 printers [in Venice] printed 4,500 titles. If we estimate a run of 300 copies per title, this means that Venetian presses produced 1,350,000 volumes, equal to 15 percent of the European total (and this is a conservative estimate). Keep in mind that the number of Gutenberg Bibles is now estimated at around 200 copies, and the first book printed in Venice, Cicero's Epistulae ad familiares, had a run of 100 copies, but when they were all sold, in just three months, a second edition was printed in 300 copies.

"In the sixteenth century, at least 690 printers and publishers printed more than 15,000 titles, with an average run of around 1000 copies, but with high points of between 2,000 and 3,000 for works that were expected to achieve massive sales, at a pace of 150 editions per year (we can't report the numberof titles, because some books, the Bible, for example, had more than one printer). In any case, there are those who estimate that in the sixteenth century Venetian presses produced the handsome figure of over 35 million books. It appears that printers worked from twelve to sixteen hours a day, printing from 2,500 to 3,5000 sheets on just one side; they managed, that is, to print one sheet every twenty seconds, a level of productivity that is simply amazing") Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 30).

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The Earliest Surviving Book List Issued by a Printer June 1469 – September 1470

A portrait of Peter Schoffer.

Between June 1469 and September 1470 printer Peter Schöffer of Mainz issued a broadside offering for sale 21 printed books issued from 1458 to 1469.

"Sixteen of the items can be identied as products of Schöffer's own printing workshop in Mainz, while the rest probably were printed by Ulrich Zell in Cologne. All the works listed are in Latin, beginning with the edition of Bible co-produced by Fust and Schöffer in 1462, followed by theological, legal and humanist texts as well as a treatise dealing with merchants' contracts. The 13th book title, which has been cut off this copy, was certainly the Psalter edition of 1459, whose printing types are reproduced in a sample below the booklist. A note added by hand on the lower margin of the page indicates that the bookseller could be contacted in the in 'Zum wilden Mann', probably referring to a locality in Nuremberg.

"The advertisement is characteristic for the early phase of organised book trade. The intinerant bookseller — seldom the printer himself — travelled with an assortment of books wherever demand was to be found, leaving printed lists with a handwritten indication of where he was staying, for potential customers, the latter being mostly members of universities or monasteries, but also other citizens with some education. Such book lists contained no prices, since these were to be negotiated between the bookseller and the buyer" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 77).

Only a single copy of this broadside survived, from the library of physician and writer Hartmann Schedel.  It is preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München (ISTC no. is00320950):

"It survived, albeit as binders waste cut in two halves and pasted printed side down on the inner cover of a manuscript (Clm 458) with astronomical-mantic texts which was owned by the well-known humanist of Nuremberg, Hartmann Schedel. At the end of the 19th century, it was discovered and removed from the book binding" (Wagner, op. cit.).

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the broadside was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Full Exposition of Plato's Thought Published in the West Circa August 27, 1469

Wood engraved portrait of Cardinal Basilios Bessarion from the Bibliotheca chalcographica.

Engraved portrait of George Trapezuntius.

Before August 28, 1469 Cardinal Basilios Bessarion published Adversus calumniatorem Platonis. Add: Correctio librorum Platonis de legibus Georgio Trapezuntio interprete. De natura et arte in Rome at the press of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz. 

This treatise against criticism of Plato made by George Tapezuntius (Georgios Trapezuntios) was the first full exposition of Plato's thought to appear in the West.

ISTC no. ib00518000. In November 2013 three digital facsimiles of this work were available. That from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek was available at this link

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The Beginning of Printing in Venice September 1469

Portrait of Andrea Navagero Beazzano and Augustine by Raphael, 1516. (Click on image to view larger.)

In September 1469, in order to initiate the new technology in their community, the Venetian Senate granted the German printer Johannes de Spira (Speyer) a five-year monopoly on printing in the city. This was the first monopoly on printing granted by a European government. Speyer probably set up shop in Venice well before September, since issued Cicero's Epistolae ad familiares in an edition of 100 copies in 1469. (ISTC no. ic00504000). "Four months" later he issued a second edition of 300 copies (ISTC no. ic00505000). Also in 1469 he published the first edition of Pliny's Historia naturalis, a long text, in an edition of 100 copies (ISTC no. ip00786000). In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the copy of the first edition of Pliny in the Bibliothèque de Saint Geneviève was available at this link.

From the text of the decree it appears that the Venetian Senate granted the monopoly to Speyer as a way of supporting his ongoing work, which they much admired. The manuscript of the grant is preserved in the Venetian State Archives (ASV, NC, reg. 1, c.55r). It is reproduced in color and translated in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, from which I quote:

"The art of printing books has been introduced into our renowned state, and from day to day it has become more popular and common through the efforts, study and ingenuity of Master Johannes of Speyer, who chose our city over all the others. Here he lives with his wife, children and whole household; practices the said art of printing books; has just published, to universal acclaim, the Letters of Cicero and Pliny's noble work On Natural History, in the largest type and with the most beautiful letter-forms; and continues every day to print other famous volumes so that [this state] will be enriched by many, famous volumes, and for a low price, by the industry and fortitude of this man. Whereas such an innovation, unique and particular to our age and entirely unknown to those ancients, must be supported and nourished with all our goodwill and resources and [whereas] the same Master Johannes, who suffers under the great expense of his household and the wages of his craftsmen, must be provided with the means so that he may continue in better spirits and consider his art of printing something to be expanded rather than something to be abandoned, in the same manner as usual in other arts, even much smaller ones, the undersigned lords of the present Council, in response to the humble and reverent entreaty of the said Master Johannes, have determined and by determining decreed that over the next five years no one at all should have the desire, possibility, strength or daring to practice the said art of printing books in this the renowned state of Venice and its dominion, apart from Master Johannes himself. Every time that someone shall be found to have dared to practice this art and print books in defiance of this determination and decree, he must be fined and condemned to lose his equipment and the printed books. And, subject to the same penalty, no one is permitted or allowed to import here for the purpose of commerce such books, printed in other lands and places. . . ."


"Scholars and writers too went more readily to Venice than to any other city, in their search for publishers, attracted by the excellence of the local paper stock and typography as much as relatively liberal atmosphere in the city. In contrast to other early modern states where censorship and state regulation took on early to encourage and protect the nascent trade, in Venice, the trade was left virtually uncontrolled in the first years of its development. It was only in 1515 when Andrea Navagero was appointed for the task of the official revision of books that the state began to exercise a degree of control over what was printed. Even then, this literary censorship was primarily concerned with the quality of printed books to secure commercially successful correct editions. Thus the natural play of economic forces had left printers free to establish their printing enterprises and compete against each other in an open market. In other words, Venice was an ideal place from which to begin the 'printing revolution.'

"The rapid expansion of the printing industry leaves no doubt that Venice was the first city in the world to feel the full impact of printing, and to experience the most important revolution in human communications, and a favourable territory in which the system of copyright could develop. This, however, did not make Venice into a champion of literary property. It would take a long time before the copyright holder was identified with the moral or aesthetic personality of the writer.

"The best-known explanation for the emergence of author's rights is a technological one, viewing the need to protect literary production as a consequence of the invention of printing. In a manuscript culture, texts were treated as common property, and copying another man's work was often considered more of a favour than an injury. . . .

"It is not so much printing as the existence of a market in books and ideas that introduced concepts of intellectual property. As the literary market increased in importance, authors, who might well be writing for a living and competing for recognition, began to stress the distinctiveness of their products, in other words their intellectual or literary originality. Printing encouraged the development of such a market and expanded the concept of a book as a commodity (selling object). However, the concept of a book as a particular category of commodity - the work of the mind - was slow to develop" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, accessed 07-24-2009).

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The First Press in France and the First Book Printed in France 1470

A 17th century engraving of The Sorbonne, Paris.

The first book printed in France: Epistolae ("Letters"), by Gasparinus de Bergamo. The book was printed in 1470 by the press established by Johann Heynlin.

"The first press in Paris, which was established at the Sorbonne, has often and mistakenly been called the first university press. It would be better to call it the first private press, established at the Sorbonne by Heynlein von Stein and Guillaume Fichet, who called Gering, Friburger and Crantz to Paris, probably selected the texts, and presumably guaranteed any deficit; the texts produced by these printers were slanted largely towards persons interested in new learning, among them, of course, teachers and students of the university" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 51).

Heynlin and Fichet's first publication with this press, and the first book printed in France, was a collection of letters by the fifteenth century grammarian Gasparinus de Bergamo (Gasparin de Pergame, Gasparinus Barzizius). Barzizius's Epistolae, issued in 1470, were intended to provide exemplars for students for the writing of artful and elegant Latin. ISTC no. ib00260500.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue lists a total of 53 works from this press.

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Three Ways that Printing Changed Manuscript Culture Circa 1470

"Having attempted to define some features of the scribal culture that dominated that area of Europe which produced the printing press, I should like in conclusion to note three aspects of the book and its use that printing, for better or worse, drastically altered. . . . Print as an Agent of Change; its author [Elizabeth Eisenstein] curiously, does not treat these three aspects of change.

"(1) With the growth of print as the normal medium of the page, the main medieval vehicle for relating new thought to inherited tradition disappears— namely, the gloss and the practice of glossing. To be sure sure glossed books like the commentaries on the Decretum, the Liber sextus or Nicholas de Lyra on the scriptures are often printed; but the printed book is not itself an object in which one writes long glosses. Perusal of Chatelain, Paléographie des classiques latin (Paris, 1884-92), will uncover pages of Virgils, Lucans, Juvenals and Horaces, the set texts of the trivium, covered with interlinear and marginal glosses of all dates. The manuscript books had in fact been laid out to be glossed, namely, with the text in large letters down the center of the page, surrounded by white space. In contrast, one can think of only a handful of printed books in which the page has been set up in type to be glossed by hand. What effect this had on processes of thought, methods of instruction, and the structured comparison of new ideas to old, would be interesting to work out.

"(2) With the advent of print the book becomes a monolithic unit, compared to its handwritten predecessor. Medieval books, particularly those individualistic owner-produced volumes of the fifteenth century, are frequently made up of numerous pieces varying from one to several quires in length, which were initially kept in loose wrappers and were bound together by the institution which inherited the volume. A person interested in a given text could copy out what he wanted and no more: thus, of the two hundred manuscripts of the Lumen anime, only half can be classified according to one of three restructurings they represent, while the other half are all hybrids, adaptations to the needs and desires of the individual owner-producer. In contrast, although printed books are on occasion copied by hand or sections of them are copied out, the average printed-book library is comprised of whole books. Not until the advent of the Xerox machine were individuals again easily able to make up books in sections or produce tailor-made collections. It would be interesting to know what effect this had on patterns of reading.

"(3) Up to about 1450, the main vehicle par excellence for painting was the manuscript book: the monuments of medieval painting are in Gospel books, Psalters, Pontificals, Breviaries and Books of Hours. The advent of printing forces painting out of the book. It is a desperate wrench. Owners of incunabula have them filled with beautiful miniatures, printers hire illuminators to adorn books with initials and frontispieces, or to water-color woodcuts printed in Books of Hours, but it is a losing battle. By 1500-1520, the Book of Hours as the fifteenth century knew it is in the death throes of mannerism and sterility. With the exception of the producers of woodcuts—Holbein, Duerer, Pieter Breughel, all of whom also painted—not a single major artist  thereafter did his major work in the medium of the printed book. While panel painting as an art form clearly antedates the invention of printing, the transition to the printed page must have encouraged the growth of the new medium which was so important to Netherlandish art in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries" (Rouse & Rouse, "Backgrounds to Print: Aspects of the Manuscript Book in Northern Europe of the Fifteenth Century," Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] 465-66).

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The First Book Printed in Jenson's Roman Type 1470

The typographer's mark of Venetian Nicolas Jensen, creator of the first Roman-style typeface. (View Larger)

In 1470 typefounder, typographer, printer and publisher Nicolas Jenson printed in Venice an edition of Eusebius Caesariensis, De evangelica praeparatione, translated by Georgius Trapezuntius (Georgios Trapezuntios), with additions by Antonio Cornazzano. This was the first book in which Jenson used the Roman typeface he designed. Jenson's Roman type was

"the first to be designed in accordance with typographical criteria, free of the conventions of written models. Jenson sought to create ideal individual letters, which by means of subtleties of fit and alignment would combine harmoniously on a page. He largely succeeded, and his books live to the claim made from them in an advertisement put out by Jenson's partners in about 1482: that they 'do not hinder one's eyes, but rather help them and do them good' " (Berry & Poole, Annals of Printing [1966] 21).

ISTC no. ie00118000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Printed Concordance of the Bible 1470 – 1474

Between 1470 and 1474 printer Johann Mentelin of Strasbourg published Concordantiae bibliorum by the Dominican Conradus de Alemania (Konrad der Jüngere von Halberstadt). This edition previously had been assigned the date of 1470 but is currently dated by the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ic00849000) "not after 1474." 

Konrad's concordance, originally compiled in 1310, was an abridgment of the original bible concordance, compiled c. 1230 by 500 friars under the direction of Dominican Hugues de St-Cher. Because of its more convenient form Konrad's concordance became more widely used. Five editions of the concordance were printed in the 15th century.

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Probably the First Printed Book with an Index November 10, 1470

Mammotrectus super Bibliam, an etymological analysis of the Bible written in the 14th or 15th century by Giovanni Marchesini (Johannes Marchesinus), an Italian Franciscan friar from the Reggio Emilia area, was first published in print by Peter Schoeffer of Mainz (ISTC No.: im00232000), and by Helias Helye de Laufen in Beromünster, Switzerland in 1470. (ISTC No.: im00233000).

The Swiss edition of this reference work for preachers appears to be the first printed book to contain a thematic index at the end of the text. The index is linked to sections in the text which are identified with letters. The Swiss edition I saw at the Lucerne Public Library in September 2012. In October 2012 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

Roughly simultaneously with the Swiss edition, Peter Schoeffer issued an edition of Marchesini's text from Mainz.  That edition, of which a digital facsimile was also available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, does not appear to incorporate the system of indexing the work by subject incorporated into the Swiss edition.

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The First Call for Press Censorship 1471

Archbishop Niccolò Perotti of Spiponto was the first to suggest Vatican censorship and review of all printed works after noticing numerous errors in an edition of Pliny.

In 1471 Italian humanist and grammarian Niccolò Perotti, Archibishop of Siponto, incensed by the number of errors in Giovanni Andrea Bussi's edition of Pliny's Historia naturalis issued in Rome by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, wrote to the Pope asking him to set up a board of learned correctors, such as himself, who would scrutinize, every text before it could be printed. Perotti's self-serving effort has been described as the first call for press censorship.

"The power of the press to impose a measure of uniformity was felt from the beginning to be doubled-edged. The hasty correction which a hard-pressed editor such as Giovanni Andrea Bussi was obliged to carry out, very often on the first manuscript that came to hand, permitted corrupt texts to be put into wide circulation. Even worse, an already corrupt text could become the vehicle of willful emendation on the part of the editor. It was precisely this that provoked another papal curialist, Niccolò Perotti, Archbishop of Spiponto, to attack Bussi's editing as early as 1471 and to call for centralized overseeing of texts issued at Rome. He says that he had thought the advent of printing was an inestimable boon to mankind until he set eyes on Bussi's 1470 edition of Pliny and realized the men of slight learning were now in a position to publish whatever they liked in hundreds of copies, without any sort of editorial responsibility or control. He proposes as a remedy that the pope should appoint a competent scholar (he thinks of himself) to supervise texts printed at Rome.

"Perotti himself, when Bussi ceased working for Sweynheym and Pannartz to be come the papal librarian, got the chance to turn his hand to preparing editions for the same firm in 1473: his own work found no kindlier reception with a number of fellow humanists than Bussi's had with him. His utopian scheme for control of the press came to nothing, but it did point to a troublesome aspect of the new invention" (Davies, "Humanism in Script and Print," Kraye (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism [1996] 57).

ISTC no. ip00787000 for the Sweynheym and Pannartz 1470 edition of Pliny. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Basic Greek Grammar and the First Book Printed in Greek Circa 1471

About 1471 printer Adam de Ambergau of Venice published the first printed edition of Emanuel (Manuel) Chrysoloras's Erotemata in Greek and Latin, in the version edited by Chrysoloras's student, the Greek teacher Guarino da Verona.

This was the first basic Greek grammar published in Europe. Because the work bears a Greek title page, and large parts of the text are in Greek, this may also be considered the first book printed in Greek. Ten printed editions of this text were published in the fifteenth century.

ISTC No. ic00492000

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Published to Raise Money to Repel the Turks April 1471

In April 1471 Cardinal and Latin Patriarch of Constantinople Basilios Bessarion published Epistolae et orationes, edited by Guillaume Fichet, along with Bessarion's translation of Demosthenes: Olynthiaca prima. The book was produced in Paris by Ulrich Gering, Martin Crantz and Michael Friburger at their press at the Sorbonne, the first printing press in France.  

Bessarion translated a speech by Demosthenes warning the Athenians that the invasion of Philip of Macdon would destroy Greek culture. In the epistles that accompanied the translation, Bessarion claimed that Italy was in danger of falling to the Turks, and that immediate aid was needed to repel the threat.

The volume was printed at the Sorbonne, probably in the hope of attracting support from the French aristocracy. Since the printers did not have any Greek type, they had the Greek passages added by hand.

"Five copies are known with additional printed letters of dedication, all dated 5 Aug. 1471: to Louis XI in Paris BN, to Edward IV of England in Vaticano BAV, to Friedrich III in Vienna ÖNB; two further copies of the letter to Friedrich are in Halle (formerly in Magdeburg Gy, lacking the first leaf: GW Anm.1.4) and Freiburg i.Br. UB (without the body of the book: Sack). Several other copies have manuscript letters to various princes and prelates" (ISTC No.: ib00519000).

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The Only Formal Roman Treatise on Geography September 25, 1471

On September 25, 1471 printer Antonius Zarotus (Antonio Zaroto), "with the material of Pamfilo Castaldi," issued from Milan, Italy, Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis by the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela. Pomponius Mela's text, of which this was the first printed edition, was the only surviving formal treatise on geography by a Roman author. It was widely copied and used during the Middle Ages. Nine printed editions appeared during the 15th century.

Printer Zarotus worked as foreman for the Milanese prototypographer Pamfilo (Panfilo, Pamphilo) Castaldi in 1471, before entering into partnership with Gabriel de Ossonibus and others in May 1472. The surviving contract, published by Giuseppe Antonio Sassi in 1745 in his Historia literario-typographica Mediolanensis, is one of the most detailed records of such an arrangement so early in the printing business.

ISTC No.: im00447000

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The First Printed Book on Technology with the First Woodcuts on a Scientific or Technological Subject 1472

This edition of Roberto Valturio's 'De re militari' contains the first woodcuts on a scientific subject, used not for artistic embellishment but for diagraming and explanation. (View Larger)

In 1472 printer Johannes Nicolai de Verona issued from Verona, Italy, the first printed edition of Roberto Valturio's (Valturius's) De re militari, a work which first circulated in manuscript circa 1455-1460. Some of the extant manuscripts appear to have been copied from the printed edition, reflecting the interplay between printed book and manuscript production in the first decades of printing. As Valturio lived until 1475, his De re militari has also been called the first printed book by a living author. It vies for that title with Paolo Bagellardo's De infantium aegritudinibus et remediis issued from Padua also in 1472.

Valturio's work was the first book printed in Verona, the second Italian book printed with illustrations, and the first book printed with woodcuts by Italian artists. Depending on how the counts are made, the book contains at least 90 woodcuts, though because some of the images are composite it is possible to arrive at a higher count. The images were printed in blank spaces left on the page, presumably after the text was printed, using a thinner ink. Some pages in the edition remain blank.

". . . the illustrations are the first true Italian book illustrations, probably after designs by Matteo de Pasti, the medallist and pupil of Alberti. They were preceeded in Italy only by a blockbook [cf. Essling 1] and the 1467 Rome edition of Torquemada which contains a series of rather crude woodcuts probably designed under German influence” (Printing and the Mind of Man No. 10).

From the scientific standpoint  Valturio's work was first printed book on technology, with the first scientific or technological illustrations— in this case woodcuts of war machines. In Prints and Visual Communication (1953; 32) William Ivins pointed out that these woodcuts were the first dated set of book illustrations made for "informational" rather than decorative or religious purposes.

The images in Valturio's book . . ."the majority of which are in Book X, consist of representations of weapons, war chariots, siege engines, canons, flags, water floats, bridges and pontoons and much else. . . . They depend on a tradition of military illustration, which extends from the late Roman Empire, the best-known text being the De rebus bellicis of the 4th century, to Byzantine and Western medieval texts. The text of the De rebus bellicis was rediscovered in an illustrated manuscript of 9th- or 10th-century date in the library of the Cathedral of Speyer, and it was copied for the book collector and humanist Bishop of Padua, Pietro Donato, during the Council of Basel in 1436. These illustrations, in one or another of the various copies made of them, are likely to have been among the sources for the illustrations in the Valturio text. Two other relevant texts concerning military equipment, both illustrated, are those by Konrad Kyeser of Eichstätt, written shortly after 1400, and Mariano Taccola of Siena, known in various versions dating from c. 1427 to 1449“ (Alexander [ed.] The Painted Page. Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550 [1994] No. 63). Alexander describes an illustrates a manuscript written circa 1475-80, of Valturio (Munich, Bayerisch Staatsbibliothek, CLM 23467) which, "is a direct copy of the printed edition. The illustrations also are clearly copied from the woodcuts."

Valturio's work may frequently be confused with the Epitoma rei militaris (also referred to as De re militari) by the late 4th century-early 5th century Roman writer Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, the first edition of which was published in print in Utrecht, probably one or two years after the first edition of Valturio's work, in 1473 or 1474.

"A secretary to Pope Eugene IV, then adviser to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, humanist Roberto Valturio is chiefly known for his treatise on warfare, De re militari, of 1455. The work celebrates the military prowess of Malatesta, who sent copies to Mathias Corvinus, Francesco Sforza, Sultan Mohammed II, and perhaps also King Louis XI of France and Lorenzo de Medici. The illustrations are probably the work of Matteo de Pasti, who built the church of San Francesco in Rimini on the model prescribed by Leon Battista Alberti. Matteo also often drew inspiration from the treatises of Guido da Vigevano, Conrad Kyeser, and Taccola" (website of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, where you can also watch a brief video about Valturio in Italian, accessed 01-15-2009).

ISTC no. iv00088000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1472 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

On February 13, 1483 printer Boninus de Boninis, de Ragusia of Verona issued a second edition of Valturio's De re militari in Latin (ISTC no. iv00089000), followed 4 days later by his Opera dell' arte militare, translated into Italian by Paolo Ramusio on February 17, 1483 (ISTC no. iv00090000).  The Italian translation is the first illustrated book on technology published in a vernacular.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1483 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 172 (citing an incomplete copy of the first edition). 

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Printers Sweynheym and Pannartz Request Financial Assistance from Pope Sixtus VI 1472

In 1472 humanist Giovanni Andrea Bussi (Joannes Andreae de Bussis), bishop of Aléria, and the chief editor for the printing house of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz after it moved from Subiaco to Rome, requested financial assistance for Sweynheym and Pannartz from Pope Sixtus IV. Bussi wrote that the printers, who typically published 275 copies in a single edition, had 10,000 unsold volumes and would have to go out of business without financial aid.

According to their own published claims in the fifth volume of their edition of  Nicholas de Lyra (Nicolas de Lyre, Nicolaus Lyranus) Postilla litteralis super totam Bibliam (March 1472), Sweynheym and Pannartz had printed a total of about 12,475 books since 1465. If so, they were far more successful in printing books than in selling them. 

ISTC no. in00131000. BMC IV 15b.

In July 2014 a digital facsimile of volume five of Nicholas de Lyra's Postilla issued by Sweynheym and Pannartz was available from the Bavarian Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The Earliest Printings of Plato in the Fifteenth Century 1472 – 1475

During the fifteenth century all printings of Plato were in Latin, beginning in 1472 with an edition of the Epistolae (Letters) issued in Paris by Ulrich Gering, Martin Crantz and Michael Friburger, who set up the first press in France at the University of Paris. This edition, of which ISTC No. ip00773000 records only four copies, is one of the rarest of incunabula. Next was the Apologia Socratis (Apology of Socrates) and Gorgias translated from the Greek by humanist Leonardo Bruni (Leonardus Brunus Aretinus) and printed in an undated edition in Bologna by an unknown printer called by bibliographers the "Printer of Barbatia, 'Johannina' (H 2429*)" and estimated to have been issued about 1475 (ISTC No. ip00775000). A few of the recorded copies consist of only one or the other of the two dialogues, suggesting that perhaps 15th century customers could purchase one or the other separately. 

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The First Printed Editions of the Divine Comedy 1472

Dante Alighieri's La Commedia first appeared in print in 1472; during that year three printed editions were issued. On April 11, 1472 Johann Numeister and Evangelista [Angelini?] completed the printing of the earliest dated edition in the town of Foligno, Italy. (ISTC No.: id00022000.) Of the 300 copies printed of this edition, 14 copies are recorded. According to the Wikipedia, the original printing press used for the book is on display in the Oratorio della Nunziatella in Foligno.

The second dated edition was completed on July 18, 1472 by Federicus de Comitibus of Verona, and probably issued from Venice. According to ISTC No. id00024000, only five copies of this edition are recorded, of which three are imperfect.

A third edition, dated 1472, but without specification of day or month, was issued  in Mantua by Georgius de Augusta and Paulus de Butzbach for Columbinus Veronensis. According to ISTC No. id00023000, 17 copies are recorded in insitutions. 

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The First Medical or Scientific Treatise to be First Published as a Printed Book Rather than a Manuscript April 21, 1472

On April 21, 1472 Italian physician Paolo Bagellardo (d. 1494) had his treatise on pediatrics, De infantium aegritudinibus et remediis, printed in Padua at the press of Bartholomaeus de Valdezoccho and Martinus de Septem Arboribus. 

This was the first medical treatise, and probably also the first scientific treatise, to make its original appearance in printed form rather than having prior circulation in manuscript. It is also one of the two first books published in print by a living author, the other being Valturio's De re militari (1472).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 102. ISTC no. ib00010000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Scribes Attempt to Block Competition from Printers May 12, 1472

ON May 12, 1472 scribes in Genoa, Italy petitioned the city council to restrain "strangers who print volumes" and to enjoin German printers from producing breviaries, missals, books of hours, and grammars, all of which were specialties of the scriptorium of Bartolomeo Lupoto in that city.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 28.

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The First Map Included in a Printed Book November 19, 1472

Earliest printed example of a classical T and O map (by Günther Zainer, Augsburg, 1472), illustrating the first page of chapter XIV of the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville. It shows the continents as domains of the sons of Noah: Sem (Shem), Lafeth (Japheth) and Cham (Ham).

Detail from portrait of Isidore of Seville. Please click to view entire image.

Title page with T and O map.

On November 19, 1472 printer Gunther Zainer of Augsburg, Germany, issued the Etymologiae of archbishop Isidore of Seville. A medieval encyclopedia written in the seventh century, it contained a simple diagramatic world map in the so-called "T-O" style. This woodcut has been called the first map included in a printed book.  It depicts the continent of Asia as peopled by descendants of Sem or Shem, Africa by descendants of Ham, and Europe by descendants of Japheth, the sons of Noah.

"Isidore taught in the Etymologiae that the Earth was round "resembl[ing] a wheel". This is the same description used by the early Greek philosopher Anaximander for the sun before any spherical ideas emerged. Most writers think he referred to a disc-shaped Earth though some believe that he considered the Earth to be globular.  He did not admit the possibility of people dwelling at the antipodes, considering them as legendary and noting that there was no evidence for their existence. Isidore's round map, which is essentially that of Anaximander, continued to be used through the Middle Ages by authors such as the 9th century bishop Rabanus Maurus who compared the habitable part of the northern hemisphere (Aristotle's northern temperate clime) with a wheel.

"In Book III he says 'At the same time [the sun] rises it appears equally to a person in the east as a person in the west', implying that it is flat. But for north and south he follows works such as the Topographia Christiana saying the earth is raised up towards the northern region and declines to the south. The fact that Sysebut uses the word globus meaning a sphere, in a letter to Isidore, whereas Isidore sticks to the word orbis, meaning circle or disk, confirms this" (Wikipedia article on Etymologiae, accessed 06-04-2011).

ISTC no. ii00181000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Book Printed in English 1473 – 1474

At Bruges in 1473 or 1474 English merchant, diplomat, writer, and printer William Caxton issued Caxton's English translation of Raoul Lefèvre's French courtly romance, Recueil des Histoires de Troye. The printed book, entitled The Recuyell of the Histories of Troyewas the first book printed in English. Caxton published the book with scribe, bookseller and printer, Colard Mansion, from whom Caxton probably learned the art of printing, 

A presentation copy with a specially made engraving showing Caxton presenting the book to his patroness, Margaret of York, is preserved in the Huntington Library. Regarding the technical bibliographical aspects of this copy see Hellinga, "William Caxton, Colard Mansion, and the Printer in Type 1," Bulletin du bibliophile (2011) 106, footnote 2.

ISTC no.  il00117000.

 

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Philobiblon: Collecting, Preserving and Handling Books 1473

From Cologne in 1473 the so-called "Printer of Augustinus De fide" (Goiswin Gops or Johann Schilling?) issued the first printed edition of Richard de Bury's Philobiblon, a work on the love of books and book collecting, and on the maintaining of a library, written in 1345.

In February 2014 the ISTC (no. ir00191000) cited three digital facsimiles of this work, of which that at Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf was available at this link

In January 2014 Elizabeth Arnold published this quotation from Philobiblon in her Ask the Past blog:

"And in the first place as to the opening and closing of books, let there be due moderation, that they be not unclasped in precipitate haste, nor when we have finished our inspection be put away without being duly closed. For it behoves us to guard a book much more carefully than a boot. 
But the race of scholars is commonly badly brought up, and unless they are bridled in by the rules of their elders they indulge in infinite puerilities...You may happen to see some headstrong youth lazily lounging over his studies, and when the winter's frost is sharp, his nose running from the nipping cold drips down, nor does he think of wiping it with his pocket-handkerchief until he has bedewed the book before him with the ugly moisture.... He does not fear to eat fruit or cheese over an open book, or carelessly to carry a cup to and from his mouth... 
But the handling of books is specially to be forbidden to those shameless youths, who as soon as they have learned to form the shapes of letters, straightway, if they have the opportunity, become unhappy commentators, and wherever they find an extra margin about the text, furnish it with monstrous alphabets, or if any other frivolity strikes their fancy, at once their pen begins to write it."
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The Earliest Printed Music after the Mainz Psalter Circa 1473

After the single line of music published in the 1457 Mainz Psalter, the earliest printed music appeared in the Constance Gradual or Graduale, perhaps issued in Konstanz or Augsburg, by "the printer of the Constance Breviary" about 1473.

"It lacks both a date and a printer's name, but the type used to print the text is identical with that of the 'Constance Breviary', one copy of which was rubricated in 1473. Because the press which used this type had but a short life, the Gradual may be assigned to this year, or a little later. It was printed, if not at Constance, certainly at some town in the southern part of Germany where the printing of books had begun some twenty years before. The music is printed from movable type in Gothic notation. . . ." (King, Four Hundred Years of Music Printing [1968] 9, plates I & II).

Only two copies of the Constance Gradual survived: a complete copy preserved in the British Library, and a fragment at Tübingen.

ISTC No.:ig00329700 

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The First Printed Book Issued with Pagination Circa 1473 – 1474

The first printed book to be issued with pagination rather than foliation was Werner Rolewinck's Fasciculus temporum published by Nicholaus Götz, probably in Cologne in 1473. 

"Pagination began in England in the XIIIth century, making its way slowly from there to the continent where it was used, with very few exceptions, only in the northern parts of Europe and as far south as the middle and upper Rhine valley. Its first appearance in a printed book (Rolewinck's Fasciculus temporum , ca. 1474-4; H. 6917) was in Cologne, one of many examples of the influence of regional characteristics of manuscripts on printed books. In retrospect it seems surprising that the advantages of foliation, pagination and alphabetical indexing were realized so late, but the reasons are quite clear. A manuscript, being unique, served one or few readers, the printed book many. When texts were produced by printing, all copies were identical and care was taken regularly to number folios or pages and to prepare careful tables of contents and indexes. During the manuscript period citations were cumbersome, since they had to refer to chapters or other clearly defined parts of texts. Accurate citations developed as the direct result of printing, when it became clear that references by edition and folio (or page) were the simplest and most accurate form. This occurred first in the text, then in marginal notations and ultimately in footnotes" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 6).

ISTC no. ir00253000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Heinrich Heine Universitäts-und Landesbibliothek in Düsseldorf at this link.

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The First Technical Dictionary 1473 – 1474

In 1473 or 1474 printer Günther Zainer of Augsburg, Germany, issued Vocabularius, with text in both Latin and German. Vocabularius rerum was the first technical dictionary, and after the Vocabularius ex quo (1467), the first bi-lingual dictionary, of which one copy, printed in Eltville, Germany, is recorded (ISTC no. iv00361700).  The work was "devoted entirely to technical terms, each with its own section, of medicine (four sections), culinary and medicinal herbs and food plants, zoology, mining and mineralogy, navigation, architecture, textiles, tanning and leather work, musical instruments, books and book production, cooking and kitchen utensils, baking, wine and viticulture, gambling, carpentry, horses and carriages, etc.

"Some of the words are highly technical, lexicographical rarities. In the section on scribes and book production we find definitions not only of the traditional scribal tools (calamus, stilus, graphius, pugillaris, etc.), but also of such specialist words as antipira (= the scribe's eye-shade, for protection against the fire or candle-light), corrosorium (= the mill or grinder to reduce chalk to a powder for the preparation of vellum), and epicausterium (= the table-cloth on which the parchment is laid for ease of writing). None of these last words occurs, for example, in Karen Gould's "Terms for Book Production in a Fifteenth-Century Latin-English Nominale", The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 79 (1985), pp. 75-99. There is also an entry on the distinction between the words liber, volumen, and codex; likewise between exemplar and exemplum.' (Nicholas Poole-Wilson). . . ." (W. P. Watson Antiquarian Books, online description, accessed 08-09-2009).

"Possessed of a knowledge of names rather than of things, the mediaeval student had one urgent need - a dictionary. New words began to pour in—in Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew, and Greek—whose meanings he sought to know; and, for the medical student, there were new drugs, the composition and uses of which were essential to his practice. It is not surprising then to find books of the dictionary class among the first to be printed. . . . The Vocabularius . . . has four sections devoted to medicine: (1) De homine et de diversis membris, in which the parts of the body are defined in order, with the German equivalents; brief references to authors are given. (2) De nominibus balneatorum etc., containing all the terms relating to bathing, bleeding, and cupping. (3) De medicis et eorum que pertinent ad medicine artes. The definitions here are most interesting... Siringa is described as a metallic instrument with which a surgeon injects resolving medicines into the Virile member in order to dissolve calculi in the bladder. (4) De nominibus quorundam egritudinum, contains seven and a half folios of definitions of diseases." (Osler, Incunabula medica).

ISTC no. iv00322000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Possibly the Earliest Physician's Library Preserved Intact 1474

On his death in 1474 Giovanni di Marco da Rimini, physician to Malatesta Novello,  bequeathed his library of medical manuscripts to the recently established Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy. 

Giovanni's library, which was preserved along with the rest of the Bibliotheca Malatestiana, may be the earliest physician's library to have survived intact. The library contains numerous spectacular codices of the expected standard European and Arab scientific and medical authorities, several dating from the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, and one (S. XXI.5) dating from the 8th century. Some are finely illuminated. That Giovanni owned several manuscripts from prior centuries suggests that he collected books not only for reference but also out of humanistic and antiquarian interest.

An excellent annotated catalogue of this library was published in large 4to format: Manfron (ed.) La Biblioteca di un Medico del Quattrocento. I codici di Giovanni di Marco da Rimini nella Bibliotheca Malatestiana (1998).  The catalogue contains numerous fine color plates.

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Probably the Best-Selling 15th Century Printed Book by a Living Author 1474

In 1474 printer Arnold Ther Hoernen of Cologne, Germany issued the first printed edition of the Fasciculus temporum by Werner Rolevinck, a monk in the Carthusian Monastery of Santa Barbara in Cologne. A world chronicle from the creation to Pope Sixtus IV,  the title of Rolevinck's book may be translated as Bundle of Dates.  When his book was first printed Rolevinck was 49 years old; he lived until 1502.  During the 15th century there were 33 different printed editions and translations of Fasciculus temporum, making it one of the greatest best-sellers in print of the 15th century, and most probably the best-selling printed book of the 15th century by a living author.

Rolevinck's work also contains some of the earliest evidence of collaboration between an author and his printer in the design of printed books. A few contemporary manuscripts that have survived, such as those for the Nuremberg Chronicle, are similar to the complex typography and woodcuts of the printed edition, but none have been demonstrated to be the author's exemplar for the printer. (Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle [1976] 38-41).

In the colophon of the 1474 first edition of Rolevinck's book printer Arnold Ther Hoernen stated that he was printing from a manuscript provided by the author. A translation of that reads: "following the first exemplar which this venerable author himself wrote by hand completely." Perhaps this manuscript also provided a model layout for Ther Hoernen to follow.  If so, he seems to have had great difficulty with the complicated page designs:

"The Fasciculus temporum, a fifty-age linear chart that moved from the Creation to the present, set out to give readers an overview of world history: a readable visual presentation that they could treat as both a memory system and as the spark for religious meditation. Rolevinck used a system of coordinated circles to locate biblical, classical and modern rulers and writers in the flow of historical time—a system so complicated that the first printer who grappled with it botched the job, producing an unintelligible text; later printers reasurred readers that they had followed the author's manuscript. And the results were most impressive: a neatly designed, powerfully horizontal line of time plunging forward from the Creation to the present. Around it nearly arranged and coordinated name bubbles and extracts from historical texts put meat on the book's numerical bones" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time [2010] 28-30, with illustrations).

Regarding the art of printing Rolevinck wrote:

"This is the art of arts, the science of sciences, through the swift practice of which the valuable treasures of wisdom and of knowledge, instinctively desired by all men, leap as it were from the deep shadows of their hiding places, and enrich and illuminate this world in its evil state. The unlimited virtue of books which formerly in Athens or Paris and the other schools or sacred libraries was made known to a very few students is now spread by this discovery to every tribe, people, nation, and language everywhere, a true fulfillment of Proverbs, ch. 1" (http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?PAGE=3422, accessed 06-15-2012).

For the 1474 Cologne printing see ISTC No. ir00254000.  In December 2012 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from from the website of the Universität zu Köln.

According to the catalogue description of a fifteenth century manuscript of Fasiculus temporum sold at auction by PBA Galleries for $102,000 on June 21, 2012, thirteen manuscript copies of the work survived.

(This entry was last revised on 03-17-2014.)

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The First Printed Editions of Herodotus 1474 – April 20, 1475

Before December 1474 French printer Jacques le Rouge, whose name was Latinized to Jacobus Rubeus, issued the first printed edition of the Historiae of Herodotus from Venice. The text Rubeus used was the Latin translation by humanist Lorenzo Valla, who had also produced the first Latin translation of Thucydides. For Rubeus's edition Valla's translation was edited by Benedictus Brognolus (Benedetto Brognolo). In April 2014 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Less than a year later, on April 20, 1475, printer Arnold Pannartz in Rome issued the second printed edition of Herodotus's work, also in Valla's Latin translation, but this time with the text revised by humanist Johannes Andreas de Bussis (Giovanni Andrea Bussi), bishop of Aléria. Bussi was  the chief editor for the printing house of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz after it moved from Subiaco to Rome. The partnership had dissolved in 1473, but in the following year Pannartz resumed publication on his own account, eventually producing another dozen books. 

Three other editions of Herodotus in Latin appeared in the 15th century. In 1494 Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, of Venice re-issued Valla's Latin translation, this time edited by humanist pedagogue, grammarian, and rhetorician Antonio Mancinelli of Velletri. In April 2014 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link. The following year Simon Bevilaqua of Venice reissued Mancinelli's edition together with Isocrates, Oratio de laudibus Helenae. In 1498 another version of that combination of texts was issued by Christophorus de Pensis, De Mandello, also in Venice.

1474 edition: ISTC No. ih00088000

1475 edition: ISTC No. ih00089000

1494 edition: ISTC No. ih00090000

1495 edition: ISTC No. ii00211000

1498 edition: ISTC No. ii00212000

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The First Catalogue of the Vatican Library 1475

Under Pope Sixtus IV specific quarters were established to house the volumes of manuscripts and the archives that formed the nucleus of the Vatican Library. In 1475 the library prepared the first catalogue of its holdings.

"When its first librarian, Bartolomeo Platina, produced a listing in 1481, the library held over 3,500 items, making it by far the largest in the Western world" (Wikipedia article on Vatican Library accessed 09-16-2010).

Among his other accomplishments, Sixtus IV built the Sistine Chapel

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The First Printed Cookbook Circa 1475 – 1479

The first two editions of De homesta voluptate et valetudine by Italian humanist and papal librarian Bartholomeo Platina (Sacchi) appeared at roughly the same time. One was issued in Venice by Laurentius de Aquila and Sibylinus Umber on June 13, 1475. (ISTC No.: ip00762000). Another edition, which is sometimes called the first, might be slightly earlier or later. Neither the place, nor the printer, nor the date of printing is identified on that edition, but the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue No.: ip00761000 assigns the work to Ultrich Han of Rome between the years 1475 and 1479. 

Platina credited the origin of most of the recipes in this work to the professional chef Maestro Martino of Como.

Notaker, Printed Cookbooks in Europe 1470-1700 (2010) nos. 1001.1 & 1001.2 states that the earliest surviving manuscript of the work is thought to have been written about 1468, but is not in Platina's hand.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the June 13, 1475 edition was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The Black Hours Circa 1475

The Black Hours, a book of hours written and illuminated on vellum that was stained or painted black, was probably produced in Bruges about 1475. It is one of seven surviving books of hours on black vellum, all of which were produced in Flemish workshops in the second half of the 15th century. It was illuminated by an unknown artist whose style was largely imitative of that of Willem Vrelant, one of the most prolific, influential, and commercially successful illuminators working in Bruges from the late 1450s until his death in 1481.

The text of The Black Hours is written in silver and gold, with gilt initials and line endings composed of chartreuse panels enlivened with yellow filigree. The borders consist of gold foliage on a monochromatic blue background. The artist executed the miniatures in a restricted palette of blue, old rose, and light flesh tones, with dashes of green, gray, and white. He used the solid black background to great advantage, especially by means of gold highlighting. As in the work of Vrelant, figures in angular drapery move somewhat stiffly in shallowly defined spaces. The men's flat faces are dominated by large noses.

The Black Hours is preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum (MS. M.493). In November 2013 an excellent digital facsimile of it was available from the Morgan Library & Museum website.

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The Staff and Salaries of a Printing Office 1475

"The press itself employs three people: the compositor, the inker [printer's devil], and the pressman; a small printing house might have six employees, while one that has from six to eight presses with thirty to forty workers is a firm of substantial dimensions. Only the compositor has to have specialized training, and, judging from satirical comments of the time, there were a lot of unemployed servants and penniless students ready to fill any jobs that might open up. In any case, it's a well-paid job; in Padova in 1475 a compositor earns three ducats a month, plus a ducat's worth of books that he can re-sell. Three ducats is also the monthly salary of a hydraulic engineer, an occupation certainly of no secondary importance in a city like Venice, whose survival depends  on the proper regulation of water flow in its rivers and in keeping the sea from entering the lagoon. Apprentices are paid about one-tenth the salary of an expert compositor and are provided with free room and board for a period of three years. . . . A proofreader could expect to be paid somehwere between four and six ducats per month" (Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 27-28).

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Probably the First Printed Civil Law Book January 26, 1475

Section of a page from the Codex Justinianus.

Peter Schöffer

On January 26, 1475 printer Peter Schöffer of Mainz issued the first edition of the Codex Justinianus with the commentary of Franciscus Accursius. This is the first part of the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) originally issued from Contantinople from 529 to 534 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

"Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis was lost in the West, where it was scarcely needed in the primitive conditions that followed the collapse of Odoacer's sub-Roman kingdom. Historians disagree on the precise way it was recovered in Northern Italy about 1070: perhaps it was waiting unneeded and unnoticed in a library until the legal studies that were undertaken on behalf of papal authority that was central to the Gregorian Reform of Pope Gregory VII led to its accidental rediscovery. Aside from the Littera Florentina, a 6th-century codex of the Pandects that was jealously preserved at Pisa, since 1406 at Florence, there may have been other manuscript sources for the text that began to be taught at Bologna, by Pepo and then by Irnerius, whose technique was to read a passage aloud, which permitted his students to copy it, then to deliver an excursus explaining and illuminating Justinian's text, in the form of glosses. Irmerius' pupils, the "Four Doctors" were among the first of the "Glossators" who established the curriculum of Roman law."

"The merchant classes of Italian communes required law with a concept of equity and which covered situations inherent in urban life better than the primitive Germanic oral traditions. The provenance of the Code appealed to scholars who saw in the Holy Roman Empire a revival of venerable precedents from the classical heritage. The new class of lawyers staffed the bureaucracies that were beginning to be required by the princes of Europe. The University of Bologna, where Justinian's Code was first taught, remained the dominant center for the study of law through the High Middle Ages."

 ISTC no. ij00574000. 

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The First Dated Book Printed in Hebrew February 17, 1475

On February 17, 1475 Abraham ben Garton completed the printing of the first dated book in Hebrew at Reggio di Calabria, Italy. It was a commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Shlomo Rashi, and it remains one of the rarest of all printed books.

"Although Garton's book is the first dated printed edition, the work is neither the first edition of Rashi's commentary, nor the first book to be printed in Hebrew. Between 1469 and 1472 three brothers, Obadiah, Menasseh, and Benjamin of Rome, were active as the first Hebrew typographers. Six works are positively known to have come off their press, among which was the first, albeit undated edition of Rashi's commentary. Nonetheless, [in] the 1475 edition Abraham Garton created and employed, for the first time, a typeface based on a Sephardic semicursive hand. It was this same style of typeface that a few years later, when commentary and text were incorporated onto one page, would be used to distinguish Rabbinic commentary from the text proper. Ultimately, this typeface would be known as Rashi script" (Wikipedia article on Abraham Garton, accessed 07-25-2009).

ISTC No. is00625180 cites only two incomplete copies: Parma "Pal" (imperfect), and New York, Jewish Theological Seminary of America (2 leaves).

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The First Printed Edition of the First Geography Contains No Maps September 13, 1475

On September 13, 1475 Claudius Ptolemaeus's (Ptolemy's) Cosmographia or Geographia, translated from Greek into Latin by humanist Giacomo d'Angelo da Scarperia (Jacopo d’Angelo (Jacopus Angelus) da Scarperia), and edited by Angelius Vadius and Barnabas Picardus, was first published as a printed book in Vicenza, Italy by Hermannus Liechtenstein, without any maps.

ISTC no. ip01081000.

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The First Illustrated Printed Book on Natural History October 30, 1475

The first edition of Konrad von Megenberg's 'Buch der Natur' was both the first German natural history and the first woodcut-illustrated natural history, including this woodcut from the chapter on zoology. (View Larger)

On October 30, 1475 printer Johann Bämler of Augsburg issued the first printed edition of Konrad von Megenberg's Buch der Natur. This was the first natural history written in German, and the series of woodcuts in the first edition were the first natural history book illustrations. There were also two woodcuts of plants—the first botanical woodcuts in a printed book.

"The work has 8 chapters

" * the nature of man

" * sky, 7 planets, astronomy and meteorology

" * zoology

" * ordinary and aromatic trees

" * plants and vegetables

" * invaluable and semi-precious stones

" * 10 kinds of metals

" * water and rivers" (Wikipedia article on Konrad of Megenburg, accessed 06-13-2009).

♦ ISTC no. ic00842000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Also in November 2013 a digital facsimile of an illustrated fifteenth century manuscript of von Megenberg's work, Cod. Pal. germ. 300 Konrad von Megenberg Das Buch der Natur Hagenau - Werkstatt Diebold Lauber, um 1442-1448?, was available from Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg at this link.

Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal (1979) 112-13.

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The First "Modern" Title Page 1476

In 1476 printers Erhard Ratdolt, Bernhard Maler (Pictor), and Peter Löslein of Venice issued the Kalendario of Johannes Müller (Regiomontanus) in Italian. (ISTC no. ir00103000.) This was the first book in which the title and place, date, and printer's name appeared on a separate title page— an innovation that did not come into common use until the early 16th century. This book and a Latin version that Ratdolt, Maler and Löslein also issued in 1476 (ISTC ir00093000) were also the first books to be dated with Arabic rather than Roman numerals, and their title page was the first to be decorated with a woodcut border.

Prior to this date, and throughout the remainder of the 15th century, the title, place, and date of printing, as well as the printer's name were usually printed on the colophon leaf at the end of books, in the manner of medieval manuscripts. It took about 50 years after the invention of printing by movable type for the separate title page to become a convention.

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Italian Kalendario was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link.  Also in November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Latin Kalendarium was available from the University of Oklahoma at this link.

Smith, The Title-Page, its Early Development 1460-1510 (2000) 43-46.

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The First Printed Compilation of Works on Biology 1476

In 1476 printers Johann de Colonia and Johannes Manthen of Venice issued Aristotle's De animalibus, translated from the Greek by Greek humanist Theodorus Gaza (Greek: Θεόδωρος Γαζής, Theodoros Gazis), and edited by Ludovicus Podocatharus, perhaps with expenses born by Podocatharus. Aristotle was the first scientist to gather empirical evidence about the biological world through observation. The printed edition, which contained his De historia animalium (descriptive zoology), De partibus animalium (animal physiology), and De generatione animalium (embryology), was the first printed compilation of works relating to biology. The Historia's "comprehensiveness and acumen made it the outstanding descriptive zoology of ancient times. . . . It outlasted the work of such later encyclopedic compilers as Pliny, and combined with Aristotle's other zoological works it became-- through the Arabic version translated into Latin by Michael Scot-- the major ingredient in Albertus Magnus' De animalibus, which dominated the field until the sixteenth century" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Joseph Needham (p. 39) called De generatione animalium "the first great compendium of embryology ever written"; it contained Aristotle's studies of the chick in embryo, and introduced his hypothesis that embryos were produced by the working of the male dynamic element (semen) upon the female plastic element (menstrual blood), to which the semen gave form. Book II presented Aristotle's embryological classification of animals and a discussion of the question of epigenesis versus preformation-- an antithesis that Aristotle was the first to perceive, and which was to define the subsequent history of embryology.

Norman (ed), Morton's Medical Bibliography, 5th edition (1991) no. 274; 275; 462. Needham, History of Embryology 37-43. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 69. ISTC No.: ia00973000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 08-27-2014.)

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The First Book Printed Entirely in Greek Type January 30, 1476

On January 30, 1476 Diogini da Paravicino (Dionysius Parvisinus) of Milan issued the first book printed entirely in Greek type— the Greek grammar of Constantine LascarisErotemata.  The font Parvisinus used is thought to have been designed and produced by the Cretan, Demetrius Damilas, who later printed the Opera of Homer in Greek in 1488-89.

Barker, Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script & Type in the Fifteenth Century (1992) 30-31.

ISTC No. il00065000.

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The First Book Printed in French April 18, 1476

Having learned the printer's art in Venice, printer Guillaume LeRoy set up a press in Lyon, France, at the expense of his financial backer, Bartholomieu Buyer. They located the press in Buyer's house. There, on April 18, 1476 LeRoy completed the printing of Jean de Vigne's (de Vignay's) La légende dorée, a French translation of Jacobus de Voragine's Legenda aurea sanctorum, sive Lombardica historia edited by Jean Battalier. LeRoy's edition was the first book printed in French; LeRoy became the first printer in Europe to specialize in printing books in the vernacular.

Drees, The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal 1300-1500 (2001) 286.

ISTC no. ij00151700 cites only three copies in England and three in France, of which two are incomplete.

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The Most Lavisly Illuminated Hebrew Bible to Survive from Medieval Spain July 24, 1476

In the lengthy colophon at the end of the Hebrew illuminated manuscript known as the Kennicott Bible (Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1) the scribe Moses Ibn Zabara stated that on Wednesday, the third day of the month of Aviv, in the year 5236 from the creation (24th July 1476), he finished the book in the town of La Coruña, in the province of Galicia, Spain. He stated that he was personally responsible for the entire text of all twenty-four books of the Bible: he copied the text, added the vocalization marks, wrote all the notes of the Massorah, and finally corrected it against a traditionally accurate Bible. He wrote the Bible for Isaac, son of Solomon di Braga.

Combining Islamic, Christian, and popular motifs, the Kennicott Bible is the mostly lavishly illuminated Hebrew Bible that survived from medieval Spain, before the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.  It contains the entire Tenakh (Old Testament) together with RaDaK’s (Rabbi David Kimchi) Sefer Mikhlol, a grammatical treatise on the Tenakh. Two hundred and thirty-eight of the 922 pages of the Bible are illuminated. There are 24 canonical book headings, 49 parashah headings structured with gold in different motifs featuring figures in many colors, 27 lavishly-illuminated arcaded pages framing the text of the Sefer Mikhlol, 9 fully illuminated carpet pages, and 150 psalm headings.

Remarkably, the manuscript contains an inscription identifying the artist who created the illuminations and minatures: Joseph ibn Hayyim. This is the only work associated with or signed by ibn Hayyim. Few Hebrew illuminators signed their work.

The history of manuscript from the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 to the eighteenth century remains a mystery. The Bible owes its name to the English Hebraist Benjamin Kennicott, who acquired it in the eighteenth century while Librarian of Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. The manuscript is preserved in the Bodleian Library. 

In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the manuscript was the Jewish Museum in New York at this link

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William Caxton Opens the First Printing Office in England September 29, 1476

On September 29, 1476 printer William Caxton’s name was entered in the account role at Westminster Abbey for having paid a year’s rent in advance for premises there in which he set up his press.

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The First Dated Printed Book Containing Music October 12, 1476

The first dated printed book containing music was the Missale Romanum, edited by the Franciscans of the Basilica Sanctae Mariae de Ara coeli in Rome. It was printed in Rome by Ulrich Han (Udalricus Gallus), and issued on October 12, 1476. The music was printed in Roman notation.

King, Four Hundred Years of Music Printing (1968) 10. 

ISTC No.: im00689000.

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The First Recorded Piece of Printing Done in England December 13, 1476

At Westminster Abbey Wiliam Caxton printed Indulgentia  (A Letter of Indulgence) by John Sant, Abbot of Abingdon, for promoting the war against the Turks. ISTC is00163100 cites only one copy printed on vellum, imperfect, in London at the National Archives, noting "The copy known was issued to Henry and Katherine Langley on 13 Dec. 1476."

"The form is set in William Caxton's types—his second and third. Caxton's first types he had previously used in Bruges. Caxton was employed in Bruges as late as 1475,and probably moved to England in the middle of the following year: his tenancy of a house in Westminster began at Michaelmas 1476. The first of his books dated at Westminster was finished by 18 November 1477. No other printer worked in England until 1478.

"This form, therefore, ranks as the first recorded piece of printing done in England. Its existence in the Public Records was noticed in 1928" (Printing and the Mind of Man. Catalogue of the Exhibitions at the British Museum and at Earls Court, London [1963] no. 2.) 

Because it was unknown to historians until 1928, the first Caxton imprint was not included in the Caxton quadricentennial celebration of 1877.

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The First Book with Engraved Maps 1477

Detail of map from Ptolemy's Cosmographia showing the southeastern coast of Spain.  Click on the link to view and enlarge the entire page from the book.

In 1477 the first illustrated edition of Ptolemy's Cosmographia, translated by humanist Giacomo d'Angelo da Scarperia (Jacopo d’Angelo, Jacopus Angelus da Scarperia) and edited by  Philippus Beroaldus and others, was published in Bologna by Dominicus de Lapis, but with the erroneous colophon date of 23 June 1462. The edition contained 26 copperplate maps.

For a long time date on the colophon of this edition was thought to have been a misprint for 1482, but manuscripts found in Bologna set the publication date in 1477. "It thus becomes the first book with engraved maps, and also the first book with the maps by a known artist, the plates having been engraved by Taddeo Crevilli of Ferrara" (Lone, Some Noteworthy Firsts in Europe during the Fifteenth Century [1930]) 41).

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of Hartmann Schedel's copy of this work from the Bayersiche Staatsbibliothek, München, was available at this link.

ISTC no. ip01082000.

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The First Printed Herbal May 9, 1477

First page of of the first, unillustrated edition of De viribus herbarum carmen. (Click on the image to view the full page.)

From the first illustrated version.

From the first illustrated version.

On May 9, 1477 printer Arnaldus de Bruxella in Naples issued the first printed edition of the hexameter poem, De viribus herbarum carmen attributed to Macer Floridus (or Aemilius Macer), a pseudonym of Odo of Meung (Odo de Meung, Odo Magdunensis), who lived in the Loire area of France towards the end of the eleventh century.

Macer's unillustrated text described the medicinal properties of 77 herbs and was written in Latin hexameter, a poetic verse form that was most likely employed as a mnemonic device for physicians, apothecaries and others.

"The text titled De Viribus Herbarum (On properties of plants) has been traditionally attributed to Odo de Meung (Odo Magdunensis), who is believed to have lived during the first half of the 11th century and was from Meung on the Loire. Recent research has shown, however, that the De Viribus Herbarum was probably written in an earlier version, perhaps during the tenth century in Germany. The text was further expanded, including new data from the translation of Arabic texts into Latin in Salerno from the end of the 11th century onward. If this is the case, this text is good evidence of the continuity of scientific activity in the Middle Ages: its most ancient parts come from a period when there was a revival of interest in botany and a recovery of the classical tradition, while the most recent additions integrate the contribution of the Arabic world" (http://huntbot.andrew.cmu.edu/HIBD/Exhibitions/OrderFromChaos/OFC-Pages/01Pre-Linnaean%20botany/birth.shtml, accessed 06-13-2009).

ISTC no. im00001000. In November 2017 a digital facsimile of the unillustrated first edition was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link.

The first edition of this work illustrated with woodcuts appears to be a Geneva edition printed circa 1500: ISTC No.: im00005000.

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The First Hebrew Biblical Text Printed? August 1477 – 1480

Probably in August 1477, printers Joseph and Nerija, Hayyim Mordecai and Hezekiah de Venturo  (Montero) in Northern Italy (possibly Bologna) issued Tehillim. With index and Birkat ha-mazon (Roman rite). This small Hebrew psalter or tehillim was probably the first Hebrew biblical text printed.

Little of the publishing history of this work is definitely known. Neither the place or date or printers' names are given in the work. While the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue ib00525860 states the printers' names as above, the website of the Bodleian Library, Oxford identifies the printer as "The Printer of the Psalms in sixteens." The ISTC states the imprint date as 29 August 1477, while the Bodleian states that the book was "printed before 29 Aug. 1477" or "not after 1490" or it was printed in "Bologna? 1477-80?." 

In December 2013 a digital facsimile of Bodleian Library copy was available at this link.

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The First Dated Book Printed in England November 18, 1477

On November 18, 1477 William Caxton completed at Westminster Abbey the first dated book printed in England— The Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres. The work was translated from the French of Guillaume de Tignonville by Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, brother-in-law of King Edward IV.

ISTC no. id00272000.

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Leonardo Builds a Programmable Mechanical Automaton 1478

In 1478, while under the patronage of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci designed a programmable, mechanical automaton.

Leonardo's drawing for this invention was misunderstood until 1975 when Leonardo scholar Carlo Pedretti recognized that Leonardo's so-called automobile in the Codex Atlanticus is an automaton. The automaton  featured front wheel drive and rack and pinion control.

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The First Printed Edition of Dioscorides July 1478

In July 1478 printer Johannes de Medemblick published from Colle di Val d'Elsa, Italy, the Latin text of De materia medica by the Greek military physician, Pedanius Dioscorides, who served in the army of the emperor Nero, and practiced in Rome in the first century CE.

A work of great practical medicinal value, Dioscorides's work remained in circulation throughout the Middle Ages, in Latin, Greek, and Arabic versions, and was often supplemented with commentary and additions from Arabic and Indian sources. The text of the herbal which Medemblick published in print was a medieval Latin translation, reworked into alphabetical order, with commentary by the thirteenth century professor of medicine at Padua, Pietro d' Abano.  

Dioscorides's text underwent numerous printed editions— many illustrated, and with commentaries, through the sixteenth century.

ISTC no. id00261000

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The First Printed Book on Wine October 1478

The first printed book on wine, Von Bewahrung und Bereitung der Weine, by Catalan physician Arnald of Villanova, was translated from the Latin by Wilhelm von Hirnkofen, and published in Esslingen, Germany by Konrad Fyner in October 1478. It discussed the value of wine in diet and as a medication.

In 1943 medical historian Henry Sigerist issued a facsimile of the first edition, with an English translation and introduction, entitled The Earliest Printed Book on Wine.

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first printed edition was available at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München at this link

ISTC no. ia01080000. 

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The First Dated Printed Book on Arithmetic and the Operation of the Abacus December 10, 1478

Page from Arte dell'Abbaco. 

This unpretentious little book could almost be taken as a symbol of the third component in the collection of George A. Plimpton: "reading, writing and ‘rithmetic." It intends to teach commercial arithmetic, starting from the most elementary level to explain numbers and their positions as designators of units, tens, hundreds, and so forth. On the page shown, a reader has noted the method for calculating differences in income for those who invest varying amounts of money at different times. Graphically clear are the various earnings of Piero, Polo and Zuanne. Their names, and indeed the entire text, are in the local vernacular: Venetian dialect, not Italian. Abbacus, or commercial arithmetic, was solidly vernacular, Latin being reserved for the abstract studies of the universities.

Bequest of George Arthur Plimpton, 1936 to Columbia University.

One of a large number of diagrams illustrating how to use an abbacus from a copy of Treviso's Arte dell' abbaco bequeathed to the Cambridge University Library by J.W.L. Glaisher in 1928.

The first dated book on arithmetic is the anonymous Arte dell’Abbaco ..., printed in Treviso, Italy, probably by Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria on December 10, 1478. It is possible that some undated pamphlets on Algorithmus may predate this work.

"Frank J. Swetz translated the complete work using Smith's notes in 1987 in his Capitalism & Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century. Swetz used a copy of the Treviso housed in the Manuscript Library at Columbia University. The volume found its way to this collection via a curious route. Maffeo Pinelli (1785), an Italian bibliophile, is the first known owner. After his death his library was purchased by a London book dealer and sold at auction on February 6, 1790. The book was obtained for three shillings by Mr. [Michael] Wodhull. About 100 years later the Arithmetic appeared in the library of Brayton Ives, a New York lawyer. When Ives sold the collection of books at auction, George [Arthur] Plimpton, a New York publisher, acquired the Treviso and made it an acquisition to his extensive collection of early scientific [i.e. mathematics] texts. Plimpton donated his library to Columbia University in 1936. Original copies of the Treviso Arithmetic are extremely rare" (Wikipedia article Treviso Arithmetic, accessed 01-10-2009).

ISTC No. ia01141000.

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The Earliest Portrait of an Author in a Printed Book August 28, 1479

Detail from page of Breviarium (1479) printed by Pachel and Scinzenzeler depicting the author, Paulus Attavanti.

The earliest portrait of an author in a printed book, and the earliest woodcut illustration printed in Milan, depicts humanist Paulus Attavanti (Paulus Florentinus) in the edition of his Breviarium totius juris canonici, sive Decretorum breviarium printed by Leonardus Pachel and Ulrich Scinzenzeler in 1479. The woodcut shows the author in profile, writing in his library.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 49, 60.  ISTC no. ip00178000.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek.

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A Typical Print Run 1480

By 1480 printing spread throughout the continent of Europe and England. Up to this date a typical print run of a book was between 100 and 300 copies.

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1775 Different Editions of Printed Books of Hours Were Issued Between 1480 and 1600 1480 – 1600

"When Books of Hours came to be printed, in the late fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, their pictures, made accessible to an even wider market, insured their meteoric success. (Between 1480 and 1600 there were some 1,775 different Horae editions printed.) This success was initially due in part to the cycles of small border vignettes with which the printers of Books of Hours were able to embellish their products. This was a selling point, and they knew it; printers often boasted about their pictures on their title pages. As the following selective list indicates, the cycles' range of subjects is quite extraordinary: lives of Christ and the Virgin, saints and evangelists, the Dance of Death, the trials of Job, children's games, heroines, sibyls, the Fifteen Signs of the Second Coming, the story of Joseph, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Virtues, the Seven Vices, the Triumphs of Caesar, the story of Tobias, the Miracles of Our Lady, the story of Judith, the Destruction of Jerusalem, and, finally, the Apocalypse" (Wieck, Painted Prayers, The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art (1997).

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The First Appearance of a "Musical Idea" in a Printed Book March 21, 1480

The first appearance of a "true musical idea" in a printed book was on a page of Grammatica by Franciscus Niger (Francesco Negri) printed in Venice by Theodorus Herbipolensis, Francus, for Johannes Lucilius Santritter on March 21, 1480.  

"It occurs in that section of the grammar which deals with the rhythms of five metres used by various Latin poets, and shows how the verses were chanted in schools. This passage is doubly important as containing the earliest known printing both of secular music and of mensural notes. There is little doubt that the notes were printed from type and not, as some authorities believe, from a metal block. The staves were to be added by hand. In the second edition of the same work (Basle, c. 1485) the same notes are printed from a wood-block, which is thus the first used for secular music" (King, Four Hundred Years of Music Printing [1968] 11).

In October 2012 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München at this link

ISTC No.: in00226000.

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The First Concrete Evidence of the Existence of Matrices for the Casting of Type Fonts September 1480

In September 1480 printer and typographer Nicolas Jenson (Nicholas Jenson) died in Venice. His detailed will made provisions for the continuation of his printing business, and is therefore significant for the history of printing. Among Jensen's bequests were his punches and matrices for casting type fonts. His will is the first concrete reference in a document of the existence of matrices for casting type fonts, as there were no manuals on printing published until the seventeenth century. The relevant section reads, in English translation:

"Item: the said testator does declare and certify, that if his company, Zan of Cologne and Nicolas Jenson, will choose to take over all the furniture, the clothing, the bed coverings and the household stuff as well as the tools, the presses, and all else pertaining to the art of book printing, and the material on hand, and likewise all else belonging to the said testator that is mentioned in the bond of partnership of the prior company and which at his decease shall be, and be found, in his dwelling, all of these things shall be appraised and at this worth the said company, Zan of Cologne and Nicolas Jenson, shall take and hold all these properties, with this provided, that they shall be held to pay of this price for these goods and chattels, to the heir of the testator, five hundred ducats out of hand and the remainder shall be set in the account owed to the testator which he does carry with the firm, Nicolas Jenson and Company.

"The said testator has declared and does declare that in all and each of the above premises naught shall be read or understood to include the punches with which the matrices are stamped, from which matrices the letters are in turn wrought and fabricated, for he did and does except completely these punches and did and does will that Messer Peter Ugelleymer, his dearest friend, shall have them, and he does devise and bequeath them to the said Messer Peter. And Messer Peter cannot be held to give or pay aught for these same punches unless it shall so please him of his generosity.

"Yet if this Company does not choose to accept these goods and chattels at the worth aforesaid, then Messer Peter shall be held and bound to receive and take these goods and chattels at one hundred ducats less than the price aforesaid, and Messer Peter shall pay the moneys thus, to wit: four hundred ducats of gold out of hand to the heir of said testator, the remainder to go and be computed in the deduction, or in part thereof, which the testator shall make to the company aforesaid, Nicolas Jenson and Company, with this provision, that if Messer Peter likewise will not choose to take these goods and chattels, as aforesaid, then neither shall he have the testator's punches."

The quotations are from the Will of Nicolas Jenson, translated into English by Pierce Butler of the Newberry Library in November, 1928. Ludlow printed the will and sent it out customers as a promotional piece, including the statement "[Set] in a trial font of sixteen point Nicolas Jenson, a new type designed by Ernst Detterer, interpreting as faithfully as possible the original roman type of Jenson, and printed in a limited edition on Rives paper by the Ludlow Typograph Company of Chicago in the month of November, 1928." (http://www.pbtweb.com/eusebius/appendix/njwill.html, accessed 02-08-2208).

♦ Jenson's punches and fonts were purchased by Andrea dei Toressani, d'Asola (Andreas Torresanus, de Asula, Andrea Torresani), father-in-law of Aldus Manutius.

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The First Printed Herbal with Illustrations and Probably the First Series of Illustrations on a Scientific Subject Circa 1481 – 1482

Detail of page from Herbarium apulei with illustration of herb.  Please click to view entire image.

The first printed herbal with illustrations was an illustrated edition of the Herbarium Apulei by Apuleius Platonicus or Pseudo-Apuleius, originally compiled circa 400 CE or earlier, and issued in Rome by the printer and diplomat Johannes Philippus de Lignamine in 1481 or 1482. The earliest surviving manuscript of this text dates from the sixth century.

In his dedicatory letter Lignamine stated that he based his edition on a manuscript found in the Abbey of Monte Cassino. In the 1930s F.W.T. Hunger identified a 9th century manuscript as Lignamine's source (codex Casinensis 97 saec.IX). This he published in facsimile as The Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius (1935). Regrettably the manuscript was destroyed in the bombardment of Monte Casino in 1944. 

The first printed edition of Herbarium Apulei contains in addition to its text, a title within a woodcut wreath and 131 woodcuts of plants, including repeats.  It gives a multitude of prescriptions, and to make the work more useful, lists synonyms for each plant in Greek, Persian, Egyptian, and other languages, illustrating each with a stylized woodcut. These are the earliest series of printed botanical illustrations, and probably the first formal series of illustrations on a scientific subject, though they were preceded by the technological woodcuts in Valturio's De re militari, 1472.  As a practical and instructive reinforcement of the value of particular plants snakes, scorpions, and other venomous animals are depicted in the woodcuts of plants that provide relevant antedotes.

Lignamine sought patronage of his editions through the rich and powerful. As a result, two variant issues of the first edition exist with no priority established:

• one with a dedicatory letter to Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga

• another with a dedication to Giuliano della Rovere, future Pope Julius II.

Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal (1979) 113-14. Christie's, N.Y., Important Botanical Books from a Former Private Collection, 24 June 2009, lot 15. ISTC No. ih00058000.

In February 2013 a digital facsimile of the issue with the dedication to Cardinal Gonzaga was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The Earliest Printing of Any Book of the Bible in Greek 1481

In 1481 printer Bonus Accursius of Milan issued Psalterium Graeco-latinum cum Canticis. Edited by Johannes Crastonus, a Carmelite lexicographer, this liturgical psalter, publishing the Septuagint version of the Psalms with parallel Latin transation, was the earliest printing of any book of the Bible in Greek. Appended canticles, including the Benedictus and the Magnificat, represented the first texts of the New Testament printed in Greek.

"The type in this psalter is similar to the very first Greek type ever cut. That first type was designed by calligrapher Demetrios Damilas, a Cretan of Milan. it was perhaps modelled on the hand of Michael Apostolis [Apostolios] (b. ca. 1422) a prolific scribe whose script was notable for its lack of ligatures (unlike, for example, the Greek types that would become favored by Aldus Manutius), making it an easy and readable handwriting to render into type. The type appeared first in an edition of Constantine Lascaris' Epitome (Milan, 1476), the first book printed entirely in Greek, and soon thereafter in two works issued by Bonus Accursius: a dictionary by Crastonus and an undated edition of Aesop. In about 1480, Accursius' books featured a new type, presumably because the earlier types were unavailable. This new type is a variant of the older one, but remains an upright cursive, relatively free of ligatures. The letters are larger, and there are many new letterforms introduced in this second version. This psalter is the fifth and last book Accursius printed with this type" (John E. Mustain, Monuments of Printing: Gutenberg Through the Book Arts Revival [2013] p. 30).

In 2012 Cornelia Linde published "Johannes Crastonus's 1481 Edition of the Psalms," The Library, XIII,Issue 2 pp. 147-63. doi: 10.1093/library/13.2.147.  In this paper she argued that Crastonus issued this edition of the Psalms for facilitating the learning of Greek. "On the basis of Psalm 1 and some additional examples, it explores how he employed the layout and changed the Latin text in order to achieve his goal. Furthermore, this article argues that the combination of works produced by Crastonus and his publisher Bonus Accursius were designed to provide a complete corpus for self-instruction in Greek." 

ISTC No.: ip01035000

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The First World Map to Show the Results of the Age of Discovery 1482

Detail of map from Pomponius Mela's Cosmographi geographia printed in 1482.  Please click to view entire image.

In 1482 printer Erhard Ratdolt of Venice issued Pomponius Mela's Cosmographia geographia. The edition included Dionysius Periegetes, De situ orbis. The woodcut world map in Ratdolt's edition was the first printed map to reflect the early voyages of the Age of Discovery.  Published only three years after the 1479 Treaty of Alcacovas, in which Portugal secured the Guinea coast, the Azores, Madiera, and the Cape Verde Islands, the map modified the traditional Ptolemaic rendering of western Africa to depict a more accurate, up-to-date coast, showing the Portuguese discoveries through the 1460s and 1470s that were absent from contemporary and preceding Ptolemaic maps and atlases, and a clear southeastern trend along the cost of west Africa.

"No earlier printed map recognized this important step towards the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, and no map in the incunable editions of Ptolemy reflected this knowledge" (Campbell, Earliest Printed Maps, 91).

ISTC no.: im00452000. In March 2014 a digital facsimile was available from the National Library of Israel at this link.

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The First Printed Edition of the Torah in Hebrew January 26, 1482

On January 26, 1482 Jewish printer Abraham ben Hayyim dei Tintori (Dei Pinti) of Pesaro, Italy, completed the first printed edition of the Torah, or Pentateuch, in Hebrew in Bologna. The edition was financed by Joseph ben Abraham Caravita. The text was corrected by Joseph Hayyim ben Aaron Strasbourg Zarfati. This was also the first edition to which vocalization and cantillation marks were added, and the first time that the printed Biblical text was accompanied by the commentary of Rashi (Solomon Ben Issac, Shlomo Yitzchaki רבי שלמה יצחקי‎;), and by the paraphrase in Aramaic (Targum Onkelos). The edition set the model for the page format still in use for printing editions of the Torah.

Regarding the technical achievement involved with the printing, the description of an incomplete copy of the same work printed on paper sold by Christie's in November 1998 stated the following:

"Abraham ben Hayyim probably started as a textile printer and bookbinder at Pesaro. In 1477 he printed two Hebrew books at Ferrara, succeeding (or co-operating with) Abraham Conat at Mantua, whose unfinished Tur Yore Deah by Jacob Ben Asher he completed. In Bologna, working for Joseph Caravita, he shows remarkable skill, being the first printer to find a solution for the difficult technical problem of adding vowels and cantilation signs to the unvocalised biblical text. An earlier attempt, in a folio edition of the Hebrew Psalms, printed by a consortium of printers in 1477, somewhere in northern Italy, was aborted after a few pages. In 1488 Abraham ben Hayyim reappears as master printer for the firm of the famous Soncino family at Soncino, still living himself at Bologna. Since Gershom Soncino, some twenty years later, worked with Hebrew fonts designed for him by the famous punchcutter Francesco Griffo da Bologna (c. 1450-1518), who cut all the characters used by Aldus Manutius at Venice, it seems probable that Abraham ben Hayyim knew Griffo as well, and he may even have introduced him to the Soncinos. For Aldus Manutius Francesco solved the problem of adding accents to Greek fonts in the 1490s. It seems reasonable to speculate that it was also Francesco Griffo who solved the problem of the addition of vowels and cantilation signs to the Hebrew Pentateuch of Abraham ben Hayyim in 1481-82 at Bologna." 

The census of institutional copies in the ISTC (No. ib00525570) indicates that majority of the edition was printed on vellum. While 27 copies on vellum are known in public collections, making it the most common Hebrew incunabulum printed on vellum, only 10 copies on paper have been recorded. Of the paper copies, only the Parma and the Cincinnati copies are complete. Several of the vellum copies are also incomplete.

On April 30, 2014 Christie's in Paris auctioned a fine complete copy printed on vellum in an eighteenth century binding. The estimate was €1,000,000-1,500,000. The price realized was €2,785,000, which equated to $3,866,578 at the time.

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The Most Famous Textbook Ever Published May 25, 1482

Detail of page from Euclid's Elements.  Please click to view entire page.

On May 25, 1482 printer Erhard Ratdolt of Venice issued the first printed edition (editio princeps) of Euclid's ElementsPraeclarissimus liber elementorum Euclidis in artem geometriae. Ratdolt's text was based upon a translation from Arabic to Latin, presumably made by Abelard of Bath in the 12th century, edited and annotated by Giovanni Compano (Campanus of Novara)in the 13th century. The first printed edition of Euclid was the first substantial book to contain geometrical figures, of which it included over 400.

Ratdolt printed several copies with a dedicatory epistle in gold letters, including a dedication copy to the Doge of Venice. Of these, seven copies are preserved. To accomplish this technical feat:

"Ratdolt developed an innovative technique derived from the methods used by bookbinders to stamp gold on leather. This involved strewing a powdered bonding agent (either resin or dried albumen) on the page and probably heating the metal types so that the gold-leaf would stick to the paper. For his 1488 edition of the 'Chronica Hungarorum', Ratdolt employed a simpler method using golden printing ink. His technique of printing in golden letters was first copied in 1499 by the Venetian printer Zacharias Kallierges" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Inkunabeln aus der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München [2009] no. 20).

In order to print the unusually large number of complex geometrical diagrams, usually containing type, in the margins Ratdolt used printer's "rules," i.e. thin strips of metal, type high, which he bent and cut and adjusted and set into a substance that would both hold them (and pieces of type) in place.

Renzo Baldasso, "La stampa dell'editio princeps degli Elementi di Euclide (Venezia, Erhard Ratdolt, 1482)", The Books of Venice/Il libro veneziano, ed. Lisa Pon and Craig Kallendorf (2009) 61-100.

There are two distinct states of the first edition. The second state has leaves a1-a9 set differently from the first state: the heading on a1v is in two lines rather than three and is set in the same type as the text rather than heading type; the three-sided woodcut border and woodcut initial P are added to a2r; the headline in red on a2r begins "Preclarissimus liber elementorum"; and headlines do not begin until a10r. "The two outer pages of sheet c1 also differ, having been evidently reprinted owing to errors in the text and the diagram. . . of the 12th proposition of the 4th book" (B.M.C. vol. 5, 285-286.). See Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science (1964) no. 27. for a detailed illustrated comparison of the two states. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 729.

Characterized as the most famous textbook ever published, Euclid's Elements was one of the most widely printed and studied texts for the next 500 years. It is also considered the most widely printed text after the Bible, with more than 1000 editions issued.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of one of the copies with the dedication printed in gold was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

Based on the unusually large number of surviving copies, Ratdolt printed an edition considerably larger than the 300 copies considered average for a 15th century print run. You can view the long list of institutions which hold a copy at ISTC no. ie00113000.

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The Earliest Medical Work Printed in English Circa 1483

The earliest medical work printed in English is Treatise on the pestilence published without printer's name or date, but attributed to the press of William Machlinia, in London, and estimated to have been published in 1483.

"Although often attributed in incunable editions to Benedictus Kamisius, Kamintus, Canutus or Kanuti (i.e. Bengt Knutsson, bishop of Västerâs), the author is probably Johannes Jacobi (i.e. Jean Jasme or Jacme) (Wickersheimer)" (ISTC no.  ij00013200).

J. F. Payne, "The Earliest Medical Work Printed in English", British Medical Journal v.1 [1480]; May 11, 1889, 1085-86.

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Printed on Vellum and Illuminated by Girolamo da Cremona, and Others February 1 – October 25, 1483

In the last three decades of the fifteenth century the exponential increase in the number of books being printed created an important and lucrative new market for miniaturists, since many printed books contained areas left blank for the addition of illuminated initials and rubrications. The quality of illumination or rubrication that might have been added to printed books depended, of course, on the taste and budget of their purchasers. In Italy where antique monuments were most often seen and appreciated during the Renaissance, patrons generally favored the concentration of decoration at the beginning of volumes. This preference culminated in what has been called the "architectural frontispiece", in which lines of text, title and author of the book, or combinations of these were incorporated by the miniaturist into an imaginary antique monument resembling a triumphal arch or an epitaph. In the sixteenth century, when printed title pages and printed frontispieces for printed books became the convention, architectural borders and architectural designs, either engraved in wood or on copperplates, became a widely-used format for frontispieces and engraved title pages.
 
Between February 1 and October 25, 1483 printers Andreas Torresanus, de Asula (Andrea Torresani di Asolo) and Bartholomaeus de Blavis, de Alexandria of Venice issued in eight parts an edition of the Opera (Collected Works) of Aristotle, together with the Liber quinque praedicabilium (also known as the Isagoge) of the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyri. It was edited by the Paduan scholar Nicoletus Vernia (Nicoleta Vernia) with commentary by the Moroccan Andalusian Muslim polymath, and master of Aristotelian philosophy Averroes, (ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd, commonly known as Ibn Rushd). It was largely through the commentaries of Averroes that the writings of Aristotle were re-introduced to European culture after the Middle Ages. The printer, Torresani, who undertook this huge edition with partners, had acquired the fonts and punches of Nicolas Jenson, from whom he learned the printing trade.

A copy of this work printed on vellum, and preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum, contains a particularly spectacular tromp l'oeil frontispiece in volume one by Girolamo da Cremona and his assistants. Girolamo was a manuscript illuminator who worked first in the North Italian courts of Ferrara and Mantua, then in Siena and Florence. By the 1470s he worked in Venice, primarily illuminating frontispieces for deluxe copies of printed books. These miniatures are known for their playful and extravagant trompe-l'oeil conceits. In Girolamo's frontispiece for volume one the vellum of the page appears to have been torn away to reveal Aristotle conversing with a turbaned figure, possibly the commentator Averroes. A Latin inscription beneath the text on this opening page states "Ulmer Aristotilem Petrus produxeat orbi" (Petrus Ulmer brought this Aristotle to the world.)  Some scholars have identified Ulmer as Peter Ugelheimer, a Frankfurt merchant resident in Venice who owned some shares in Nicolas Jenson's printing shop, and sold Jenson's fonts to Torresani. Other magnificent vellum copies of books printed by Jenson and illustrated for Ugelheimer are preserved in Gotha.

"It is unsurprising that one of the most illusionistically complex images of the late fifteenth century, the frontispiece for an edition of Aristotle’s Works probably owned by Peter Ugelheimer and painted by Girolamo da Cremona, should accompany a written discussion of cognition.  Framing the beginning of the first chapter of Aristotle’s Physics, the miniaturist has constructed a remarkably multilayered image, incorporating the text block itself into an elaborate illusionistic game. Similar to Aristotle’s text, the image invokes several orders of observation interacting within a cohesive whole. On a primary level, the surface of the folio acts as an unframed two-dimensional support, explicitly emphasizing the terms of the illusion while challenging the notion, first codified by Leon Battista Alberti about half a century earlier, of the pictorial field as a finite, unified space within a framed window. Inside the three-dimensional world of the painted page, mounted clusters of jewels, pearls, and antique cameos hanging by red strings before the surface of the parchment, casting an ethereal blue shadow upon it. These objects are nearest to the viewer, their weight and precarious placement made apparent by the tears in the parchment they seem to have produced. Receding further back, the parchment itself constitutes a second visual layer. Girolamo’s skillful shading has given it the appearance of an extensively torn sheet of vellum that curls toward the viewer. Significantly, the physical corners of the page, too, are integrated into the illusion; the central text block does not simply float in three-dimensional space but is connected to the seemingly dog-eared edges of the page. This aspect further problematizes the convention of the pictureplane as an unruptured space and is perhaps the most original device employed by the illuminator. Visible through the lacerations in the vellum, an entirely separate scene takes place; in an antiquizing border-like space, the confines of which are hard to judge, playful satyrs and fawns jostle in front of what appears to be an ornately sculpted antique monument. Finally, in the upper area of the page yet another seemingly unconnected andspatially ambiguous event is depicted — Aristotle’s disputation with Averroës. 

"These pictorial layers, their distance relative to the viewer, and their progression from literal presence (the clusters of jewels) to imaginary presence (the temporally impossible encounter between Aristotle and Averroës) parallel themes present in the introductory chapter of the Physics. According to Aristotle’s text, the study of nature must proceed along a path that moves from ‘concrete and particular’ things immediately cognizable to more ‘abstract and general’ ideas that can be derived from analysis of the former. Likewise, the beholder of this particular frontispiece must move from the immediate sensory tactility of precious stones and metalwork, through the semantic understanding of the text itself, toward a visualization of the text’s argumentative content, in this case represented by a conversation between its author and chief commentator. The frontispiece thus provides a visually appealing, accessible, and conceptually apt ‘concrete whole,’ a prolegomenon for a dense and difficult Aristotelian text that proceeds by the very method the philosopher recommends. Although the variety of visual and epistemological themes that condense in this frontispiece is unprecedented, its imagery does not simply constitute a unique pictorial gloss of Aristotle’s text by means of a particularly erudite miniature painter. Girolamo, who at this point had already been active for three decades, was making use of a visual device that had been employed by other book illuminators numerous times before and in a variety of circumstances. Namely, he undertook to reconcile the visual role of the patently two-dimensional text block (which in practice was nearly always written or printed before any illustration occurred) with a lavishly painted, illusionistically convincing scene. Responding to the inquisitive nature of the text he was asked to illustrate, Girolamo pushed several of the solutions derived by his predecessors to the point of rupture, where the illusionism of the composition collapses in on itself and raises more questions about the nature of representation than it answers" (Herman, "Excavating the page: virtuosity and illusionism in Italian book illumination, 1460-1520", Word & Image, 27:2, 190-211, quoting from p. 190).

The frontispiece for volume two of the Morgan Library copy of the Torresani Aristotle was also illuminated by Girolamo da Cremona together with Antonio Maria da Villafora, and Benedetto Bardon. An excellent reproduction of this and the frontispiece for volume one appear in Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts (2005) 386-7. 

This splendid set was formerly in the library of Bertram Ashburnham, 4th Earl of Ashburnham, after which it was acquired by Henry Yates Thompson, who sold it in 1919 to J. P. "Jack" Morgan, Jr.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue reference for this edition is ISTC No. ia0096200.  The only copies printed on vellum mentioned in the census published there seem to be those at the Morgan and at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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Among the Earliest Printed Mathematical Tables July 4, 1483

On July 4, 1483 German printer Erhard Ratdolt, working in Venice, published Tabulae Alphonsinae or the Alphonsine Tables, a compilation of astronomical data tabulating the positions and movements of the planets.

The Alphonsine Tables were among the first mathematical tables printed. The tables were computed at Toledo, Spain, from 1262 to 1272 by about 50 astronomers (human computers) assembled for the purpose by King Alfonso X of Castile and León, known as el Sabio, "the learned."  They were a revision and improvement of the Tables of the Cordoban mathematician/astronomer Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī, retaining the Ptolemaic system for explaining celestial motion. The original Spanish version was lost, and the tables became known through Latin translation.

ISTC no. ia00534000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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One of the Earliest Acknowledgments of Gutenberg's Invention September 13, 1483

Printer Erhard Ratdolt's edition of Eusebius of Caesarea's (Eusebius Caesariensis) Chronicon issued from Venice on September 13, 1483 recorded an entry for the year 1440 added by the editor, Johannes Lucilius Santritter of Heilbronn, crediting Johann Gutenberg, with the invention of "an ingenious way of printing books." This was one of the earliest acknowledgments in print of Gutenberg's invention.

"This statement apparently influenced the account in the 1499 Cologne Chronicle, where it is stated that the printing process was 'developed' ('Wart undersoicht') in the year 1440 and after, whereas printing was 'begun' ('do began men tzo drucken') in the jubilee year 1450 and after.

"If this statement is correct, it must refer to the period when Gutenberg was living in Strasbourg and when, as now-lost Strasbourg documents show, he was involved in teaching certain investors several mechanical skills, including gem cutting and polishing. A deposition in a lawsuit brought against Gutenberg makes reference to 'four pieces lying in a press' and to Gutenberg's wish that they be taken out and separated so that their purpose would not be known. Many generations of investigators assumed that this statement referred to typographic experiments, and they have elucidated in detail what the four pieces 'must' have been. However, Kurt Köster has showed that Gutenberg's major Strasbourg undertaking of the late 1430s was the mass production of pilgrim mirrors in anticipation of the Aachen pilgrimage, and he has argued convincingly that all the vocabulary of the lawsuit in question could apply plausibly to this enterprise, not to typographic experiments. The argument does not entirely invalidate the possiblity that in 1440 Gutenberg was experimenting with typography. But there is no proof, and all the earliest physical survivals in typography have a Mainz, not a Strasbourg, context" (Paul Needham, "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," IN: Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth-Century Europe [2009] 44).

ISTC no. ie00117000. In 2012 a digital facsimile of physician Hartmann Schedel's copy of Ratdolt's edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München at this link. The utility of Eusebius's text to Schedel, author of the Nuremberg Chronicle, is evident.

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The Sultan Prohibits Turks from Printing 1484

By decree of Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire in 1484 Turks were prohibited from operating a printing press.

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The First Edition of Plato's Opera, Printed by the First Press to Employ Women 1484 – 1485

Surprisingly, the collected works of Plato, the Opera, was not published in print until quite late in the 15th century, in an undated edition of the translation by humanist and Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino issued in Florence by Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus (Lorenzo di Franciescho da Vinegia, Lorenzo de Alopa) from 1484-86. (ISTC No. ip00771000.). In July 2014 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

The printing of the first edition was done in Florence at the press of the monastery of San Jacopo di Ripoli, the first press to employ women— in this case nuns from its convent who worked as compositors setting type. Remarkably the Diario of this press survived, recording its day-to-day operation and the production of 100 books from 1476 till the death of its founder Fra Domenico in 1484. This manuscript remains the earliest record from which the day-to-day operation of any fifteenth century press can be reconstructed. It was edited with an introduction by Melissa Conway and published as The Diario of the Printing Press of San Jacopo di Ripoli 1476-1484: Commentary and Transcription (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1999). "The Diario documents 37 different print runs that were produced either on commission or as independent commercial ventures, and provides a unique contemporary record of the printing shop’s paper supplies, presswork, expenses, and prices, as well as 294 entries for the consignment of more than 3,500 copies of books and broadsides with local stationers, booksellers, and illuminators" (Eric White, A Census of Print Runs for Fifteenth-Century Books [2012-13], accessed 07-07-2014).

From the Conway edition (p. 17 ff) we learn that on January 25, 1484 the San Jacopo di Ripoli monastery press signed a contract for 1025 copies of Plato's Opera. The edition was funded by Francesco Berlinghieri and Filippo Valori, and was to be printed by Fra Domenico and his chief worker Lorenzo. Printing began on February 8, and by the end of September parts two to five of the five part work were completed. During this period, probably sometime in August, Fra Domenico died, and the responsibility for the project passed to Lorenzo, who had worked his way up from apprentice to to full partnership in the press. Because Lorenzo issued the completed work under his name alone, and he went on to become an important printer of humanistic and Greek texts in Florence, the fundamental role of the monastic press of San Jacopo di Ripoli— the first press to employ women— in this project, is often forgotten.

The first collected edition of Plato's Dialogues was justifiably a bestseller. Copies were also probably very heavily used, as a high percentage of the roughly 100 extant copies are incomplete. On August 13, 1491 a second edition of Ficino's translation was issued in Venice by Bernardinus de Choris, de Cremona and Simon de Luere, for Andreas Torresanus, de Asula. According to the ISTC No. ip00772000, probably even more copies of this edition are preserved than the first edition, and notably fewer copies of the 1491 edition are incomplete. In July 2014 a digital facsimile of the 1491 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

The editio princeps of Plato's works in Greek was published by Aldus Manutius of Venice in 1513.

(This entry was last revised on 07-07-2014.

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Rules of the Library, Merton College, Oxford, 1484 November 3, 1484

In 2013 I acquired a broadside issued by the Press of the Woolly Whale, New York, in 1939.  This reprinted in a rather elegant manner the Rules of the Library Made in the second year of Richard III and the third of the Wardenship of Warden [Richard] Fitzjames, November 3, 1484. The rules were translated from the Latin register of Merton College, Oxford. The 1939 broadside stated that "Every member of the college was required to take an oath on admission, that he would obey these rules."

I. When admitted to the use of the books contained in the Library, you shall, so far as the frailty of man permits, do no damage to any book, either by handling it roughly or by tearing out its pages, but you should handle the books in a seemly fashion and keep them from all harm.

II. Likewise you shall neither privily nor openly remove any book which is confined to the Library for the use of members of the college. If you know of any book or books so removed by any person, you shall, so soon as you fairly can after the offense has been committed and become known to you Expose the offender by giving his name to the Warden, or in his absence, to the Sub-Warden.

III. Likewise, if you happen to bring Visitors to the Library you shall so far as in you lies see to it that the college does not, from the introduction of such visitors, suffer any loss by the theft of books or parts of them.

IV. Likewise, if you happen to lose the Key of the Library, and cannot find it again within four-and-twenty hours, you shall then without further delay, report the loss of the Key to the Warden, or, in his absence, to the Sub-Warden.

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Filed under: Book History, Libraries

Leonardo's Anatomical Drawings Circa 1485 – 1516

During three or four periods in his life Leonardo da Vinci made over 750 anatomical drawings of all the principal organs of the human body. He also produced some drawings of animal anatomy to contrast it with its human counterparts. Leonardo began recording the results of his private dissections in Milan around 1485. These primarily concerned the organs of the senses, especially the eye, a subject that would have been of special concern to an artist. In 1499 Leonardo returned to Florence where he appears to have access to bodies from the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. In a note from about 1505 Leonardo stated that he had dissected at least ten bodies.

During a second period of anatomical work in Milan there is evidence that Leonardo might have collaborated with a young anatomist Marcantonio della Torre (Marc Antonio della Torre), who taught at the Pavia medical school. It is possible that Leonardo intended to produce an illustrated anatomical textbook with della Torre; however this project would have been cut short by Torre’s death from the plague in 1511. The drawings from Leonardo’s second anatomical period in Milan concentrated on the anatomical basis of movement—what might also be called bio-engineering—typically recording the anatomy from various different perspectives.

In his final Italian period, in Rome from 1513 to 1516, Leonardo had access to the Hospital of the Santo Spirito, where he continued to study anatomy, paying particular attention to the heart. Eventually, responding to complaints from another artist, the Pope excluded Leonardo from the hospital, and ended Leonardo’s anatomical studies.

Like the rest of his drawings and notebooks on a wide variety of science and invention, Leonardo seems to have prepared these drawings for his private use—not publication. His habit of recording his notes in mirror-writing shows that contrary to having his ideas disseminated, he wanted to prevent his notes being read by others. Though the anatomical drawings and their interrelated notes record numerous discoveries, we have no documentation that Leonardo allowed any anatomist, except possibly della Torre, to view them. We do know, however, that Albrecht Dürer viewed some of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings on one of his Italian journeys, as he copied one of Leonardo’s illustrations of the upper limb in his Dresden Sketchbook, the basis for Dürer’s treatise on human proportion (1528). In addition it is probable that Leonardo’s contemporary, the anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, may have seen some of Leonardo’s drawings since Berengario appears to have incorporated into three of the woodcuts of the Isagoge Breves Leonardo’s innovation of showing views of anatomical parts from different perspectives.

After Leonardo’s death his anatomical drawings passed through many hands. They disappeared completely for a century or more until the later part of the eighteenth century when they were discovered in England in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle by the physician, connoisseur, and collector William Hunter (1718-83). Hunter wrote to Albrecht Haller about the drawings, and published a note about them in his last, posthumous book on the history of anatomy: Two Introductory Lectures, Delivered by William Hunter, To his Last Course of Anatomical Lectures . . . . (1784) . However, for the most part the drawings remained unknown to scholars.

Until the advent of sophisticated photographic facsimile techniques at the turn of the twentieth century Leonardo’s anatomical notebooks, with their mutually dependent text and illustrations, could not be accurately reproduced. Thus appreciation of Leonardo’s contributions to anatomy and physiology is primarily a 20th-century phenomenon. The immense task of editing Leonardo’s anatomical notebooks was originally undertaken by G. Piumati, who prepared both literal and critical transcriptions of Leonardo’s text, and Mathias-Duval, professor of anatomy at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts and the Parisian Faculty of Medicine, who provided a French translation as well as a scholarly introduction. Sabachnikoff, who sponsored this project, planned to publish all of the Windsor Castle anatomical drawings in this fashion, but was not able to complete his plan, issuing only reproductions of 61 sheets in Fogli A and Fogli B in 1898 and 1901. A decade later the remaining anatomical drawings (approximately 700) were edited and published by Norwegian scholars under the auspices of the Anatomical Institute of the University of Christiania (University of Oslo) in an edition limited to 250 sets as Quaderni d'anatomia, I-VI; Fogli della Royal Library di Windsor, pubblicati da C.L. Vangensten, A.Fonahn, H.Hopstock. 6 volumes, Christiania, J.Dybwad, 1911-1916. The plates were reproduced in color, with numbered keys on transparent overlays, and Leonardo’s Italian text was transcribed along with translations in both English and German.  Later Kenneth D. Keele and Carlo Pedretti re-edited and republished the entire  collection of Leonardo's anatomical drawings as Corpus of the Anatomical Studies in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle. This was issued in a magnificent edition by Johnson Reprint Corporation of New York in 1980.

Keele,  Leonardo da Vinci’s Elements of the Science of Man (1983). Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body (1992) ch. 4.

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The First Book Illustration Printed in Three Colors 1485

The first book illustration printed in three colors of ink. Detail from page of Theoricae novae planetarium. Please click to view entire page.

In 1485 printer Erhard Ratdolt of Venice issued Johannes de Sacro Bosco's Sphaera Mundi with Georg von Peuerbach's Theoricae novae planetarium, and Regiomontanus's (Johannes Müller von Königsberg's) Disputationes contra Cremonensia deliramenta. The work includes illustrations printed in one, two and three colors of ink. A diagram of a lunar eclipse in red, yellow, and black included in this work is the first book illustration printed in three colors.

Though specific month and day is not mentioned in the colophon, the ISTC no. ij00406000 states that the work was issued before November 4, 1485. 

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available at the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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An Early Depiction of a Child Crumpling the Pages of a Book Circa 1485

The panel painting in tempera, oil and gold by the Florentine painter Filippino Lippi of the Madonna and Child preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is of interest for book history in its depiction of the infant Christ crumpling the pages of a book. Considering the whiteness of the paper, and the clarity of text depicted in the painting, it is possible that this is meant to represent a printed book, though it also could be a manuscript.  Whether the book was manuscript or printed, the image is an early depiction of the playful approaches to books taken by infants.

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Law Books Are the Leading Subject in Venetian Publishing Circa 1485 – 1525

"For their commercial value, prestige, and simple quantity, law books eclipsed all other fields of Venetian publishing [in the 15th and early 16th centuries" (translated from Nouvo, Il commercio librario nell'Italia del Rinascimento [1998] p. 161 in Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 20).

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"A Horse, A Horse, My Kingdom for a Horse." August 1485

In August 1485 Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, 20 miles north of Leicester. Richard, who was characterized by Shakespeare as a hunchback, was perhaps the most reviled king in the history of England.

In the sixteenth century Tudor historian John Rouse identified Richard's burial place as a corner of the chapel in the Greyfriars priory in Leicester. However, during the Reformation the church was demolished and its exact location was eventually forgotten.

In 2012 Richard's bones were located when archaeologists from the University of Leicester used ground-penetrating radar on the site of the former priory and discovered that it was not underneath a 19th-century bank where it was presumed to be, but under a parking lot across the street. Excavation began in August, and the remains were located within days of the start of digging. 

On February 4, 2013 archaeologist Richard Buckley of the University of Leicester reported that DNA testing confirmed that the bones were those of Richard III. Finding a DNA match among Richard's descendents after so many generations was extremely difficult.

"Despite this, a team of enthusiasts and historians traced the likely area - and, crucially, also found a 17th-generation descendant of Richard's sister with whose DNA they could compare any remains recovered.  

"Genealogical research eventually led to a Canadian woman called Joy Ibsen. She died several years ago but her son, Michael, who now works in London, provided a sample.  

"The researchers were fortunate as, while the DNA they were looking for was in all Joy Ibsen's offspring, it is only handed down through the female line and her only daughter has no children. The line was about to stop.  

"But the University of Leicester's experts had other problems.  

"Dr Turi King, project geneticist, said there had been concern DNA in the bones would be too degraded: "The question was could we get a sample of DNA to work with, and I am extremely pleased to tell you that we could."  

"She added: "There is a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Greyfriars dig" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-21063882, accessed 02-04-2013).

The bones showed signs of severe scholiosis, which would account for Richard's hunched-over appearance. Although around 5ft 8in tall (1.7m), the condition meant King Richard III would have stood significantly shorter, and his right shoulder may have been higher than the left. The skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, and other "humiliation" wounds. The individual had unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man - in keeping with contemporaneous accounts. Radiocarbon dating reveals that the individual had a high protein diet - including significant amounts of seafood - meaning he was likely to be of high status.

The decision was made to rebury Richard III's remains in Leicester's Anglican cathedral, which is about 100 yards from where Richard's remains were found.

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The Earliest Work Printed in England to Contain Color Printing 1486

In 1486 an unidentified printer, known as the "Schoolmaster Printer," issued the Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry (also known as The Boke of St. Albans) from the town of St. Albans, England.

This work on hawking, hunting, heraldry, and etiquette was the earliest book printed in England to include color printing. It is also the first English book on heraldry and sports, and among the earliest, if not the earliest printed book written by a woman, whose name is variously given as Juliana Berners, though this attribution has been disputed. Little is known about the presumed authoress; some of the most basic information about her is given in the second edition of this work issued by Wynkyn de Worde from his press at Westminister in 1496. She is said to have been prioress of Sopwell nunnery near St Albans, and daughter of Sir James Berners, who was beheaded in 1388.

This work "was, in effect an etiquette manual, one of a number of books published at that time-- a period of social and linguistic flux following the Hundred Years War (1337-1463)-- that showed gentlemen the proper way to act. Thus, the preponderance of terms for birds and animals results from the fact that The Book of St. Albans was concerned largely with hunting, shooting, and the like. It provided instruction on how to comport oneself in the hunt, but also on how to kill, clean and cook fish and game, and in what seasons and times of the day to sally forth. The book concludes with a list of correct terms, so that one could safely say one was hunting a singular of boars--not, heaven forfend, a group of them. As such, it takes the typical function of jargon-defining and reinforcing an exclusive group--to poetical extremes that have lingered in the language since.

"Less remembered terms from the Boke reflect the social life of the age. Berners gives us the appropriate ways to speak about a group of maidens (a rage), housekeepers (a foresight), officers (an execution), and even jugglers (a neverthriving--the poor men!). The tension between relgiious and social freedom prevalent in that era is also palpable: the group term for nuns is a superfluity, and for monks it is an abominable sight. (Tellingly, for the Scottish Reformation to come, that country contains a disworship of Scots). There is no standard linguistic analysis of the different types of collective terms, but Lipton inventories them using six different categories: onomatopeia, characteristic, appearance, habitat, commentary, and error. Appearance brings us a knot of toads, for example, while characteristic gives us a building of rooks, for how rooks build their nests. By far the most illuminating are those that develop via characteristic to comment on social behavior, such as the foresight of housekeepers mentioned above; an abeisance of servants; an impatence of wives;and more cheeringly, a cajolery of taverners. In the category of errors, on the other hand, stands the rage of maidens--not related to any anger on the part of virgins, but rather coming from an Old French ragier, or wantonness (making for an unintentionally ironic commentary on maidenhood in 1486" (Gronlund,"Inventory /A Pendantry of Nouns," Cabinet-A Quarterly of Art and Culture, Issue 41, [Spring 2011] 10).  

Lipton, An Exhaltation of Larks or, The Venereal Game (1977).

ISTC no. ib01030000.

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The First Printed Work on Classical Architecture 1486 – August 16, 1487

Printer Eucharius Silber issued the editio princeps of Vitruvius, De architectura in Rome between 1486 and August 16, 1487. The edition was edited by  the Italian Renaissance humanist and rhetorician Fra Giovanni Sulpizio da Veroli (Johannes Sulpitius Verulanus). 

"In 1486 Sulpizio prepared the first printed edition of Vitruvius' De Architectura for the press; the work had long circulated in manuscripts, some of them corrupt. The volume, which also includes the text of Frontinus' De aquaeductu describing the aqueducts of Rome, was dedicated to Cardinal Riario, an enthusiastic supporter of the ideals of the Pomponian sodalitas; the dedicatory epistle urges Riario to complete the recovery of classical Roman buildings with a theatre. In his preface Sulpizio urges readers to send him emendations of the notoriously crabbed and difficult text. With Vitruvius' text in hand, Sulpizio directed the erection of a reproduction open-air Roman theater in front of Palazzo Riario in Campo dei Fiori, Rome; there, in 1486 or 1488 his students mounted the first production of a Roman tragedy that had been seen since Antiquity, in the presence of Pope Innocent VIII. The play they chose was Seneca's Phaedra, which they knew as Hippolytus" (Wikipedia article on Giovanni Sulpizio da Veroli, accessed 01-04-2010).

Regarding Vitruvius's text and its manuscript transmission, see the entry in this database for Vitruvius circa 800 CE. For the earliest illustrated editions see the Vitruvius entries for 1511 and 1521.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 26.  ISTC no.  iv00306000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Printed Haggadah 1486

In 1486 printer Joshua Solomon ben Israel Nathan Soncino, in Soncino, Italy, issued the first printed edition of the German-rite Haggadah together with a small Roman-rite mahzor prayer book which he called, in Judeo-Italian, Sidorello. Each work had a separate colophon and decorated woodcut initials but no illustrations.

Only two copies survived, one in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the other in the British Library. ISTC no. ih00002700.

Yerushalmi, Haggadah and History. A Panorama in Facsimile and Five Centuries of the Printed Haggadah from the Collections of of Harvard University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Philadelphia (1975) 19-20, plate 2.

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The First Illustrated Travel Book: An International Bestseller February 11, 1486

In 1486 Bernhard von Breydenbach, a wealthy canon of Mainz Cathedral, issued a travel book very extensively illustrated with woocuts, describing his pilgramage to Jerusalem. It was entitled Peregrinatio in terram sanctam or Sanctae peregrinationes.

Von Breydenbach made the pilgrimage in 1483-4, taking with him, as the book explains, "Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht", a "skillful artist", to make drawings of the sights. As the book relates, Reuwich printed the first Latin edition of the book in his own house in Mainz, and it is also very probable that because Reuwich was the printer he took the opportunity to identify himself as the artist, since the creators of book illustrations were rarely identified at this time.

"Leaving in April 1483 and arriving back in January 1484, they travelled first to Venice, where they stayed for three weeks. They then took ship for Corfu, Modon and Rhodes - all still Venetian possessions. After Jerusalem and Bethlehem and other sights of the Holy Land, they went to Mount Sinai and Cairo. After taking a boat down the Nile to Rosetta, they took ship back to Venice."

"The Sanctae Peregrinationes, or the Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, was the first illustrated travel-book, and marked a leap forward for book illustration generally. It featured five large fold-out woodcuts, the first ever seen in the West, including a spectacular five-foot-long (1600 x 300 mm) woodcut panoramic view of Venice, where the pilgrims had stayed for three weeks. The book also contained a three-block map of Palestine and Egypt, centred on a large view of Jerusalem, and panoramas of five other cities: Iraklion, Modon, Rhodes, Corfu and Parenzo. There were also studies of Near Eastern costume, and an Arabic alphabet—also the first in print. Pictures of animals seen on the journey, including a crocodile, camel, and unicorn, were also included.

"The colophon of the book is a lively coat-of-arms of the current Archbishop of Mainz, which includes the first cross-hatching in woodcut.

"The book was a bestseller, reprinted thirteen times over the next three decades, including printings in France and Spain, for which the illustration blocks were shipped out to the local printers. The first edition in German was published within a year of the Latin one, and it was also translated into French, Dutch and Spanish before 1500. Additional text-only editions and various abridged editions were also published.

"The illustrations were later adapted by Michael Wolgemut for the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493, and much copied by various other publishers" (Wikipedia article on Erhard Reuwich, accessed 12-01-2008).

ISTC no. ib01189000. I November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt at this link.

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The Earliest Known Type Specimen April 1, 1486

On April 1, 1486, from his press in Venice, German printer Erhard Ratdolt issued what is probably the earliest known type specimen. The only surviving copy of this broadside is preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available at this link.

". . . having successfully run his printing workshop in Venice for more than ten years, Erhard Ratdolt began taking steps towards returning to Augsburg. In April 1485, while still in Venice, he published a breviary for the city of Augsburg (BSB-Ink B-844) which showed the high quality of the products of his printing workshop. A year later, Radolt accepted the invitation of the bishop of Augsburg Johannes of Werdenberg (1469-1486) and his successor Friedrich of Zollern (1486-1505) and returned to his home town to set up a press there. The change of location brought with it a change in the profile of his publications. Whereas in Venice Ratdolt had published numerous scientific and historical books, he now specialised more and more in printing liturgical works for hwich church commissions assured him a solid market.

"From Venice, Ratdolt brought various innovations to Augsburg which he had developed himself or adopted form others. With this broadside, Ratdolt advertised the diversity of fronts available in his printing house. The print, preserved only in the copy shown, is dated to 1 April 1486 and may have been produced while Ratdolt was still in Venice. It contains samples of 14 different fonts, of which ten use gothic letters, three humanist Roman and one Greek script, in a range of sizes. Among the gothic fonts, the Italian rotunda was used mainly for printing liturgical works. Besides advertising his well-equipped press, Ratdolt took the opportunity to praise himself amply as a man of great-ability (vir solertissimus) famous in Venice for his great talent and amazing skill (preclaro ingenio et mirifica arte. . .celbratissimus), who was now ready to publish books of examplary quality in the imperial city of Augsburg" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 40).

ISTC no. ir00029840

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The First Known Author's Copyright September 1, 1486 – May 21, 1487

On September 1, 1486 the Venetian Senate granted a privilege to the humanist Marco Antonio Sabellico (Marcus Antonius Sabellicus) for the printing of his Decades rerum Venetarum, a history of Venice.

This document, preserved in the Venetian State Archives (ASV, NC, reg. 11, c.55r) was the first recorded privilege granted to an author, recognizing the right of Sabellico to authorize the publication of his work, and to secure protection against unauthorized printings. This document has been called the first known author's copyright.

"Sabellico's privilege set the precedent for the custom of granting privileges not just to the printers but also directly to the authors. Such privileges are best understood as an extension of the traditional patronage system and as a form of reward rather than ownership. Sabellico's privilege was an exceptional arrangement in the sense that it was a form of reward for a literary work which promoted the public interest, rather than an assertion of the inherent rights of the author" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, which also reproduces an image of the document, an English translation, and commentary).

Sabellico's Decades rerum Venetarum was first published in print in Venice on May 21, 1487 by Andreas Torresanus, de Asula. ISTC no. is00005000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Discovery of a Lost Painting by Michelangelo? 1487 – 1488

According to Vasari, when he was twelve or thirteen Michelangelo painted a version of The Torment of St. Anthony based on an engraving by Martin Schongauer. This was one of only four known easel paintings by Michelangelo. For centuries art historians debated the existence of such a painting.

In 2008 a painting of The Torment of St. Anthony from a private collection was sold at Sotheby's London, with an attribution from the Florence workshop of Ghirlandaio, to whom Michelangelo was apprenticed. Adam Williams, a New York dealer, bought the painting, believing that it was by Michelangelo. Williams took it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for cleaning and study. In 2009 Williams sold it to the Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

" 'I had never seen it before,” Mr. Christiansen said. “I looked at it and said this is self-evidently Michelangelo. There’s a section of the rocks with cross-hatching. Nobody else did this kind of emphatic cross-hatching.”

"Michael Gallagher, conservator of paintings at the Metropolitan, cleaned and studied the painting.

" 'It was incredibly dirty,' he said. 'But once the centuries of varnish were removed, its true quality was evident.'

"Claire M. Barry, the Kimbell’s chief curator, heard about the work and came to the Met to see it. She then contacted Mr. Lee, who also inspected it and persuaded his board to buy it. Although no one will disclose the price, experts in the field say they believe the figure was more than $6 million.

"For centuries, art historians have known that Michelangelo copied an engraving of St. Anthony by the 15th-century German master Martin Schongauer for a painting. Michelangelo’s biographer and former student, Ascanio Condivi, said the young Michelangelo told him that while he was working on the painting, he had visited a local market to learn how to depict fish scales, a feature not found in the engraving.

"A painting of St. Anthony is also mentioned in Giorgio Vasari’s chronicle of Michelangelo’s life, although Vasari at first ascribed the original engraving to Dürer. But after Michelangelo complained, Vasari changed his account, naming Schongauer.

"Measuring 18 ½ inches by 13 1/4 inches, 'The Torment of St. Anthony' is at least one-third larger than the engraving. It is also not an exact copy; Michelangelo took liberties. In addition to adding the fish scales, he depicted St. Anthony holding his head more erect and with an expression more detached than sad.

"He also added a landscape to the bottom of the composition, and created monsters that are more dramatic than those in the engraving.

"Mr. Christiansen said studying 'The Torment of St. Anthony' with infrared reflectography had exposed layers of pentimenti, or under drawing, revealing what he called the master’s hand at work. And once the centuries of varnish were removed, the colors suddenly came alive. There is eggplant, lavender, apple green and even a brilliant salmon, which was used to depict the scales of the spiny demons. The palette, Mr. Christiansen said, is a prelude to the colors chosen for the Sistine Chapel’s vault" (Vogel, "By the Hand of a Very Young Master?," NY Times, May 12, 2009).

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The First Separately Printed Treatise on Diet March 23, 1487

The first separately printed treatise on diet, De particularibus diaetis, was written by the Egyptian-Jewish physician and philosopher Isaac Judaeus who lived from about 832 to 932 CE. He was also known as Isaac Israeli ben Solomon and Abu Ya'qub Ishaq Sulayman al-Israili. The Latin edition was a translation made from the Arabic, circa 1070, by Constantine the African (Constantinus Africanus,) and first printed in Padua by Matthaeus Cerdonis.

De particularibus diaetis was a portion of " 'Kitab al-Adwiyah al-Mufradah wa'l-Aghdhiyah,' a work in four sections on remedies and aliments. The first section, consisting of twenty chapters, was translated into Latin by Constantine [the African] under the title 'Diætæ Universales,' and into Hebrew by an anonymous translator under the title 'Ṭib'e ha-Mezonot.' The other three parts of the work are entitled in the Latin translation 'Diætæ Particulares'; and it seems that a Hebrew translation, entitled 'Sefer ha-Mis'adim' or 'Sefer ha-Ma'akalim,' was made from the Latin" (Wikipedia article on Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, accessed 06-08-2009).

A more complete printed edition of the text appeared in Basel in 1570.

J. Norman (ed.) Morton's Medical Bibliography, 5th ed. (1991) no. 1961. Campbell, Arabic Medicine and its Influence on the Middle Ages I (1926) 73.

ISTC no. ii00176000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Regensburger Reichsstädtische Bibliothek Online (RRBO) at this link.

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Handbook for Witch-Hunters and Inquisitors April 1487

In April 1487 German Inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger published Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches) in Speyer, Germany at the Press of Peter Drach. This was "without question the most important and most sinister work on demonology ever written.  It crystallized into a fiercely stringent code previous folklore about black magic with church dogma on heresy, and, if any one work could, opened the floodgates of the inquisitorial hysteria" (Robbins, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology [1959] 337).

Malleus maleficarum became a best-seller, with six editions in the 15th century,  and thirty-six editions published during the witchcraft hysteria up to 1669, and it is thought that its widespread distribution, made possible by printing, contributed to the spread of the witchcraft delusion.

The work owed its authority to three factors:

1. The scholastic reputation of its two authors, the German Inquisitors Sprenger and Kramer.

2. The papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus of December 5, 1484, which Kramer solicited from Pope Innocent VIII in order to silence the opposition to witch persecution. ISTC no. ii00101500.

3. The detailed procedures for witchcraft trials set forth in the book's third and final part, written for the benefit of civil and ecclesiastical judges. As the leading handbook for witch-hunters, and the first encyclopedia of witchcraft, the Hammer of Witches maintained a pre-eminent position of authority for nearly 200 years, providing both foundation and inspiration for all later European treatises on witch-theory and persecution.

ISTC no. ii00163000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The Beginning of Prepublication Censorship November 17, 1487

In response to the rapid spread of print technology, in November 1487 Pope Innocent VIII issued the first Papal Bull concerned with printing:Bulla S.D.N. Innocentii "Inter multiplices nostrae sollicitudinis curas" contra impressores librorum reprobatorum.

The bull was printed in Rome by Eucharius Silber, and issued after November 17, 1487. From this date the Holy Inquisition instituted prepublication censorship.

ISTC no. ii00110000 cites only two surviving copies, one in Germany and one in the United States. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg at this link.

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The First Printing of a Major Greek Work in its Original Language 1488 – 1489

In 1488 and 1489 the first printed edition (editio princeps) of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer appeared in Florence in two volumes. This edition of Homer's Opera in Greek was edited by the Greek scholar Demetrius Chalcondyles and printed by Bartolommeo di Libri at the expense of the brothers Nerli. It was the first printed edition of any major Greek work in its original language.

"The type used was that of Demetrius Damilas, whose 'labor and skill' . . . is acknowledged in the colophon" (Barker, Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script & Type in the Fifteenth Century [1992] 37).

ISTC no. ih00300000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

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The First Complete Printed Hebrew Bible April 22, 1488

On April 22, 1488, in Soncino, Italy, Abraham ben Hayyim completed the printing for Joshua Solomon Soncino of Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim, the first complete printed Hebrew Bible. It is thought that 200-300 copies were issued, and at a high price. In 1492 German humanist and Greek and Hebrew scholar Johannes Reuchlin purchased a copy in Rome for 6 gold coins, supposedly a year's salary for a government clerk at the time.

ISTC no. ib00525500.

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Gershom Soncino Sells the First Copy of His First Book December 19 – December 29, 1488

On December 19, 1488 printer Gershom ben Moses Soncino, in Soncino, Italy, issued his first book, the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol by Moses ben Jacob de Coucy.

On the end flyleaf of a copy in The Library of Congress there is an autograph bill of sale in Hebrew signed by Gershom Soncino translated as:

" 'Gershom, the son of Moshe Soncino (of blessed memory), Printer,' and issued to one Moshe ben Shmuel Diena, stipulating that the buyer might not resell the volume for a period of two years. The bill of sale is dated 'the 25th day of Tevet, (5)249 [ = December 29, 1488, here in the city of Soncino' ten days after the printed date of publication.'

Arthur Z. Schwarz, who first brought this to the attention of the scholarly world, suggested that this volume may well be one of the first, if not the first off the press. The colophon date is the day of the 'completion of the work,' i.e. the printing. Some days may have passed before it was ready for distribution. Soncino's signature is his only Hebrew autograph to have survived" (Jewish Virtual Library.org, accessed 12-10-2008, includes images).

ISTC no. im00866240. 

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The First and Second Books Printed in Lisbon July 16 – November 25, 1489

Rabbi Eliezer Toledano established the first press at Lisbon, Portugal, to print books in Hebrew. His first book was Moses ben Nahman's Hiddushe ha-Torah (Commentary on the Pentateuch) appeared on July 16, 1489. Later that year, on November 25, 1489, Toledano published Lisbon's second printed work, the Perush Seder Tefillot (Sefer Abudarham) a commentary on the prayers written in 1340 by David ben Yosef Abudarham. These were the first two books printed in Lisbon.

ISTC no. im00866160.

ISTC no. id00101800

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The Earliest Known Dance Notation Circa 1490

Detail of leaf of Les Basses danses de Marguerite d'Autriche.  Please click on link below to view and resize complete image.

Marguerite d'Autriche, who was married to briefly to John, Prince of Asturias before his death in 1497.

Les Basses danses de Marguerite d'Autriche, a fifteenth-century manuscript source for the basse danse, a Burgundian court dance, consists of twenty-five parchment leaves on black paper with gold rules and calligraphic initials in silver. Seventeen folios contain specific music and choreographies in the earliest known dance notation.  

Produced sometime before 1501, probably during or after 1497, the front portion contains a brief address or dedication to the Princess of Spain. Margaret of Austria (Marguerite d’Autriche) was the Princess of Spain by marriage during 1497-1501. “On the basis of 15th century musical and literary material it is generally concluded that the dances of both manuscripts [Toulouze and Brussels] are to be situated in the middle of the 15th century”. (Lieven Baaert and Veerle Fack, “Les Basses Danses de Marguerite d’Autriche”)

The original manuscript is preserved in the Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, Bruxelles, (Ms. 9085).  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Library of Congress website at this link

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The Most Complete Pattern Book from Medieval Britain Circa 1490

The Macclesfield Alphabet Book, a medieval alphabetic pattern book in the library of the Earls of Macclesfield since about 1750, is the most complete set of pattern designs for manuscript decoration that survived from medieval Britain. It contains 14 different types of decorative alphabets.

"These include an alphabet of decorative initials with faces; foliate alphabets; a zoomorphic alphabet of initials, and alphabets in Gothic script. In addition there are large coloured anthropomorphic initials modelled after fifteenth-century woodcuts or engravings, as well as two sets of different types of borders, some of which are fully illuminated in colours and gold.

"This manuscript is thought to have been used as a pattern book for an artist's workshop for the transmission of ideas to assistants, or as a 'sample' book to show to potential customers.

"Only a handful of these books survive and as a result, the discovery of the Macclesfield Alphabet Book, filled with designs for different types of script, letters, initials, and borders is of outstanding significance and will contribute to a greater understanding of how these books were produced and used in the Middle Ages, as well as aid the study of material culture and art history.

"The Macclesfield Alphabet Book sheds light on how such tomes were produced. They did not always rely on the creative expertise of the artist, since alphabets and illustrations similar to some of the Macclesfield examples have been found in earlier books and woodcuts"(http://medievalnews.blogspot.com/2009/07/macclesfield-alphabet-book-bought-by.html, accessed 08-03-2009).

In July 2009 acquisition of the manuscript was completed by the British Library at a cost of £600,000, against an offer from the J. Paul Getty Museum for the same amount.

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The First Medical Book with Anatomical Illustrations July 26, 1491

On July 26, 1491 Venetian printers Giovanni and Gregorio Gregoriis, de Forlivio,  completed the first printed edition of Fasciculus medicinae under the authorship of Johannes de Ketham. This collection of short medical treatises, some dating as far back as the thirteenth century, circulated widely in manuscript prior to printing. The printers may have attributed authorship of the collection to the former owner of the manuscript they printed: Johannes von Kirchheim, a professor of medicine in Vienna circa 1460. "Ketham" is a plausible Italian corruption of "Kirchheim."

The first edition of "Ketham" was the first printed medical book to have anatomical illustrations of any kind. It was followed by an Italian translation issued by the same printers in Venice 1493/94, which added Mondino's Anathomia to the collection. For this Italian edition, all but one of the illustrations were redrawn and four new outline wood-engravings added, showing scenes of medical practice in fifteenth-century Venice. The dramatically improved and more realistic illustrations, which were reproduced in the numerous later editions, are by an unknown artist, probably from the school of Giovanni Bellini.

In the woodcuts prepared for the Italian edition we see the first evidence of the transition from medieval to modern anatomical illustration. In the 1491 edition, the woodcut of the female viscera—like those of the Zodiac Man, Bloodletting Man, Wound-Man, etc.—was derived from the traditional non-representational squatting figure found in medieval medical manuscripts. However, the illustrations for the Italian edition "included an entirely redesigned figure showing female anatomy. . . . The scholastic figure from 1491 must have irritated the eyes of the artistic Venetians to such a degree that they immediately abandoned it. After this the female figure actually sits in an armchair, so that the traditional [squatting] position corresponds to a real situation" (Herrlinger, History of Anatomical Illustration, 66). 

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomical Illustration (1920) 115-122.  Herrlinger  28-29; 65-66. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 363.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1211 (1495 edition). ISTC no. ik00013000.

In November 2013 a a digital facsimile was available from Harvard University Libraries at this link

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The Oldest Surviving Terrestrial Globe 1492

Produced in 1492 by German mariner, artist, cosmographer, astronomer, philosopher, geographerm and explorer Martin Behaim, the Erdapfel (earth apple) is considered the oldest surviving terrestrial globe.

It was constructed from a laminated linen ball in two halves, reinforced with wood and overlaid with a map painted by Nuremberg woodblock cutter, engraver and printer Georg Glockendon. The globe does not include the Americas since Columbus did not return to Spain before March 1493. It shows an enlarged Eurasian continent and an empty ocean between Europe and Asia. Since 1907 it has been preserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.

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Restoring the Whole of Spain to Christian Rule January 30, 1492

On January 30, 1492 the Spanish Army defeated Muslim forces in Granada, the last remaining territory in Spain under Muslim control, thus restoring the whole of Spain to Christian rule.

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Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand Expell the Jews from Spain March 31, 1492

Roughly two months after the final expulsion of the Muslims in Spain, on March 31, 1492 Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon promulgated the Alhambra Decree, ordering the expulsion of Jews from the Kingdom of Spain and its territories and possessions by July 31, 1492.

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Departure of Columbus for the New World & the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain July 30 – October 12, 1492

"In the same month in which their Majesties [Ferdinand and Isabella] issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies."

So begins the diary of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo; Cristóbal Colón; Cristóvão Colombo). The expulsion to which Columbus refers was almost as important in Jewish history as the Voyage of Columbus was in American history. Following the terms of the Edict of Expulsion, or Alhambra Decree, on July 31, 1492 those Jews who did not convert to Christianity were expelled from Spain. Estimates of the number of Jews expelled range from 130,000 to 800,000. It is thought that Jews represented at least 10% of the population of Spain before the expulsion.  Some of the expelled Jews were accepted in Holland, and some in Italy, but most settled in the Ottoman Empire or in Africa.

"On the evening of August 3, 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with three ships; one larger carrack, Santa María, nicknamed Gallega (the Galician), and two smaller caravels, Pinta (the Painted) and Santa Clara, nicknamed Niña after her owner Juan Niño of Moguer. They were property of Juan de la Cosa and the Pinzón brothers (Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez), but the monarchs forced the Palos inhabitants to contribute to the expedition. Columbus first sailed to the Canary Islands, which were owned by Castile, where he restocked the provisions and made repairs. On September 6, he departed San Sebastián de la Gomera for what turned out to be a five-week voyage across the ocean" (Wikipedia article on Christopher Columbus, accessed 01-10-2008).

At 2 AM on October 12, 1492 a sailor aboard the Pinta named Rodrigo de Triana (Juan Rodríguez Bermejo) sighted land in the New World. This was an island in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Bahamas called by the natives Guanahani, which Columbus named San Salvador.

"Exactly which island in the Bahamas this corresponds to is unresolved. Prime candidates are Samana Cay, Plana Cays, or San Salvador Island (so named in 1925 in the belief that it was Columbus's San Salvador)" (Wikipedia article on Christopher Columbus, accessed 01-03-2013).

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Sultan Bayezid II Wellcomes Jewish Refugees from Spain August 1492

In response to the Alhambra Decree, expelling the Jews from Spain by July 31, 1492,  Sultan Bayezid II sent the Ottoman navy under the command of Kemal Reis to Spain in order to save Jews who were expelled.

"He sent out proclamations throughout the empire that the refugees were to be welcomed. He granted the refugees the permission to settle in the Ottoman Empire and become Ottoman citizens. He ridiculed the conduct of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in expelling a class of people so useful to their subjects. 'You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler,' he said to his courtiers — 'he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine!' Bajazet addressed a firman to all the governors of his European provinces, ordering them not only to refrain from repelling the Spanish refugees, but to give them a friendly and welcome reception. He threatened with death all those who treated the Jews harshly or refused them admission into the empire. Moses Capsali, [Chief Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire], who probably helped to arouse the sultan's friendship for the Jews, was most energetic in his assistance to the exiles. He made a tour of the communities, and was instrumental in imposing a tax upon the rich, to ransom the Jewish victims of the persecutions then prevalent" (Wikipedia article on Bayezid II, accessed 09-12-2009).

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The First Printed Grammar of a Vernacular August 18, 1492

In August 1492 Spanish scholar Antonio de Lebrija (also known as Elio Antonio de Lebrija, Antonius Nebrissensis, Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis, and Antonio of Lebrix; given name: Antonio Martinez de Calá) published Gramática de la lengua castellana, also known as the Grammatica Nebrissensis, and, in 15th century Spanish, Grammatica dela Lingua Castellianna. This work of 68 pages was published in Salamanca by an unidentified printer.

This was the first work dedicated to the Castillian or Spanish language, its orthography, prosody and syllables, etymology, diction, and syntax.  It was also the first printed grammar of a spoken language,  rather than Latin, the grammar of which was based on the written, rather than spoken language. 

In July 2011 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 

ISTC No.: ia00902000

Illich, In the Vineyard of the Text (1993) 73.

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Columbus's Description of the New World: the First Eyewitness Report to Become a Bestseller February 15, 1493

Aboard the caravel Niña on February 15, 1493, sailing back from the New World, Christopher Columbus wrote an open letter to the monarchs of Spain, describing his monumental discoveries. When he docked in Lisbon on March 14, 1493 Columbus added a postscript and sent the letter to the Escribano de Racion, Luis de Santangel, finance minister to Ferdinand II and the high steward or comptroller of the king's household expenditures. Santagel had convinced  Isabella I to back Columbus's voyage eight months earlier, and Santagel was the first convey the news of Columbus's success to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

Santagel promptly turned over the text of Columbus's letter to printer Pedro Posa in Barcelona, and through its different printed editions which followed in close succession, Columbus's letter became the first bestselling eyewitness news account. The sequence of the earliest editions was as follows:

1. As early as April 1, 1493, Posa issued a 4-page pamphlet in small folio entitled Epistola de insulis nuper inventis (Letter on Newly Discovered Islands). Only one copy of the original printing survives. It was discovered in Spain in 1889, and passed through the hands of antiquarian bookseller Maisonneuve in Paris before reaching antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch in 1890. In 1892 Quaritch sold it to the Lenox Library founded by James Lenox. This library later merged with the New York Public Library where the pamphlet is preserved today. (ISTC no. ic00756000.)

2. The second edition, published in Spanish in Valladolid, also survives only in a single copy. (ISTC no. ic00756500.)

3. The third edition, in Latin, was published in Rome by Stephen Plannck, probably in early May 1493. (ISTC no. ic00757000.)

4. The first illustrated edition, with woodcuts supposedly copied from drawings by Columbus, was issued by Michael Furter, for Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, in Basel, Switzerland, probably in May, 1493. (ISTC no. ic00760000.) 

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Basel 1493 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

5Giuliano Dati translated the letter into Italian verse for publication in Rome June 15, 1493. (ISTC no. id00045890). Dati's version was reprinted in Florence and Brescia in 1493. Of each printing of Dati's version only one copy survived.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 35.

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The Nuremberg Chronicle June 12 – December 23, 1493

June 12, 1493 printer Anton Koberger of Nuremberg completed the printing and issued the Liber chronicarum written by the physician Hartmann Schedel. A large-folio compendium of history, geography and natural wonders, the Liber chronicarum contained 298 printed leaves, including 1,809 illustrations from 645 woodcuts by or after painter and woodengraver Michael Wohlgemut (Wohlgemuth), his stepson Wilhelm Plydenwurff, and possibly some by Koberger's godson, the young Albrecht Dürer, who was apprenticed to Wohlgemut until 1490. Certain woodcuts were reproduced more than once, sometimes for the depiction of different people or cities. The images included a full-sheet map of Europe, a Ptolemaean world map, large and small city views, biblical and historical scenes, and portraits.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Latin edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

"From the outset, however, a German-language version had been planned. Translated by Georg Alt (c. 1450-1510), the city treasurer of Nuremberg, who assisted Schedel in compiling the Latin edition, the German edition was published on December 23, 1493. In addition to cosmetic differences (e.g., the Latin edition was printed using a typeface known as Antiqua Rotunda, while the German employed Bastarda Schwabacher), the German edition is very slightly abridged, with omissions that include certain abstruse thoughts as well as seeming repetitions. Occasionally, however, the German Chronicle includes minor but telling expansions on the Latin text. For example, in the Latin version one is told that a certain idea "can be found in Ovid" (folio IIr); the German version, however, informs its readers that this same idea "was elegantly expressed by Ovid, a poet." Such differences point to slightly different readerships: the Latin was aimed at the imperial, theological, and academic markets; the German at the upper middle class who did not possess a university education. Scholars estimate that approximately 1400-1500 Latin copies and 700-1000 German ones were printed. A document from 1509 has the final account of the sales of the two editions. It is interesting to note that 535 Latin and 60 German copies remained unsold. . . . " (http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/inside/about/editions.htm, accessed 11-06-2012). 

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the German translation was available from the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, at this link.

Though the information in the Nuremberg Chronicle was rapidly superceded, it remained famous for its extraordinary graphic design, its printing, its woodcuts and descriptions of cities. One of the woodcuts depicted the paper mill established in Nuremberg by Ulman Stromer in 1390.

Probably because it was such a large and impressive volume, the work was a great commercial success, with unusually large printings for a fifteenth century book:

"The Latin edition was printed in at least 1400 copies, of which more than 1200 still exist today" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] no. 11 (describing the annotated copy of the author, Hartmann Schedel, which is preserved at the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, Munich).

Most probably fewer copies of the German edition were printed, as it remains rarer on the market. Between roughly 1980 and 2009 there were 188 auction sales recorded for the Latin edition and 35 sales of the German edition, some sales presumably representing the same copies being resold.

Remarkably, the original manuscript exemplars showing the exact arrangement of the text and illustrations for both the Latin and German editions, as well has other original documents pertaining to the publication of these works, were preserved. The exemplar for the Latin edition is in the Stadbibliothek Nürnberg. The exemplar for the German edition is in the Nuremberg City Library. Adrian Wilson, a book designer and historian of book design from San Francisco, issued an outstanding book in which he showed the relationship between these manuscript exemplars and the printed editions: The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1976).

Perhaps in 1941 an English translation of the Nuremberg Chronicle was prepared by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago. This existed as a typescript for many years, preserved in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  The title page of the translation, of which I obtained a complete xerographic copy decades ago, reads: First English Edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Being the Liber Chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel, A. D. 1493. Translated from the First German Edition by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago with Text Annotations and Woodcut Elucidations in Six Volumes.  The translation extends to at least 2000 pages of typescript. In 2003 Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin collaborated on publishing Schmauch's entire translation online at http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/index.htm, accessed 11-06-2012).

ISTC no. is00307000 (Latin). ISTC no. is00309000 (German). Both of these entries provide censuses of the many institutions which hold copies of the respective editions.

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The First Book Printed in the Ottoman Empire December 13, 1493

After their explusion from Spain David and Samuel ibn Nahmias travelled to Constantinople as a result of Sultan Bayezid II's offer of refuge. There they established the first printing press in the Ottoman Empire. As Jews, the Nahmias brothers were allowed to practice the printing trade forbidden to Muslims. The first book the Nahmias brothers printed was Jacob ben Asher's fourteenth century Arbaah Turim (Four Orders of the Code of Law) completed on 4 Tevet 5254 (13 December 1493). This was the first book printed in the Ottoman Empire, not only in Hebrew but in any language. Jacob ben Asher's work was the only book that the Nahmias brothers issued in Hebrew from Constantinople during the 15th century.

Previously the Nahmias brothers had attempted to set up a printing shop in Naples. The type they used in Constantinople is similar to Hebrew type used in Spain and Italy. The paper on which their edition of ben Asher was printed in Constantinople is of northern Italian origin.

Lehrstuhl für Türkische Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur, Universität Bamberg, The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims (2001) 9. ISTC no. ij00000300.

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The Best Medium for Long Term Information Storage 1494

In his treatise De laude scriptorum (In Praise of Scribes) written in reaction to the information revolution caused by printing, and published as a printed book in 1494, Benedictine abbot Johannes Trithemius (Tritheim) advocated preserving the medieval tradition of manuscript copying in spite of the the advantages of printing for information distribution. He was well aware of these advantages since he exploited them to expand his abbey library after the invention of printing, and also because thirty printed editions of his own writings appeared during the 15th century.

In the context of the fifteenth century information revolution Tritheim is most remembered for questioning the durability of media used in long term information storage when he compared the known long-term durability of information written on traditional parchment, examples of which had already lasted over 700 years, with that written or printed on the newer and less proven medium of paper.

Tritheim wrote:

"Brothers, nobody should say or think: 'What is the sense of bothering with copyring by hand when the art of printing has brought to light so many important books; a huge library can be acquired inexpensively.' I tell you, the man who ways this only tries to conceal his own laziness.

"All of you know the difference between a manuscript and a printed book. The word written on parchment will last a thousand years. The printed word is on paper. How long will it last? The most you can expect a book of paper to survive is two hundred years. Yet, there are many who think they can entrust their works to paper. Only time will tell.

"Yes, many books are now available in print but no matter how many books will be printed, there will always be some left unprinted and worth copying. No one will ever be able to locate and buy all printed books. . . ." (Translated in Tribble and Trubek eds., Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age [2003]).

Taking an expansive view of libraries and the history of information, Tritheim also pointed out that all recorded information could never be published in print or collected in a single library. He also believed that in spite of the new technology it remained the responsibility of monks to continue to copy and preserve obscure texts which might not be economically viable to print. Working manually, the monks could produce copies of higher quality, or include decorative elements (ceteros librorum ornatus) not possible in a printed edition. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tritheim's retrograde treatise which took issue with the new technology was not a best-seller. It underwent only one printed edition, from Mainz at the press of Peter von Friedberg, during the 15th century.

ISTC no. it00442000.  Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 32.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek website at this link

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The Earliest Subject Bibliography 1494

Responding to the challenges of organizing the rapidly growing body of information caused by the development of printing, Johannes Trithemius (Tritheim), abbot of the Benedictine abbey at Sponheim, completed his manuscript for the earliest subject bibliography, Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis (A Book on Ecclesiastical Writings) in 1492. It was the first bibliography compiled as a practical reference work. In 1494 the work appeared in Basel at the press of Johann Amerbach.

The work " lists in chronological order 982 authors with about 7,000 titles, the number of chapters in each work and the incipit when known. An alphabetical list, arranged according to the authors' first names, serves as an index. The title of the book is somewhat misleading since the work is not restricted to ecclesiastical writers but also includes authors such as Dante, Poggio, and Sebastian Brant" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History & Development [1984] no. 7).

"The contrast between the feeble theological bibliographies of the manuscript age and this first attempt in the printing era is very striking” (Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 7-8).

ISTC no. it00452000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt at this link.

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Probably the Earliest European Depiction of Native Americans 1494

In May 2013 art restorers at the Vatican completed the cleaning of a 15th century fresco by Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio (Pintoricchio), entitled The Resurrection. After centuries of dirt and grime had been removed from the fresco commissioned by Pope Alexander VI, behind the depiction of the open tomb above which Christ had risen, a small depiction of native men wearing feather headresses and dancing became visible. One of the natives in the fresco appears to have a mohawk hairstyle.

The depiction of Native Americans in the painting, which is believed to have been completed in 1494, corresponds to Christopher Columbus's account of being greeted in the nude world by dancing nude men painted black or red. In March 1493 Columbus returned to Spain from his first voyage to the New World, and news of his experiences rapidly spread throughout Europe. 

Prior to the discovery of the Pinturicchio image it was believed that the earliest surviving European depictions of Native Americans were those painted in the later 16th century by the British artist John White, governor of Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island. White's paintings are preserved in the print room of the British Museum.

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The "Book Fool" and Others February 11, 1494

In February 1494 Sebastian Brant published Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools) in Basel, Switzerland at the press of Johann Bergmann, de Olpe. Some of the woodcuts illustrating this work were by the young Albrecht Dürer.

Brandt's satire became a great bestseller. It included a characterization and woodcut illustration of the "book fool" who enjoyed owning many books but read few of them. That book-collecting had become a topic for satire by this time is a reflection of the proliferation of books since the invention of printing by movable type.

The popularity of Brandt's satire was in itself a reflection of the proliferation of books. Twenty-six different editions appeared in the 15th century. Brandt authorized six editions in German during his lifetime and there were at least six other unauthorized editions published. The work was translated into Latin by Jacob Locher in 1497 (Stultifera Navis), into French by Paul Rivière in 1497 and by Jehan Droyn in 1498. An English verse translation by Alexander Barclay appeared in London in 1509, and again in 1570; one in prose by Henry Watson in London, 1509; and again 1517. It was also rendered into Dutch and Low German.

ISTC no. ib01080000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliotheck at this link.

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The First Great General Work on Mathematics November 10 – November 20, 1494

Page from Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita at the Libarary for Humanitities and Social Sciences at the Kobe University. (Click on the image to view the full page opening.)

Title page of Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. (Click on the image to view the full title page.)

Portrait of Luca Pacioli, traditionally attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495 (attribution controversial).  Please see the wikipedia article on Luca Pacioli.

Between November 10 and 20, 1494 Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published at the press of Paganinus de Paganinis in Venice Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. This was “the first great general work on mathematics printed” (Smith, Rara arithmetica, 56).

“[The Summa] contains a general treatise on theoretical and practical arithmetic; the elements of algebra; a table of moneys, weights and measures used in the various Italian states; a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping; and a summary of Euclid’s geometry. . . . Although it lacked originality, the Summa was widely circulated and studied by the mathematicians of the sixteenth century. Cardano, while devoting a chapter of his Practica arithmetice (1539) to correcting the errors in the Summa, acknowledged his debt to Pacioli. Tartaglia’s General trattato de’ numeri et misure (1556-1560) was styled on Pacioli’s Summa. In the introduction to his Algebra, Bombelli says that Pacioli was the first mathematician after Leonardo Fibonacci to have thrown light on the science of algebra. . . . Pacioli’s treatise on bookkeeping, ‘De computis et scripturis,’ contained in the Summa, was the first printed work setting out the ‘method of Venice,’ that is, double-entry bookkeeping. [Richard] Brown has said [in his History of Accounting and Accountants, 1905] that ‘The history of bookkeeping during the next century consists of little else than registering the progress of the De computis through the various countries of Europe” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

ISTC no. il00315000 points out the very unusual aspect of the edition that two re-issues of the first edition exist with some sheets reprinted. One of these is thought to date after 1509 and another after 13 August 1502. Nevertheless, these re-issues bear the original publication date.  

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of a copy dated 1494 was available from the Herzog Auguste Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link

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The First Printed Bibliography on Secular Subjects 1495

In 1495 Abbot Johannes Trithemius (Tritheim) published Catalogus illustrium virorum Germaniae in Mainz at the press of Peter von Friedberg. A selective bibliography of German authors, listing 2000 works by 300 writers, including Trithemius himself, this was probably the first printed bibliography on secular subjects. 

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 9.

ISTC no. it00433000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Herzog Auguste Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link.

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Filed under: Bibliography

The Aldine Theocritus: Scholarly Compromises in Running a Publishing House February 1495 – 1496

Scholar printer, Aldus Manutius of Venice, issued the Idyllia of Theocritus in Greek along with other works in Greek and Latin, including the writings of Hesiod. (ISTC no. it00144000).

"We must not ask of Aldine editions what they cannot give, a balanced critical recension which even in our own day has hardly been achieved for many Greek authors. The aims of textual purity and correctness were often trumpeted in early editions, long before Aldus, indeed, but with special emphasis in his prefaces. But these aims, no doubt genuinely held, all too frequently succumbed to the messy pressures of the printing house, as the number of errata pages attached to his editions attest. Something is better than nothing, Aldus says in the preface to Theocritus in 1496, and a text once printed can at least find many correctors where a manuscript can only receive occasional emendation. This of course is true in the long run, but sidesteps the whole problem of corrupt texts being fixed in hundreds of copies by the printing press" (Davies, Aldus Manutius, Printer and Publisher of Renaissance Venice [1999] 23).

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The Aldine Aristotle, One of the Greatest Publishing Ventures of the 15th Century November 1495 – June 1498

Between November 1495 and  June 1498 scholar printer Aldus Manutius (Teobaldo Mannucci) of Venice issued the first edition in the original Greek of Aristotle's Opera omnia. The set appeared in five thick quarto or small folio volumes, often bound in six. Assembling all of the texts was a major challenge for Aldus and his associates, requiring the help of scholars in different countries, and yet during the publication process Greek texts of both the Poetics and On Rhetoric, remained elusive. The editio princeps of Aristotle appeared at the close of a century that had witnessed a strong revival in Greek and humanistic studies; it was the first major Greek prose text, or collection of texts, to be reintroduced to the Western world in its original language by means of the printing press, and its success launched Aldus's efforts to produce further editiones principes of other Greek authors. In addition to the Aristotelian works, the five volumes contained works by Aristotle's successor Theophrastus, the commentator on Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, the neo-Platonic philosopher Porphyrius, and Philo of Alexandria (Philo Judaeus) along with the spurious De historia philosophia attributed to Galen.

" 'The Aldine Aristotle' remains, in terms of the labour involved and the magnificence of the result, the greatest publishing venture of the fifteenth century. The centrality of Aristotle in intellectual life of the time can hardly be overstressed. In Latin dress he lay at the heart of any university course in philosophy, as dominant at the end of the Quattrocento as in the preceding three hundred years. The humanist return ad fontes, to the original unobscured by imprecise translation and the encrustations of scholastic commentary, was the indispenable background to the edition. . . .

"Certain important Aristotelian works were as yet unfindable, notably the Rhetoric and the Poetics—Aldus was later to print the first Greek editions of both. The second volume is largely taken up with the works of Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle in the Athenian Lyceum. . . . (Davies, Aldus Manutius, Printer and Publisher of Renaissance Venice (1999) 20-22).

ISTC No.: ia00959000. In March 2014 digital facsimiles of all five volumes were available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Volume 1 was available at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 73.  Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 38. Renouard, Aldus Manutius, pp. 7-9. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 70.

 

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The First English Book Printed on Paper Made in England Circa 1496

About 1496 English printer Wynkyn de Worde, successor to William Caxton, printed at Westminister an edition of the encyclopedic work by Bartholomaeus AnglicusDe proprietatibus rerum, in the English translation by John Trevisa, illustrated with woodcuts mostly derived from the numerous earlier editions. This work was the first book printed in England on paper made at the first English paper mill, operated by John Tate from around 1495 till his death in 1507.

Remarkably, the original unillustrated manuscript, substantially marked up by the compositors, for a portion of this work, is preserved in the Plimpton Collection at Columbia University Library. Plimpton

"purchased it from Quaritch who had bought it when Lord Middleton's library was sold at auction in 1925. The large and beautiful codex was made for Sir Thomas Chaworth of Wiverton, Notts., about 1440; it apparently soon became the property of the Willoughby family, neighbors and kin of the Chaworths, in whose possession it remained until the sale of Lord Middleton's books in 1925. (Thomas Willoughby was created Baron Middleton 1 January 1711/12). Throughout the nearly 500 years in which the MS. was in private hands it was all but unknown to scholars" (Three Lions cited below, 18).

Wynkyn de Worde's printed text deviates substantially from the manuscript. A second manuscript source, no longer extant, was also a source for the edition. 

♦ Three Lions and the Cross of Lorraine: Bartholomaeus Anglicus, John of Trevisa, John Tate, Wynkyn de Worde and De Proprietatibus Reum. A Leaf Book with Essays by Howell Heaney, Dr. Lotte Hellinga, Dr. Richard Hills. Newton, PA: Bird & Bull Press (1992) details my role in supplying the very incomplete copy of the Wynkyn de Worde printing, containing 138 leaves, which became the basis for the edition, and determined the number of copies printed.

"Worde is generally credited for moving English printing away from its late-Medieval beginnings and toward a modern model of functioning. Caxton had depended on noble patrons to sustain his enterprise; while de Worde enjoyed the support of patrons too (principally Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII), he shifted his emphasis to the creation of relatively inexpensive books for a commercial audience and the beginnings of a mass market. Where Caxton had used paper imported from the Low Countries, de Worde exploited the product of John Tate, the first English papermaker. De Worde published more than 400 books in over 800 editions (though some are extant only in single copies and many others are extremely rare). His greatest success, in terms of volume, was the Latin grammar of Robert Whittington, which he issued in 155 editions. Religious works dominated his output, in keeping with the tenor of the time; but de Worde also printed volumes ranging from romantic novels to poetry (he published the work of John Skelton and Stephen Hawes), and from children's books to volumes on household practice and animal husbandry. He innovated in the use of illustrations: while only about 20 of Caxton's editions contained woodcuts, 500 of de Worde's editions were illustrated.

"He moved his firm from Caxton's location in Westminster to London; he was the first printer to set up a site on Fleet Street (1500), which for centuries became synonymous with printing. He was also the first man to build a book stall in St. Paul's Churchyard, which soon became a center of the book trade in London.

"De Worde was the first to use italic type (1528) and Hebrew and Arabic characters (1524) in English books; and his 1495 version of Polychronicon by Ranulf Higdon was the first English work to use movable type to print music" (Wikipedia article on Wynkyn de Worde, accessed 01-10-2008).

Dard Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 (1925) 13. ISTC no. ib00143000 dates Wynkyn de Worde's book "circa 1496."

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The First Record of a Privilege Granted for Music Printing May 25, 1498

On May 25, 1498 the Venetian Senate granted Ottaviano Petrucci a twenty-year patent for the double-impression technique of printing polyphonic music for voices, organ, and lute using moveable type. This was the "first known record of a privilege granted for music printing. It is also one of the early records of patents for invention and improvement in the mechanism of printing, showing that there was no legal distinction between books and printed music or other works of art produced through the press" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, reproducing an image of the document, and providing a translation and an extremely detailed, and thoroughly documented commentary).

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The Persistence of Illuminated Manuscript Production Circa 1499

A product for the royal court of France, the "Hours of Henry VIII" illuminated by Jean Poyet about 1499, and preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum, is one of the most splendid manuscript Books of Hours from this period. This magnificently illustrated lay book of daily devotions and prayers contains fifty-five exquisitely hand-painted images.

♦ Even as the reach of printing expanded, the practice of commissioning luxury manuscript books of hours by wealthy patrons continued well through the sixteenth century. From the seventeenth century onward it noticeably declined. Production of these luxury manuscripts, in which the emphasis was on the illustrations, continued to provide employment for a declining number of scribes and illuminators, some of whom found employment in the printing trades or as the illustrators of printed books. The work of manuscript illuminators who worked with the new technology may also be seen in certain hand-colored deluxe copies of illustrated printed books produced during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

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The First Illustration of a Printing Office & Bookshop in a Printed Book February 18, 1499

The first illustration of a printing press and printing office in a printed book appeared in Danse macabre, published in Lyon by Mathias Huss. The image shows death visiting a printing office and a bookseller's shop. Huss's book was one of numerous editions of The Dance of Death, or Danse macabre. 

"The first known illustration of a printing press was certainly not drawn to enlighten future generations as to its characteristics. It appears in an edition of the Danse Macabre, published in Lyons by Mathias Huss in 1499. Death is depicted carrying off a printer and a bookseller, and, such as it is, we may take it that the cut illustrates a French fifteenth-century printing office. Unfortunately, although the general construction of press can be made out, the very aspect which would have been of most interest—the way in which the platen was hung—is obscured by the struggling figure of the pressman. However, the illustration does show clearly the supports, or stays, between the top of the top of the press and the ceiling, which were found to be necessary to keep the press stable; a coarse wooden screw, and a straight pole or bar. Particularly interesting is the plank held up by a stay and on which there is a box, to which we may presume a tympan is hinged by what look like leather straps. No winding mechanism is visible and it may be conjectured that the box was pushed under the platen by hand at this date. The other pressman (or 'beater') is holding an ink-ball, which hardly changed in appearance until it was replaced by a roller some three hundred and fifty years later. Two ink-balls were used to ink the forme. They were made of untanned leather or sheepskin, stuffed with wool or hair, and nailed around a wooden handle or stock. Ink was spread out on to a slab and rubbed out thinly with a wooden device known as a brayer.

"The little rest, or gallows, gives additional credence of the idea that there was a tympan to be thrown back on it when the forme was being inked. The unusual position of the pressman, who usually stood next to his companion, is probably the result of the artist's license as he wanted to show the figure of Death full face" (Kinsman, The Darker Vision of the Renaissance: Beyond  the Fields of Reason [1974] 25).

ISTC. id00020500

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