Incunables

Incunables occupy a special and specific place within the bibliographic world, as they are books that were printed (not handwritten, and therefore not manuscripts) in Europe before 1501. After the first use of Johannes Gutenberg's moveable-type printing press in the 1450s printing techniques spread rapidly across Europe during the late 15th century, resulting in a flowering of printers eager to apply these new skills. Their efforts, and their developments in the areas of layout and typography, helped to produce some of the most exquisitely printed and designed books in existence today.


Orations. Cicero. Adam de Amergau, 1472.

This copy of Cicero's Orations, printed by Adam de Amergau, provides an example of Rare Books's holdings of Venetian incunables. Venice in the late 15th century was the major center for printing activity, with printers from all parts of Europe working in the city to design and produce a variety of texts.

  • Cicero Orations
  • Cicero Orations

This particular text also provides an interesting example of the ways in which public opinions about the appearance of books can affect a book's construction or design. In the image of the text it is possible to see several lines surrounding the text. In a handwritten manuscipt these lines would have provided the scribe or copyist a clear frame to work in as they wrote; in a printed text such as this such lines ought to be unnecessary. However, the cachet attached to possessing a manuscript copy of a work, as a opposed to a printed copy, was still very much in evidence in the late 15th century, so these lines were added to the pages of this book in order to make appear more 'manuscipt-like'.


Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum cronicas complectens.

Werner Rolevinck, ca. 15th century.

This is a copy of Werner Rolevinck's (also sometimes written Rolewinck) most famous work, the Fasciculus temporum, which covered the history of the world from its creation to the ascension of Pope Sixtus IV. Immensely popular for several centuries, it was published in many editions from the 13th to the 16th centuries, with new entries for important events often being added to the text as update. Myths, legend, and sacred and secular history all appear throughout the text. The design of the printing is both unusual and clever in its way of presenting contemporaneous events: the top sections contain Biblical and mythic history with commentary, the center section and circles the names of important religious figures figures with notes on their lifespan and children, while the lower sections details secular history.

  • Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum cronicas complectens.
  • Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum cronicas complectens.
  • Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum cronicas complectens.
  • Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum cronicas complectens.

This copy, possibly from 1488, has been rebound in modern boards and leather. The scans show the front illustration and the "Tabula", which functions as an alphabetical index, and a page of the text which records the deeds of King Arthur ("Arcturus rex britanie...").


The Satires of Juvenal, with four commentaries.

Giovanni Angelo Scinzenzeler, 1501.
  • The Satires of Juvenal
  • The Satires of Juvenal

Printed by Giovanni Angelo Scinzenzeler in Milan, this volume situates Juvenal's text of the satires within the commentaries of A. Mancinelli, D. Calderino, G. Merula, and G. Valla. These commentaries were intended to give the reader further insight and instruction as to the text's meanings and morals.