Glasgow Incunabula Project and Exhibition update (15/4/15)

We are delighted that Alan May and Martin Andrews from the University of Reading will be returning to Glasgow on Friday 8 May to rerun the printing sessions that were so popular when we held them after the opening of Ingenious Impressions. These demonstrations are both informative and fun, with the chance to create your very own page of the Gutenberg Bible and cast a piece of type. The sessions are free, but places are limited so need to be booked via eventbrite – get your name down now to avoid disappointment!

PB 3

Bible (Sp Coll Euing Du-c.7)

Bible (Sp Coll Euing Du-c.7)

There are also still a couple of places left on our Open Studies ‘behind the scenes’ incunabula study day on Saturday 9 May. This, too, will include a printing session, as well as a walk around the exhibition with Special Collections staff and the opportunity to ‘meet’ and find out more about some of the incunabula that did not make it into the show.

In the meantime, we are still busy adding records to the GiP website. We have not deliberately kept the best until last, but there are still some amazing books to come. For example, for those interested in early printed Bibles, this clutch includes no less than five copies of different editions of the Latin Bible, largely from the collection of William Euing. However, more attention must simply be drawn to two outstanding books, which both feature in the exhibition.

Our Apocalypse is one of two blockbooks found in our collection of 15th century books. It consists of 42 plates from an original of 50, printed entirely from woodcut blocks and enlivened with watercolour washes. The illustrations show scenes (accompanied by a condensed text in Latin) from the life of St John the Evangelist and the Antichrist. It has to be admitted that the latter – with depictions of the devil and six headed beasts – are the most visually memorable. Incidentally, if you are interested in finding out more about this particular book, it will be the focus of our very last lunchtime exhibition talk on Wednesday 10 June, to be given by Dr Debra Strickland from History of Art.

Blockbook Apocalypse

Blockbook Apocalypse

Our copy of the Hypnerotomachi Poliphili also features in this batch. One of the most celebrated of incunabula, it is regarded as one of the most beautifully designed books of the Venetian Renaissance. Its 172 woodcut illustrations (by an unknown but obviously highly skilled artist) integrate harmoniously with the text, with innovations in layout such as shaping of the text and sequential double page illustrations. Something of an anomaly in the output of Aldus Manutius – who is revered, of course, for the printing and editing of Greek texts – it was a vastly extravagant production. Ironically, while prized as one of the treasures of early printing today, it originally sold badly thanks to difficulties with exporting copies from Venice because of various ongoing wars.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Although our copy has been documented in the past, Jack Baldwin’s research for the Glasgow Incunabula Project unearthed some satisfying additional information relating to the book’s provenance. We knew that the book came from the collection of William Hunter but until recently had no idea how or when he acquired it. In undertaking some research at the British Library on book sales catalogues, however, Jack discovered that Hunter bought it at the sale of the ‘genuine and elegant’ library of John Baber (d. 1765) in 1766. He apparently paid £2.12.6 for it – a rather middling sum for an incunable in the 18th century, if you compare it with other purchases in our book prices index.


Both this book and the Apocalypse are on display at the Ingenious Impressions exhibition until 21 June.

Details of the latest ten books added to the project website are:

Categories: Special Collections

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