Glasgow Incunabula Project update (26/6/13)

Since we are enjoying some summery weather (even in Glasgow) at the moment, I thought I would highlight some attractive floral decoration found in two books from our latest batch of incunabula for all those keen gardeners out there.

Floral border

Detail of decorated border from Sp Coll Hunterian By.2.14

Our copy of Guillaume Durand’s work on the liturgy, the Rationale divinorum officiorum (Strassburg, Georg Husner, not after 1479), is enlivened by a decorated opening page which includes an initial and lower margin with colourful foliate sprays (Sp Coll Hunterian By.2.14).

Flower decoration

Marginal flower in Sp Coll Hunterian By.2.10

Although this is somewhat stylised, a more realistic flower adorns the margin of our 1481 Venetian edition of Priscian (Sp Coll Hunterian By.2.10). Is this accurate enough to be identifiable? If anyone thinks they know what this is, please get in touch.

The different styles and varieties of scribal decoration found in these books is one of the endlessly fascinating aspects of incunabula. There is definitely a research opportunity for art historians to examine this facet of our books more closely, and perhaps localize (and who knows maybe even identify) the artists who so skilfully illustrated even the most weighty of texts.

A less pretty but equally important find in this batch of books is a set of verses transcribed in a 16th-century hand on the first blank page of our copy of Guido de Columna’s Historia destructionis Troiae ([Geneva: Jean Croquet, ca. 1480] Sp Coll Bl7-e.3). Relating to the myth of the Judgement of Paris, this begins “Tres de[a]e. Tres sumus ecce de[a]e forma se qu[a]elibet offert …” and ends “Poeta. Hac in lite triplex ho[m]i[nu]m poesis …”. It has been identified as a minor Latin poem entitled Iudicium Paridis (found published in ‘Poetae latini minores recensuit et emendavit Aemilius Baehrens’ (Leipzig: 1879-1883)). According to the myth, Paris had to choose who was the fairest of the three goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite; he judged it to be Aphrodite, who had bribed him by offering him in return the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen – leading, as we all know, to the catastrophic Trojan war.

So, given the subject matter of this book, an entirely appropriate manuscript addition. But we reckon this must be a fairly rare poem, and it appearance amongst the pages of a 15th century book is certainly intriguing and could benefit from further investigation.

Manuscript poem

Verses: Iudicium Paris (Sp Coll Bl7-e.3)

The latest ten incunables to be described on the project website are:



Categories: Special Collections

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2 replies

  1. Many thanks for that – from the photos it looks like you could be right!

  2. The marginal flower looks very like Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara):

    http://tinyurl.com/qzc442u

    though a lot of Solanum species have quite similar flowers. Hope that helps!

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