Glasgow Incunabula Project update (13/3/13)

An earlier blog featured a spurious colophon attributing an unsigned work to the press of Fust and Schoeffer. I am delighted to say that this batch features the real thing. The Herbarius latinus of 1484 is undisputedly the work of Peter Schoeffer, and branded with his trademark device – resplendantly printed in red.

Schoeffer's device

Schoeffer’s device, printed in red (Sp Coll Hunterian Bw.3.5)

As discussed in an even earlier blog, Peter Schoeffer (ca. 1425-1502/03) was one of the most important of early printers, having worked for Gutenburg himself before forming a partnership with his father-in-law, Johann Fust. He continued publishing alone following Fust’s death in 1466, and has been credited with many technical printing innovations. This herbal is a fairly late example of his work; it is well known, although not typical of the output of his press, which largely gained a reputation for theological and legal works.

woodcut of agrimony

Woodcut illustration of Agrimonia (Agrimony) or Odermenich

The book was an impressive undertaking, containing some 150 woodcut illustrations of plants. In our copy, these are illustrated by hand.  As a guide to medicinal plants, the illustrations were integral to the usefulness and success of the book as a practical handbook. That the plant names were also given in German is indicative of the increasing need to provide texts in the vernacular to reach as wide an audience as possible.   

Our book has plenty of evidence of being put to such practical use: not only are a number of pages missing (perhaps an early reader tore out the most useful sections!), but there are frequent marginal annotations in 16th and 17th century hands, as well as the addition of a manuscript index to the numbered woodcuts to make accessing the most essential elements of the book quicker and easier.

Manuscript index

Manuscript index to plant illustrations

The latest ten books to be added to the project website are:



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  1. Glasgow Incunabula Project update (7/2/14) « University of Glasgow Library

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