Glasgow Incunabula Project update (9/2/16)

As reported in our last project update, all of the University’s 1060 incunabula are now described and fully indexed and accessible on the GiP website. While this is a major achievement, the work on Glasgow’s incunabula continues apace. Jack Baldwin, our project researcher, has been spending the past few months examining and investigating books from other libraries in Glasgow. We will begin to load and index the records for these on to the project website shortly.

But also preoccupying our time are the many amendments and loose ends that inevitably arise when working on a long term project such as this. Unidentified coats of arms, for example, is one area which has caused some frustration in researching the provenance of the books. Heraldry, and the terms by which arms are correctly described, is a very specialized area – so even recording these accurately is problematical. We have been very grateful over the past few years to have had the kind assistance of experts such as Dr Martin Davies in helping to identify several armorials that otherwise eluded us (see the earlier incunabula blog post on the 1469 Sweynheym and Pannartz Caesar as potentially belonging to the Guicciardini family of Florence, for instance). With the assistance of a Renaissance Art postgraduate work placement student, Adam Flynn, we are now attempting to revisit some of those perplexing provenances that are near – and yet so far – thanks to (as yet!) unidentified coats of arms.

Unidentified coat of arms in Lactantius

Unidentified coat of arms in Lactantius

Over the next few weeks, Adam will be working through the list of books containing painted arms as highlighted in the decoration index. Under Jack’s guidance, his project aim is to get to grips with understanding heraldry as used in the decoration of early printed books (no mean feat), revise descriptions, and attempt to identify ownership if possible. He is currently working on two particularly tricky arms, and we will be attempting to harness the power of social media and the collective wisdom of CERL to see if anyone ‘out there’ can help in this task.

The first book Adam is currently investigating is our Sp Coll Hunterian Bx.2.9 copy of works by Lactantius (Rostock: Fratres Domus Horti Viridis ad S. Michaelem, 9 Apr. 1476). This is decorated with a painted coat of arms featuring a golden crescent moon above an eight-pointed star. The official heraldic designation is as follows: azure an eight-pointed mullet surmounted by a reversed crescent moon or. A coat of arms of similar design exists from the late 17th century, possibly from the town of Thalheim, although it is uncertain whether this is either the town of Thalheim in Switzerland, or in Saxony. One suggestion is that might belong to a family called Weidmann of Thalheim. Might anyone know if this is may be correct?

Unidentified coat of arms in Salernitanus: Antidotarium

Unidentified coat of arms in Salernitanus: Antidotarium

The other coat of arms Adam is seeking help with is in a book printed by Nicolaus Jenson in Venice in 1471 – Nicolaus Salernitanus: Antidotarium (Sp Coll Ferguson Am-z.41). Our current unrevised description records this as an unidentified coat of arms in red, dark blue/green, gold and white within a laurel leaf of dark blue/green, from each side of which red scroll-work extends into the margin. It is most likely of Italian design. The wavy yellow line may represent a headless serpent glissant. The unidentified red symbol above may possibly represent a hat, or possibly a pair of legs – however the symbol itself is particularly ambiguous.

Can you help identify these?

Watch out for further tweets and blogs (and cries for help) on this topic over the coming months.



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