Glasgow Incunabula Project update (14/8/13)

What are incunables about? To prove that it not all classics, philosophy and scholastic theology (although there some – almost obligatory – sermons in this batch), our latest 15th century offerings include a number of works on literature and language.

Dante's Comedy with obliterated annotations (Sp Coll Hunterian Bf.1.4)

Dante’s Comedy with obliterated annotations (Sp Coll Hunterian Bf.1.4)

Dante’s great Italian poem, the Divine Comedy, is represented by Vindelinus de Spira’s 1477 Venice edition.  Dante was actually a fairly popular choice for early printers – the first edition of La Commedia was produced by Johann Neumeister in 1472 (by the way, the epithet ‘Divine’ by which we know the poem today, did not appear until the 16th century). Other printers quickly followed; we have already catalogued another edition from 1472 (Mantua: Georgius de Augusta and Paulus de Butzbach, for Columbinus Veronensis). The book in this batch, meanwhile, is notable for being the first edition to appear with a commentary to the text. It seems then, that printers in the 1470s were not only embracing works in the vernacular, but also according them the status of respected classic texts with all the necessary scholarly accompaniments. A 16th century reader of our book has obviously taken this to heart and annotated the margins liberally with comments in Italian (and a later owner of the book has unfortunately taken exception to this and done a thorough job in washing out or obliterating the marginalia  – such are the vagaries of book history!).

As part of its trappings, the 1477 Dante also includes Boccaccio’s life of Dante. And Boccaccio’s work appears in its own right in two further books in this batch. We have a 1481 edition of the Latin poem Genealogiae deorum, and an edition of De casibus virorum illustrium in Laurent de Premierfait’s French translation (Paris: Jean Du Pré , 26 Feb. 1483/84).  As well as being another nice example of a vernacular literary work (in fact, the first printed edition of this translation), this book is interesting for being enlivened throughout by woodcut illustrations.

Woodcut

Woodcut from Boccaccion (Sp Coll Hunterian Bg.2.26)

As well as one full page illustration, a woodcut is prefixed to each of the nine books of the work. According to the British Museum catalogue, the first of these – which incorporates a dual scene of Boccaccio writing in his study alongside a depiction of Adam and Eve – is “strongly suggestive of Dutch work”; the rest are attributed to a Parisian workshop. There is lots more work to be done on describing and identifying the woodcut illustrations found in our books, and if you would like to pursue this area of research, have a look at our woodcuts index.

The latest ten records described on the project website are:



Categories: Special Collections

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