In the early days of printing, niceties such as title-pages were not yet commonplace and this can result in one of the challenges of cataloguing incunabula – first of all, identify your book! Of course, incunables have been so well documented over the years, that today this is not such an insurmountable task (although there are always fragments and unique survivors to contend with, so let us not speak too soon). However, this lack of information has inevitably resulted in some interesting errors in description over time, and sometimes even – dare I say it – bare faced and scurrilous attempts to mislead.
One instance of this is an imprint forgery perpetrated in our copy of Martin of Braga’s De quattuor virtutibus cardinalibus. The work does not include any information on its printing and publication, but has been identified as an edition produced in Paris by Petrus Caesaris and Johannes Stol in about 1473. But in our copy – which coincidentally is imperfect, missing its final four leaves – a spurious colophon has been added at the end, assigning the work to the famed printers of Mainz, Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer: “”A.D. MCCCClxiii; Per Iohanne[m] fust ciue[m] Magu[n]tinis et petru[m] Gernssheym”. The doctoring even includes a rendition of their device.
In a note in The Library (5th ser., vol. 19, 1964), Philip Gaskell refers to this as a ‘bibliographical ghost’. He claims that it is not a ‘particularly convincing forgery’ but I have to say that the first time I saw it, I did have to look at it closely. Although we do not know when this “interesting” addition was made to the book, Gaskell notes that the counterfeit colophon was detected at least two centuries ago, as the sale catalogue of Anthony Askew’s library (1775) correctly describes it as being hand written. Was the false imprint information a deliberate attempt to increase the value of the book by associating it with one of the earliest (and therefore most prestigious for collectors) printing collaborations? Or was this a genuine mistake by an early owner? As usual, we shall probably never know.
Leaving you to ponder this piece of incunabularistic intrigue, I note that we have now reached the end of 2012 … as far as the Glasgow Incunabula Project goes, anyway. Where has the year gone?? Well, at least partly in cataloguing incunables of course! I am pleased to report that we now have 590 books fully described and indexed on the project website, and 700 available via our rare books search. So we are happily on target for completion by the end of 2014. And in 2015 we can look forward to a major exhibition of our incunabula in the Hunterian Art Gallery, drawing on the work of the project and all the discoveries that we have been making. So there is lots more to come yet.
In the meantime, the latest ten records loaded on to the project website are:
- Aristoteles: Opera [Latin] Venice: Andreas Torresanus, de Asula and Bartholomaeus de Blavis, de Alexandria (in part for Johannes de Colonia), 1483
- Abulcasis: Liber servitoris de praeparatione medicinarum simplicium Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1471
- Aesopus: Vita et Fabulae [Greek]. Vita et Fabulae [Latin] [Milan]: Bonus Accursius, [ca. 1478] [two copies]
- Florus, Lucius Annaeus: Epitomae rerum Romanarum [Cologne: Arnold Ther Hoernen, ca. 1474]
- Paulus Venetus: Scriptum super librum Aristotelis De anima Venice: Filippo di Pietro, 17 Apr. 1481
- Anonymous: Hortus sanitatis [Strassburg: Johann Prüss, ca. 1497]
- Martinus de Braga: De quattuor virtutibus cardinalibus, sive De formula honestae vitae [Paris: Petrus Caesaris and Johannes Stol, ca. 1473]
- Aristoteles: De animalibus Venice: Johannes de Colonia and Johannes Manthen, 1476
- Diogenes Laertius: Vitae et sententiae philosophorum [Rome: Georgius Lauer, between Feb. and 15 May 1472?]
Categories: Special Collections