Glasgow Incunabula Project update (21/11/11)

Details of the latest ten books to be found on the project website are:

Decorated opening page

Decorated opening page of De Officiis (leaf 1r)

There is a strange case of offsetting in our handsomely decorated copy of Ambrosius’ De officiis.

Printed in Rome in around 1471, its opening page (leaf [1r]) is embellished with a decorative white vine stem illuminated border. The painted coat of arms of an early owner (yet to be identified) is found in the lower margin. Two other pages are decorated similarly – although less extensively – on leaves [42v] and [66r].

There is some offsetting from the decoration on leaf [66r] onto the facing page (leaf [65v]). In other words, some of the ink from the decoration has left a ghostly impression from its contact with the facing page. All perfectly understandable.

But what is more intriguing is that there is also evidence of some offsetting on leaf [40v]. In this example, there is no decoration found on the facing page, and close examination reveals that it is actually an impression of the decoration found on the opening page, leaf [1r]). The logical conclusion is that these two pages must have been in contact with each other at some point, but since one is the first page of the book and the other a page forty leaves in, this raises some interesting questions about the sequence of the book’s decoration and original binding …or were the leaves misbound at some point? If you look carefully, you can also see that there is furthermore some offsetting of type to the page.

Offsetting from decoration

Offsetting of decoration from leaf a1r on leaf 40v

Even more interesting is that this is not the only example of such offsetting that we have come across. Our copy of Duns Scotus, Johannes: In primum librum Sententiarum (Venice: 1477) bears a similar seemingly displaced ghost. We are noting phenomena such as this in our other features index, so if you are interested in the curiosities of early printing practises, this is the place to go.

Categories: Library, Special Collections

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