For the end of 2015 we have reached a landmark point in the Glasgow Incunabula Project: all 1060 books belonging to the University of Glasgow have now been fully catalogued and are available on the project website.
Our last batch of University books, as usual, contains many items of interest – a blockbook Bible, a smattering of Caxtons and some whopping tomes of the works of Vincent of Beauvais. However, the most unassuming book of them all is the most important and one worth shouting about. Found quite by chance, a slim Italian tract that gives remedies against the plague by Antonius Cermisonus turns out be a previously unknown 15th century edition – thus bringing our tally of unique incunabula to 12.
It seems astonishing that we could have a ‘new’ incunabulum lurking on our shelves, and here is how it was discovered. To be totally comprehensive in coverage, we will next be incorporating details of our incunabula fragments on the project website. Our researcher, Jack Baldwin, has therefore been examining many poorly catalogued books in the search for 15th century fragments. He knew that a particularly lucrative collection for early bindings would be the library of Sir William Hamilton (1788-1856), who was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University. Somewhat overlooked, this collection consists of about 8,000 volumes (mainly works on logic, philosophy, and classical texts), including a number of incunabula. Jack systematically went along the Hamilton shelves looking for bindings of interest, and it was during this process that the Cermisonus caught his eye as an obvious example of early printing. Previously rather laconically cataloged (many decades ago!) as being without date or printer, the question was: how early was this book?
Details of the book were sent to Dr Falk Eisermann, Director of the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. After expert analysis, he came back with the exciting news that this was a Rome edition produced in about 1478 by Johann Bulle. Not only is this the only known copy of this book in existence, but it is a reprint of a Naples edition printed by Jadocus Hohenstein in ca. 1474, of which only one single copy is recorded – at the Countway Library, Harvard University. So in terms of rarity, this book is pretty much off the scale. Incidentally, it is also the only example of a book produced by the press of Johann Bulle in our collection. So all in all, this shows the worth of detailed examination of books in projects such as this – you never know what buried treasure will be unearthed!
Returning to the other books in this batch, a charming nativity scene (with Mary finding time to read a book while Jesus slumbers in his manger) in our block book Bible reminds us of the festive season fast approaching. We have lots more to come in 2016, with the addition of details of incunabula from other libraries on Glasgow, but for the time being:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our blog readers and incunabula enthusiasts!
The last records to be indexed on the project website for the University of Glasgow incunabula are:
- Vincentius Bellovacensis: Speculum naturale [Strassburg: Printer of the ‘Legenda aurea’, not after 13 Dec. 1481]
- Vincentius Bellovacensis: Speculum naturale [Strassburg: The R-Printer (Adolf Rusch), not after 15 June 1476]
- Vincentius Bellovacensis: Speculum historiale [Strassburg]: Johann Mentelin,  [two copies]
- Higden, Ranulphus: The description of Britain In the translation of John Trevisa. Edited by William Caxton. Westminster: William Caxton, 18 Aug. 1480
- Anonymous: Chronicles of England [English] Westminster: William Caxton, 10 June 1480
- Biblia pauperum. Xylographic blockbook [Netherlands: ca. 1460]
- Hieronymus: Epistolae Mainz: Peter Schoeffer, 7 Sept. 1470
- Cermisonus, Antonius: Consiglio per preservarsi e sanare della peste [Rome: Johann Bulle, ca. 1478]
Categories: Special Collections