4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Book Illustration Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Oldest Surviving Illustrated Papyrus Roll Circa 1,980 BCE

Fragments of the Ramesseum Papyrus.

The Dramatic Ramesseum Papyrus (also called the Ramesseum Papyrus) is the oldest known surviving illustrated papyrus roll. It measures about 7 feet by about 10 inches, and was found in 1895-96 by the English Egyptologist James E. Quibell, excavating on behalf of the Egyptian Research Account in the Ramesseum, the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Pharaoh Ramesses II ("Ramesses the Great" (Ramses, Rameses). The Ramesseum is located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the Nile from the modern city of Luxor.

"It contains a ceremonial play written to celebrate the accession to the throne of Senusret I of the Twelfth Dynasty . . . . The text of the roll is in linear hieroglyphs written in narrow, vertical columns. The text occupies the top four-fifths of the scroll and the illustrations the bottom. the scenes are arranged in a manner similar to a modern comic strip with the Pharaoh, in the role of Horus, appearing multiple times. Scenes are divided from each other by vertical lines. The drawing style is so simple that the figures are little more than enlarged hieroglyphs" (Wikipedia article on Dramatic Ramesseum Papyrus, accessed 01-20-2009).

"This hieroglyphic figure style, as one might call it, suggests that we are not too far away in time from the beginning of papyrus roll illustration as a new branch of art, although it must be remembered that this roll is unique both as to its text and as to the period in which it was made" (Weitzmann, Illustrations in Roll and Codex. A Study of the Origin and Method of Text Illustration [1970] 58).

Diringer, The Illuminated Book: Its History & Production (1967) 27.

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In Ancient Egypt Only the "Book of the Dead" Papyri Were Commercially Produced Circa 1,550 BCE – 50 BCE

Detail from the Papyrus of Ani, showing Ani and his wife entering at left.  Please click to see complete image.

Detail of image showing cursive hieroglyphs.  Please click to see complete image.

Detail from plate 6 showing the name "Ani, The Scribe." Please click to view entire image.

Detail from plate 12 showing the name "Ani, The Scribe" in a different hand.  Please click to view entire image.

It is doubtful whether any book trade, as we understand the term, existed in ancient Egypt because literacy was limited to an elite group, chiefly scribes and priests. Instead information was transmitted by oral tradition or proclamation. It is believed that a small number of literate people may have personally copied texts that they needed. Only copies of the Book of the Dead, a funerary text used from the beginning of the New Kingdom, around 1550 BCE to around 50 BCE, were written for sale.  Some copies of this work have the place for the name left blank, to be filled in later.  Close study shows that the name of the owner was sometimes written in by a later scribe with different handwriting, suggesting that these funeral papyri were maintained in inventory before sale.  It is thought that illiterate people also wanted to possess the Book of the Dead, which guaranteed protection against the dangers of the afterlife, in order to add it to their tomb furnishings.

"A Book of the Dead papyrus was produced to order by scribes. They were commissioned by people in preparation for their own funeral, or by the relatives of someone recently deceased. They were expensive items; one source gives the price of a Book of the Dead scroll as one deben of silver, perhaps half the annual pay of a labourer. Papyrus itself was evidently costly, as there are many instances of its re-use in everyday documents, creating palimpsests. In one case, a Book of the Dead was written on second-hand papyrus.

"Most owners of the Book of the Dead were evidently part of the social elite; they were initially reserved for the royal family, but later papyri are found in the tombs of scribes, priests and officials. Most owners were men, and generally the vignettes included the owner's wife as well. Towards the beginning of the history of the Book of the Dead, there are roughly 10 copies belonging to men for every one for a woman. However, during the Third Intermediate Period, 2/3 were for women; and women owned roughly a third of the hieratic paypri from the Late and Ptolemaic Periods.

"The dimensions of a Book of the Dead could vary widely; the longest is 40m long while some are as short as 1m. They are composed of sheets of papyrus joined together, the individual papyri varying in width from 15 cm to 45 cm. The scribes working on Book of the Dead papyri took more care over their work than those working on more mundane texts; care was taken to frame the text within margins, and to avoid writing on the joints between sheets. The words peret em heru, or 'coming forth by day' sometimes appear on the reverse of the outer margin, perhaps acting as a label.

"Books were often prefabricated in funerary workshops, with spaces being left for the name of the deceased to be written in later. For instance, in the Papyrus of Ani, the name "Ani" appears at the top or bottom of a column, or immediately following a rubric introducing him as the speaker of a block of text; the name appears in a different handwriting to the rest of the manuscript, and in some places is mis-spelt or omitted entirely.

"The text of a New Kingdom Book of the Dead was typically written in cursive hieroglyphs, most often from left to right, but also sometimes from right to left. The hieroglyphs were in columns, which were separated by black lines - a similar arrangement to that used when hieroglyphs were carved on tomb walls or monuments. Illustrations were put in frames above, below, or between the columns of text. The largest illustrations took up a full page of papyrus.

"From the 21st Dynasty onward, more copies of the Book of the Dead are found in hieratic script. The calligraphy is similar to that of other hieratic manuscripts of the New Kingdom; the text is written in horizontal lines across wide columns (often the column size corresponds to the size of the papyrus sheets of which a scroll is made up). Occasionally a hieratic Book of the Dead contains captions in hieroglyphic.

"The text of a Book of the Dead was written in both black and red ink, regardless of whether it was in hieroglyphic or hieratic script. Most of the text was in black, with red used for the titles of spells, opening and closing sections of spells, the instructions to perform spells correctly in rituals, and also for the names of dangerous creatures such as the demon Apep. The black ink used was based on carbon, and the red ink on ochre, in both cases mixed with water.

"The style and nature of the vignettes used to illustrate a Book of the Dead varies widely. Some contain lavish colour illustrations, even making use of gold leaf. Others contain only line drawings, or one simple illustration at the opening. Book of the Dead papyri were often the work of several different scribes and artists whose work was literally pasted together. It is usually possible to identify the style of more than one scribe used on a given manuscript, even when the manuscript is a shorter one. The text and illustrations were produced by different scribes; there are a number of Books where the text was completed but the illustrations were left empty" (Wikipedia article on Book of the Dead, accessed 05-06-2012).


In 1842 Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius named this class of papyrus when he edited papyrus Turin 1791 as an exemplar, and had it published in Leipzig in 1842 as Das Todtenbuch der Ägypter nach dem hieroglyphischen Papyrus in Turin mit einem Vorworte zum ersten Male Herausgegeben. This was the first printed edition of The Book of the Dead. The modern numbering of the Book of the Dead spells (BD 1-165) is derived from Lepsius's edition of this papyrus.

(This entry was last revised on April 4, 2014.) 

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The Papyrus of Ani Circa 1,275 BCE – 1,250 BCE

Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani.

The Papyrus of Ani was written in cursive hieroglyphs and illustrated with color miniatures in the 19th dynasty of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, c. 1275-1250 BCE, for the scribe Ani. It is among the most richly illustrated of all surviving copies of the Book of the Dead, which was also called the "Book of Going Forth by Day". The text usually contained declarations and spells to help the deceased in their afterlife.  

The papyrus excavated from the tomb of Ani in Thebes, and was purchased in 1888 by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge for the collection of the British Museum where it remains today. Before shipping the manuscript to England Budge cut the seventy-eight foot scroll into thirty-seven sheets of nearly equal size, damaging the scroll's integrity.  In 1890 the British Museum issued a large folio color facsimile of the thirty-seven sheets entitled The Book of the Dead: Facsimile of the Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum, with an introduction by Peter le Page Renouf. This was followed in 1895 by E. Wallis Budge's The Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum, the Egyptian Text, with interlinear transliteration and translation, a running translation, introduction etc. 

More recent scholarship is: The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day, The First Authentic Presentation of the Complete "Papyrus of Ani", Introduction and commentary by Dr. Ogden Goelet, Translation by Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner (1998).

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30 CE – 500 CE

One of the Oldest and Most Complete Diagrams from Euclid Circa 75 CE – 125 CE

The diagram, which accompanies proposition five of Book II of the Elements, is preserved in the University of Pennsylvania. (View Larger)

One of the oldest and most complete diagrams from Euclid’s Elements, a fragment of papyrus found among the rubbish piles of Oxyrhynchus in 1896-97 by the expedition of B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, is dated between 75 and 125 CE. It is preserved at the University of Pennsylvania.

"The diagram accompanies Proposition 5 of Book II of the Elements, and along with other results in Book II it can be interpreted in modern terms as a geometric formulation of an algebraic identity - in this case, that ab + (a-b)2/4 = (a+b)2/4 (although the relationship between Euclid's propositions and algebra, which he did not possess, is controversial)."

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The Romance Papyrus Circa 100 CE – 200 CE

The Romance Papyrus. (View Larger)

The Romance Papyrus (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, cod. suppl. gr. 1294, also known as the Alexander papyrus) is one of the few surviving scraps of classical literary illustration on papyrus. It contains two unframed illustrations about an unknown romance set within the columns of text. The fragment is 340 by 115 mm. It was acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 1900.

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The Earliest Diagrams Representing Human Activity: Ancient Greek Military Tactics, Including the Macedonian Phalanx, Applied as Late as the 16th and 17th Centuries Circa 150 CE – 1650

On Military Arrangements of the Greeks (Περὶ Στρατηγικῶν Τάξεων Ἑλληνικῶν), written by the Greek military writer Aelianus Tacticus  (Αἰλιανός Τακτικός) who lived in Rome during the second century CE, was a handbook of Greek, i.e. Macedonian, drill and tactics as practiced by the Hellenistic successors of Alexander the Great. The treatise, which is most often referred to as Aelian's Tactics or Tactica, was of particular value for its explanation of the operation of the Macedonian phalanx, an infantry formation developed by Philip II of Macedon, and used by his son Alexander the Great to conquer much of the known world. 

"Philip II spent much of his youth as a hostage at Thebes, where he studied under the renowned general Epaminondas, whose reforms were the basis for the phalanx. Phalangites were professional soldiers, and were among the first troops ever to be drilled, thereby allowing them to execute complex maneuvers well beyond the reach of most other armies. They fought packed in a close rectangular formation, typically eight men deep, with a leader at the head of each column and a secondary leader in the middle, so that the back rows could move off to the sides if more frontage was needed.

"Each phalangite carried as his primary weapon a sarissa, a double-pointed pike over 6 m (18 ft) in length. Before a battle the sarissa were carried in two pieces and then slid together when they were being used. At close range such large weapons were of little use, but an intact phalanx could easily keep its enemies at a distance; the weapons of the first five rows of men all projected beyond the front of the formation, so that there were more spearpoints than available targets at any given time. The secondary weapon was a shortsword called a kopis, which had a heavy curved section at the end.

"Neither Philip nor Alexander actually used the phalanx as their arm of choice, but instead used it to hold the enemy in place while their heavy cavalry broke through their ranks. The Macedonian  cavalry fought in wedge formation and was stationed on the far right; after these broke through the enemy lines they were followed by the hypaspists, elite infantrymen who served as the king's bodyguard, and then the phalanx proper. The left flank was generally covered by allied cavalry supplied by the Thessalians, which fought in rhomboid formation and served mainly in a defensive role.

"Other forces — skirmishers, range troops, reserves of allied hoplitesarchers, and artillery — were also employed. The phalanx carried with it a fairly minimal baggage train, with only one servant for every few men. This gave it a marching speed  that contemporary armies could not hope to match — on occasion forces surrendered to Alexander simply because they were not expecting him to show up for several more days. Phalangites were drilled to perform short forced marches if required" (Wikipedia article on Macedonian phalanx, accessed 07-06-2014).

Even though the Macedonian phalanx was eventually displaced by the Roman legion, it was widely revived during the Renaissance, and was most extensively applied during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, during which time Aelianus's work underwent several editions, translations and adaptations.

The earliest surviving manuscript of Aelian's Tactics is the Codex Laurentianus graecus 55.4 preserved in the Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. This tenth century Byzantine manuscript is a collection of classical Greek, Hellenistic and Byzantine military treatises. In July 2014 a digital facsimile of the codex was available from the TECA Digitale of the Laurentian Library at this link. The manuscript contains non-figurative diagrams, using letters to represent soldiers in the infantry formations described by Aelian. These diagrams were characterized by Sydney Anglo, The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (2000) 61 as "the earliest examples of diagrams representing human activity."

Aelian's text first appeared in print in the Latin translation by the Greek humanist Theodorus Gaza (Θεόδωρος Γαζῆς, Theodoros Gazis) as De instruendis aciebus, issued from Rome by Eucharius Silber on February 15, 1487. The text was edited for publication by Italian humanist Johannes Sulpitius Verulanus (Fra Giovanni Sulpizio da Veroli). (ISTC no. ia00096495). In July 2014 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link. In the printed edition the diagrams were represented by letters of type arranged on the page to form the shapes of the infantry formations, perhaps somewhat simplified from the diagrams in the manuscript codices. Silber reissued Aelian's text in a collection entitled Scriptores rei militaris in 1494 (ISTC no. is00344000). In July 2014 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link. In that edition Aelianus's diagrams were also represented by letters of type. On July 10, 1495 and January 17, 1496 printer Franciscus [Plato] de Benedictis (Francesco de Benedetti) of Bologna issued another collection with a similar title, but edited by Italian humanist Filippo Beroaldo (Phillipus Beroaldus). (ISTC no. is00345000). In July 2014 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from ETH-Bibliothek Zurch at this link. This edition also used letters to represent the infantry formations.

Following several 16th century Latin editions, the first separate edition in Greek, often called the editio princeps, of Aelian's Tactics was edited by Italian humanist Francesco Robortello and issued in Venice by Andrea and Giacomo Spinelli in 1552. Its full title was Περὶ Στρατηγικῶν Τάξεων Ἑλληνικῶν, De militaribus ordinibus instituendis more graecorum liber Francisco Robortello Vtinensi nunc primum Graece multis que imaginibus & picturis ab eodem illustratisThis finely printed and illustrated edition may have been the first to use small woodcut figures of the various types of soldiers and cavalry in the diagrams of the formations. Robortello based his text on Codex Venetus 904, dating from circa 1330, in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice. When I wrote this entry in July 2014 I was unable to locate a digital facsimile of either Venetus 904 or the 1552 Robortello edition.

The actual first edition in Greek, or editio princeps, of Aelian was edited and printed in 1532 in Paris by scholar printer Michel de Vasconsan in a volume of Greek texts typically catalogued as Ὀνομάτων Ἀττικῶν Ἐκλογαὶ.... Dictionum Atticarum Collectio [et alia opera : PHRYNICHOS, Manuel MOSCHOPOULOS, AELIANUS TACTICUS, ORBICIUS]. Probably because Vascosan favored unadorned editions, he included no diagrams in his printing of Aelian. In July 2014 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bibliothèque numérique of the Bibliothèque nationale de France at this link.

A letter to Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange from his cousin William Louis, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg dated December 8, 1594 provides the earliest documentation of the influence of Aelian's Tactics on military activity in the late sixteenth century. In this letter William Louis discussed the use of ranks by soldiers of Imperial Rome as explained in Aelian's Tactica. Aelian discussed the use of the countermarch in the context of the Roman sword gladius and spear pilum, but William Louis realized that the same technique could work for men with firearms:

"I have discovered ex evolutionibus [a term that would eventually be translated as 'drill'] a method of getting the musketeers and others with guns not only to practice firing but to keep on doing so in a very effective battle order (that is to say, they do not fire at will or from behind a barrier. . . .). Just as soon as the first rank has fired, then by the drill [they have learned] they will march to the back. The second rank, either marching forward or standing still, will then fire just like the first. After that, the third and following ranks will do the same. When the last rank has fired, the first will have reloaded, as the following diagram shows: those little dots [stippelckens] show the route of the ranks as they leave after firing" (Parker, "Military Revolutions, Past and Present," in Yerxa (ed.) Recent Themes in Military History [2008] 13.)

Aelian's work was first translated into English, heavily annotated by Captain John Bingham, and published in London in 1616, as The Tactiks of Aelian; or Art of Embattailing an Army after ye Grecian manner Englished & illustrated with figures throughout: & notes upon ye Chapters of ye ordinary motions of ye Phalange by I. B. Th exercise military of ye English by ye order of that great generall Maurice of Nassau Prince of Organe &c Gouvernor & Generall of ye united provinces is added. As implied by the title, Bingham servered under Maurice of Nassau. The first edition has an elegant engraved title page and beautiful engraved versions of the formations on 50 inserted folding plates. Bingham's translation was revised by Ralph Mab and reissued in 1631. 

In 2012 Christopher Matthew issued The Tactics of Aelian or On the Military Arrangements of the Greeks. A New Translation of the Manual that Influenced Warfare for Fifteen Centuries. This edition, with parallel Greek and English texts, an informative introduction, and new, easier to comprehend versions of the diagrams, is highly recommended.

Hale, Renaissance War Studies (1983) 266, 438.  

Roberts, Keith, Pike and Shot Tactics 1590-1660, illustrated by Adam Hook (2010) is also highly recommended.

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One of the Few Scraps of Classical Literary Illustration on Papyrus Circa 250 CE

The Heracles Papyrus. (View Larger)

The Heracles Papyrus, preserved in Oxford at the Sackler Library (Oxyrhynchus Pap. 2331), is a fragment of about the labors of Heracles dating from about 250 CE. It contains three unframed colored line drawings of the first of the Labors, with the strangling of the lion set within the columns of cursive text. Found at Oxyrhynchus, it is one of the few surviving scraps of classical literary illustration on papyrus. The fragment is 235 by 106 mm.

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De rebus bellicis, Including Images of War Machines Circa 337 CE – 378 CE

Detail of image from De rebus bellicis showing fanciful ox-powered wheel boat.  Please click to view entire image.

The anonymous illustrated pamphlet De rebus bellicis, which survived in the late ninth century Codex Spirensis, consists of a series of suggestions for reforming the Roman Empire. It was written after the reign of Constantine, which ended with his death on May 22, 337, but before the battle of Adrianople fought on August 9, 378 between an army of the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens and Gothic rebels.

"Reforms of Imperial financial policy, of the currency, of provincial administration, of the army, and of the law are proposed in turn. The writer describes a number of new mechanical contrivances which in his opinion ought to form part of the equipment of the Roman army. To facilitate the task of constructing them he included in his treatise coloured drawings of what these contrivances should look like when completed. More or less faithful copies of his drawings have survived in several of the manuscripts" (Thompson, A Roman Reformer and Inventor. Being a New Text of the Treatise De Rebus Bellicis with a Translation and Introduction [1952] 1).

A brief work which would have had small chance of survival on its own, De rebus bellicis survived in the Codex Spirensis, a collection of thirteen different texts, which was noticed by scholars in the early 15th century, and copied several times. Though the "original" Codex Spirensis was later lost, De rebus bellicis, and some of the other texts in the codex which did not exist elsewhere, including the Notitia dignitatum, survived through the copies made at that time. These copies appear to have included faithful renditions of the numerous colored illustrations.

Thompson cited above includes black and white reproductions of the images of imaginative machines in De rebus bellicis. The images, some of which are available on the web, are especially notable because they are copies of late Roman book illustrations, very few of which survived.

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The Most Richly Illustrated Greek Papyrus Circa 350 CE

The recto side of P.Oslo I 4, a section of the mentioned papyrus. (View  Larger)

The "Oslo Papyrus" (P.Oslo 1.1), a magical papyrus roll about 8.3 feet long, written around the year 350 in 12 columns on the recto, and transversa charta (written at a 90 degree angle to the fibers) on the verso, is "the most richly illustrated Greek papyrus" (Diringer). It is an "erotic magical text, containing recipes, mixtures and medicaments, and, finally, instructions for opening the door, which may have been recommendation to a lover who wished to break into the house of the maiden." Seven of its columns of text are illustrated by figures of the demons invoked.  The illustration is done in the Egyptian style. The papyrus also includes "a remedy to prevent conception, the only one that exists in the world." 

The papyrus was donated to the University of Oslo by S. Eitrem in the 1930s, as part of a collection of 329 papyri and fragments from Karanis and Theodelphia which he purchased from dealers in Cairo and the Faiyum.

"It may, therefore be argued that even if we have not sufficient evidence to show that the Greek art of book illustration descended from the Egyptian, there can be no doubt that the latter had a strong influence on the origin and development of the Greek ornamentation and illustration of books. In Weitzmann's opinion, the so-called papyrus style probably originated in pre-Hellenistic Egypt and was only adapted and further developed by the Greeks; furthermore 'Alexandria was probably the actual centre which provided the facilities for the development of roll illustration as a new branch of Greek art.'

"There is no evidence, however, that 'illumination' of books was practised in ancient Greece or Rome on a large scale. Indeed the earliest preserved MSS, are free from ornamentation, and the earliest codices extant show a minumum of colour" (Diringer, The Illuminated Book: Its History & Production [1967] 29-30).

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The Earliest Dated Codex with Full-Page Illustrations 354 CE

Title page from the Chronography of 354. (View Larger)

The Chronography of 354, also known as the Calendar of 354, is an illuminated manuscript produced for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentius for the year 354. It is the earliest dated codex with full page illustrations; however none of the original survived. It is thought that the original may have existed in the Carolingian period, when a number of copies were made, with or without illustrations. These were copied during the Renaissance.

♦ The Calender of 354 is signed by Furius Dionysius Filocalus, with the word "titulavit," as creator of the titles which "display great calligraphic mastery. Whether or not he also executed the drawings is unknown" (Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work [1992] 4), but Furius Dionysius Filocalus is the first known name associated with the production of a specific book.

"The most complete and faithful copies of the illustrations are the pen drawings in a 17th century manuscript from the Barberini collection (Vatican Library, cod. Barberini lat. 2154.) This was carefully copied, under the supervision of the great antiquary Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, from a Carolingian copy, a Codex Luxemburgensis, which was itself lost in the 17th century. These drawings, although they are twice removed from the originals, show the variety of sources that the earliest illuminators used as models for manuscript illustration, including metalwork, frescoes, and floor mosaics. The Roman originals were probably fully painted miniatures.

"Various partial copies or adaptations survive from the Carolingian renaissance and Renaissance periods. Botticelli adapted a figure of the city of Treberis (Trier) who grasps a bound barbarian by the hair for his small panel, traditionally called Pallas and the Centaur.

"The Vatican Barberini manuscript, made in 1620 for Peiresc, who had the Carolingian Codex Luxemburgensis on long-term loan, is clearly the most faithful. After Peiresc's death in 1637 the manuscript disappeared. However some folios had already been lost from the Codex Luxemburgensis before Peiresc received it, and other copies have some of these. The suggestion of Carl Nordenfalk that the Codex Luxemburgensis copied by Peiresc was actually the Roman original has not been accepted. Peiresc himself thought the manuscript was seven or eight hundred years old when he had it, and, though Mabillon had not yet published his De re diplomatica (1681), the first systematic work of paleography, most scholars, following Schapiro, believe Peiresc would have been able to make a correct judgment on its age" (Wikipedia article on the Chronography of 354, accessed 11-25-2008).

In December 2013 a digital facsimile from the Codex Vaticanus Barberini latinus 2154 (=R1) as reproduced in Josef Strzygowski, Die Calenderbilder des Chronographen vom Jahre 354, Series: Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. vol. 1. Berlin:G. Reimer (1888), was available at this link. That website also included much valuable scholarly apparatus. A digital version of Strzygowski's complete work was available at this link.

The standard printed edition is Salzman, On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (1990).

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Herald of Christianity and Magus: One of the Oldest Surviving Illustrated Codices Circa 380 CE

Vergilius Vaticanus

The Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225; also known as the Vatican Virgil or Vatican Vergil) is an illustrated manuscript written in Rome in rustic capitals toward the end of the fourth century, containing fragments of Vergil's (Virgil's) Aeneid and Georgics. It is one of the oldest sources for the text of the Aeneid,  and one of the oldest surviving illustrated codices on any subect. Therefore some of its images represent firsts in book illustration. For example, the image of the seige of Troy on leaf 19 recto is probably the oldest image of warfare in a codex.

The Vatican Virgil is also the oldest of three surviving lllustrated manuscripts of classical literature. The two others are the Vergilius Romanus (circa 450) and the Ambrosian Iliad (Ilias Ambrosiana) (493-508). Before passing into the Vatican Library, the Vergilius Vaticanus, of which seventy-five leaves survive, belonged to the humanist and poet, Giovanni Giovano Pontano, to the poet, literary theorist and cardinal Pietro Bembo, and to the humanist, historian and archaeologist, Fulvio Orsini.

"It is Italy that has left us the greatest legacy of books and literature from the late Roman world. In the Italy of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries there were probably still stationers who employed scribes to produce books and well as scribes and artists who worked independently. The Codex Vaticanus [same as Vergilius Vaticanus] of Virgil and the Quedlinburg fragment of the Book of Kings in the Vetus Latin version are two products of this professional scribal activity from the end of the fourth century. Both manuscripts might have originated in the same scriptorium" (Bernhard Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne [2007] 3-4).

Note: In his dating of the Quedlinburg fragment, and his consideration that both might have been produced by the same shop, Bischoff, who originally wrote his essays in German between 1966 and 1981, differs from later scholarship. 

"Even as the Roman empire collapsed, literate men acknowledged that the Christianized Virgil was a master poet.. . . . The Aeneid remained the central Latin literary text of the Middle Ages and retained its status as the grand epic of the Latin peoples, and of those who considered themselves to be of Roman provenance, such as the English. It also held religious importance as it describes the founding of the Holy City. Virgil was made palatable for his Christian audience also through a belief in his prophecy of Christ in his Fourth Ecologue. Cicero and other classical writers too were declared Christian due to similarities in moral thinking to Christianity.

•"In the Middle Ages, Virgil was considered a herald of Christianity for his Ecologue 4 verses (Perseus Project Ecl.4) concerning the birth of a boy, which were read as a prophecy of Jesus' nativity.

•"Also during the Middle Ages, as Virgil was developed into a kind of magus, manuscripts of the Aeneid were used for divinatory bibliomancy, the Sortes Virgilianae, in which a line would be selected at random and interpreted in the context of a current situation" (Wikipedia article on Virgil, accessed 12-03-08).

Possibly coincident with the type facsimile publication in 1741 of the text of the fifth century Codex Mediceus of Virgil, an edition of the illustrations of the Vergilius Vaticanus and the Codex Romanus engraved by Pietro Santi Bartoli was published in Rome: Antiqvissimi Virgiliani codicis fragmenta et picturae ex Bibliotheca Vaticana : ad priscas imaginum formas a Petro Sancte Bartholi incisae. Romae : ex Chalcographia R.C.A., apud Pedem Marmoreum, 1741. This contained 58 engraved plates reproducing images from the Vergilius Vaticanus plus 6 additional illustrations from the Codex Romanus. Catalogue records indicate that Bartoli's images may have been first published separately in 1677.

In 1782 Bartoli's engravings were reissued in an excellent edition combining images from both Virgil manuscripts together with related images from ancient engraved gems depicting events in Virgil.  The new edition was entitled Picturae antiquissimi Virgiliani codicis Bibliothecae Vaticanae a Petro Sancte Bartoli aere incisae accedunt ex insignioribus pinacothecia picturis aliae veteres gemmae et anaglypha, and published in Rome by Venantius Menaldini. The frontispiece, engraved title and dedication of this edition are spectacular. The 1782 edition contains 124 images plus the engraved frontispiece, title, and dedication.

In 1899 the Vatican Library issued a black and white facsimile of the Vatican Vergil as the first of its facsimile series, Codices e vaticanis selecti phototypice expressi, vol. 1. In 1980 they followed this with a facsimile in color as Codices e vaticanis selecti phototypice expressi, vol. 40. The best and most exact facsimile was issued by Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz, Austria in 1984. That edition reproduced the manuscript and its 19th century red morocco binding precisely, and included a commentary volume in English by David H. Wright. The definitive study of the manuscript, which places it within the artistic and cultural context of its time, is Wright's The Vatican Vergil. A Masterpiece of Late Antique Art (1993).

Reynolds, Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics (1983) 434.

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The Oldest Surviving Illustrated Biblical Manuscript Circa 390 CE

The recto side of Folio Two of Quedlinburg Itala. (View Larger)

The Quedlinburg Itala fragment consists of six folios from a large  illuminated manuscript of an Old Latin translation of the Bible. It is the oldest surviving illustrated biblical manuscript, and according to Bernhard Bischoff, it may date from the end of the fourth century. If so, it was probably created in Rome.

"The fragments were found in the bindings of books in the town of Quedlinburg. The illustrations are grouped in framed miniatures occuping an entire page. There are between two and five miniatures per page, with the corresponding text being on separate pages. The illustrations, although much damaged, are done in the illusionistic style of late antiquity. . . .

"Much of the paint surface is lost revealing the underlying writing that gives instructions to the artist who should execute the pictures. Translation of the text: "You make the tomb [by which] Saul and his servant stand and two men, jumping over pits, speak to him and [announce that the asses have been found]. You make Saul by a tree and [his] servant [and three men who talk] to him, one carrying three goats, one [three loaves of bread, one] a wine-skin." (Wikipedia article on Quedlinburg Itala fragment, accessed 11-29-2008).

The fragment is preserved at the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne (2008) 5.

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The Charioteer Papyrus Circa 400 CE

The Charioteer Papyrus, a fragment of an illustration from an unknown work of literature, was arguably produced in Alexandria about the year 400.

"It is one of the finest surviving fragments of classical book illustration. Unlike other surviving illustrated fragments of papyrus, such as the Romance Papyrus and the Heracles Papyrus, which have illustrations that are little more than mere sketches, the Charioteer Papyrus is sensitively drawn and finely colored. It shows portions of six charioteers in red or green tunics. Although there is not any text on the fragment, it undoubtedly served an illustration for a literary work, perhaps serving as an illustration for the chariot race at the games at the funeral of Patroclus in the Iliad."

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"The Earliest Evidence for Tooling on a Leather Bookbinding" Circa 400 CE

Page 215 of MS G.67, depicting the acts of the apostles. (View Larger)

An illuminated manuscript on vellum of the first half of the Acts of the Apostles (G. 67) written in Coptic of the Middle Egyptian dialect around the year 400, and presumably the first half of a two-voume set, is preserved in the Morgan Library and Museum.

"There is a miniature in the final quire of a crux ansata flanked by two peacocks and bearing three smaller birds. It is the earliest-known Coptic miniature. The place of discovery of this Coptic Acts has never been revealed, but it appeared in the antiquarian book trade in 1961 together with a Coptic Gospel of Matthew that must have belonged to the same find. This latter is now in the possession of William Scheide. Its script is very similar to that of the Glazier Acts, its dialect is the same, and the leaf size of both manuscripts is very nearly identical. Their small format suggests that they were made for private use. The Glazier Acts was originally dated as early as the fourth century, but recently a more generalized dating in the fifth century has been argued.

"The binding of the Scheide Matthew is now quite damaged, with loss of the entire spine or backstrip, but was identifical in type to that of the Glazier Acts. Apart from its boards, all that now remains are carbonized portions of the hinging strips. At least two other Coptic codices, also dated to the fifth century, still retain bindings of this type. One of them is in the Morgan Library, M. 910: a complete Coptic Acts, in the Sahidic dialect. Though severely damaged and partly distingetrated, from what remains the system of wooden boards, backstrip, hinge strips (four), and wrapping strips can be clearly reconstructed. The other example, a Sahidic Mark and Luke, is in the Palau-Ribes collection of the University of Barcelona.

"The fine state of preservation of the Glazier Acts binding, and especially of the goatskin backstrip is so fresh as to have cast some suspicion on its authenticity. However, considering the even more ancient Nag Hammadi find, it should not be assumed a priori that the binding is too good to be true, and that leather could not survive and remain flexible for so long. There have been various losses; the backstrip once extended at both ends, so that it could be folded over the top and bottom edges of the leaves for additional protection. The top extension is now frayed, and that at the bottom has been torn away. Two of the three wrapping strips survive, one only partially; and two of the bone securing pegs terminating the strips. Neither strip is now attached to the board. There are only remains of what were originally two plaited leather place marks, once laced into the upper board, one into the lower. In addition to fillets, the backstrip was stamped with a small tool of concentric circles, a common Coptic decorative pattern repeated on the bone pegs. This is the earliest evidence for tooling on a leather bookbinding.

"Three Egyptian bindings dated to the sixth century have survived in bindings which appear to exhibit later, fancier evolutions of this style; two are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and one in the Freer Gallery, Washington. The techniques of these bindings have not been entirely deciphered, but in all three examples, the number of hinging holes on the boards was greatly increased, to three dozen or more. In none of the three are there any signs of linkage between sewing and covers--with with the Glazier Acts and others of its group, only glue held the covers to the codex. The backstrips of the two Chester Beatty bndings were stamped with pictorial tools. The wooden covers of the Freer Gospels (a Greek text, but of Egyptian origin) are painted with portraits of the evangelists, two on each cover. It is generally thought that these painted figures were added later, perhaps in the seventh century, and were not part of the orignial conception of the binding. The evangelists are depicted holding codices, a traditional iconography, and it is curious to note that these are quite clearly represented as possessing jewelled covers. . . . "(Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbinding: 400-1600 [1979] 9-10).

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The Oldest Extant Book Illustrations of Plants Circa 400 CE

The Johnson Papyrus, a fragment of an early fifth century herbal. (View Larger)

The Johnson Papyrus (London, Wellcome Library, MS 5753) is a fragment of an early 5th century Greek codex written in Egypt, containing the oldest extant book illustrations of plants. It was discovered by J. da M. Johnson, in 1904 while he was working in Antinoë (Antinopolis), Egypt. Johnson later became Printer to the University of Oxford.

One side of the papyrus shows a sphere of dark blue-green leaves supported by some small scraggly roots. Below the illustration is a fragment of Greek text. The illustrated plant has been identified as  comfrey, symphytum officinale. The reverse side shows "phlommos, perhaps mullein" (Conrad, et al, The Western Medical Tradition 800 BC to AD 1800 [1995] Fig. 10, p. 10).

Both sides of the papyrus fragment are illustrated in color in Ford, Images of Sciences. A History of Scientific Illustration (1993) 23.

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The "Architecture" of Early Latin Gospel Books 400 CE – 800

In 1961 Patrick McGurk issued Latin Gospel Books From A. D. 400 to A. D. 800. Of the approximately 1566 codices that survived from this period McGurk identified and studied 138 Gospel books in European libraries, and one in St. Petersburg. McGurk's study grew out of his 1954 doctoral disseration which was titled The Architecture of Latin Gospel Books before A. D. 800, and some of the most useful aspects of his 1961 book were his general observations on the structure of Gospel books— what he called "architecture." I quote some of his more interesting observations below:

"Those Gospel books that survive from the two hundred and fifty years between A. D. 400 and A. D. 650 are uniform both in their appearance and in their scribal traditions. They are nearly all written in that clearly set book hand, uncial, and their gatherings are noramally quaternions. Had they been written one, two or three centuries earlier, they would probably have been more varied in their make up and in their script, and would thus have reflected a more formative period in the making of codices; as it is, the range of tentative book hands in which many 3rd, 4th and 5th century classical fragments are written, and the variety of quires and formats found in the Chester Beatty papyri and in the earlier Greek and Coptic Christian books are absent from our 5th, 6th and 7th century uncial Gospels. Because they are so uniform and so numerous, they form the common classical standard by which the deviations of later Gospel books can be measured. (McGurk p. 7)

"Colophons like margins were given generous allowance of space [in the earliest Gospel books]. In the earliest Greek papyrus rolls the colophon was given only a little space; its function seemed either to give a heading to a particular work or else to announce its end; explicitum nobis usque ad su cornua librum. The colophons of the Chester Beatty papyri look reserved and discreet when contrasted with the florid creations of the Codex Alexandrinus. The colophon provided many of the sober uncial manuscripts with the only scope or theme possible for ornament. Again and again, it is found not squeezed at the bottom of a column as in the rolls, but filling a whole page and adorned with dashes and swirls, ropes, ivy leaves and dots. Eventually, the colophon written in large monumental capitals across a single page, acquired the appearance of an inscription; it is the quality that imitations like the incipit pages of the Franco-Saxon school or the description pages of Royal I.E. VI tried to posess. Specifically Christian colophons are found in only three of the earlier Gospel books." (McGurk 9-10)

"The opening of Gospels are not distinguished by the use of a different script; they are marked by a restrained austere intial letter and one or two lines in a differently coloured ink. The initials are not until the 7th century made the subject or ornament or decoration. And with the exception of the Cambridge Corpus Gospels . . . no book survives with illustrations. The Cambridge Gospels possessed at least two cycles of pictures, arranged in compartments in a rectangular box, and these were placed one in the middle (at the end of St. Mark) the other at the end, of the book. In this way, the Cambridge Gospels differed both from the Eastern picture Gospels, which concentrated their illustrations with the Canon Tables at the head of the book, and from books like the Codex Sinopensis or the Virgil Vaticanus, which distributed their pictures throughout a text. In addition, a picture of the evangelist and his symbol, accompanied by more Gospel miniatures, prefaced each Gospel, those for Matthew, Mark and Luke facing the opening page of the Gospel text, that for John facing the first page of the prologue to John, a variant position found in some later books, both Latin and Greek. The Cambridge Gospels, which, in its layout of the uncial script on a page, is as disciplined as the other uncial books, bears witness to the existence of illustration in some early Latin Gospel codices" (McGurk 10)

"The unformity of the uncial books down to about A. D. 650 constrasts with variety and indiscipline of books later than that date, and ilustrates the unifying scribal work of the Roman church. It is true that most of these early books were probably written in Italy and that therefore the uniformity may only reflect an Italian cohesion. But recent work in epigraphy as well as comparison between manuscripts attributed to different parts of the Roman world do not reveal fundamental differences inscript or in methods of arranging apage or making up a book in France and Italy, Africa and Spain. When the Gothic version of the Gospels was sent down in codex form, its arrangement, appearance and structure were the same as those of the codices of the Latin world. The initials, the colophons, the Gospels grouped in sets of quires, the silver ink, the purpose purachement, the very script of the Codex Usaliensis [Codex Argenteus] are those of the Brescia or Verona Gospels.

"The emergence of barbarian scripts—and of the barbarian kingdoms—is reflected in changes in the structure and lay out of the Roman Gospel book. And the surviving numbers of Insular Gospel books, as well as the fact that the finest books of the Carolingian period are made in Northern Europe, reflect a switch in eccleiastrical energy and direction. The changes in the lay out of a page and arrangement of a codex introduced by Insular and Continental scribes had a permanent effect, and the Carolingian books, in spie of their self-conscious classicism, adopted many scribal distinctions which had first made their appearance in the 7th and 8th centuries—distinctions in the use of scripts in the first lines, on first pages, in colophons, and in prefaces. These aspects of Carolingian scribal methods—the earliest copying of classical forms and the conserving of post-classical themes—can be paralelled in Carolingian poetry. The Carolingian Gospel books, like the themes of Gottschalk or the elegiac metres of Alcuin, looked back to a Late Antique world tinged by the intervening centuries of barbarism. If the early purple codices of Verona nd Brescia had not survived, the Carolingian Metz Gospels. . . . would have presented the modern palaeographer with a good approximation of their models. They could never have been more than approximations because the Metz books have the same relation to their models as Italian Renaissance copies of inscriptions have to their originals or the early Humanist hand has to the Caroline minuscule" (McGurk 18-19).

(This entry was last revised on April 13, 2014.)

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Fragments of a Fifth or Sixth Century Codex Circa 450 CE – 550

Fragment 26v of the Cotton Genesis, depicting Abraham. (View Larger)

The Cotton Genesis, a luxury manuscript with many illuminations, is one of the oldest surviving illustrated biblical codices. However, most of the manuscript was destroyed in the Cotton library fire in 1731, leaving only eighteen charred, shrunken scraps of vellum, preserved in the British Library. It is thought that the manuscript originally extended to more than 440 pages with approximately 340 miniature paintings that were framed and inserted into the text column.

"The miniatures were executed in late antique style comparable to Catacomb frescoes. Herbert Kessler and Kurt Weitzmann argue that the manuscript was produced in Alexandria, as it exhibits stylistic similarities to other Alexandrian works such as the Charioteer Papyrus.

"The Cotton Genesis appears to have been used in the 1220s to design 110 mosaic scenes in the atrium of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, after it was brought to Venice following the sack of Constantinople in 1204. The manuscript arrived in England, and was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton [Robert Bruce Cotton] in the 17th century." (Wikipedia article on Cotton Genesis, accessed 11-26-2008).

Regarding what some of the missing or fragmentary images might have looked like see Marion Wenzel, "Deciphering the Cotton Genesis Miniatures: Preliminary Observations Concerning the Use of Colour"(1987). In February 2014 this paper was available from the British Library website at this link.

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"A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication" 476 CE – 1500

In November 2014 I obtained a copy of A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication by Marco Mostert of the University of Utrecht, published by Brepols in Turnhout, Belgium in 2012. This bibliography includes 6,843 publications under sixteen headings— far more publications on many more topics than I would have guessed were in existence. In due time, as I work through selected studies listed in this bibliography, entries citing it will undoubtedly appear in HistoryofInformation.com. As a bibliographer myself I am particularly interested in the ways that information is organized. Therefore I have quoted the entire Contents organizational scheme of the book below:

Table of Contents



How to Use This Bibliography

Chapter 1. Introductions

1.1 Theory of Literacy and (Written) Communication
1.2 Anthropological and Sociological Contributions to the Debate
1.3 Psychological Contributions to the Debate
1.4 Linguistic Contributions to the Debate
1.5 Literacy and (Written) Communication (in the Middle Ages)
1.5.1 The Münster School
1.5.2 The Freiburg School

Chapter 2. Surveys of the Introduction and Development of Written Culture

2.1 From Antiquity to the Present
2.2 Antiquity
2.2.1 Biblical Antiquity and Early Christianity
2.2.2 Classical Antiquity
2.2.3 Greek Antiquity
2.2.4 Roman Antiquity
2.2.5 Late Antiquity
2.3 Byzantium
2.4 The Middle Ages
2.4.1 Early Middle Ages
2.4.2 Later Middle Ages
2.5 Italy
2.5.1 Italy in the Early Middle Ages
2.5.2 Italy in the Later Middle Ages
2.6 Iberian Peninsula
2.7 France
2.8 Germany
2.8.1 Germany in the Early Middle Ages
2.8.2 Germany in the Later Middle Ages
2.9 Low Countries
2.10 England
2.10.1 England in the Early Middle Ages
2.10.2 England in the Later Middle Ages
2.11 Ireland and the ‘Celtic Fringe’
2.12 Scandinavia
12.13 The Eastern Baltic Shores
2.14 East Central and Eastern Europe
2.14.1 East Central Europe: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland
2.14.2 The Balkans (without Byzantium)
2.14.3 Eastern Europe: The Russias
2.15 Jews
2.16 The Islamic World
2.17 After the Middle Ages

Chapter 3. Forms of Non-Verbal Communication

3.1 Middle Ages – General
3.2 Symbolic Spaces, Public and Private
3.3 The Senses
3.3.1 Smells
3.3.2 Flavours
3.4 Colours
3.5 Visual Images
3.5.1 Visual Images in Antiquity
3.5.2 Visual Images in Byzantium
3.5.3 Visual Images in the Middle Ages Visual Images in the Early Middle Ages Visual Images in the Later Middle Ages
3.5.4 Visual Images after the Middle Ages
3.6 Visual Images and Texts
3.6.1 General Visual Images and the Illiterate
3.6.2 Visual Images and Texts in Antiquity
3.6.3 Visual Images and Texts in Byzantium
3.6.4 Visual Images and Texts in Islam
3.6.5 Visual Images and Texts in the Middle Ages Visual Images and Texts in the Early Middle Ages Visual Images and Texts in the Later Middle Ages
3.6.6 Visual Images and Texts after the Middle Ages
3.7 Sound and Noise
3.7.1 Music
3.8 The Human Body
3.9 Gestures
3.9.1 Gestures from Antiquity to the Present
3.9.2 Gestures in Antiquity
3.9.3 Gestures in Byzantium
3.9.4 Gestures in the Middle Ages Gestures in the Early Middle Ages Gestures in the Later Middle Ages
3.9.5 Gestures after the Middle Ages
3.10 Sign Language
3.11 Dance
3.12 Clothes
3.13 Symbolic Objects
3.14 Laughter

Chapter 4. Ritual

4.1 Theory of Ritual
4.2 (Ritualised) Emotions
4.3 Ritual – General Surveys
4.4 Ritual in the Middle Ages
4.5 Ritual in Early Modern Europe
4.6 Forms of Ritual
4.6.1 Forms of Ritual: Feasts
4.6.2 Forms of Ritual: Meals and Banquets
4.6.3 Forms of Ritual: (Table) Manners
4.7 Representation, Political Ritual and Ceremony
4.7.1 Representation
4.7.2 The Notion of Political Ritual
4.7.3 Political Ritual – General Surveys
4.7.4 Political Ritual in Antiquity
4.7.5 Political Ritual in the Middle Ages Political Ritual in Early Medieval Europe Political Ritual in Later Medieval Europe
4.7.6 Rituals of Rule: Acclamations, Coronations and Investitures
4.7.7 Rituals of Rule: Festive Entries
4.7.8 Rituals of Rule: The Meeting of Rulers
4.7.9 Rituals of Rule: Assemblies, Councils and Counsel
4.7.10 Rituals of Rule: The Lit de Justice
4.7.11 Rituals of Rule: Oaths, Pacts and Peace-Making
4.7.12 Rituals of Rule: On The Battlefield
4.7.13 Rituals of Rule: Staged Emotions
4.7.14 Rituals of Rule: Weddings
4.7.15 Rituals of Rule: Funerals
4.7.16 Rituals of Rule: The Papacy
4.7.17 Rituals of Rule: The Aristocracy
4.7.18 Rituals of Rule: The Towns
4.8 Rituals in Literature

Chapter 5. Language

5.1 Thinking about Language
5.2 Language in Antiquity
5.3 The Problem of Latin
5.3.1 Latin: General
5.3.2 Christian and Late Latin
5.3.3 Latin as Mother Tongue: From Latin to Romance
5.3.4 Latin as Father Tongue: Medieval Latin
5.3.5 Neo-Latin
5.4 The Problem of the Vernaculars
5.5 The Problem of Translation
5.6 Languages in Europe
5.6.1 Languages in the Italian Peninsula
5.6.2 Languages in the Iberian Peninsula
5.6.3 Languages in France
5.6.4 Languages in Switzerland
5.6.5 Languages in the German-speaking World
5.6.6 Languages in the Low Countries
5.6.7 Languages in the British Isles: Generalities Languages in the British Isles: England Languages in the British Isles: Scotland Languages in the British Isles: The ‘Celtic Fringe’ in the British Isles: Ireland in the British Isles: Wales
5.6.8 Languages in Scandinavia
5.6.9 Languages on the Eastern Shores of the Baltic
5.6.10 Languages in East Central and Eastern Europe: Generalities Languages in East Central Europe: Bohemia, Poland and Hungary Languages in Eastern Europe: The Russias
5.6.11 Languages in South Eastern Europe (Including Byzantium)
5.6.12 Languages in the Middle East
5.7 Language as a Means of Distinction
5.8 Forms of Oral Communication
5.8.1 Forms of Oral Communication: Silence
5.8.2 Forms of Oral Communication: Battles of Words
5.8.3 Forms of Oral Communication: Proverbs
5.8.4 Forms of Oral Communication: Riddles
5.8.5 Forms of Oral Communication: Gossip
5.8.6 Forms of Oral Communication: Addressing the Ruler
5.8.7 Forms of Oral Communication: Law and Justice
5.8.8 Forms of Oral Communication: Administration
5.8.9 Forms of Oral Communication: Blasphemy, Curses and Other Verbal Injuries
5.8.10 Forms of Oral Communication: Parliamentary Rhetoric
5.8.11 Forms of Oral Communication: Battlefield Language
5.8.12 Forms of Oral Communication: Shouting

Chapter 6. Oral and Written Memory

6.1 Classical Antiquity
6.2 Middle Ages
6.3 “Lieux de Mémoire”
6.4 The Past in Primarily Oral Societies
6.5 Oral Tradition
6.5.1 Oral Tradition in Antiquity
6.5.2 Oral Tradition in the Middle Ages Oral Tradition in the Early Middle Ages Oral Tradition in the Later Middle Ages
6.5.3 Oral Tradition in Literary Texts
6.5.4 Oral Tradition in Historiography

Chapter 7. Teaching, Mainly of Reading and Writing

7.1 Teaching in Antiquity
7.2 Teaching in the Middle Ages
7.2.1 Teaching in the Early Middle Ages
7.2.2 Teaching in the Later Middle Ages
7.2.3 The Medieval University
7.3 Teaching in Islam
7.4 Jewish Education

Chapter 8. Production and Use of Written Texts

8.1 Script and Script Forms
8.2 Runes, Inscriptions, Graffiti and Wax Tablets
8.3 Book Production and Use
8.3.1 Book Production in Antiquity, Byzantium and the Islamic World
8.3.2 Book Production in the Middle Ages Book Production in the Early Middle Ages Book Production in the Later Middle Ages
8.4 Producing Charters and Archival Documents
8.5 Reading and the Reception of Texts
8.5.1 Reading in Antiquity
8.5.2 Reading in Byzantium
8.5.3 Reading in the Middle Ages Reading in the Early Middle Ages Reading in the Later Middle Ages
8.5.4 Reading in Early Modern Times
8.5.5 Reading, Lay-out, Manuscript Research and Editorial Techniques
8.6 The Printed Word

Chapter 9. The Preservation and Wilful Destruction of Written Texts

Chapter 10. Correspondence, Messengers and the Postal System

10.1 Messengers and Ambassadors

Chapter 11. Mandarin Literacy

Chapter 12. The Use of Writing by Different Social Groups

12.1 Clergy and Laymen
12.1.1 Secular Clergy
12.1.2 Regular Clergy
12.2 Aristocrats
12.3 Peasants
12.4 Town Dwellers
12.5 Women
12.5.1 Women Before the Middle Ages
12.5.2 Women in the Middle Ages
12.5.3 Women in the Early Middle Ages
12.5.4 Women in the Later Middle Ages
12.5.5 Religious Women
12.5.6 Lay Women: Queens and Noblewomen
12.5.7 Lay Women: Town Dwellers

Chapter 13. Uses of Writing in Government, Management and Trade

13.1 Legislation and Law
13.2 Charters
13.3 Jurisdiction and Dispute Settlement
13.4 Government
13.5 Notaries Public and Their Work
13.6 Management
13.7 Trade

Chapter 14. Literature

14.1 ‘Oral’ Literature
14.2 (Oral) Epic
14.3 The Composition of (Mainly) Oral Literature
14.4 Performance
14.5 The Bible as Literature
14.6 Classical Literature
14.6.1 Classical Greek Literature
14.6.2 Classical Latin Literature
14.6.3 Late Antique Literature
14.7 Byzantine Literature
14.8 Medieval Literature
14.8.1 Medieval Latin Literature
14.8.2 Literature in the Italian Peninsula
14.8.3 Literature in the Iberian Peninsula
14.8.4 Literature in France
14.8.5 Literature in the German-Speaking World
14.8.6 Literature in the Low Countries
14.7.9 Literature in the British Isles Literature in the British Isles: England in the Early Middle Ages Literature in the British Isles: England in the Later Middle Ages Literature in the British Isles: The ‘Celtic Fringe’
14.7.10 Literature in Scandinavia
14.7.11 Literature in East Central and Eastern Europe
14.7.12 Literature in the (mainly Arabic) Middle East
14.8 Drama, Theatre, Feast and Spectacle

Chapter 15. Religion and Writing

15.1 Before the Middle Ages and Generalities
15.2 Middle Ages
15.3 Mission
15.4 Liturgy
15.5 Sermons and Preaching
15.6 Hagiography
15.7 Visions, Dreams and Prophecy
15.8 The Magic of the Written Word

Chapter 16. The Symbolism of the Book

Subject Index

Index of Modern Authors and Editors

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The Only Illustrated Homer from Antiquity 493 CE – 508

Achilles sacrificing to Zeus from the Ambrosian Iliad. (View Larger)

Fifty-eight miniatures cut out of a 5th century illuminated manuscript on vellum of the Iliad of Homer are known as the Ilias Ambrosiana (Ilia picta). The manuscript is thought to have been produced in Constantinople during the late 5th or early 6th century, specifically between 493 and 508. "This time frame was developed by Ranuccio Bandinelli and is based on the abundance of green in the pictures, which happened to be the color of the faction in power at the time" (Wikipedia article on Ambrosian Iliad, accessed 11-30-2008).

The images from the Ambrosian Iliad are the only surviving portions of an illustrated copy of Homer from antiquity. Along with the Vergilius Vaticanusand the Vergilius Romanus, this incomplete manuscript of the Iliad is one of only three illustrated manuscripts of classical literature that survived from antiquity. The Iliad images

"show a considerable diversity of compositional schemes, from single combat to complex battle scenes. This indicates that, by that time, Iliad illustration had passed through various stages of development and thus had a long history behind it. It seems mere chance that neither an illustrated Odyssey nor any of the other Greek epic poems has survived" (Weitzmann,  Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination [1977] 13).

Before it was preserved in the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, Milan, the Ilias Ambrosiana fragment was in the library of humanist, botanist, and collector, Gian Vincenzo Pinelli, whose library of hundreds of manuscripts and roughly 8500 printed works was probably the greatest in 16th century Italy.

Nuovo, "The Creation and Dispersal of the Library of Gian Vincenzo Pinelli", Mandelbrote et al (eds) Books on the Move: Tracking Copies Through Collections and the Book Trade (2007) 39-68.

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500 CE – 600

One of Few Surviving "Scientific" Manuscripts from Late Antiquity Circa 500 CE – 1554

A page from Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum, depicting a perspective of a house and the boundaries of the property on which it was built. (View Larger)


The Corpus agrimensorum romanorum, a Roman treatise on land surveying, the earliest text of which is preserved  in the 5th or 6th century codex known as Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelff. 36.23 Augusteus 2, is one of the few surviving illustrated, non-literary or non-religious texts from late antiquity. The manuscript text is written in an uncial script, with red letters indicating the beginnings of paragraphs.  The codex is preserved in the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel.

♦ In 1554 the Corpus agrimensorum romanorum was first published in print by Pierre Galland and scholar printer Adrien Turnèbe in Paris as De agrorum conditionibus, & constitutionibus limitum, Siculi Flacci lib. I . Iulii Frontini lib. I. Aggeni Urbici lib. II. Hygeni Gromatici lib. II. Variorum auctorum ordines finitionum. De jugeribus metiundis. Finium regundorum. Lex mamilia. Coloniarum pop. Romani descriptio. Terminorum inscriptiones & formae. De generibus lineamentorum. De mensuris & ponderibus. Omnia figuris illustrata. Parisiis, M. D. LIIII. Apud Adr. Turnebum typoraphum regium. 

Galland and Turnèbe worked

"from a manuscript found in the monastery of St. Bertin at St. Omer during a ‘humanist tour’ of Northern France and Flanders undertaken around 1545, the time that Turnèbe was teaching at the University of Toulouse. In the preface Galland says that they visited each monastery in turn and ‘carefully collected old manuscripts like keen-scented dogs’ (quoted by Lewis, p. 38). The illustrations are of ‘boundary stones, properties, cities, roads, rivers, and swamps, as well as diagrams of the cosmos. The areas to be surveyed are shown in plan from a bird’s-eye view, so that their dimensions can be reproduced accurately.

"Mountains, cities, buildings, and boundary stones, by contrast, are shown receding into space according to the technique that Vitruvius called 'scene drawing' (scaenographia). This scaenographia is not the one-point perspective of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries but rather the Roman technique of varying viewpoints’ (Rowland p. 135). The fact that the Agrimensores manuscripts are illustrated is in marked contrast to the surviving manuscript sources for Vitruvius, none of which retain the illustrations mentioned in the text" (Roger Gaskell, Catalogue 47 [2012] No. 22, with illustrations).

Rowland, The Culture of the High Renaissance (1998). Lewis, Adrien Turnèbe (1512–1565): A Humanist Observed 1998).

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Possibly the Earliest Surviving Illuminated Christian Manuscripts Circa 500 CE – 650

The manuscript before and after restoration and repagination. Image from June 2010 edition of The Arts Newspaper. (View Larger)

The Gospels of Abba Garima, an illuminated gospel book in two volumes written on vellum in the Ge'ez language and preserved in the Abba Garima Monastery east of Adwa, in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia, were, according to legend, written and partly illuminated by the Ethiopian missionary Abbu Garima, who is thought to have arrived in Ethiopia in 494 CE. Most outside scholars and scientists previously agreed that the gospels, based on Garima's teachings, were written centuries after his death, probably by priests in the tenth century. However recent radiocarbon dating carried out at Oxford University suggested a date between 330 and 650 CE for their creation, opening the possibility that the gospels were actually created by Abba Garima. If the Abba Garima Gospels date from the time of Abba Garima (circa 500)they are possibly the earliest surviving illuminated Christian manuscripts.

"The survival of the Garima Gospels is astonishing, since all other early Ethiopian manuscripts seem to have been destroyed during turbulent times. Very little is known about the history of the Abba Garima Monastery, but it may have been overrun in the 1530s by Muslim invaders. More recently, in 1896, the area was at the centre of resistance to Italian forces. The monastery's main church was destroyed by fire in around 1930.

"The survival of the Garima Gospels may have been due to the fact that they were hidden, perhaps for centuries or even for more than a millennium. The hiding spot may have been forgotten, and it could have been rediscovered by chance in relatively modern times.

"In 1520, Portugues chaplain Francisco Álvarez visited the monastery and recorded that there was a cave (now lost or destroyed), where Abba Garima was reputed to have lived. Álvarez reported that the monks would descend into it by ladder to do penance. Although speculation, it is possible that the Gospels may have been hidden in this cave" (http://ethiopianheritagefund.org/artsNewspaper.html, accessed 07-10-2010).

In 2007 the English binder and restorer Lester Capon did a partial restoration of bindings of the Abba Garima Gospels and wrote about it with great photos in the Skin Deep blog of leather manufacturers J. Hewit & Sons under the title of Extreme Bookbinding.

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Probably the Most Beautiful of the Earliest Surviving Scientific Codices Circa 512

An illustration of illustration of the species 'Akoniton napellus,' folio 67v. (View Larger)

The oldest surviving copy of Pedanius Dioscorides's treatise on medical botany and pharmacology, De materia medica, is an illuminated Byzantine manuscript produced about 512 CE. Dioscorides, a Greek military physician who served in the Roman army of the emperor Nero, wrote De materia medica in the first century CE. The Anicia Juliana codex also contains the earliest illustrated treatise on ornithology. It is one of the earliest surviving relatively complete codices of a scientific or medical text, one of the earliest relatively complete illustrated codices on any medical or scientific subject, and arguably the most beautiful of the earliest surviving scientific codices. It also contains what are probably the earliest surviving portraits of scientists or physicians in a manuscript.

The manuscript was produced for the Byzantine princess Anicia Juliana, the daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius, who had been emperor of the western empire in 472 CE. "The frontispiece of the manuscript, the first donor portrait in the history of manuscript illumination, features her depiction, flanked by the personifications of Magnanimity and Prudence, with an allegory of the "Gratitude of the Arts" prostrate in front of her. The encircling inscription proclaims Juliana as a great patron of art" (Wikipedia article on Anicia Juliana, accessed 11-22-2008).

For this and other commissions Juliana may be considered the first non-reigning patron of the arts in recorded history.

"Splendid though the figures in the Codex Vindobonensis are, they reveal a naturalism so alien to contemporary Byzantine art that it is obvious that they were not drawn from nature but derived from originals of a much earlier date—as early, at least, as the second century AD. They vary, however, very much in quality and are clearly not all by the same hand, possibly not even all after the work of a single artist. In the text accompaying eleven of them there is association with the writings of Krateuas. All these figures are admirable, and clearly by the same hand; it must therefore seem certain that they, at all events, are derived from drawings by Krateuas himself" (Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal [1979] 17).

The story of the manuscript's survival is relatively well documented:

"Presented in appreciation for her patronage in the construction of a district church in Constantinople, the parchment codex comprises 491 folios (or almost a thousand pages) and almost four hundred color illustrations, each occupying a full page facing a description of the plant's pharmacological properties. . . .

"In the Anicia codex, the chapter entries of De Materia Medica have been rearranged, the plants alphabetized and their descriptions augmented with observations from Galen and Crateuas (Krateuas), whose own herbal probably had been illustrated. Five supplemental texts also were appended, including paraphrases of the Theriaca and Alexipharmaca of Nicander and the Ornithiaca of Dionysius of Philadelphia (first century AD), which describes more than forty Mediterranean birds, including one sea bird shown with its wings both folded and open" (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/materiamedica.html, accessed 11-22-2008)

From the time of its creation "Nearly nine centuries were to pass before we have further knowledge of the whereabouts of the codex. Then we learn that in 1406 it was being rebound by a certain John Chortasmenos for Nathanael, a monk and physician in the Prodromos Monastery in Constantinople, where seveteen years later it was seen by a Sicilian traveler named Aurispa. After the Muslim conquest of the city in 1453 the codex fell into the hands of the Turks, and Turkish and Arabic names were then added to the Greek. A century later it was in the possession of a Jew named Hamon, body physician to Suleiman the Magnificent, and it was presumably either by Hamon or by his son, who inherited it, that Hebrew names were also added" (Blunt & Raphael, op. cit., 15).

"Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, ambassador of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I to the Ottoman court of Süleyman, attempted to purchase the Anicia codex in 1562 but could not afford the asking price. As he relates at the end of his Turkish Letters (IV, p.243),

"One treasure I left behind in Constantinople, a manuscript of Dioscorides, extremely ancient and written in majuscules, with drawings of the plants and containing also, if I am not mistaken, some fragments of Crateuas and a small treatise on birds. It belongs to a Jew, the son of Hamon, who, while he was still alive, was physician to Soleiman. I should like to have bought it, but the price frightened me; for a hundred ducats was named, a sum which would suit the Emperor's purse better than mine. I shall not cease to urge the Emperor to ransom so noble an author from such slavery. The manuscript, owing to its age, is in a bad state, being externally so worm-eaten that scarcely any one, if he saw if lying in the road, would bother to pick it up.

"In 1569 Emperor Maximilian II did acquire the Anicia codex for the imperial library in Vienna, now the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), where it is designated Codex Vindobonensis Med. Gr. 1. (from Vindobona, the Latin name for Vienna) or, more simply, the Vienna Dioscorides." (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/materiamedica.html, accessed 11-22-2008)

(This entry was last revised on 05-03-2014.)

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The Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius Circa 550 – 625

Folios 33v-34r from MS. Ashmole 1431, an eleventh century copy of the Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius. (View Larger)

The Latin herbal associated with the name of Apuleius Barbarus or Apuleius Platonicus or Pseudo-Apuleius, in distinction to Lucius Apuleius Platonicus, author of The Golden Ass, may have been put together from Greek material around 400 CE or might have been compiled earlier, possibly in Roman Africa. Nothing is known about the so-called author except his name, which may have actually been a pseudonym of Lucius Apuleius Platonicus, who described himself as "half-Numidian half-Gaetulian," and who was born in Madaurus (now M'Daourouch, Algeria), a Roman colony in Numidia on the North African coast, bordering Gaetulia.

"The history of the work has been lost with the passage of time, leading to endless speculation on the identity of the author. In all probability 'Apuleius Platonicus' was a pseudonym of Lucius Apuleius of Madaura in Numidia born AD124, [author of The Golden Ass,] while other writers refer to the him as Pseudo-Apuleius. A study of the book shows some of the plants being endemic to North Africa and lends support to the idea that the author was African" (Wikipedia article on Herbarium Apulei Platonici, accessed 06-13-2009).

The earliest surviving manuscript of this herbal, a codex containing a Latin herbarium and other medical texts, was produced in Southern Italy or Southern France in the sixth or early seventh century. It is preserved in the library of Universiteit Leiden, Vos. Lat. Q9. 

"Its figures are much inferior those of the Vienna Dioscorides, and, like them, derivative, though of different origin; it is, therefore, in spite of being denounced by Singer as 'a futile work, with its unrecognisable figures and incomprehensible vocabulary', and by Frank J. Anderson as a 'straw desperately grasped at by despairing men', in its way a landmark in the history both of botany and of botanical illustration. It was probably written in the south of France and for many generations was unhappily to provide western illustrators from Italy to the Rhine with a storehouse for plunder " (Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal [1979] 28).

The Herbarium Apulei was one of the most widely used remedy books of the Middle Ages. Over 60 medieval manuscripts of the text survive.

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The Codex Sinopensis or Sinope Gospels Circa 550

Detail from page of Sinope Gospel.  Please click to see entire image.  From C. de Hamel, The Book. A History of The Bible (2001)  54.

The Sinope Gospels, a fragmentary sixth century illuminated Greek Gospel book written on purple vellum, takes its name from Sinop or Sinope in Turkey, where the fragment was discovered in 1899. In layout and illustrations, and because of their production on purple vellum, the Sinope Gospels are stylistically related to the Rossano Gospels.

The Sinope Gospels are thought to have been produced in Syria, Palestine or even possibly in Mesopotamia. Of the 43 leaves that survive, 42 are preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscrits occidentaux (Supplement Grec. 1286). 


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One of the Oldest Surviving Illuminated Manuscripts of the New Testament Circa 555

An illumination of Christ found in the Rossano Gospels. (Click to view larger.)

The Rossano Gospels, preserved in the Cathedral of Rossano (Calabria), Southern Italy, were written following the reconquest of the Italian peninsula from the Ostrogoths by the Byzantine Empire, after a war which began in 535 and ended decisively in 553. The codex includes the earliest surviving evangelist portrait, showing Mark writing on a scroll.

"Also known as Codex purpureus Rossanensis due to the reddish (purpureus in Latin) appearance of its pages, the codex is one of the oldest surviving illuminated manuscripts of the New Testament. The now incomplete codex has the text of the Gospel of Matthew and the majority of the Gospel of Mark, with only one lucanae (Mark 16:14-20). A second volume is apparently missing. Like the Vienna Genesis and the Sinope Gospels, the Rossano Gospels are written in silver ink on purple dyed parchment. The large (300 mm by 250 mm) book has text written in a 215 mm square block with two columns of twenty lines each. There is a prefatory cycle of illustrations which are also on purple dyed parchment.

"The codex was discovered in 1879 in the Italian city Rossano by Oskar von Gebhardt and Adolf Harnack in cathedra Santa Maria Achiropita.

"The text of the Codex is generally Byzantine text-type in close relationship to the Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus. The Rossano Gospels, along with manuscripts N, O, and Φ, belong to the group of the Purple Uncials (or purple codices). Aland placed all four manuscripts of the group (the Purple Uncials) in Category V" (Wikipedia article on Rossano Gospels, accessed 01-02-2010).

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The Ashburnham Pentateuch Circa 580 – 620

A folio from the Ashburnham Pentateuch depicting Cane and Abel. (View larger)

The Ashburnham Pentateuch (sometimes called the Tours Pentateuch), a late sixth century or early 7th century illuminated manuscript of the Pentateuch, is the only western illuminated manuscript with narrative rather than purely decorative or iconic images that bridges the period between late antique and the Carolingian renaissance. It has been described by some scholars as Spanish, but probably came from Italy. One theory of its origin is that it was produced in the imperial scriptorium of Rome on commission from Galla Placidia to educate her son Emperor Valentinian III in the Christian doctrine. 

Though the manuscript originally contained all five books of the Pentateuch, it now lacks the whole of Deuteronomy as well as sections of the other five books. In Early Medieval Bible Illumination and the Ashburnham Pentateuch (2004) Dorothy Verkerk argued that the manuscript was written in Rome in the early seventh century, whence it traveled north to Fleury,

"where it was refurbished and given a decorated initial in the eighth century. From Fleury it was taken to Tours where a ninth-century addition was inserted and where it was studied, amended, copied, and emulated in manuscripts and frescoes. The manuscript was deposited at some point in the library of St. Gatien, and was moved to the Bibliothèque Municipale [at Tours] during the French Revolution, from where it was stolen, brought to England, and then finally returned to France in the nineteenth century" (Verbeek 58-59).

"It has 142 folios and 19 miniatures, and measures 372mm by 321mm. It is thought to have originally included as many as 68 full page miniatures. A full page table containing the Latin names of the books and Latin transliterations of the Hebrew names serves as a front piece to Genesis. The table is enclosed within a curtained arch. Some of the full page miniatures, such as that containing the miniature of Noah's Ark (folio 9r), contain a single scene. Other of the full page miniatures, such as that telling the story of Cain and Abel, contain many scenes which are placed in a register, with each scene having a different color background" (Wikipedia article on the Ashburnham Pentateuch, accessed 11-26-2008).

♦ The manuscript was at Tours when it was stolen in 1842 by mathematician, historian of science, palaeographer, and book thief, Guglielmo Libri, and sold by Libri in 1847, along with many other stolen manuscripts, to Bertram, 4th Earl of Ashburnham. In 1888 after a long and well-publicized dispute with the curator of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Léopold Delisle, the fifth Earl of Ashburnham sold the manuscript, along with other ancient French codices his father had purchased from Libri, to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where it is preserved today.

For a detailed account of Guglielmo Libri's role in the history of the Ashburnham Pentateuch see my book, Scientist, Scholar and Scoundrel (2013).

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600 – 700

The Naples Dioscorides Circa 625

Folio 90v of the Naples Dioscurides, a description of the Mandrake. (View Larger)

The Naples Dioscorides (Codex neapolitanus Ms. Ex Vindob. Gr. 1 Salerno) preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, is an early seventh century Greek herbal based on the De Materia Medica of the first-century Greek military physician Dioscorides (Dioscurides) containing descriptions of plants and  their medicinal uses. Until the early 18th century the manuscript was preserved in the Augustine monastery of San Giovanni a Carbonara in Naples. In 1718, the Habsburgs plundered it for the Viennese Court Library.  At the conclusion of the peace negotiations after World War I, in 1919, the codex returned to the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples.

"Unlike De Materia Medica, the text is arranged alphabetically by plant. The codex derives independently from the same model as the Vienna Dioscurides, composed ca. 512 for a Byzantine princess, but differs from it significantly: though the illustrations follow the same infered model, they are rendered more naturalistically in the Naples Dioscurides. Additionally, in the Naples manuscript, the illustrations occupy the top half of each folio, rather than being full page miniatures as in the Vienna Dioscurides. The plant descriptions are recorded below the illustration in two or three columns. The style of Greek script used in the manuscript indicates that it was probably written in Byzantine-ruled southern Italy, where ancient Greek cultural traditions remained strong, although it is not known exactly where it was produced. Marginal notes indicate that the manuscript had contact with the medical school at Salerno in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries" (Wikipedia article on Naples Dioscurides, accessed 02-03-2009).

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The Codex Amiatinus: the Earliest Surviving Complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate, Containing One of the Earliest Surviving Images of Bookbindings and a Bookcase Circa 688 – 716

Folio 5r of Codex Amiatinus, showing Ezra. (View Larger)

About 688 Abbot Ceolfrid (Ceolfrith) of Wearmouth-Jarrow, teacher of Bede, commissioned three complete Bibles of the "new translation" (tres pandectes novae translationis) to be copied at the Wearmouth-Jarrow scriptorium. These pandects resulted from intensive study of the biblical texts directed by Ceolfrid based on the library of Wearmouth-Jarrow, including a pandect of the "old translation" (Jerome's Latin Vulgate) which Ceolfrid had brought back from Rome after one of his two visits there, or which had been brought to Northmbria from Rome in 678 by the founder of the two monasteries, Benedict Biscop. That manuscript is thought to have been a "lost Vivarium manuscript" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries" in D. Stam (ed.) International Dictionary of Library Histories, I [2001] 105). This lost manuscript was most probably one of Cassiodorus's Bibles from the Vivarium at Squillace— probably the Codex grandior littera clariore conscriptus. "For centuries it [the Codex Amiatinus] was considered an Italo-Byzantine manuscript, and it was only recognized for its English production about a century ago" (Browne, Painted Labyrinth. The World of the Lindisfarne Gospels [2004] 9).

Two of Ceolfrid's new pandects were placed in each of the twin churches of Wearmouth-Jarrow. However, apart from a fragment known as the Ceolfrid Bible, only the third copy of the huge Bible, which Ceolfrid intended as a gift to the Pope, survived. This huge codex, later known as the Codex Amiatinus, completed by seven (some say nine) different scribes, is the earliest surviving manuscript of the complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate version, and is considered the most accurate copy of St. Jerome's text. It contains "a spectrum of scripts"—formal Uncial, Capituilar Uncial and Rustic Capital. These "furnish paleographical criteria for identifying other manuscripts produced in the scriptorium in the time of Abbot Ceolfrid and his successor Abbot Hwaetberht" (Parkes, The Scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Jarrow Lecture,1982, p. 3). (Other manuscripts produced at the scriptorium include the St. Petersburg Bede.)

The frontispiece of the Codex Amiatinus illustrated here shows a saintly figure, presumably the Old Testament prophet Ezra, or possibly Cassiodorus himself characterized as Ezra, writing a manuscript on his lap, and seated before an open book cupboard or armarium which contains a Bible in nine volumes, like the Codex grandior known to have been owned by Cassiodorus. This is one of the earliest surviving images of bookbindings, and also one of the earliest surviving images of an early form of bookcase. Clasps holding the covers of the bindings closed are clearly visible on the fore-edges of the bound manuscripts lying on the shelves—one of the earliest images of this binding feature. In Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings 400-1600 (1979; 57) Paul Needham suggested that the designs on the bookbindings as they are represented in the miniature bear similarities to the designs of early Coptic bookbindings.

To offer the Codex Amiatinus as a present to Pope Gregory II, Abbot Ceolfrid, made the long journey from England to Rome in old age, departing in 716. Though Ceolfrid died on the journey, his associates brought the volume to the Pope as a cultural "ambassador of the English nation." It was used in the revision of the Vulgate by Pope Sixtus V in 1585-90. 

One of the largest and heaviest of all medieval manuscripts, the single volume of the Codex Amiatinus weighs 75 pounds. The costs involved in its production were discussed by Richard Gameson in "The Cost of the Codex Amiatinus," Notes & Queries, 39, No. 1 (March 1992) 2-9. I quote from pp. 4-8 (excluding the many valuable footnotes, as usual):

"Measuring c. 505 x 340 mm. (with a written area of 360-75 x 260) and consisting of 1,030 folios, the Codex Amiatinus is a truly gigantic book. Its text, in which the hands of some seven scribes have been distinguished, is written through in stately uncial, two columns to the page, per cola et commata, and must been very time-consuming to produce, even given the efficient subdivision of labour that is apparent in it. Of the other seven extant bible or biblical codex fragments which are of early Anglo-Saxon origin one is written in half uncial, four in minuscule (generally cursive), one in hybrid minuscule, and one partly in hybrid minuscule, partly in half uncial - in each case their writing would have proceeded more quickly than that of Ceolfrith's volumes. The Codex Amiatinus is enhanced with a limited amount of decoration, including as a pictorial frontispiece to the Old Testament the much-reproduced image of the scribe Ezra at work, painstakingly copied from a mediterranean model. The inclusion of purple-stained pages futher underlines the care that was taken over the production and the opulence of its conception, an opulence that was entirely consonant with the exalted functions envisaged for all three volumes. The fact that the appearance and dimensions (480 x 355 mm; written area 360 x 255) of the leaves which remain from the companion volumes are closely comparable to those of Amiatinus suggests that they were in no way inferior to their extant sister.

"What then were the 'overheads' of this project? In the particular circumstances of the Wearmouth-Jarrow scriptorium (wherever that was and however it be construed) during the late seventh and early eighth century, time was always free - in the sense that no one was being paid per hour or per stint - and often of no great consequence: assuming there was no fixed deadline for a project, if the work were not finished this year then there was always next year, and if for some reason a stint could not be accomplished by one scribe, then there was always another. Consequently the manpower required to compile and write the three giant bibles, labour-intensive tasks though they undoubtedly were, cost nothing in real terms. It is the fabric alone that represents quantifiable expense and it is to this that attention has previously been directed and to which we must now turn. In his seminal study of the Codex Amiatinus published in 1967, Rupert Bruce-Mitford set out some basic data concerning the material that was required to make Ceolfrith's three bibles - data which has been quoted in suitably awed tones ever since - and there seems no reason to quibble with his statistics. Altogether the three volumes are likely to have consisted of some 1,545 bifolia of calf-skin. Now, since in order to obtain unblemished parchment sheets of c. 1010 x 680 mm one would require a new animal skin for each, making no allowance for wastage this represents the pelts of 1,545 calves. This is indeed a large number of animals and Bruce-Mitford rightly concluded that 'only rich and well-run communities could afford to produce books of this calibre'. Yet whether it necessarily implies the existence of great herds of cattle as he also surmised is not so clear, as we shall see; and it is worth pondering in more detail what sort of expense, and hence what sort of riches, it actually represented.

"Before addressing this question directly, however, we should consider the case of Ceolfrith's bibles in a broader historical perspective. It is worth pointing out that, although as has been emphasized, the creation of the three pandects was an exceptionally ambitious undertaking, it is unlikely that the twin foundation's need of skins for parchment dropped substantially during the following century; indeed given the obligation to meet the international demand for copies of the numerous works of their prolific house author, Bede, quite the reverse may well have been the case. In comparison with the Codex Amiatinus, the eighth-century Wearmouth-Jarrow copies of Bede's Historia Eccleiastica which are now in Leningrad and London are small and modestly conceived. Both are economically written in Anglo-Saxon minscule, decoration being confined to a minimum; the former consists of 162 folios, 270 x 190 mm. in size, the latter (in its fire-damaged shrunken state) of 200 folios, measuring 236 x 170 mm. In both these cases at least two and possibly more bifolia could be obtained from a single skin; but even so it is unlikely that fewer than thirty animals would have been needed to make each book. Not much less would have been required for the eighth-century Wearmouth-Jarrow copy of Bede, In Proverbia Salomonis, which is preserved in the Bodleian Library. Clearly to transcribe even a single copy of each of the nearly forty items on the list of works composed by Bede which he appended to the final book of his Historia Ecclesiastica would presuppose the pelt of several substantial herds; and far from confining themselves to single copies, the community seems to have been beleagured with requests for these texts from home and abroad. We may safely conclude that the Codex Amiatinus does not represent the peak of Wearmouth-Jarrow's parchment needs; rather it stands at the beginning of a period of consistently high if not higher consumption. The crucial point is that whatever the cost of the material of Ceolfrith's great project, the community continued to bear equivalent, if not greater 'publishing' expensives in the following generation.

"As our ignorance concerning the actual number of books written at a given Anglo-Saxon foundation in a particular year is equalled by our lack of knowledge about contemporary herd sizes, it is impossible to assess the economic implications of the need for skins for making books except in very general terms. It is evident that by 700 there must have been a much greater demand for this commodity in certain areas of the country than had been the case a century earlier; on the other hand, the imposition that this new use of skins represented (and hence its relative cost) should not be overestimated. In the case of Ceolfrith's bibles there are five considerations which suggest that the outlay reflected in the 1,545 calf-skins was not actually as formidable as the naked statistic of their number alone might seem to suggest.

"In the first place, the fact that Benedict Biscop had managed to equip his twin foundation with a large book collection acquired en masse from Rome, meant that at the end of the seventh century Wearmouth-Jarrow had less need than other ascendant or aspirant intellectual centres to copy texts for its library. Consequently it could more readily afford to deploy its resources in the production of monumental, and newly edited, deluxe volumes elegantly written in uncial letters. The cost of the Codex Amiatinus must be considered in relation to the singular circumstances of a house whose foundation endowment favoured the growth of a scriptorium which was specifically geared to the production of a modest number of high quality books.

"The use of a time-consuming script and the fact that the Codex Amiatinus as a whole was patently the product of painstaking workmanship alerts us to the second point, namely that progress on the project is likely to have been slow. Consequently, the slaughter of the 1,545 calves whose hides became the parchment of the three bibles was not a single act of preparation: on the contrary it represents the accumulation of an uncertain but undoubtedly considerable number of years. if as is not impossible, the project were initiated soon after Ceolfrith became sole abbot of the twin community in 688, while his decision to depart for Rome in 716 reflects the final completion of the presentation volume, then we have a potential working period of some twenty-eight years. Dividing the total of skins accordingly, we are left with an average annual requirement of fifty-five or so - hardly large herd. Now of course we do not know over how many seasons the project actually stretched and this is probably the maximum extreme; yet even if the work were accomplished from start to finish within a decade, which perhaps a not unreasonable estimate, the average annual requirement of skins is still only one hundred and sixty five.

"Thirdly, we should remember that these slaughtered calves did not just provide vellum: they also represented a very considerable number of hot dinners for someone! And once the flesh had been eaten and the hide taken for vellum, the carcasses could still make many other contributions to society -  the horns might be used as receptacles (to hold ink amongst other things) or be carved into spoons, the hooves and head could be boiled to make glue, the bones might be worked into any number of items such as combs and pins, or could be ground, mixed with dried blood and used as fertilizer, and so on. As each slaughtered animal provided very much more than just a pelt, the value of the parchment cannot simply be equated with the bare number of beasts it represents. The number of animals that were required for a book can of course be used to indicate its relative expense (showing that the Codex Amiatinus consumed at least seventeen times more resources than the Leningrad Bede for example), but it must be stressed that the absolute cost of the parchment in question was considerably less than the value of this total of animals.

"Fourthly, there is no reason to assume that Wearmouth-Jarrow itself (or any other young Christian establishment for that matter) was solely responsible for raising a sufficient number of animals to supply its parchment needs. Monastic animal husbandry, such as is alluded to in Bede's account of the Abbot Eosterwine of Wearmouth, no doubt accounted for some of the skins that were used, but equally many, if not the majority, were probably acquired as tithes from the surrounding lands. When kings and nobles granted estates to the new communities, in many cases they were simply tranferring to the religious house the ownership of, and hence the right to tithes of produce from, farmsteads that continued to be run by their existing tenants. The traditional occupants now merely owed their dues to the church rather than to a secular lord. The Laws of Ine (688 x 94) c. 70.1 enumerates a lengthy list of produce and livestock as the 'food rent' which is due from an estate of ten hides. We are ill informed about the details of such arrangements, but clearly organizing the annual supply of payments in kind from rent-owning properties was crucially important for the economic well-being of religious foundations. Equally clearly if these rights were to be used to underwrite the production of parchment, a purpose for which they were surely invaluable, measures must have been taken first to commute the dues to a relevant form and then to ensure the delivery of young beasts with suitable pelts. The latter is an issue to which we shall return. The key point to stress here is that the parchment consumption of Wearmouth-Jarrow should be considered in relation to the fact that by 716 the joint community had acquired the right to use the resources of an estate which consisted of at least 150 hides of land (the living of 150 families) - a considerable amount and undoubtedly a very useful and versatile resource.

"Finally, we should remember that is likely to have been standard farming practice at the time to reduce stock at the approach of winter rather than to try to carry all the herd or flock through (a point indirectly reflected in the Old English name for November, blothmonao, and one which receives pictorial commemoration in the scenes of slaughter that habitually illustrate this month in the calendars of later medieval manuscripts). Thus many calves were probably killed at this time, if not shortly after birth. Sucessful Anglo-Saxon animal husbandry implied, quite simply, a high annual slaughter rate. Clearly, then, the need to secure skins to make parchment could easily be integrated into the existing patterns of livestock farming and extensive usage of animal products. This is an important point; and as England's climate is and was generally well-suited to successful animal husbandry, it is unlikely that the need for parchment in the quantities in question placed any strain upon livestock and farming resources (or for that matter represented inconvenient competiton for raw materials to the tanning 'industry'). The fact that not one of the extant Anglo-Saxon manuscripts or fragments produced before c.800 is a palimpsest, although principally to be seen in relation to the circumstance that the leaves which are likely to have been available for re-cycling at this time would themselves have belonged to relevant, modern acquisitions in the Christian period, still perhaps provides some limited independent confirmation of the ready availability of skins for parchment in seventh- and eighth-century England. Parchment, we may conclude is likely to have been a valued and valuable but not essentially expensive commodity (a crucial distinction) in early Christian Anglo-Saxon England, and was certainly not one that would have been difficult to obtain. The amout of it that was actually required year by year to make Ceolfrith's three bibles was not especially great, as we have seen, particularly when considered in relation to Wearmouth-Jarrow's extensive resources. . . . "

The manuscript, long kept in the abbey of Monte AmiataAbbadia San Salvatore in Tuscany, from which its name is derived, is preserved in the Laurentian Library (Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana) in Florence.

Alexander, Insular Manuscripts 6th to 9th Century (1978) No. 7.

ABBOTS OF WEARMOUTH AND JARROW. Bede's Homily i. 13 on Benedict Biscop. Bede's History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow. The Anonymous Life of Ceolfrith. Bede's Letter to Ecgbert, Bishop of York. Edited and Translated by Christopher Grocock and I. N. Wood (2013).

(This entry was last revised on 08-24-2014.)

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700 – 800

The Most Lavishly Illustrated Byzantine Manuscript Circa 750 – 850

The Sacra Parallela (Parisinus Graecus 923), containing over 400 scenic illustrations and 1256 portrait busts, is the most lavishly illustrated surviving Byzantine manuscript. It is also the only illuminated copy of the Sacra Parallela, a florilegium of excerpts alphabetized under the concepts with which the author associated them. Authorship of the anonymous florilegium has sometimes been attributed, without a strong basis, to John of Damascus

In the classic study of this unusually large and complex manuscript, The Miniatures of the Sacra Parallela (1979), historian of ancient and Byzantine book illustration and iconography Kurt Weitzmann argued that the manuscript was made in Palestine in the first half of the 9th century, and that its illustration cycle was compiled from extensively illustrated prior editions of each of the various excerpted texts. Thus Weitzmann argued this version of the Sacra Parallela provided evidence and visual documentation for a group of earlier densely illustrated books, most of which did not survive. Other scholars suggested that production in Constantinople was also possible, and that the manuscript might have been produced in the eighth century instead of the ninth.

The manuscript is preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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800 – 900

The Leiden Aratea Manuscript of Ancient Constellations & the First Printed Facsimile of a Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Circa 818 – 1600

The Leiden Aratea (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, VLQ 79), an illuminated astronomical manuscript, was written and illuminated in Lorraine around 816 CE. It is a copy of a Latin translation from the Greek by the Roman general Claudius Caesar Germanicus (15 BCE - 19 CE), based on the Phaenomena (Φαινόμενα "Appearances") by the Greek didactic poet Aratus of Soli ( Ἄρᾱτος ὁ Σολεύς; circa 315-310 BCE – 240 BCE). The text was supplemented by portions of a second Latin version of Aratus's poem, written by Rufius Festus Avienus in the fourth century CE.

"The Phaenomena appears to be based on two prose works—Phaenomena and Enoptron (Ἔνοπτρον "Mirror", presumably a descriptive image of the heavens)—by Eudoxus of Cnidus, written about a century earlier. We are told by the biographers of Aratus that it was the desire of Antigonus to have them turned into verse, which gave rise to the Phaenomena of Aratus; and it appears from the fragments of them preserved by Hipparchus, that Aratus has in fact versified, or closely imitated parts of them both, but especially of the first.

"The purpose of the Phaenomena is to give an introduction to the constellations, with the rules for their risings and settings; and of the circles of the sphere, amongst which the Milky Way is reckoned. The positions of the constellations, north of the ecliptic, are described by reference to the principal groups surrounding the north pole (Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, and Cepheus), whilst Orion serves as a point of departure for those to the south. The immobility of the earth, and the revolution of the sky about a fixed axis are maintained; the path of the sun in the zodiac is described; but the planets are introduced merely as bodies having a motion of their own, without any attempt to define their periods; nor is anything said about the moon's orbit. The opening of the poem asserts the dependence of all things upon Zeus. From the lack of precision in the descriptions, it would seem that Aratus was neither a mathematician nor observer or, at any rate, that in this work he did not aim at scientific accuracy. He not only represents the configurations of particular groups incorrectly, but describes some phenomena which are inconsistent with any one supposed latitude of the spectator, and others which could not coexist at any one epoch. These errors are partly to be attributed to Eudoxus himself, and partly to the way in which Aratus has used the materials supplied by him. Hipparchus (about a century later), who was a scientific astronomer and observer, has left a commentary upon the Phaenomena of Eudoxus and Aratus, accompanied by the discrepancies which he had noticed between his own observations and their descriptions (Wikipedia article on Aratus, accessed 01-15-2016).

The 99 extant folios (225 x 200 mm) in the Leiden Aratea include 35 full-page miniatures, at least 4 of which are missing. The illustrations include some of the earliest artistic depictions of the constellations as known by the Greeks; however, the artist of the Leiden manuscript made no effort to place the stars accurately according to their positions in the sky, so the images cannot be considered true star charts. These images are presumed to be copies of miniatures made for a Late Antique manuscript, probably written in the mid-fourth or fifth century, and now lost. Written in narrow rustic capitals, the manuscript preserves the writting style and the squarish page format of the Late Antique, and its miniatures, framed as though they were independent paintings, reflect conventions developed in antiquity. Katzenstein suggests that the opening verses of the Leiden Aratea, in which Germanicus presents his work to a member of the imperial family of ancient Rome, may indicate that this copy was originally made for a member of the ruling Carolingian family (perhaps Judith, the second wife of Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne). She also suggests (p. 7) that the manuscript was "almost certainly in northern France, at the monastery of Saint-Bertin at Saint-Omer, by at least the early eleventh century, when it served as a basis of another manuscript of Aratus' poem now in the Bibliothèque Municipale in Boulogne."

Jacob Susius (Suys), Lord of Grysenoordt, about whom I have found little information, acquired the manuscript in Ghent in 1573, according to the Wikipedia. In 1600 the age of only 17, the young and apparently precocious, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), who later became a founder of international law, used the manuscript as a basis for his remarkable Greek and Latin extensively annotated edition entitled Syntagma Arateorum: Opus poeticae et astronomiae studiosis utilissimum published in Leiden by Christoph van Ravelingen (Raphelengius). Grotius's edition, which reproduced all of the images in the Leiden Aratea as black & white engravings by Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629), with letterpress renditions of the Latin text of the manuscript on facing pages, is considered the first printed facsimile edition of an illuminated manuscript. In his edition Grotius included the Greek text of Aratus, Cicero's Aratea with the lacunae supplied in the same meter by Grotius. Following his reproduction of the Carolingian / Late Antique style manuscript Grotius published an elaborate apparatus criticus with notes in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. He was, however, vague in his citations of previous printed editions or manuscripts that he used. One of the more significant of the Greek texts of Aratus, possibly used by Grotius, is the 14th century Codex Palatinus Graecus 40 at Heidelberg University. In January 2016 the relevant portion of this codex was available in digital facsimile at this link. In January 2016 a digital facsimile of Grotius's 1600 edition was available from Google Books at this link.

The Leiden Aratea was later in the library of Christina, Queen of Sweden, after which it came into the possession of her librarian, the Dutch scholar and manuscript collector Isaac Vossius (1618-89). It was acquired by Leiden University Library as part of their acquisition of Vossius's library in 1690. In January 2016 a complete digital facsimile of the manuscript was available from Leiden University at this link. A scholarly account of the manuscript, The Leiden Aratea: Ancient Constellations in a Medieval Manuscript by Ranee Katzenstein and Emile Savage-Smith, was published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1988. In January 2016 this was available online from the Getty Museum at this link.

Aratus's Phaenomena was among the earliest astronomical works to be published in print. It was first issued along with Manilius's Astonomicon by Ugo Rugerius and Doninus Bertochus of Bologna on March 20, 1474 (ISTC No. im00203000); the last edition printed in the 15th century was in Aldus Manutius's edition of a collection of classical works on astronomy issued in Venice, 1499 (ISTC No. if00191000). 


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"A Perfect Relationship between Text and Picture" Circa 820 – 830

Leaf 2r of the Stuttgart Psalter (Folio Bible 23 in the Wurttenmbergische Landesbibliothek). (View Larger)

The Stuttgart Psalter, which may have been produced in Saint Germain, France, is the earliest surviving psalter with a full set of illustrations—316 in all.

"Unlike similar codices, which restrict the illustrations to the margins, or the Utrecht Psalter, where they are placed at the beginning of each Psalm, the Stuttgart Psalter has on the average a picture for every ten verses, and often two or more lively scenes represented in each. The multi-colored initials and beginning words, and the elegant, open minuscule text in two colors add further dimensions to this brilliant book design. [It is] ". . . the first codex to be designed so that there is a perfect relationship between text and picture" (Wilson. The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle [1976] 30, 31).

The Stuttgart Psalter is preserved in the Württembergische Landesbibliothek. In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the manuscript was available at this link.

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"The most ingenious and expressive work of narrative art known from all of Late Antiquity" 820

Detail of folios 4v/5r of the Vaticanus Latinus 3868.  Please click to view entire image.

Vat. Lat. 3868, an illuminated manuscript of the comedies of Terence preserved in the Vatican Library, containing illustrations of 141 scenes from the plays, is one of four surviving copies of late antique illuminated manuscripts most probably copied at the court of Louis the Pious in the second decade of the ninth century.

In a monograph entitled The Lost Late Antique Illustrated Terence (2006) David Wright attempted to reconstruct the lost exemplar from which the manuscript was copied. He characterized this lost exemplar as "the most ingenious and expressive work of narrative art known from all of Late Antiquity."

"He argues that it was made at Rome around 400 AD, under the supervision of Calliopius, who is named on fol. 1v and 92r Feliciter Calliopio Bono Scholastico. Scholasticus could mean a teacher or a grammarian, it is not a term obviously linked to book production, though Wright regards the colophon as ‘a trade mark and an advertisement for the workshop’ and suggests that Calliopius was ‘the master of the scriptorium’. The final colophon Hrodgarius scripsit, in excellent large capitalis script, identifies the scribe, who has not been found elsewhere. The best of the three artists wrote the inscription Adelricus me fecit on the right-hand side of the cornice of the aedicule on fol. 3r. . . .

"The copying of classical texts on parchment in codices, rather than on papyrus rolls, was a fourth-century innovation, and the lost exemplar was ‘something of a pioneer in the design of a sumptuously presented codex’. Illustrations to Terence did not exist, and Wright suggests that staged performances of Terence's plays had ended some three centuries earlier. So the exemplar of the Vatican manuscript contained illustrations of the scenes which depended on the artist reading the text. Most impressive are the full-page frontispiece with two actors flanking an author portrait, and the full-page depictions of aedicules with masks for all of the characters in the individual plays (of which two were lost).  

"The copy is the work of three artists, of whom Adelricus was the best, though he had the smallest share of the work. The parchment is calf rather than sheep, and it has numerous minor defects, including holes in pages 9, 11, 19, 36, 43 (in body of figure), 53, 56 and 64. The figures are generally shown standing on a coloured baseline: on fol. 36v there are two figures in a garden, and in several scenes the figures stand in front of doorways, sometimes fitted with a central curtain or a decorated grille. Properties include a square-shaped casket (fol. 29r p. 51), a ring, birds and fishes as food, and money bags. Cratinus the lawyer holds wax tablets on fol. 82r and v. Many of the figures wear scarves and gesture with them. The figures are named in capitalis script, but in several cases the names are given to the wrong figure in a scene. Wright argues that there were names in the exemplar, which must imply that the scribe who copied them was singularly inept. The curious position of the prologue to the Phormio on fol. 77v, where the figure is to the left of a block of text, is not commented on.  

"The illustrations do not seem to have influenced manuscript illumination except for additional illustrated copies of Terence. The ninth-century Reims manuscript, Paris, BNF, Lat. 7899, has a full set of illustrations, while a Corbie copy has much cruder illustrations on the first eleven folios and spaces for further illustrations. Wright thinks both were copied from the lost exemplar. Adelricus was an accomplished artist, and presumably had a career. It may not be possible to explain why the court of Louis the Pious made such careful copies of late antique manuscripts, but it is important to recall that it did, and to envisage the possible resonances of such a response to non-Christian models. According to Thegan's biography Louis never raised his voice in laughter, and when the people laughed at scurri et mimi cum coraulis he did not smile. Paschasius Radbertus, in his memorial for Abbot Wala of Corbie, included a substantial passage from Terence, showing that he had studied the plays, as had Hincmar. The glosses in Vat. Lat. 3868 reveal that it was rapidly treated as a text to be studied, rather than simply a luxury book. Unfortunately Wright is silent on any evidence to be derived from these glosses, which are thought to be a Carolingian composition but which incorporate earlier material.  

"The scribe Hrodgarius wrote a very distinctive capital ‘H’ with an elongated ascender on the right slanting upwards from the crossbar to trail over the following letter. Such a form of ‘H’ is also found in fifth-century manuscripts and was presumably copied from the exemplar. He used an ‘or’ ligature with a prominent ‘r’. His form of ‘a’ lacks any upper shaft, and the upper bow of ‘g’ is generally open. The ligatures ‘ri’ and ‘ro’ occur infrequently. So far his script has proved impossible to localize. It is worth noting that fifteen verses from the prologue to the Heautontimoroumenos were copied onto the first leaf of Paris, BNF, Lat. 2109 in a script which E.K. Rand described as ‘decent rustic capitals’. The manuscript, a copy of Eugippius' Excerpta, was copied at St Amand at the same time as Vat. Lat. 3868. So there probably was a capitalis exemplar at St Amand which may have been the manuscript Wright is trying to reconstruct.  

"Wright reconstructs an exemplar of some 220 folios, each with an illustration of a single scene, with the text copied in rustic capitals in 22 lines per page. In his stylistic parallels for the date of this exemplar he strangely makes no mention of the mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, which Byvanck discussed in detail, though they show many similar poses and gestures. The scenes on the Susanna crystal have groupings of figures not unlike the Terence illustrations. We are getting a clearer sense of how Carolingian artists imitated Roman models of sacred art. That they were equally moved by the superb quality of secular illustration should remind us that beauty, old and new, is always powerful enough to be loved and to transform. That the exemplar of the Vatican Terence was so challenging to a group of artists in the 820s may be the most important of the features that Wright has so carefully recovered for us" (review by David Ganz http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-, 0254.2009.00292_20.x/full, accessed 09-15-2010).

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Medieval Natural History Bestseller 825 – 850

A folio from the Bern Physiologus. (View Larger)

The Bern Physiologus, an illuminated copy of the Latin translation, preserved at the Burgerbibliothek, Bern, Switzerland, was probably produced at Reims about 825 CE. It is one of the oldest extant illustrated copies of the Physiologus, a didactic text written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author in Alexandria, between the second and fourth centuries. 

"The Physiologus consists of descriptions of animals, birds, and fantastic creatures, sometimes stones and plants, provided with moral content. Each animal is described, and an anecdote follows, from which the moral and symbolic qualities of the animal are derived. Manuscripts are often, but not always, given illustrations, often lavish."

The book was translated into Latin in about 400, then into European and Middle-Eastern languages. Numerous illuminated manuscript copies survive.  For over 1000 years the text —a predecessor to bestiaries — retained its influence in Europe over ideas of the "meaning" of animals.  Medieval poetical literature is full of allusions that can be traced to the Physiologus tradition, and the text also exerted great influence on the symbolism of medieval ecclesiastical art: symbols like the phoenix rising from its ashes and the pelican feeding her young with her own blood remain well-known.

"Epiphanius used Physiologus in his Panarion and from his time numerous further quotations and references to the Physiologus in the Greek and the Latin Church fathers show that it was one of the most generally known works of Christian Late Antiquity. Various translations and revisions were current in the Middle Ages. The earliest translation into Latin was followed by various recensions" (Wikipedia article on Physiologus, accessed 11-27-2008).

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An Early Flat-Earth View of the World Circa 850

Cosmas Indicopleustes's map of the earth, from Topographia Christiana. (View Larger)

Around 550 Cosmas Indicopleustes (literally: "who sailed to India") wrote the copiously illustrated Topographia Christiana or Christian Topography, a work partly based on his personal experiences as a merchant on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean in the early 6th century. It is thought that the author served as a monk on Mt. Sinai after spending a career at sea. The earliest and best manuscript of this work, dating from the ninth century, and containing an early flat earth world map, is preserved in the Vatican Library.

The author provides a description of India and Sri Lanka during of the 6th century. He seems to have personally visited the Kingdom of Axum in modern Ethiopia and Eritrea, India and Sri Lanka. In 522 CE, he visited the Malabar Coast (South India).

"A major feature of his Topography is Cosmas' worldview that the world is flat, and that the heavens form the shape of a box with a curved lid, a view he took from unconventional interpretations of Christian scripture. Cosmas aimed to prove that pre-Christian geographers had been wrong in asserting that the earth was spherical and that it was in fact modelled on the tabernacle, the house of worship described to Moses by God during the Jewish Exodus from Egypt" (Wikipedia article on Early World Maps, accessed 11-26-2008).

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The Earliest Surviving Dated Complete Printed Book May 11, 868

A portion of the Diamond Sutra. (View Larger)

The Diamond Sutra, the earliest dated example of woodblock printing, and the earliest surviving dated complete book, was published in China on May 11, 868. A scroll sixteen feet long by 10.5 inches wide, made up of seven strips of yellow-stained paper printed from carved wooden blocks and pasted together to form a scroll 16 feet by 10. 5 inches wide, its text, printed in Chinese, is one of the most important sacred works of the Buddhist faith. 

The Diamond Sutra bears an inscription which may be translated as follows:

"reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Chieh on behalf of his parents on the fifteenth of the fourth moon of the ninth year of Xian Long (May 11, 868)."

A woodcut illustration at the beginning of  Diamond Sutra shows the Buddha expounding the sutra to an elderly disciple called Subhuti.  That is the earliest dated book illustration, and the earliest dated woodcut print.

"How did the Diamond Sutra get its name?

"The sutra answers that question for itself. Towards the end of the sermon, Subhuti asks the Buddha how the sutra should be known. He is told to call it ‘The Diamond of Transcendent Wisdom’ because its teaching will cut like a diamond blade through worldly illusion to illuminate what is real and everlasting" (http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/diamondsutra.html, accessed 06-14-2009).

The unique extant copy of the Diamond Sutra was purchased in 1907 by the archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein in the walled-up Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in northwest China from a monk guarding the caves known as the "Caves of a Thousand Buddhas." It is preserved in the British Library. 

♦ In May 2013 a digital facsimile of the Diamond Sutra was available from the Virtual Books section of the Online Gallery at the British Library at this link.

In January 2013 the British Library completed a decade-long project to conserve the The Diamond Sutra, and the posted a film produced by the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library about the sutra scroll, its science and its conservation: 

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900 – 1000

The Earliest Surviving Illustrated Surgical Codex Circa 900

Folio 201r of Florence, Laurentian Pluteus 74.7, depicting an orthopedic procedure involving a ladder and pulley. (View Larger)

The earliest surviving illustrated surgical codex was written and illuminated in Constantinople for the Byzantine physician Niketas (Nicetas) about 900 CE. It contains 30 full-page images illustrating the commentary of Apollonios of Kition on the Hippocratic treatise On Dislocations (Peri Arthron) and 63 smaller images scattered through the pages of the treatise on bandaging of Soranos of Ephesos. The Apollonian paintings represent various manipulations and apparatus employed in reducing dislocations; each of the images is framed in the Byzantine style in an archway of ornate design.

According to Karl Sudhoff, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Chirurgie im Mittelalter (1914) 4-7 the origins of these drawings go back to Alexandria or Cyprus where Apollonius wrote his commentary between 81 and 58 BCE, under the patronage of the king Ptolemaius (Ptolemy of Cyprus).

"They were undoubtedly transmitted directly from antiquity, and, therefore, represent the genuine Hippocratic traditions of surgical practice as transmitted through later Greek channels to Byzantium" (Garrison, Introduction to the History of Medicine 2d ed [1917] 108).

According to Vivian Nutton's article on the codex in Grafton et al eds., The Classical Tradition (2010) 638, the Nicetas codex "was included in the library of the Orphanage of Alexius Comnenus, and later in that of the Hospital of the Forty Martyrs." In 1492 or 1495 Greek scholar Janus Laskaris purchased the Nicetas Codex in Crete for Lorenzo de' Medici. By 1530 it belonged to Guilio de' Medici, Pope Clement VII, "who loaned it back to Lascaris for a proposed and never completed edition of the medical and surgical texts it contained. From a copy made by Lascaris, now in Paris in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Ferdinando Balami produced the first Latin translation of Galen's On Bones (1535). This copy, illuminated by Santorinos of Rhodes, entered the library of Cardinal Ridolfi, who arranged for yet a third copy to be prepared by Christoph Auer and sent as a present to Francis I in 1542. This volume, now also in the Bibliothèque Nationale, was taken to Paris by a young Florentine doctor Guido Guidi, who had prepared a Latin translation of the surgical texts" (Nutton, op. cit.) The original Nicetas codex was later acquired by Cardinal Nicolas Rudolfi, and is preserved in the Laurentian Library, Florence (Codex Lxxiv, 7).

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The Morgan Dioscorides Circa 930 – 970

Folio 114v of MS M 652, in the Pierpont Morgan Library. (View Larger)

MS M 652 in the Morgan Library & Museum, written in Greek miniscule and illuminated in Constantinople during the mid-10th century, contains an alphabetical five-book version of Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, including 769 illustrations and several headpieces and tailpieces, on 385 leaves.

Its contents, according to the Morgan Library's online description, are:

"fols. 1v-199v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book I. Roots and Herbs -- fols. 200r-220v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book II. Animals, Parts of Animals and Products from Living Creatures -- fols. 221r-242v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book III. Oils and Ointments. -- fols. 243r-269v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book IV. Trees -- fols. 270v-305v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book V. Wines and Minerals etc. -- fols. 306r-319v: Dioscorides, attr., On the Power of Strong Drugs to Help or Harm -- fols. 319v-327v: Dioscorides, attr., On Poisons and their Effect -- fols. 328r-330v: Dioscorides, attr., On the Cure of Efficacious Poisons -- fols. 331r-333v: A Mithridatic Antidote -- fols. 334r-338r: Anonymous Poem on the Powers of Herbs -- fols. 338r-361r, 377r-384v: Eutecnius, Paraphrase of the Theriaca of Nicander -- fols. 361v-375r: Eutecnius, Paraphrase of the Alexipharmaca of Nicander -- fols. 375r-376v: Paraphrase of the Haliutica of Oppianos (incomplete)."

The manuscript was bound in Byzantium in the 14th or 15th century in dark brown leather blind tooled in a lozenge pattern over heavy boards. It was in Constantinople in the 15th century, where it was owned by an Arabic-speaking person, who added inscriptions in Arabic and genitalia to some animals. In the 16th century it remained in Constantinople where was owned by Manuel Eugenicos, 1578 and listed in his library catalogue. By the nineteenth century the manuscript was in Italy where it was owned by Domenico Sestini, ca. 1820. Later it was in the collection of Marchese C. Rinuccini, Florence, 1820-1849 (MS Cod. 69). From the middle of the nineteenth century it appears to have been in England with the booksellers John Thomas Payne and Henry Foss, London, 1849-1857. In the Payne sale (London, Sotheby’s, Apr. 30, 1857) it was sold to Charles Phillipps for Sir Thomas Phillipps (Phillipps Collection, no. 21975).  In 1920 J. P. Morgan Jr. purchased the manuscript from Phillipps’s estate.

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"The Junius Manuscript": An Illustrated Codex of Old English Literature 930 – 960

Boldleian Library MS Junius 11,"The Junius manuscript" or "Caedmon manuscript," a tenth century illustrated collection of poems on biblical narratives, is one of the four major codices of Old English Literature. Its scheme of illustrations is unparalleled in other manuscripts of Anglo-Saxon poetry, suggesting that it may have been intended for devotional or teaching purposes. 

Its "... compilation was in two stages: the initial version of the manuscript contained GenesisExodus, and Daniel, and was the work of a single scribe. Later the final poem, Christ and Satan, was added by several other scribes. The manuscript contains numerous illustrations that are a fine demonstration of Anglo-Saxon drawing on religious topics; it appears that two illustrators worked independently on the manuscript. The first scribe left spaces in the text for other illustrations which were never completed" (Wikipedia article on Caedmon manuscript, accessed 12-24-2013).

A popular name for the codex is the "Caedmon manuscript," after an early theory, since debunked, that the poems it contains might be the work of the poet Caedmon

In December 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Oxford University Libraries at this link.

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The Paris Psalter: The Most Famous Illuminated Byzantine Codex Circa 950

Produced in Constantinople in the second half of the tenth century, the Paris Psalter (BnF Ms. gr. 139), is the most famous illuminated Byzantine codex. It is unique among the seventy-five illuminated Byzantine psalters that survived for its large size, for the quality of script and text decoration, and for its fourteen magnificent full-page images, seven of which are bound one after another depicting events of David's life in chronological order, the remaining seven connected with the text. The most famous miniature in the DAvid series depicts David playing the harp at the side of the seated female figure of “Melody". Around this central group are the figure of Echo, various animals charmed by music, and even a male figure symbolizing the town of Bethlehem. The composition was probably based on a Graeco-Roman wall painting that depicted Orpheus charming the world with his music.

The psalter is associated with the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, who has been called "The Scholar Emperor." In A Short History of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich wrote about Constantine:

"He was, we are told, a passionate collector—not only of books and manuscripts but works of art of every kind; more remarkable still for a man of his class, he seems to have been an excellent painter. He was the most generous of patrons—to writers and scholars, artists and craftsmen. Finally, he was an excellent Emperor: a competent, conscientious and hard-working administrator and an inspired picker of men, whose appointments to military, naval, ecclesiastical, civil and academic posts were both imaginative and successful. He did much to develop higher education and took a special interest in the administration of justice"(Norwich p. 181).

The images in the Paris Psalter

"are famous for their apparent classicism in figural style, painting, technique, and coloration. Among the classicizing features are personifications that have been incorporated in the compositions. In the scene of Moses receiving the tablets from God on Mount Sina (fol. 422v) for example, which refers to the Canticle of Moses in Deuteronomy, a seminude figure seen from the back is seated on a rock in the left foreground. Identified as Mount Sinai by the inscription, he holeds a dead tree stump, which together with his nakedness, signifies the barren wateland of the setting. IN the upper-left corner Moses stretches upward to the hand of God to read for the tablets. At the summit of the moutain the Burning Bush is visible. Bel;ow, in the center, a group of Israelites engaged in conversation awaits Moses' return. To the right, on an almost separate plan, Moses is shown again, this time attentively listening to God's instructions on how to build the temp that will house the Tablets of the Law. His finger-to-chin gesture indicates that he is thinking.

"In addition to personifications of time and place that help the view to identify the event depicted, the psalter illustrations contain personfiications representing astract concepts and virtues such as clemency, penance, and wisdom. These figures are suually interpreted as the clearest sign of a revived interest in the antique. For this reason the Paris Psalter as a whole has served as one of the key docuemnts supporting the notion of a Macdedonian renaissance during the tenth century. The large full-age illustrations ahve also given rise to the theory of an 'aristocratic' system of psalter illumination in Byzantium. It was thought otherwise incomprehensible that a repertoire of pagan forms and subjects could ahve a place within a manuscript of Christian liturgical or private devotion" (Evans & Wixom eds., The Glory of Byzantium. Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A. D. 843-1261 [1997] No. 163). Catalogue of an Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The manuscript was acquired in 1557-59 by Jean Hurault of Boistaillé, French ambassador to Contantinople, and a distinguished collector of mainly Greek, but also Arabic, and Hebrew manuscripts and early printing. After his death in 1572 Hurault's library passed to his brother André Hurault de Maisse, who was also a book collector. Later the library came into the possession of his cousin, Philippe Hurault de Cheverny, bishop of Chartres. After the Bishop's death the collection of 409 manuscripts was sold to Louis XIII for 12 000 francs. Louis XIII deposited them in the Bibliothèque royale, which was nationalized in the French Revolution, and is now known as the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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1000 – 1100

The Oldest Surviving Illustrated Manuscript Written in Arabic 1009 – 1010

Folios 325r and 326v of MS. Marsh 144, depicting the constellation Orion. (View Larger)

According to historian Jonathan Bloom, the oldest surviving illustrated manuscript written in Arabic on any subject is a manuscript on paper of Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's Treatise on the Fixed Stars preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford [Ms. Marsh 144. p. 165].

"The pictures show the configurations of the stars in the forty-eight constellations recognized by Ptolemy, but the figures are dressed in Oriental rather than classical Greek garb. Al-Sufi wrote in his text that although he knew of another illustrated astronomical treatise, he copied his illustrations directly from images engraved on a celestial globe, indicating that he was not working in a manuscript tradition. According to the eleventh-century scholar al-Biruni, al-Sufi explained that he had laid a very thin piece of paper over a celestial globe and fitted it carefully over the surface of the sphere. He then traced the outlines of the constellations and the locations of individual stars on the paper. Al-Biruni later commented that this procedure 'is an [adequate] approximation when the figures are small but it is far [from adequate] if they are large.' The Oxford manuscript of al-Sufi's text was copied from the author's original by his son" (Bloom, Paper Before Print. The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World [2001]  143-44 and figure 51).

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A Medieval Encyclopedia, of which the Autograph Manuscript Survived Circa 1090 – 1125

A T-O design from Lambert's Liber Floridus. (View Larger)

Between 1090 and 1125 Lambert, Canon of Saint-Omer, France, compiled the Liber Floridus, a kind of encyclopedia of Biblical, chronological, astronomical, geographical, cartographic, theological, philosophical and natural history compiled from 192 different works. Lambert's Liber floridus was the first of the encyclopedias of the High Middle Ages that slowly superseded the work of Isidore of Seville. The original autograph manuscript, completed in 1120 and dedicated to Saint Omer (St. Audomar) by Canon Lambert, is preserved in Ghent University Library, though its latter portion did not survive. In February 2014 Ghent University Library provided an unusually detailed, well documented, website for the manuscript, and a digital facsimile at this link.

Liber floridus includes various maps including a mappa mundi. The Ghent manuscript, the oldest of the known copies, includes a map of parts of Europe and two climate-zone drawings based on the Macrobian model as an attempt to make a complete world map. The parts of the European map sketch show interesting and odd representations. 

"In this treatise Lambert compiled a chronicle or history that reaches to the year 1119; it contains various maps, including a mappamundi, which originally like the text, has a date at least earlier than 1125, and has survived in three forms: in the manuscripts of Ghent, Wolfenbüttel, and Paris. In spite of a clearly expressed intention of supplying a complete world map, the oldest copy, the Ghent manuscript, only includes Europe, two Macrobian-zone sketches and a T-O design. This particular manuscript copy seems to have been written by Lambert himself, certainly not later than 1125, and contains some remarkable peculiarities with regards to Europe. The Wolfenbüttel and Paris copies, dating from about 1150, are simply different copies from the same original, which was doubtless of Lambert's own draftsmanship (although in a monograph entitled Die Weltkarte des Martianus Capella, R. Uhden has pointed out that the world map contained in the Wolfenbüttel copy carries a legend ascribing the original to Martianus Capella. The correctness of the ascription is further verified by the identity of various other legends on the map with passages in the Satyricon or De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii . . . by Martianus Capella). These maps, which are based upon Capella's design, contain an equatorial ocean but are quite different than the Macrobian zone-maps (Slide #201). The ecliptic is usually shown, with the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the generalization of the coastlines is rounded in nature. Most of these maps are characteristically oriented to the East (although some show a northern orientation), and have a large amount of text in the southern continent. The climatic zones may or may not be explicitly shown. Regularly shaped islands are usually found in the ocean surrounding the northern continent.

"While containing a less detailed Europe, both the Wolfenbüttel and Paris manuscripts possess a complete mappamundi, together with a special and interesting addition. Nowhere else in medieval cartography do we find greater prominence assigned to the unknown southern continent - the Australian land of the fabled Antipodes (termed Antichthon by the ancients). On the Paris manuscript, where this land occupies half of the circle of the earth, a long inscription defines this 'region of the south' in terms not unlike those used on the St. Sever - Beatus map (Slide #207D)" (http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/EMwebpages/217mono.html, accessed 12-26-2008)

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1100 – 1200

The Codex Ebnerianus and Early Manuscript Scholarship Circa 1110

The Codex Ebnerianus, a Greek language illuminated manuscript of the New Testament, was probably written in Constantinople at the beginning of the 12th century during the Comnenian Period.

"Its full-page illustrations make it one of the finest of a large group of manuscripts which are the most important representatives of the Comnenian revival in pictorial art.

"The cycle of illustrations is unique among surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts in that it places author portraits and scenes connected with the authors at the beginning, not only of the Gospels, but also at the beginning of Acts and some of the Epistles" (Meredith, "The Illustration of Codex Ebnerianus", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes XXIX (1966) 419.

The codex is named after the Nuremberg diplomat, historian, scholar and patron, Hieronymus Wilhelm Ebner von Eschenbach who founded a library, the Bibliotheca Ebneriana, using his extensive collection. While the codex belonged to Ebner von Eschenbach in 1738 the scholar Conrad Schoenleben issued a pamphlet on it entitled Egregii codicis graeci Novi Testamenti manuscripti quem Noribergae servat vir illustris Hieronymous Gvilielmus Ebner. According to Roland Folter, Schoenleben's 44-page pamphlet with two illustrations was the first publication about a specific medieval manuscript, and also probably the first publication on a specific book in a private library.

The Codex Ebnerianus is preserved in the Bodleian Library. According to Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, A. D. 1598-A.D. 1867 p. 229, the Bodleian bought the Codex in 1820 from booksellers Payne and Foss. McCray also mentions that Schoenleben's pamphlet was incorporated by De Murr in his Memorabilia Bibliothecarum publicarum Norimbergensium published in 1788, part ii., p. 100. To that version De Murr added "thirteen well-engraved plates of the illuminations, binding and text. It was formerly bound in leather-covered boards, ornamented with gold, with five silver-gilt stars on the sides, and fastened with four silver clasps. This covering being much decayed, Ebner cased the volume in a most costly binding of pure silver, preserving the silver stars, and affixing on the outside a beautiful ivory figure (coaeval with the MS.) of our Saviour, throned, and in the attitude of benediction. Above the figure, Ebner engraved an inscription in Greek characters, corresponding to the style of the MS., praying for a blessing upon himself and his family" (McCray, p. 230). 

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Twelfth Century Images of the Processes in Book Production Circa 1150

(See Larger)

A twelfth century manuscript of the Opera varia of St. Ambrose in the Staatliche Bibliothek of Bamberg contains a full-page miniature containing 10 circular medallion-type images depicting the processes of making a book from preparing parchment to binding. The binder is shown using a sewing frame. Bamberg Msc. Patr. (Alt B II 5).

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The Hunterian Psalter Circa 1170

Folio 7v of the Hungarian Psalter: a miniature depicting, on top, the creation of Adam, and, on bottom, the temptation of Adam by Eve. (View Larger)


The Hunterian Psalter, a striking example of Romanesque book art, was produced in England in the latter part of the twelfth century.

"It is uncertain where or when, exactly, the manuscript was produced, or for whom. It has been suggested that it was produced for Roger de Mowbray (d. 1188), a prominent 12th century crusader and religious benefactor known to have founded a number of Augustinian and Cistercian monasteries and nunneries. The book also contains three commemorations to Augustine of Hippo, which has led some scholars to conclude that the manuscript might have been created for a house of Augustinian Canons, or by someone with a connection to the Augustinian order.

"The fact that there is no mention of the 29 December feast of Thomas Becket on the page for December is thought to indicate that the book was produced before Becket's canonization in 1173. For most of its history, it was thought to have been the product of a scriptorium in the north of England, owing to its inclusion of a number of

Folio 22r of the Hungarian Psalter, a miniature which incorporates the Beatus Initial. (View Larger)northern saints such as Oswald of Northumbria and John of Beverley (who very seldom occur outside northern manuscripts), although modern scholarly consensus puts its likely origin in the southwest of England.

"There is no definite consensus about the number of artists who worked on the book. It has been suggested that a single master oversaw the work of several assistants, and it has also been put forth that it is the work of an artist working alone, copying and adapting templates from other illuminated manuscripts. It is thought to have been the work of skilled tradesmen, not monks" (Wikipedia article on Hunterian Psalter, accessed 03-27-2010).

Today the manuscript is considered the finest book in the library of 10,000 printed books and 650 manuscripts formed by the physician and connoisseur collector, William Hunter, who bequeathed all his collections to the University of Glasgow. It is preserved in the University of Glasgow Library (Sp Coll MS Hunter U.3.2) (229). In addition to manuscripts and books Hunter made important collections of coins, paintings, minerals, shells, anatomical and natural history specimens.

Hunter acquired this volume at the auction sale conducted by Guillaume-François de Bure of the library of Louis-Jean Gaignat in Paris on April 10, 1769, along with several other books. His French agent, Jean B. Dessain, bought it at the auction on Hunter's behalf for fifty livres and one sou. It was described in the sale catalogue as a "codex pervetustus" (a very old codex), and the price was considerably lower than many of the printed books in the sale, reflecting the tastes and market prices of the time. (The Gaignat library included such treasures as the Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum in the British Library.)

Young & Aitken, A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of the Hunterian Museum in the University of Glasgow (1908) no. 229.

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1200 – 1300

Beginnings of an Active Book Trade in Europe Outside of Monasteries Circa 1200

Detail of image depicting a monk at work in a medieval scriptorium (Lacroix).  Please click to view entire image.

Detail of a fourteenth century image showing Henry of Germany delivering a lecture to University Students in Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina in the Liber ethicorum des Henricus de Alemannia, preserved in the Kupferstichkabinett SMPK, Staatliche Museen, Pressiischer Kulturbesitz, Min. 1233. 

Please click to view entire image.

Beginning around the year 1200, monasteries no longer remained the only purchasers of books in Europe, and manuscript book production started moving from the exclusive domain of monastic scriptoria to the secular communities. Intellectual life began to be increasingly centered outside the monasteries at the universities. There scholars, teachers and students, in cooperation with booksellers, artisans and craftsmen, organized an active manuscript book trade.

By the second quarter of the 13th century a much expanded demand for books for individual use encouraged the production of increasing numbers of picture books. Illustrated accounts of the lives of popular saints and other historical characters were typical productions.

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The Largest Extant Medieval Manuscript: The Devil's Bible 1229

The Cover of Codex Gigas: 92cm tall, 50 cm wide. (View Larger)

The largest extant medieval manuscript, the Codex Gigas, or Giant Codex, was created in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia (now Czech Republic).  It is also known as the Devil's Bible due to its full-page illumination depicting the devil, and the legend surrounding its creation.

". . .  . At 92 cm (36.2in.) tall, 50 cm (19.7in.) wide and 22 cm (8.6in.) thick it is the largest known medieval manuscript. It initially contained 320 vellum sheets, though eight of these were subsequently removed. It is unknown who removed the pages or for what purpose but it seems likely that they contained the monastic rules of the Benedictin es. The codex weighs nearly 75 kg (165 lbs.) and the vellum is composed of calf skin (or donkey according to some sources) from 160 animals.

A side-view of Codex Gigas, which is 22cm thick. (View Larger)

"The Codex includes the entire Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, except for the books of Acts and Revelation, which are from a pre-Vulgate version. Also included are Isidore of Seville's encyclopedia Etymologiae, Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, Cosmas of Prague's Chronicle of Bohemia, various tractates (from history, etymology and physiology), a calendar with necrologium, a list of brothers in Podlažice monastery, magic formulae and other local records. The entire document is written in Latin. Illustration of the devil, page 290. Legend has it the codex was created by a monk who sold his soul to the devil.

The famous Devil, on folio 290r of the Codex Gigas, responsible for the ominous epithet, 'Devil's Bible.' (View Larger)

"The manuscript includes illuminations in red, blue, yellow, green and gold. Capital letters are elaborately illuminated, frequently across the entire page. The codex has a unified look as the nature of the writing is unchanged throughout, showing no signs of age, disease or mood on the part of the scribe. This may have led to the belief that the whole book was written in a very short time. But scientists are starting to believe and research the theory that it took over 20 years to complete" (Wikipedia article on Codex Gigas, accessed 04-07-2009).

Records in the manuscript end in the year 1229. The codex was later pledged to the Cistercians Sedlec monastery and then bought by the Benedictine monastery in Břevnov. From 1477-1593 it was kept in the library of a monastery in Broumov until it was taken to Prague in 1594 to form a part of the collections of Holy Roman Emperior Rudolf II

In 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years' War, the collection of Rudolf II was plundered by the Swedish army.  Since 1649  the manuscript has been preserved in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

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From 1250 to 1550 More Books of Hours Were Produced by Hand & by Press than Any Other Type of Book 1250 – 1550

"Books of Hours constitute one of the most significant groups of cultural artifacts from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Indeed, from the mid-thirteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, more Books of Hours were produced, both by hand and by press, than any other type of book. They were the bestsellers of an era that lasted 300 years. In an era when some of the most important painting was in books, the illuminated miniatures in manuscript Books of Hours are the picture galleries of the Middle Ages. And straddling the revolution of manuscript to print, Books of Hours are the great constant in a sea of changing readership and competing markets" (Wieck, Painted Prayers, The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art [1997]).

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Llull's Tree of Knowledge September 29, 1295 – April 1, 1296

Detail of image "Arbor Vegetalis" from Llull's Arbor scientiae.  Please click to view larger image.

Detail of title page of Llull's Arbor scientiae.  Please click to view larger image.

Ramon Llull.

Between September 29, 1295 and April 1, 1296 Majorcan writer, philosopher, logician and polymath Ramon Llull published Arbor scientiae. This encyclopedia and pioneering work in knowledge representation included sixteen trees of scientific domains following the initial tree called the arbor scientiae.

"An expression of his [Llull's] mystical universalism, this encyclopedic work concentrates on the central image of a tree of science, able to sustain areas of knowledge. Appearing the very beginning of the book, the illustration of the tree of science works as an introduction to his beguiling concept and a sort of arborescent table of contents. This great tree comprises eighteen roots, which relate to nine transcendent principles (not detailed) and nine art principles: difference, concord, contrareity, beginning, middle, end, majority, equality, and minority. The top of the tree is made of sixteen branches, each bearing a fruit and a label, representing the different domains of science, which are then depicted as individual trees in the remaining pages of the work.

"The first set of trees related to profane knowledge. . . .The second group covers the entirety of religious knowledge. . . ."  (Lima, Visual Complexity. Mapping Patterns of Information [2011] 31-35).

None of Llull's books appear to have been published in print in the fifteenth century. Editions of the Arbor scientiae, with their famous woodcut renditions of Llull's trees of knowledge began to appear early in the sixteenth century, of which an edition printed in Lyon, 1535 was available through Google Books in January 2013.

Dictionary of Scientific Biography VIII (1973) 547-550.

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1300 – 1400

The Oldest Surviving Ashkenazi Illuminated Manuscript Circa 1300

The Bird's Head Haggadah. (View Larger)

The oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript, The Bird's Head Haggadah, produced in Southern Germany about 1300, takes its name from the birdlike human figures illustrated in its margins. It is preserved in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 

"This motif is apparently related to the biblical (Second Commandment) prohibition against creating graven images. In the Birds' Head Haggadah, discovered by Jewish art historian Bezalel Narkiss in 1946, the realistic human figure is avoided by providing it with the head and beak of a bird, but also by distorting or hiding it — with helmets, bulbous noses, and blank faces.

"The adult males are shown wearing on their birds' heads the conical 'Jew's Hat' which was compulsory for Jews in Germany and other lands of the Holy Roman Empire from 1215 until the late Middle Ages. This early S. German haggadah is richly illustrated with biblical, eschatological and ritual scenes - the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law, the manna and quails falling from the sky, and the preparation of matzah for Passover. It written by the scribe Menahem, as indicated by marked letters in the text.

"The representation of human figures with animal heads is typical of South German medieval manuscripts. In the 12th-century Ashkenazi community in southern Germany, several codifiers forbade the realistic representation of human figures, yet ruled that it was permissible to draw human figures without faces. Rabbi Ephraim of Regensburg (12th cent.) permitted the painting of animals and birds, and of two-dimensional humans, as long as they had no faces. Though he believed that as prayerbook illustrations they were a distraction , he said they did not violate the Second Commandment because they were not concrete or sculptural. 

"The great French scholar, Rashi, was more lenient; he knew of and apparently did not object to wall frescoes (presumably in the home) depicting biblical scenes, such as the fight between David and Goliath. In 12th-century France, in general, many Torah scholars discussed and permitted even the three-dimensional representation of the human form, provided that it was incomplete.

"When the art of illuminating Hebrew manuscripts emerged in Northern Europe not later than the 13th century, the inhibition as regards depicting the realistic or complete human form lingered. By presenting the human figures with animal faces and bird heads, the illustrated Hebrew manuscripts retained at least marginally the traditional prohibition against representational art" (Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, accessed 04-07-2009).

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Insight into the Production of Medieval Books Circa 1300

In November 2013 I had the pleasure of reading the beautifully written and magnificently produced volume, A Medieval Mirror. Speculum humanae salvationis 1324-1500 by Adrian Wilson and Joyce Lancaster Wilson, published by the University of California Press in Berkeley in 1984. The format of this work is 13.5 x 9 1/4 inches (34 x 23.5 cm). A Medieval Mirror was published a year after Wilson received a MacArthur "genius grant." Wilson was a distinguished book designer, and the Wilsons, working as a team, were also excellent book historians. The physical book, designed by Wilson, and luxuriously printed in Japan on the finest paper ( with no show-through) by Dai Nippon, with superb color and black & white plates, large, easy to read type and footnotes, is one of the finest university press books produced during the 1980s. Issued for $175, it was also one of the most expensive university press books at the time. In November 2013 a digital edition of the book was available from the UC Press E-Books Collection. However, this is one instance where a digital edition can never do justice to the experience of reading such a splendidly designed and produced physical book.

I felt that the quotation below was worth including in this database because Wilson brought to book history a lifetime of experience as a book producer and designer, thereby approaching the historical problems with insight beyond that of pure scholarship:

"In the actual work of making books, the medieval scribe must have begun, as would a modern designer, by determining the amount of text which would make a page when written in the chosen script and size and in the desired format. To this must have been added the space planned for miniatures, initials, headings, captions, and sometimes areas for glosses. This calculation would reval the number of sheets of parchment or vellum needed. Sometimes the skins were prepared by the scribes themselves as evening work when the light was too poor for writing, but probably it was more common to obtain them from the parchment maker. Once the scribe acquired them his next step would be to stack the sheets, possibly in threes, fours, or fives, for gatherings that would make, when the sheets were folded, from twelve to twenty pages. From his basic format plan, he pricked, through the parchment stack, the positions of the margins and the grid for the grid lines of the script. The points would then be connected by ruling lines in pale colored ink or by blind scoring.

"Whether the scribe actually wrote in a sewn gathering, or even a bound book, as is so often shown in miniatures, is diffcult to determine. The practice may sometimes have been to inscribe a single four-page sheet of the text consecutively, turning over or replacing the pages to preserve the sequence. There are examples of manuscripts in which a full skin was folded twice to make eight pages, or three times to make sixteen, where the scribe wrote his text leaving the sheet uncut. Scribes are also shown seated at steeply slanted, double-faced desks with the skin folded over the top in the direction of the animal's spine, but it must have been awkward to turn it around or upside-down for each new page. Probably this was the exception, and one may assume that the sheets were usually cut into bi-folios before inscription" (Wilson & Wilson, op. cit., 20-21).

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Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Horticulture Circa 1304 – 1309

Folio 11 of MS M.232, the Morgan Library's 1470 Belgian manuscript of Ruralia Commoda. (View Larger)

Between 1304 and 1309 Bolognese jurist Pietro Crescenzi (Petrus de Crescentius, Petrus de Crescentiis) wrote Ruralia commoda. Derived in part from the writings of Romans ColumellaCato the Elder, and Varro, this was one of the most widely read medieval works on agriculture, animal husbandry, and horticulture, and it continued to be widely read throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, resulting in numerous printed editions, many illustrated. The text was divided into twelve sections:

1. The best location and arrangement of a manor, villa or farm

2. The botanical background needed to raise different crops

3.  Building a granary and cultivation of cereal, forage and food

4. On vines and wine-making

5 & 6.  Arboriculture and horticulture, including 185 plants useful for medicine and nourishment

7.  Meadows and woods

8.  Gardens

9.  Animal husbandry and bee-keeping

10. Hawking and hunting

11. General summary of the book

12. Calendar of duties and tasks, month by month

Ruralia commoda was first printed in an unillustrated edition in Augsburg by Johann Schüssler in 1471. In February 2014 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.  ISTC no. ic00965000. Thirteen editions were printed in the 15th century: six in Latin, three in Italian and two each in French and German. Various were illustrated with woodcuts.

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The Speculum humanae salvationis 1309 – 1500

The Speculum humanae salvationis or Mirror of Human Salvation, a bestselling anonymous illustrated encyclopedic work of popular theology, originated between 1309 (since it refers to the Pope being at Avignon) and 1324, the date on two copies.  A preface, probably from the original manuscript, states that the author did not identify himself out of humility, though numerous suggestions of authorship have been made. The author was almost certainly a cleric, and there is evidence he was a Dominican. A leading candidate for authorship is Ludolph of SaxonyVincent of Beauvais has also been proposed.

The Speculum humanae salvationis falls into the category of encyclopedic speculum literature concentrating on the medieval theory of typology, in which events of the Old Testament foretold events of the New Testament. The original version was in rhyming Latin verse, describing a series of New Testament events, each of which was prefigured by three Old Testament events. The work must have been very widely copied, as it remains one of the most widely preserved of illuminated manuscript texts; over 350 medieval manuscript copies survive in Latin, and the text was also translated and copied into Dutch, French, German, English and Czech. Almost all the copies were illustrated, following the pattern of the manuscripts dated 1324, but from an exemplar that was probably lost. "In the prologue is the statement that the learned can find information from the scriptures, but the unlearned must be taught by pictures, which are the books of the lay people" (Wilson & Wilson 24). It was also one of the most widely printed texts in the fifteenth century, both in blockbook and editions printed from movable type. There were four blockbook editions (two in Latin and two in Dutch), and sixteen editions printed from movable type by 1500. 

"No works of the late Gothic had more influence on artists working in all the media than the Biblia pauperum and the Speculum humanae salvationis. The influence of the typological text and illustrations of the latter can be seen in the fourteenth-century stained glass windows of churches at Mulhouse, Colmar, Rouffach, and Wissembourg. The woodcuts of the blockbooks clearly appear in designs of the fifteenth-century sculptures of the church of Saint-Maurice at Vienne and in the famous tapestries of the Life of Christ at La Chaise-Dieu and the series at Rheims. Mâle states that one could be sure that any Flemish artist of importance had in his atelier manuscripts of these two works. Jan van Eyck, in 1440, worked from a Speculum in the triptych for the church of Saint-Martin in Ypres. The typological treatment of the Nativity was traditional and one might assume that Van Eyck could find it in other sources, but on the exterior of the side panel is the earliest example, in panel painting, of the Annunciation to Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl just as it appears in the Speculum. This subject entered the artistic iconography specifically through the Speculum text and image. There was a copy also in the atelier of Roger van der Weyden, as can be seen in the famous Bladelin triptych, where the same prefigurations of the Nativity are pictured. The use of both books as sources, in a single work of art, is not uncommon" (Wilson & Wilson, A Medieval Mirror. Speculum humanae salvationis 1324-1500 [1984] 28-29).

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of an illuminated manuscript of the Speculum humanae salvationis produced in Paris or Flanders circa 1430-1450 and preserved in Einsiedeln at the Stiftsbibliothek was available from e-codices at this link.  Another digital facsimile of an illuminated manuscript, preserved in Sarnen at the Benediktinenkollegium, written in 1427, possibly by Brother Thomas de Austria ordinis sancti Johannis, was available from e-codices at this link.  

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The Rochefoucauld Grail 1315 – 1323

Arthur versus the Saxons as depicted in the Rochefoucauld Grail. (View Larger)

Between 1315 and 1323 The Rochefoulcauld Grail was written and illuminated in Flanders or Artois by the same team of artists and scribes who produced the deluxe copies of the text now London, British Library, Add. MS. 10292-4 and Royal MS.14.E.III) perhaps for Guy VII, baron de La Rochefoucauld. It is one of the principal manuscripts of the greatest romance of the Middle Ages, with 107 miniatures illustrating warfare, chivalry and courtly love. It contains the Lancelot-Grail cycle in French prose, the oldest and most comprehensive version of the legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail.

The manuscript was sold at Sotheby's London on December 10, 2010 for £2,393,250 including premium. The Sotheby's catalogue description, presumably written by Christopher de Hamel, included the provenance and numerous published references. The manuscript sold consisted of three volumes. A fourth volume of the manuscript is divided between the Bodeleian Library, Oxford (Douce MS 215) and the John Rylands Library, Manchester (MS Fr. 1).

In February 2014 a selection of images from the manuscript was available from Theguardian.com at this link.  

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The Chantilly Illuminated Manuscript of Dante's Inferno Circa 1345

Along with Yates Thompson MS 36 in the British Library, the Chantilly Inferno (Chantilly, Mus. Condé, MS 597/1424) is considered one of the greatest of the illuminated manuscripts of Dante's Divine Comedy. The Chantilly manuscript was probably created in Pisa about 1345, only a little more than twenty years after Dante may have finished the poem.

The Chantilly Inferno contains the text of the Inferno together with the Latin commentary on the text by the Italian writer Guido da Pisa. It is among the earliest illuminated copies of the Inferno, and the only known illuminated copy of Guido da Piso's commentary. Most of the 55 miniatures in the manuscript accompany the commentary, though their iconography is drawn from the Inferno. The miniatures mainly appear in the lower margins, reflective of one of two types of illustration that were developed in Florence in the 1330s for the illustration of the Divine Comedy. The color palette for these illustrations is limited to browns and grays, and one one episode is depicted in each miniature. The paintings were attributed by art historian Millard Meiss to three or more artists working in the style of Francesco Traini. These artists, Meiss, theorized, had been trained as panel or mural painters.

Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture II, 18-19.

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The Oldest Sephardic Haggadah Circa 1350

From the Sarajevo Haggadah: Moses upon Sinai, holding the Ten Commandments. (View Larger)

Considered the most beautiful Jewish illuminated manuscript in existence, and the oldest Sephardic Haggadah, the Sarajevo Haggadah, was produced in the mid-14th century in Barcelona, Spain. It was written on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold, and opens with 34 pages of illustrations of biblical scenes from creation through the death of Moses. Its pages are stained with wine— evidence that it was used at many Passover Seders. It is preserved at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.

"The Sarajevo Haggadah has survived many close calls with destruction. Historians believe that it was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. Notes in the margins of the Haggadah indicate that it surfaced in Italy in the 1500s. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 by a man named Joseph Kohen.

An illuminated leaf of hebrew text from the Sarajevo haggadah. (View Larger)

"During World War II, the manuscript was hidden from the Nazis by the Museum's chief librarian, Dervis Korkut, who at risk to his own life, smuggled the Haggadah out of Sarajevo. Korkut gave it to a Muslim cleric in Zenica, where it was hidden under the floorboards of either a mosque or a Muslim home. During the Bosnian War of the early 1990s, when Sarajevo was under constant siege by Bosnian Serb forces, the manuscript survived in an underground bank vault. To quell rumors that the government had sold the Haggadah in order to buy weapons, the president of Bosnia presented the manuscript at a community Seder in 1995.

"Afterwards, the manuscript was restored through a special campaign financed by the United Nations and the Bosnian Jewish community in 2001, and went on permanent display at the museum in December 2002" (Wikipedia article on Sarajevo Haggadah, accessed 03-23-2009).

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The First Encyclopedia Arranged in Alphabetical Order Circa 1375

Folio 1v of Omne Bonum upon which is drawn the four scenes of creation: God creating fish; God creating animals; the Creation of Adam; the Creation of Eve. (View Larger)

About 1375 English clerk of the Exchequer, James le Palmer, compiled and wrote out Omne bonum, an encylopedia of universal knowledge, on 1100 folio leaves, with roughly 1,000,000 words. Le Palmer also commissioned over 800 illustrations from various manuscript illuminators. The manuscript (British Library MS Royal 6.E VI-VII) is the earliest encyclopedia with its entries arranged in alphabetical order.  Its illustrations, covering the widest range of subjects, are a major iconographical source for the time. 

Attribution of authorship and analysis of the text and images of this manuscript was done by Lucy Freeman Sandler and published as Omne Bonum. A Fourteenth-Century Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge (2 vols., 1996.) Sandler's two volumes contain almost 900 illustrations. Sandler also traced the sources of Le Palmer's information for the many articles in his encyclopedia.

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1400 – 1450

The Bedford Hours and its History Circa 1410 – 1430

The Bedford Hours, a late medieval book of hours, was probably produced in Paris for John, Duke of Bedford to celebrate his marriage to Anne, daughter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Production was was in several stages from about 1410 to about 1430, with new material added as the manuscript passed from owner to owner. Some of its miniatures have been attributed to the Bedford Master (possibly Haincelin of Hagenau, who was working in Paris at the time), or to the Chief Associate of the Bedford Master, or simply to the "Bedford Workshop".

The work of the Bedford Master and the Bedford Workshop have been identified in other manuscripts from the period, including the Salisbury Breviary (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS.lat. 17294), also owned by the Duke of Bedford. The style and quality of the illumination in the Bedford Hours is also related to that in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry illuminated by the Limbourg brothers. It is also possible that some of the miniatures in the Bedford Hours were based on images in the Très Riches Heures.

"The origins of the manuscript are not known with certainty, nor is there agreement on its initial patron. The inclusion of certain heraldic symbols in its decorative programme may suggest an original patronage in the French royal family, perhaps the dauphinLouis of Guyenne (d. 1415). Or this first stage in production might have taken place later, after Louis's death, the heraldic symbols having no immediate reference to patronage, but simply being part of the standard iconographic programme of the workshop.

"In the early 1420s the manuscript was in the possession of John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford and regent of France on behalf of his nephew Henry VI from 1422 until his death in 1435. In 1423, he gave the manuscript to his wife Anne of Burgundy as a wedding present. Personalizing additions to the manuscript's illumination that commemorate its ownership by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford include two large portrait miniatures (ff. 256v and 257v), showing John kneeling before St George and Anne of Burgundy kneeling before St Anne.

"In 1430 Anne gave the manuscript as a Christmas present to the nine-year-old Henry VI, who was staying with the Bedfords in Rouen before his coronation as king of France. This gift was memorialized in the manuscript itself, on f. 256r, in an inscription made at the duke's request, written by John Somerset, Henry's tutor and personal physician. It is possible that it was in preparing the book as a gift to Henry that the portrait miniatures of the Bedfords were added, along with other additions to the programme of illumination.

"Later owners include King Henry II of France and his wife Catherine de' Medici (identifiable by their coats of arms, added to the manuscript), and Frances Worsley (1673-1750), wife of Sir Robert Worsley, 4th baronet of Appuldurcombe. Edward Harley probably purchased the manuscript from Frances Worsley, but he did not will it to his widow with the rest of the Harley collection, instead bequeathing it directly to his daughter, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland...." (Wikipedia article on Bedford Hours, accessed 11-07-2013). 

After the death of the Duchess of Portland, on May 24, 1786 the English bookseller James Edwards purchased the Bedford Hours for £213.3s. at the sale of her collections. Edwards commissioned the antiquarian and writer Richard Gough to prepare a monograph on the manuscript. This work entitled An Account of a Rich Illuminated Missal Executed for John Duke of Bedford, Regent of France under Henry VI, and afterwards in the Possession of the Late Duchess of Portland, was printed by John Nichols and published by T. Payne in London in 1794. A work of 86 pages in quarto format, with 4 black and white engraved plates depicting full-page illuminations in the manuscript, this was the first monograph on an illuminated manuscript published in English, and may be considered the beginning of English scholarship on illuminated manuscripts. Most of its text was devoted to explaining details in each of the 59 full-page miniatures, and discussing details of its prior owners. My copy, which bears the bookplate of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, contains pencil notes on p. 82 tracing later owners of the copy from which I quote:

"Subsequently belonged to the 5th Duke of Marlbourgh (£687.15.0). John Milner (£800) & Sir John Tobin of Liverpool (£1250), & in Jan. 1852 it was sold by the Rev. John Tobin, son of the last-named, with five other MSS to the bookseller William Boone, who ... transferred all six MSS... to the British Museum for £3000 (2 Feb. 1852)."

The Bedford Hours is preserved in the British Library (Add. MS 18850). In February 2014 a digital facsimile of all aspects of the manuscript was available at this link.

Backhouse, "A Reappraisal of the Bedford Hours" (1981).

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Serial Workshop Production of Medieval Manuscripts Circa 1420 – 1470

An image of Moses from the Book of Leviticus: folio 141v of a manuscript bible produced in the workshop of the scribe Diebold Lauber. (View Larger)

The scribe Diebold Lauber of Haguenau, Germany, who produced illuminated manuscripts of vernacular paraphrases of biblical history called "History Bibles", is thought to have employed an early form of organized "mass production" in the production of manuscripts—a kind of precursor of the "mass production" of books introduced by printing.  Around seventy examples of illuminated manuscripts produced by Lauber's shop have been identified.

"The wide assortment of products which he advertised suggests that Lauber may have kept a stock of his books. Lauber's workshop is often viewed as a precursor of a printing house, because rationalised methods of production were employed in order to reduce the costs of labour. . . . the quires are composed of individual leaves, and the text is written in simple gothic cursive letters. The text is structured by means of indices, titles and chapter headings.

"Also, the simply coloured pen illustrations drawn directly on the paper, in the most cases without a border or background, reveal a tendency towards serial production. With a limited range of artistic means, a small number of icongraphic types were used for various genres of texts. The illustrations most characteristic for Lauber's workshop were created by the painters of the so-called 'Malergruppe A', a group of artists active between 1425 and 1450. . . ." (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lerneten. Medienvwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] No. 1).

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One of the Earliest Surviving Italian Manuscripts on Technology and War Machines Circa 1420

Folio 2r of Bellicorum instrumentorum liber, showing an 'Oriental siege machine.' (View Larger)

The Bellicorum instrumentorum liber, cum figuris et fictitys litoris conscriptus, written and drawn by the Italian engineer, self-styled magus, and physician to the Venetian army in Brescia, Giovanni Fontana, may be the earliest extant illustrated Italian manuscript on technology and war machines.

Fontana accompanied each of his roughly 140 illustrations of siege engines, fountains and pumps, lifting and transporting machines, defensive towers, dredges, combination locks, battering rams, a "rocket-powered" craft, the first ever depiction of the magic lantern, scaling ladders, alchemical furnaces, clockwork, robotic automata, and measuring instruments with a caption that was partially encoded with a substitute cypher system.

♦ You can view a digital facsimile of Fontana's manuscript at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek website at this link: http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0001/bsb00013084/images/index.html?id=00013084&fip=, accessed 01-16-2010).

Another manuscript by Fontana, preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Nouvelles Acquisitions Latin 635), entitled Secretum de thesauro experimentorum ymaginationis hominum, concerned mnemonic devices and memory: 

"The entire manuscript, excepting the table of contents, title and concluding formula is in cipher; this consists  almost entirely of straight lines and circles. Abbreviation marks are  placed under the script. . . .

"where one sees several projects of combiantorial machines, concentric disks, cylinders, rolls that allow the permutation of isolated elements of writing (letters or words): and engineer's realization of the Lullian dream. However the connection between the theater in the first book and the devices of the second is not one of mere juxtaposition: the Secretum is actually a treatise of mnemotechnics, or, as Battisti put it, "the blueprint for a compact database of the mind (http://www.voynich.net/Arch/2002/09/msg00136.html, accessed 01-16-2010).

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The Most Extensively Portrayed Late Medieval Scribe and Author Circa 1449 – 1472

Detail of painting showing presentation by Jean Miélot to "Philip the Good," Duke of Burgundy, of his translation of the Traité sur l'oraison dominicale. Miniature by Jean le Tavernier, 1454-7, Brussels.  Please click to see entire image.

Detail of grisaille style painting of Jean Miélot writing in his scriptorium. Please click to see entire image.

Detail from a fine portrait of Miélot, by an unknown miniaturist.  Please click to view entire image.

During his employment from 1449 to 1467 as secretary to Philip the GoodDuke of Burgundy, the Burgundian author, translator, manuscript illuminator, scribe and priest Jean Miélot (Miéllot) was primarily engaged in the production of deluxe illuminated manuscripts for Philip's library. Miélot translated many works, both religious and secular, from Latin or Italian into French, and wrote or compiled books himself; he also composed verse. Between his own writings and his translations Miélot produced some twenty-two works while working for Philip, the leading bibliophile in Northern Europe at the time. In the years after his death in 1472 many of Miélot's works appeared in print, influencing the development of French prose style. 

While Miélot usually personally wrote out Philip's copies of his various writings, and was responsible for creating a "minute" or dummy of the planned book showing the subject and location of the various miniatures and illuminated letters, Miélot would not have had the time to produce the miniatures for so many manuscripts, and it is likely that he was influential in allocating commissions to various miniaturists who created the manuscript illuminations. Because the miniaturists were indebted to him for the work, and because of the Burgundian fashion at the time for presentation miniatures, in which the author is shown presenting the book to the duke or other patron, an unusually large number of portraits of Miélot as author and scribe appear in the ducal copies of Miélot's works. 

"Philip the Good was the leading bibliophile of Northern Europe, and employed a number of scribes, copyists and artists, with Miélot holding a leading position among the former groups.... His translations were first produced in draft form, called a 'minute', with sketches of the images and illuminated letters. If this was approved by the Duke, after being examined and read aloud at court, then the final de luxe manuscript for the Duke's library would be produced on fine vellum, and with the sketches worked up by specialist artists. Miélot's minute for his Le Miroir de l'Humaine Salvation survives in the Bibliothèque Royale Albert I in Brussels, which includes two self-portraits of him richly dressed as a layman. The presentation portrait to La controverse de noblesse, a year later, shows him with a clerical tonsure. His illustrations are well composed, but not executed up to the standard of manuscripts for the court. His text, on the other hand, is usually in a very fine Burgundian bastarda blackletter script, and paleographers can recognise his hand" (Wikipedia article on Jean Miélot, accessed 11-04-2013). 

In Miélot's translation of the Traité sur l'oraison dominicale produced for Philip between 1454 and 1457, and preserved in the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels (Ms. 9082 fol. 1r) there is a miniature by the Flemish painter Jean Le Tavernier showing Miélot presenting the manuscript to Philip. An excellent reproduction of this appears in Wilson & Wilson, A Medieval Mirror (1984) p. 49. About 1456. Miélot completed his manuscript compilation of the Miracles de Notre Dame for Philip. In this manuscript, preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Flemish artist Jean Le Tavernier, an expert in the grisaille technique of manuscript illumination, included a splendid grisaille portrait of Jean Miélot writing in his scriptorium, probably in the ducal library. The portrait, which appears on folio 19r, includes very detailed renderings of the room's furnishings, and the writer's materials, equipment, and activity. Still another fine portrait of Miélot, by an unknown miniaturist, appears in Brussels Royal Library, MS 9278, fol. 10r.

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1450 – 1500

The Hours of Philip the Good, Illuminated with Miniatures Using the Grisaille Technique 1450 – 1460

Detail of page from Philip the Good's Book of Hours.  Please click to view entire image.

Detail of portrait of Philip the Good. Please click to view entire image.


The Book of Hours of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, was written between 1450 and 1460 by author, translator, manuscript illuminator, scribe and priest Jean Miélot (Miéllot), who served as the duke's secretary from 1449 to Philip's death in 1467. Many of the illuminations were created by Jean le Tavernier, a miniaturist from Oudenaarde, Belgium, who specialized in grisaille— a technique executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of gray.  A number of these grisailles depict Philip the Good praying.

"For a long time it was thought that this book of hours from the KB [Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands] collection is the one mentioned in an archival record from 1455, in which Philip the Good orders a payment to be made to Jean Le Tavernier for grisailles. However, recent research has shown that this reference actually is to another book of hours in Philips' library. The manuscript has, at a certain point, probably around 1500, been enlarged by adding new texts and images. The scribe and illuminator of the additions have done their utmost to make them as similar as possible to the existing ones. The book holds no less than 165 miniatures; 126 of them can be ascribed to Jean le Tavernier or an associate; the remaining 39 are by the anonymous illuminator of the additions, who is known as the 'Master of the Prayer Books of c.1500' " (http://www.kb.nl/en/digitized-books/book-of-hours-philip-of-burgundy/introduction, accessed 11-03-2013).

When I visited the website of the National Library of the Netherlands in November 2013 the site indicated that a digital facsimile of the Hours of Philip the Good was available; however, the link to the facsimile did not operate. 

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An Intermediate Form Between a Collection of Prints and a Blockbook Circa 1460 – 1465

It appears that no blockbooks (block books) in the literal sense were published in France in the 15th century. An example of an intermediate form between a collection of prints and a blockbook printed in France about 1465 was a collection of three woodcuts with text, printed on one side of three sheets, entitled Les neuf preux. This is known from a single copy preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

"It consists of three sheets of paper, each of which contains an impression from a block containing three figures. They are printed by means of the frotton in light-coloured ink, and have been coloured by hand. The first sheet contains pictures of the three champions of classical times, Hector, Alexander, and Julius Caesar; the second the three champions of the Old Testament, Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeaeus; the third, the three champions of mediaeval history, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Boulogne. Under each picture is a stanza of six lines, all rhyming, cut in a body type.

"These leaves form part of the Armorial of Gilles le Bouvier, who was King-at-Arms to Charles VII of France; and as the manuscript was finished between 9th November 1454 and 22 September 1457, it is reasonable to suppose that the prints were executed in France, probably at Paris, before the latter date. The verses are, at any rate, the oldest printed specimen of the French language" (Duff, Early Printed Books (1893) 17-18).

Les neuf preux is described by Ursula Baurmeister in Catalogue des incunables de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (CIBN), Vol. 1, fascicule 1 (Xylographes) no. NN-1.

The Armorial of Gilles le Bouvier is BnF Ms. fr. 4985.

In "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth-Century Europe (2009) 39-91 Paul Needham discusses publications related to Les neuf preux.

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How the Relationship Between Text and Image Evolved in Early Printed Books in Essentially One Generation Circa 1460 – 1490

A page from Der Edelstein printed by Albrecht Pfister showing the integration of images with the printed text.

An illustration on folio 12v from the Vienna Genesis showing the story of Jacob.

A miniature of the Annunciation from a French Book of Hours showing very elaborate manuscript illumination.

The Abbot, a woodcut from the Dance of Death series by Hans Holbein the Younger.

"Book illustration in printed books seems to have completed in one generation (ca. 1460—ca. 1490) a cycle which took about 1,000 years in manuscript illumination. In early blockbooks and in the typographically produced books of [Albrecht] Pfister, illustrations performed an almost separate function; they were not subservient to the text. (In the earliest extant illuminated manuscripts from the Vth—VIth century, as for example the Vienna Genesis, illustrations were similarly 'independent.) Beginning in the 1470's illustrations in printed books became more and more integrated into the text, achieving an aesthetic harmony of the two elements. (In illumination this development lasted from the IXth to the XIVth century). By the end of the XVth century illustrations in many printed books began to outgrow the text page; the artist freqeuently paid less attention to the character of the type, and the unity of type and illustration decreased. (This development is examplified in many Books of Hours where, outside the calendar illustration [which remained subjunct to the text], the pictorial aspect occupied an inordinately large place; in manuscripts we can observe this from the early XVth century on.). This dichotomy did not apply to incidental illustrations, used to adorn title pages or the text, nor to some of the finest XVIth-century illustrated books (like [Hans] Holbein's Dance of Death)" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling, Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 120; there are 3 footnotes in Hirsch's book, which I have incorporated into the quotation where indicated, using parentheses).

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Albreht Pfister Publishes "Der Edelstein", the First Book Printed in German and the First Dated Book with Woodcuts February 14, 1461

On February 14, 1461 Albrecht Pfister of Bamberg, characterized as "a church dignitary and amateur printer," issued a book of fables: Der Edelstein by Ulrich Boner, a Dominican monk. Containing 101 woodcuts, this was also the first book printed in German, and the first dated book with woodcut illustrations.

"The woodcuts were impressed by hand in blanks left for the purpose in the printed text—much as though they had been rubber stamps" (Ivins, Prints and Visual Communication [1969] xi).

Only one copy of the original printing survived. It is preserved in the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel. ISTC no. ib00974500.

A second edition issued by Pfister about 1462 contains 103 woodcuts. ISTC no. ib00974550. Of this too only one copy survived at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the second edition was available at this link.

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"Biblia pauperum", the First Combination of Text and Illustrations in One Printing Forme 1462 – 1463

This Biblia Pauperum, or 'pauper's bible,' is the first known work to combine the woodcut images and movable type. (View Larger)

Printing the Biblia pauperum, a kind of illustrated précis of highlights in the Bible— intended for laymen or lower clergy who could not afford a complete Bible— represented a major technical challenge in the integration of the relatively brief text with the numerous woodcuts on each page. In spite of these difficulties, the first printed edition may have employed movable type.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue lists ten editions of the Biblia pauperum printed during the 15th century. The earliest of these are three editions issued in Bamberg by Albrecht Pfister, two of which are estimated to have been printed in 1462, one in German and the other in Latin, and another Latin edition in 1463: ISTC  nos. ib00652700, ib00652750, ib00652800.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of ib00652750 was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München website at this link.

"The first woodcuts used to illustrate copies of the 'Biblia pauperum' printed with movable types were not produced in Mainz, where printing was first practised, but rather, using types from Mainz, in Bamberg in the printing workshop of Albrecht Pfister. Since 1460, Pfister had his printed editions illustrated with woodcuts. Initially, the integration of pictures in printed text proved to be a difficult task. . . . His edition of the 'Biblia pauperum' for the first time combined text and illustrations in one printing forme.

"Even after Pfister's edition was published, the 'Biblia pauperum' continued to be produced as a blockbook, which also allowed the combination of woodcuts with printed text. In the production of illustrated books for religious edification or for practical purposes which had previously been copied by hand, woodcuts successfully came to replace pen drawings. . . ." (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] no. 6).

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"Passione di Cristo", the First Book Printed in Italy Circa 1463

Page from the first book printed in Italy. Click on the image to see the entire image.

In 1927 a unique fragment of the Passione di Cristo printed in Italian was discovered by the Munich antiquarian bookseller Jacques Rosenthal. It was believed to have been printed in Northern Italy, perhaps in  Bologna or Ferrara, and possibly by printer Ulrich Han, about 1463. In January 2013 a digital facsimile of this fragment was available from the Princeton University Digital Library, which provided this commentary:

"The leaves apparently had been retrieved as waste material from some unidentified binding. As a complete work, it would have consisted of 17 leaves, printed with 16 full-page metalcut scenes of the life of Jesus from the entry into Jerusalem to the Last Judgment, each facing a page with a related printed prayer in Italian. The full set of metalcuts is preserved in a unique incunable in the State Library of Munich, being a German-language counterpart to the Italian fragment, printed with the type used also to print the unique Scheide copy of the Almanac calculated for Vienna, 1462. Other incomplete fragments of printed German versions of the prayerbook also survive. On various grounds, the distinguished incunabulist Konrad Haebler proposed that the Italian fragment had been printed in northern Italy, in the vicinity of Bologna and Ferrara, about 1463: two years or more before the traditional candidate as the first Italian incunable, the works of Lactantius printed at the ancient monastery of Subiaco (50 km east of Rome) by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, 29 October 1465. The Passione di Cristo fragment was purchased by a learned New Orleans attorney, Edward Alexander Parsons, whose massive library was acquired by the University of Texas in 1958, but Parsons retained the Passione di Cristo, which remained within his family until its 1998 auction. Thus, for more than seventy years it was not available for scholarly investigation. When cataloguing the fragment for sale, Felix de Marez Oyens studied the two partially preserved watermarks, and determined that in terms of localization and date, they matched almost precisely what Haebler had hypothesized on other grounds. Because the Passione di Cristo follows the Munich German edition, Leiden Christi, page for page, the entire edition can be reconstructed. The first five leaves are missing. Of the remaining leaves, the six with printed text are fully preserved (fos. 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16). Of the six leaves with metalcut images, one (fo. 17) is preserved in full; one (fo. 7) preserves about of each of its two metalcuts; and four (fos. 9, 11, 13, 15) preserve only narrow vertical strips on which the inner margins of the metalcuts are visible. The strip of fo. 11 is so narrow that it has not been reproduced" (http://pudl.princeton.edu/objects/9880vr06v#page/1/mode/2up, accessed 01-31-2013).

The fragment was purchased by William H. Scheide for the Scheide Library at Princeton at Christie's sale of November 23, 1998, lot 18.

Haebler, Die italienischen Fragmente vom Leiden Christi, das älteste Druckwerk Italiens: Eine Untersuchung (1927).

Paul Needham, "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth Century Europe (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2009) 38-91.

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Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu Publishes The First Atlas of Pediatric Surgery (in Manuscript Form) 1465

Sabuncuoglu Serafeddin.

In 1465, at the age of 80, Ottoman surgeon and physician Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu (Ottoman Turkish:شرف الدّین صابونجی اوغلی) published in manuscript Cerrahiyyetu'l-Haniyye (Imperial Surgery), an illustrated surgical atlas. This was also the first medical textbook written in Turkish, probably the first atlas of pediatric surgery, and the first surgical atlas to show women surgeons. The atlas covers 191 topics in three chapters.

Three copies survived, all different, and all incomplete. One is preserved in Istanbul’s Fatih Millet Library, another at the Capa Medical History Department of Istanbul University, and a third in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

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The First Printed Editions of the Speculum humanae salvationis 1466 – 1471

A medieval manuscript bestseller, the Speculum humanae salvationis was also a bestseller during the first fifty years of printing, undergoing four blockbook editions (two Latin and two in Dutch) and sixteen editions printed from movable type by 1500. 

According to the British Library Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), the first printed edition of the Speculum humanae salvationis was a blockbook printed in The Netherlands about 1466-67. This edition, cited by the ISTC as is00656000, has also been recorded as "printed in Utrecht? by the Printer of the 'Speculum humanae salvationis, not after 1471." In November 2013 a digital facsimile of this blockbook was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

The first edition of the work printed from movable type was an edition in Latin and German printed in 1473 by Günther Zainer of Augsburgh as Speculum humanae salvationis cum speculo S. Mariae Virginis, edited by Frater Johannes, of the monastery of SS. Ulrich and Afra of Augsburg. (ISTC no.  is00670000.) In November 2013 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Torquemada's "Mediationes", the Earliest Illustrated Printed Book Published in Italy December 31, 1467

An engraved portrait of Juan de Torquemada from 1791. (Click on the image to view larger.)

The first printed book with illustrations issued in Italy was an edition of the Meditationes seu Contemplationes devotissimae of the Spanish Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (Johannes de Turrecremata) issued in Rome by Ulrich Han (Udalricus Gallus) on December 31, 1467. The woodcuts, "though modeled after frescoes in Santa Maria di Minerva in Rome, were the work of a German artisan" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 120, footnote 25).

ISTC No. it00534800. In February 2015 a digital facsimile was available from the National Library of Spain at this link.

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"De re militari", the First Printed Book on Technology with the First Woodcuts on a Scientific or Technological Subject 1472

This edition of Roberto Valturio's 'De re militari' contains the first woodcuts on a scientific subject, used not for artistic embellishment but for diagraming and explanation. (View Larger)

In 1472 printer Johannes Nicolai de Verona issued from Verona, Italy, the first printed edition of Roberto Valturio's (Valturius's) De re militari, a work which first circulated in manuscript circa 1455-1460. Some of the extant manuscripts appear to have been copied from the printed edition, reflecting the interplay between printed book and manuscript production in the first decades of printing. As Valturio lived until 1475, his De re militari has also been called the first printed book by a living author. It vies for that title with Paolo Bagellardo's De infantium aegritudinibus et remediis issued from Padua also in 1472.

Valturio's work was the first book printed in Verona, the second Italian book printed with illustrations, and the first book printed with woodcuts by Italian artists. Depending on how the counts are made, the book contains at least 90 woodcuts, though because some of the images are composite it is possible to arrive at a higher count. The images were printed in blank spaces left on the page, presumably after the text was printed, using a thinner ink. Some pages in the edition remain blank.

". . . the illustrations are the first true Italian book illustrations, probably after designs by Matteo de Pasti, the medallist and pupil of Alberti. They were preceeded in Italy only by a blockbook [cf. Essling 1] and the 1467 Rome edition of Torquemada which contains a series of rather crude woodcuts probably designed under German influence” (Printing and the Mind of Man No. 10).

From the scientific standpoint  Valturio's work was first printed book on technology, with the first scientific or technological illustrations— in this case woodcuts of war machines. In Prints and Visual Communication (1953; 32) William Ivins pointed out that these woodcuts were the first dated set of book illustrations made for "informational" rather than decorative or religious purposes.

The images in Valturio's book . . ."the majority of which are in Book X, consist of representations of weapons, war chariots, siege engines, canons, flags, water floats, bridges and pontoons and much else. . . . They depend on a tradition of military illustration, which extends from the late Roman Empire, the best-known text being the De rebus bellicis of the 4th century, to Byzantine and Western medieval texts. The text of the De rebus bellicis was rediscovered in an illustrated manuscript of 9th- or 10th-century date in the library of the Cathedral of Speyer, and it was copied for the book collector and humanist Bishop of Padua, Pietro Donato, during the Council of Basel in 1436. These illustrations, in one or another of the various copies made of them, are likely to have been among the sources for the illustrations in the Valturio text. Two other relevant texts concerning military equipment, both illustrated, are those by Konrad Kyeser of Eichstätt, written shortly after 1400, and Mariano Taccola of Siena, known in various versions dating from c. 1427 to 1449“ (Alexander [ed.] The Painted Page. Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550 [1994] No. 63). Alexander describes an illustrates a manuscript written circa 1475-80, of Valturio (Munich, Bayerisch Staatsbibliothek, CLM 23467) which, "is a direct copy of the printed edition. The illustrations also are clearly copied from the woodcuts."

Valturio's work may frequently be confused with the Epitoma rei militaris (also referred to as De re militari) by the late 4th century-early 5th century Roman writer Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, the first edition of which was published in print in Utrecht, probably one or two years after the first edition of Valturio's work, in 1473 or 1474.

"A secretary to Pope Eugene IV, then adviser to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, humanist Roberto Valturio is chiefly known for his treatise on warfare, De re militari, of 1455. The work celebrates the military prowess of Malatesta, who sent copies to Mathias Corvinus, Francesco Sforza, Sultan Mohammed II, and perhaps also King Louis XI of France and Lorenzo de Medici. The illustrations are probably the work of Matteo de Pasti, who built the church of San Francesco in Rimini on the model prescribed by Leon Battista Alberti. Matteo also often drew inspiration from the treatises of Guido da Vigevano, Conrad Kyeser, and Taccola" (website of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, where you can also watch a brief video about Valturio in Italian, accessed 01-15-2009).

ISTC no. iv00088000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1472 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

On February 13, 1483 printer Boninus de Boninis, de Ragusia of Verona issued a second edition of Valturio's De re militari in Latin (ISTC no. iv00089000), followed 4 days later by his Opera dell' arte militare, translated into Italian by Paolo Ramusio on February 17, 1483 (ISTC no. iv00090000).  The Italian translation is the first illustrated book on technology published in a vernacular.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1483 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 172 (citing an incomplete copy of the first edition). 

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The First Printed Edition of Isidore's "Etymologiae" Includes the First Map Included in a Printed Book November 19, 1472

Earliest printed example of a classical T and O map (by Günther Zainer, Augsburg, 1472), illustrating the first page of chapter XIV of the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville. It shows the continents as domains of the sons of Noah: Sem (Shem), Lafeth (Japheth) and Cham (Ham).

Detail from portrait of Isidore of Seville. Please click to view entire image.

Title page with T and O map.

On November 19, 1472 printer Gunther Zainer of Augsburg, Germany, issued the Etymologiae of archbishop Isidore of Seville. A medieval encyclopedia written in the seventh century, it contained a simple diagramatic world map in the so-called "T-O" style. This woodcut has been called the first map included in a printed book. It depicts the continent of Asia as peopled by descendants of Sem or Shem, Africa by descendants of Ham, and Europe by descendants of Japheth, the sons of Noah.

"Isidore taught in the Etymologiae that the Earth was round "resembl[ing] a wheel". This is the same description used by the early Greek philosopher Anaximander for the sun before any spherical ideas emerged. Most writers think he referred to a disc-shaped Earth though some believe that he considered the Earth to be globular.  He did not admit the possibility of people dwelling at the antipodes, considering them as legendary and noting that there was no evidence for their existence. Isidore's round map, which is essentially that of Anaximander, continued to be used through the Middle Ages by authors such as the 9th century bishop Rabanus Maurus who compared the habitable part of the northern hemisphere (Aristotle's northern temperate clime) with a wheel.

"In Book III he says 'At the same time [the sun] rises it appears equally to a person in the east as a person in the west', implying that it is flat. But for north and south he follows works such as the Topographia Christiana saying the earth is raised up towards the northern region and declines to the south. The fact that Sysebut uses the word globus meaning a sphere, in a letter to Isidore, whereas Isidore sticks to the word orbis, meaning circle or disk, confirms this" (Wikipedia article on Etymologiae, accessed 06-04-2011).

ISTC no. ii00181000.  In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Konrad von Megenberg's "Buch der Natur", the First Illustrated Printed Book on Natural History October 30, 1475

The first edition of Konrad von Megenberg's 'Buch der Natur' was both the first German natural history and the first woodcut-illustrated natural history, including this woodcut from the chapter on zoology. (View Larger)

On October 30, 1475 printer Johann Bämler of Augsburg issued the first printed edition of Konrad von Megenberg's Buch der Natur. This was the first natural history written in German, and the series of woodcuts in the first edition were the first natural history book illustrations. There were also two woodcuts of plants—the first botanical woodcuts in a printed book.

"The work has 8 chapters

" * the nature of man

" * sky, 7 planets, astronomy and meteorology

" * zoology

" * ordinary and aromatic trees

" * plants and vegetables

" * invaluable and semi-precious stones

" * 10 kinds of metals

" * water and rivers" (Wikipedia article on Konrad of Megenburg, accessed 06-13-2009).

♦ ISTC no. ic00842000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Also in November 2013 a digital facsimile of an illustrated fifteenth century manuscript of von Megenberg's work, Cod. Pal. germ. 300 Konrad von Megenberg Das Buch der Natur Hagenau - Werkstatt Diebold Lauber, um 1442-1448?, was available from Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg at this link.

Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal (1979) 112-13.

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The first illustrated edition of Ptolemy's Cosmographia, the First Book with Engraved Maps 1477

Detail of map from Ptolemy's Cosmographia showing the southeastern coast of Spain.  Click on the link to view and enlarge the entire page from the book.

In 1477 the first illustrated edition of Ptolemy's Cosmographia, translated by humanist Giacomo d'Angelo da Scarperia (Jacopo d’Angelo, Jacopus Angelus da Scarperia) and edited by  Philippus Beroaldus and others, was published in Bologna by Dominicus de Lapis, but with the erroneous colophon date of 23 June 1462. The edition contained 26 copperplate maps.

For a long time date on the colophon of this edition was thought to have been a misprint for 1482, but manuscripts found in Bologna set the publication date in 1477. "It thus becomes the first book with engraved maps, and also the first book with the maps by a known artist, the plates having been engraved by Taddeo Crevilli of Ferrara" (Lone, Some Noteworthy Firsts in Europe during the Fifteenth Century [1930]) 41).

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of Hartmann Schedel's copy of this work from the Bayersiche Staatsbibliothek, München, was available at this link.

ISTC no. ip01082000.

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The Earliest Portrait of an Author in a Printed Book August 28, 1479

Detail from page of Breviarium (1479) printed by Pachel and Scinzenzeler depicting the author, Paulus Attavanti.

The earliest portrait of an author in a printed book, and the earliest woodcut illustration printed in Milan, depicts humanist Paulus Attavanti (Paulus Florentinus) in the edition of his Breviarium totius juris canonici, sive Decretorum breviarium printed by Leonardus Pachel and Ulrich Scinzenzeler in 1479. The woodcut shows the author in profile, writing in his library.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 49, 60.  ISTC no. ip00178000.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek.

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1775 Different Editions of Printed Books of Hours Were Issued Between 1480 and 1600 1480 – 1600

"When Books of Hours came to be printed, in the late fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, their pictures, made accessible to an even wider market, insured their meteoric success. (Between 1480 and 1600 there were some 1,775 different Horae editions printed.) This success was initially due in part to the cycles of small border vignettes with which the printers of Books of Hours were able to embellish their products. This was a selling point, and they knew it; printers often boasted about their pictures on their title pages. As the following selective list indicates, the cycles' range of subjects is quite extraordinary: lives of Christ and the Virgin, saints and evangelists, the Dance of Death, the trials of Job, children's games, heroines, sibyls, the Fifteen Signs of the Second Coming, the story of Joseph, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Virtues, the Seven Vices, the Triumphs of Caesar, the story of Tobias, the Miracles of Our Lady, the story of Judith, the Destruction of Jerusalem, and, finally, the Apocalypse" (Wieck, Painted Prayers, The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art (1997).

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"Herbarium Apulei", the First Printed Herbal with Illustrations and Probably the First Series of Illustrations on a Scientific Subject Circa 1481 – 1482

Detail of page from Herbarium apulei with illustration of herb.  Please click to view entire image.

The first printed herbal with illustrations was an illustrated edition of the Herbarium Apulei by Apuleius Platonicus or Pseudo-Apuleius, originally compiled circa 400 CE or earlier, and issued in Rome by the printer and diplomat Johannes Philippus de Lignamine in 1481 or 1482. The earliest surviving manuscript of this text dates from the sixth century.

In his dedicatory letter Lignamine stated that he based his edition on a manuscript found in the Abbey of Monte Cassino. In the 1930s F.W.T. Hunger identified a 9th century manuscript as Lignamine's source (codex Casinensis 97 saec.IX). This he published in facsimile as The Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius (1935). Regrettably the manuscript was destroyed in the bombardment of Monte Casino in 1944. 

The first printed edition of Herbarium Apulei contains in addition to its text, a title within a woodcut wreath and 131 woodcuts of plants, including repeats.  It gives a multitude of prescriptions, and to make the work more useful, lists synonyms for each plant in Greek, Persian, Egyptian, and other languages, illustrating each with a stylized woodcut. These are the earliest series of printed botanical illustrations, and probably the first formal series of illustrations on a scientific subject, though they were preceded by the technological woodcuts in Valturio's De re militari, 1472.  As a practical and instructive reinforcement of the value of particular plants snakes, scorpions, and other venomous animals are depicted in the woodcuts of plants that provide relevant antedotes.

Lignamine sought patronage of his editions through the rich and powerful. As a result, two variant issues of the first edition exist with no priority established:

• one with a dedicatory letter to Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga

• another with a dedication to Giuliano della Rovere, future Pope Julius II.

Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal (1979) 113-14. Christie's, N.Y., Important Botanical Books from a Former Private Collection, 24 June 2009, lot 15. ISTC No. ih00058000.

In February 2013 a digital facsimile of the issue with the dedication to Cardinal Gonzaga was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First World Map to Show the Results of the Age of Discovery 1482

Detail of map from Pomponius Mela's Cosmographi geographia printed in 1482.  Please click to view entire image.

In 1482 printer Erhard Ratdolt of Venice issued Pomponius Mela's Cosmographia geographia. The edition included Dionysius Periegetes, De situ orbis. The woodcut world map in Ratdolt's edition was the first printed map to reflect the early voyages of the Age of Discovery.  Published only three years after the 1479 Treaty of Alcacovas, in which Portugal secured the Guinea coast, the Azores, Madiera, and the Cape Verde Islands, the map modified the traditional Ptolemaic rendering of western Africa to depict a more accurate, up-to-date coast, showing the Portuguese discoveries through the 1460s and 1470s that were absent from contemporary and preceding Ptolemaic maps and atlases, and a clear southeastern trend along the cost of west Africa.

"No earlier printed map recognized this important step towards the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, and no map in the incunable editions of Ptolemy reflected this knowledge" (Campbell, Earliest Printed Maps, 91).

ISTC no.: im00452000. In March 2014 a digital facsimile was available from the National Library of Israel at this link.

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Euclid's Elements, the Most Famous Textbook Ever Published May 25, 1482

Detail of page from Euclid's Elements.  Please click to view entire page.

On May 25, 1482 printer Erhard Ratdolt of Venice issued the first printed edition (editio princeps) of Euclid's ElementsPraeclarissimus liber elementorum Euclidis in artem geometriae. Ratdolt's text was based upon a translation from Arabic to Latin, presumably made by Abelard of Bath in the 12th century, edited and annotated by Giovanni Compano (Campanus of Novara)in the 13th century. The first printed edition of Euclid was the first substantial book to contain geometrical figures, of which it included over 400.

Ratdolt printed several copies with a dedicatory epistle in gold letters, including a dedication copy to the Doge of Venice. Of these, seven copies are preserved. To accomplish this technical feat:

"Ratdolt developed an innovative technique derived from the methods used by bookbinders to stamp gold on leather. This involved strewing a powdered bonding agent (either resin or dried albumen) on the page and probably heating the metal types so that the gold-leaf would stick to the paper. For his 1488 edition of the 'Chronica Hungarorum', Ratdolt employed a simpler method using golden printing ink. His technique of printing in golden letters was first copied in 1499 by the Venetian printer Zacharias Kallierges" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Inkunabeln aus der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München [2009] no. 20).

In order to print the unusually large number of complex geometrical diagrams, usually containing type, in the margins Ratdolt used printer's "rules," i.e. thin strips of metal, type high, which he bent and cut and adjusted and set into a substance that would both hold them (and pieces of type) in place.

Renzo Baldasso, "La stampa dell'editio princeps degli Elementi di Euclide (Venezia, Erhard Ratdolt, 1482)", The Books of Venice/Il libro veneziano, ed. Lisa Pon and Craig Kallendorf (2009) 61-100.

There are two distinct states of the first edition. The second state has leaves a1-a9 set differently from the first state: the heading on a1v is in two lines rather than three and is set in the same type as the text rather than heading type; the three-sided woodcut border and woodcut initial P are added to a2r; the headline in red on a2r begins "Preclarissimus liber elementorum"; and headlines do not begin until a10r. "The two outer pages of sheet c1 also differ, having been evidently reprinted owing to errors in the text and the diagram. . . of the 12th proposition of the 4th book" (B.M.C. vol. 5, 285-286.). See Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science (1964) no. 27. for a detailed illustrated comparison of the two states. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 729.

Characterized as the most famous textbook ever published, Euclid's Elements was one of the most widely printed and studied texts for the next 500 years. It is also considered the most widely printed text after the Bible, with more than 1000 editions issued.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of one of the copies with the dedication printed in gold was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

Based on the unusually large number of surviving copies, Ratdolt printed an edition considerably larger than the 300 copies considered average for a 15th century print run. You can view the long list of institutions which hold a copy at ISTC no. ie00113000.

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Printed on Vellum and Illuminated by Girolamo da Cremona, and Others February 1 – October 25, 1483

In the last three decades of the fifteenth century the exponential increase in the number of books being printed created an important and lucrative new market for miniaturists, since many printed books contained areas left blank for the addition of illuminated initials and rubrications. The quality of illumination or rubrication that might have been added to printed books depended, of course, on the taste and budget of their purchasers. In Italy where antique monuments were most often seen and appreciated during the Renaissance, patrons generally favored the concentration of decoration at the beginning of volumes. This preference culminated in what has been called the "architectural frontispiece", in which lines of text, title and author of the book, or combinations of these were incorporated by the miniaturist into an imaginary antique monument resembling a triumphal arch or an epitaph. In the sixteenth century, when printed title pages and printed frontispieces for printed books became the convention, architectural borders and architectural designs, either engraved in wood or on copperplates, became a widely-used format for frontispieces and engraved title pages.
Between February 1 and October 25, 1483 printers Andreas Torresanus, de Asula (Andrea Torresani di Asolo) and Bartholomaeus de Blavis, de Alexandria of Venice issued in eight parts an edition of the Opera (Collected Works) of Aristotle, together with the Liber quinque praedicabilium (also known as the Isagoge) of the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyri. It was edited by the Paduan scholar Nicoletus Vernia (Nicoleta Vernia) with commentary by the Moroccan Andalusian Muslim polymath, and master of Aristotelian philosophy Averroes, (ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd, commonly known as Ibn Rushd). It was largely through the commentaries of Averroes that the writings of Aristotle were re-introduced to European culture after the Middle Ages. The printer, Torresani, who undertook this huge edition with partners, had acquired the fonts and punches of Nicolas Jenson, from whom he learned the printing trade.

A copy of this work printed on vellum, and preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum, contains a particularly spectacular tromp l'oeil frontispiece in volume one by Girolamo da Cremona and his assistants. Girolamo was a manuscript illuminator who worked first in the North Italian courts of Ferrara and Mantua, then in Siena and Florence. By the 1470s he worked in Venice, primarily illuminating frontispieces for deluxe copies of printed books. These miniatures are known for their playful and extravagant trompe-l'oeil conceits. In Girolamo's frontispiece for volume one the vellum of the page appears to have been torn away to reveal Aristotle conversing with a turbaned figure, possibly the commentator Averroes. A Latin inscription beneath the text on this opening page states "Ulmer Aristotilem Petrus produxeat orbi" (Petrus Ulmer brought this Aristotle to the world.)  Some scholars have identified Ulmer as Peter Ugelheimer, a Frankfurt merchant resident in Venice who owned some shares in Nicolas Jenson's printing shop, and sold Jenson's fonts to Torresani. Other magnificent vellum copies of books printed by Jenson and illustrated for Ugelheimer are preserved in Gotha.

"It is unsurprising that one of the most illusionistically complex images of the late fifteenth century, the frontispiece for an edition of Aristotle’s Works probably owned by Peter Ugelheimer and painted by Girolamo da Cremona, should accompany a written discussion of cognition.  Framing the beginning of the first chapter of Aristotle’s Physics, the miniaturist has constructed a remarkably multilayered image, incorporating the text block itself into an elaborate illusionistic game. Similar to Aristotle’s text, the image invokes several orders of observation interacting within a cohesive whole. On a primary level, the surface of the folio acts as an unframed two-dimensional support, explicitly emphasizing the terms of the illusion while challenging the notion, first codified by Leon Battista Alberti about half a century earlier, of the pictorial field as a finite, unified space within a framed window. Inside the three-dimensional world of the painted page, mounted clusters of jewels, pearls, and antique cameos hanging by red strings before the surface of the parchment, casting an ethereal blue shadow upon it. These objects are nearest to the viewer, their weight and precarious placement made apparent by the tears in the parchment they seem to have produced. Receding further back, the parchment itself constitutes a second visual layer. Girolamo’s skillful shading has given it the appearance of an extensively torn sheet of vellum that curls toward the viewer. Significantly, the physical corners of the page, too, are integrated into the illusion; the central text block does not simply float in three-dimensional space but is connected to the seemingly dog-eared edges of the page. This aspect further problematizes the convention of the pictureplane as an unruptured space and is perhaps the most original device employed by the illuminator. Visible through the lacerations in the vellum, an entirely separate scene takes place; in an antiquizing border-like space, the confines of which are hard to judge, playful satyrs and fawns jostle in front of what appears to be an ornately sculpted antique monument. Finally, in the upper area of the page yet another seemingly unconnected andspatially ambiguous event is depicted — Aristotle’s disputation with Averroës. 

"These pictorial layers, their distance relative to the viewer, and their progression from literal presence (the clusters of jewels) to imaginary presence (the temporally impossible encounter between Aristotle and Averroës) parallel themes present in the introductory chapter of the Physics. According to Aristotle’s text, the study of nature must proceed along a path that moves from ‘concrete and particular’ things immediately cognizable to more ‘abstract and general’ ideas that can be derived from analysis of the former. Likewise, the beholder of this particular frontispiece must move from the immediate sensory tactility of precious stones and metalwork, through the semantic understanding of the text itself, toward a visualization of the text’s argumentative content, in this case represented by a conversation between its author and chief commentator. The frontispiece thus provides a visually appealing, accessible, and conceptually apt ‘concrete whole,’ a prolegomenon for a dense and difficult Aristotelian text that proceeds by the very method the philosopher recommends. Although the variety of visual and epistemological themes that condense in this frontispiece is unprecedented, its imagery does not simply constitute a unique pictorial gloss of Aristotle’s text by means of a particularly erudite miniature painter. Girolamo, who at this point had already been active for three decades, was making use of a visual device that had been employed by other book illuminators numerous times before and in a variety of circumstances. Namely, he undertook to reconcile the visual role of the patently two-dimensional text block (which in practice was nearly always written or printed before any illustration occurred) with a lavishly painted, illusionistically convincing scene. Responding to the inquisitive nature of the text he was asked to illustrate, Girolamo pushed several of the solutions derived by his predecessors to the point of rupture, where the illusionism of the composition collapses in on itself and raises more questions about the nature of representation than it answers" (Herman, "Excavating the page: virtuosity and illusionism in Italian book illumination, 1460-1520", Word & Image, 27:2, 190-211, quoting from p. 190).

The frontispiece for volume two of the Morgan Library copy of the Torresani Aristotle was also illuminated by Girolamo da Cremona together with Antonio Maria da Villafora, and Benedetto Bardon. An excellent reproduction of this and the frontispiece for volume one appear in Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts (2005) 386-7. 

This splendid set was formerly in the library of Bertram Ashburnham, 4th Earl of Ashburnham, after which it was acquired by Henry Yates Thompson, who sold it in 1919 to J. P. "Jack" Morgan, Jr.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue reference for this edition is ISTC No. ia0096200.  The only copies printed on vellum mentioned in the census published there seem to be those at the Morgan and at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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The First Book Illustration Printed in Three Colors 1485

The first book illustration printed in three colors of ink. Detail from page of Theoricae novae planetarium. Please click to view entire page.

In 1485 printer Erhard Ratdolt of Venice issued Johannes de Sacro Bosco's Sphaera Mundi with Georg von Peuerbach's Theoricae novae planetarium, and Regiomontanus's (Johannes Müller von Königsberg's) Disputationes contra Cremonensia deliramenta. The work includes illustrations printed in one, two and three colors of ink. A diagram of a lunar eclipse in red, yellow, and black included in this work is the first book illustration printed in three colors.

Though specific month and day is not mentioned in the colophon, the ISTC no. ij00406000 states that the work was issued before November 4, 1485. 

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available at the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Breydenbach's "Peregrinatio in terram sanctam", the First Illustrated Travel Book: An International Bestseller February 11, 1486

In 1486 Bernhard von Breydenbach, a wealthy canon of Mainz Cathedral, issued a travel book very extensively illustrated with woocuts, describing his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was entitled Peregrinatio in terram sanctam or Sanctae peregrinationes.

Von Breydenbach made the pilgrimage in 1483-4, taking with him, as the book explains, "Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht", a "skillful artist", to make drawings of the sights. As the book relates, Reuwich printed the first Latin edition of the book in his own house in Mainz, and it is also very probable that because Reuwich was the printer he took the opportunity to identify himself as the artist, since the creators of book illustrations were rarely identified at this time.

"Leaving in April 1483 and arriving back in January 1484, they travelled first to Venice, where they stayed for three weeks. They then took ship for Corfu, Modon and Rhodes - all still Venetian possessions. After Jerusalem and Bethlehem and other sights of the Holy Land, they went to Mount Sinai and Cairo. After taking a boat down the Nile to Rosetta, they took ship back to Venice."

"The Sanctae Peregrinationes, or the Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, was the first illustrated travel-book, and marked a leap forward for book illustration generally. It featured five large fold-out woodcuts, the first ever seen in the West, including a spectacular five-foot-long (1600 x 300 mm) woodcut panoramic view of Venice, where the pilgrims had stayed for three weeks. The book also contained a three-block map of Palestine and Egypt, centred on a large view of Jerusalem, and panoramas of five other cities: Iraklion, Modon, Rhodes, Corfu and Parenzo. There were also studies of Near Eastern costume, and an Arabic alphabet—also the first in print. Pictures of animals seen on the journey, including a crocodile, camel, and unicorn, were also included.

"The colophon of the book is a lively coat-of-arms of the current Archbishop of Mainz, which includes the first cross-hatching in woodcut.

"The book was a bestseller, reprinted thirteen times over the next three decades, including printings in France and Spain, for which the illustration blocks were shipped out to the local printers. The first edition in German was published within a year of the Latin one, and it was also translated into French, Dutch and Spanish before 1500. Additional text-only editions and various abridged editions were also published.

"The illustrations were later adapted by Michael Wolgemut for the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493, and much copied by various other publishers" (Wikipedia article on Erhard Reuwich, accessed 12-01-2008).

ISTC no. ib01189000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt at this link.

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Ketham's "Fasciculus medicinae", the First Medical Book with Anatomical Illustrations July 26, 1491

On July 26, 1491 Venetian printers Giovanni and Gregorio Gregoriis, de Forlivio,  completed the first printed edition of Fasciculus medicinae under the authorship of Johannes de Ketham. This collection of short medical treatises, some dating as far back as the thirteenth century, circulated widely in manuscript prior to printing. The printers may have attributed authorship of the collection to the former owner of the manuscript they printed: Johannes von Kirchheim, a professor of medicine in Vienna circa 1460. "Ketham" is a plausible Italian corruption of "Kirchheim."

The first edition of "Ketham" was the first printed medical book to have anatomical illustrations of any kind. It was followed by an Italian translation issued by the same printers in Venice 1493/94, which added Mondino's Anathomia to the collection. For this Italian edition, all but one of the illustrations were redrawn and four new outline wood-engravings added, showing scenes of medical practice in fifteenth-century Venice. The dramatically improved and more realistic illustrations, which were reproduced in the numerous later editions, are by an unknown artist, probably from the school of Giovanni Bellini.

In the woodcuts prepared for the Italian edition we see the first evidence of the transition from medieval to modern anatomical illustration. In the 1491 edition, the woodcut of the female viscera—like those of the Zodiac Man, Bloodletting Man, Wound-Man, etc.—was derived from the traditional non-representational squatting figure found in medieval medical manuscripts. However, the illustrations for the Italian edition "included an entirely redesigned figure showing female anatomy. . . . The scholastic figure from 1491 must have irritated the eyes of the artistic Venetians to such a degree that they immediately abandoned it. After this the female figure actually sits in an armchair, so that the traditional [squatting] position corresponds to a real situation" (Herrlinger, History of Anatomical Illustration, 66). 

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomical Illustration (1920) 115-122.  Herrlinger  28-29; 65-66. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 363.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1211 (1495 edition). ISTC no. ik00013000.

In November 2013 a a digital facsimile was available from Harvard University Libraries at this link

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The Nuremberg Chronicle June 12 – December 23, 1493

June 12, 1493 printer Anton Koberger of Nuremberg completed the printing and issued the Liber chronicarum written by physician Hartmann Schedel. A large-folio compendium of history, geography and natural wonders, the Liber chronicarum contained 298 printed leaves, including 1,809 illustrations from 645 woodcuts by or after painter and woodengraver Michael Wohlgemut (Wohlgemuth), his stepson Wilhelm Plydenwurff, and possibly some by Koberger's godson, the young Albrecht Dürer, who was apprenticed to Wohlgemut until 1490. Certain woodcuts were reproduced more than once, sometimes for the depiction of different people or cities. The images included a full-sheet map of Europe, a Ptolemaean world map, large and small city views, biblical and historical scenes, and portraits.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Latin edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

"From the outset, however, a German-language version had been planned. Translated by Georg Alt (c. 1450-1510), the city treasurer of Nuremberg, who assisted Schedel in compiling the Latin edition, the German edition was published on December 23, 1493. In addition to cosmetic differences (e.g., the Latin edition was printed using a typeface known as Antiqua Rotunda, while the German employed Bastarda Schwabacher), the German edition is very slightly abridged, with omissions that include certain abstruse thoughts as well as seeming repetitions. Occasionally, however, the German Chronicle includes minor but telling expansions on the Latin text. For example, in the Latin version one is told that a certain idea "can be found in Ovid" (folio IIr); the German version, however, informs its readers that this same idea "was elegantly expressed by Ovid, a poet." Such differences point to slightly different readerships: the Latin was aimed at the imperial, theological, and academic markets; the German at the upper middle class who did not possess a university education. Scholars estimate that approximately 1400-1500 Latin copies and 700-1000 German ones were printed. " (http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/inside/about/editions.htm, accessed 11-06-2012). 

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the German translation was available from the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, at this link.

Though the information in the Nuremberg Chronicle was rapidly superceded, it remained famous for its extraordinary graphic design, its printing, its woodcuts and descriptions of cities. One of the woodcuts depicted the paper mill established in Nuremberg by Ulman Stromer in 1390. Probably because it was such a large and impressive volume, the work was a great commercial success, with unusually large printings for a fifteenth century book:

"The Latin edition was printed in at least 1400 copies, of which more than 1200 still exist today" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] no. 11 (describing the annotated copy of the author, Hartmann Schedel, which is preserved at the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, Munich).

Most probably fewer copies of the German edition were printed, as it remains rarer on the market. Between roughly 1980 and 2009 there were 188 auction sales recorded for the Latin edition and 35 sales of the German edition, some sales presumably representing the same copies being resold.

In order to print and sell so many copies of an expensive book in the fifteenth century the printer Anton Koberger had to employ a geographically wide network of partners and sales agents.

"A revealing indication of the extent of Koberger's business is provided by a document of 1509, drawn up as a final settlement of the contract between partners involved in the production and sale of the Nuremberg Chronicle. This accounting reveals a network of outlets spread far and wide throughout Europe. We know that the Nuremberg Chronicle sold well, because there are at least 1,200 surviving copies logged in libraries today. But in 1509 there were still 600 copies unsold. For copies previously supplied debts were logged against the accounts of booksellers spread through the Germanic world: at Lübeck and Danzig, Passau and Vienna, Ingoldstadt, Augsburg and Munich. Linhard Tascher still had to settle for just over a hundred copies sent to him at Posen and Breslau (presumably for sale in Silesia); eighty-three Latin and twenty-eight German. A separate consignment of mostly Latin copies had been dispatched to Cracow. The Koberger agency in Lyon had to account for forty-one copies, and several hundred had been dispatched to agents in Italy, at Bologna, Florence and Genoa. Peter Vischer, the agent at Milan, had received the largest consignment for distribution in the peninsula, of which almost 200 remained unsold. The Venice agent, Anthoni Kolb, had just thirty-four left. Bearing in mind that these represent the unsold residue of what had been a very large edition, the geographical reach of Koberger's enterprise was every bit as impressive as the Venetian network of the previous decades. The bold confidence with which Koberger had taken on the Italian market was especially striking, even if transalpine demand for this masterpiece of German typography had ultimately not matched expectations" (Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance [2010] 77-78).

Remarkably, the original manuscript exemplars showing the exact arrangement of the text and illustrations for both the Latin and German editions, as well has other original documents pertaining to the publication of these works, were preserved. The exemplar for the Latin edition is in the Stadbibliothek Nürnberg. The exemplar for the German edition is in the Nuremberg City Library. Adrian Wilson, a book designer and historian of book design from San Francisco, issued an outstanding book in which he showed the relationship between these manuscript exemplars and the printed editions: The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1976).

Perhaps in 1941 an English translation of the Nuremberg Chronicle was prepared by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago. This existed as a typescript for many years, preserved in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  The title page of the translation, of which I obtained a complete xerographic copy decades ago, reads: First English Edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Being the Liber Chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel, A. D. 1493. Translated from the First German Edition by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago with Text Annotations and Woodcut Elucidations in Six Volumes.  The translation extends to at least 2000 pages of typescript. In 2003 Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin collaborated on publishing Schmauch's entire translation online; in November 2014 it was available at this link.

ISTC no. is00307000 (Latin). ISTC no. is00309000 (German). Both of these entries provide censuses of the many institutions which hold copies of the respective editions.

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Sebastian Brant's "Book Fool", and Others February 11, 1494

In February 1494 Sebastian Brant published Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools) in Basel, Switzerland at the press of Johann Bergmann, de Olpe. Some of the woodcuts illustrating this work were by the young Albrecht Dürer.

Brandt's satire became a great bestseller. It included a characterization and woodcut illustration of the "book fool" who enjoyed owning many books but read few of them. That book-collecting had become a topic for satire by this time is a reflection of the proliferation of books since the invention of printing by movable type.

The popularity of Brandt's satire was also a reflection of the proliferation of books. Twenty-six different editions appeared in the 15th century. Brandt authorized six editions in German during his lifetime and there were at least six other unauthorized editions published. The work was translated into Latin by Jacob Locher in 1497 (Stultifera Navis), into French by Paul Rivière in 1497 and by Jehan Droyn in 1498. An English verse translation by Alexander Barclay appeared in London in 1509, and again in 1570; one in prose by Henry Watson in London, 1509; and again 1517. It was also rendered into Dutch and Low German.

ISTC no. ib01080000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliotheck at this link.

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The First English Book Printed on Paper Made in England Circa 1496

About 1496 English printer Wynkyn de Worde, successor to William Caxton, printed at Westminister an edition of the encyclopedic work by Bartholomaeus AnglicusDe proprietatibus rerum, in the English translation by John Trevisa, illustrated with woodcuts mostly derived from the numerous earlier editions. This work was the first book printed in England on paper made at the first English paper mill, operated by John Tate from around 1495 till his death in 1507.

Remarkably, the original unillustrated manuscript, substantially marked up by the compositors, for a portion of this work, is preserved in the Plimpton Collection at Columbia University Library. Plimpton

"purchased it from Quaritch who had bought it when Lord Middleton's library was sold at auction in 1925. The large and beautiful codex was made for Sir Thomas Chaworth of Wiverton, Notts., about 1440; it apparently soon became the property of the Willoughby family, neighbors and kin of the Chaworths, in whose possession it remained until the sale of Lord Middleton's books in 1925. (Thomas Willoughby was created Baron Middleton 1 January 1711/12). Throughout the nearly 500 years in which the MS. was in private hands it was all but unknown to scholars" (Three Lions cited below, 18).

Wynkyn de Worde's printed text deviates substantially from the manuscript. A second manuscript source, no longer extant, was also a source for the edition. 

♦ Three Lions and the Cross of Lorraine: Bartholomaeus Anglicus, John of Trevisa, John Tate, Wynkyn de Worde and De Proprietatibus Reum. A Leaf Book with Essays by Howell Heaney, Dr. Lotte Hellinga, Dr. Richard Hills. Newton, PA: Bird & Bull Press (1992) details my role in supplying the very incomplete copy of the Wynkyn de Worde printing, containing 138 leaves, which became the basis for the edition, and determined the number of copies printed.

"Worde is generally credited for moving English printing away from its late-Medieval beginnings and toward a modern model of functioning. Caxton had depended on noble patrons to sustain his enterprise; while de Worde enjoyed the support of patrons too (principally Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII), he shifted his emphasis to the creation of relatively inexpensive books for a commercial audience and the beginnings of a mass market. Where Caxton had used paper imported from the Low Countries, de Worde exploited the product of John Tate, the first English papermaker. De Worde published more than 400 books in over 800 editions (though some are extant only in single copies and many others are extremely rare). His greatest success, in terms of volume, was the Latin grammar of Robert Whittington, which he issued in 155 editions. Religious works dominated his output, in keeping with the tenor of the time; but de Worde also printed volumes ranging from romantic novels to poetry (he published the work of John Skelton and Stephen Hawes), and from children's books to volumes on household practice and animal husbandry. He innovated in the use of illustrations: while only about 20 of Caxton's editions contained woodcuts, 500 of de Worde's editions were illustrated.

"He moved his firm from Caxton's location in Westminster to London; he was the first printer to set up a site on Fleet Street (1500), which for centuries became synonymous with printing. He was also the first man to build a book stall in St. Paul's Churchyard, which soon became a center of the book trade in London.

"De Worde was the first to use italic type (1528) and Hebrew and Arabic characters (1524) in English books; and his 1495 version of Polychronicon by Ranulf Higdon was the first English work to use movable type to print music" (Wikipedia article on Wynkyn de Worde, accessed 01-10-2008).

Dard Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 (1925) 13. ISTC no. ib00143000 dates Wynkyn de Worde's book "circa 1496."

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The First Illustration of a Printing Office & Bookshop in a Printed Book February 18, 1499

The first illustration of a printing press and printing office in a printed book appeared in Danse macabre, published in Lyon by Mathias Huss. The image shows death visiting a printing office and a bookseller's shop. Huss's book was one of numerous editions of The Dance of Death, or Danse macabre. 

"The first known illustration of a printing press was certainly not drawn to enlighten future generations as to its characteristics. It appears in an edition of the Danse Macabre, published in Lyons by Mathias Huss in 1499. Death is depicted carrying off a printer and a bookseller, and, such as it is, we may take it that the cut illustrates a French fifteenth-century printing office. Unfortunately, although the general construction of press can be made out, the very aspect which would have been of most interest—the way in which the platen was hung—is obscured by the struggling figure of the pressman. However, the illustration does show clearly the supports, or stays, between the top of the top of the press and the ceiling, which were found to be necessary to keep the press stable; a coarse wooden screw, and a straight pole or bar. Particularly interesting is the plank held up by a stay and on which there is a box, to which we may presume a tympan is hinged by what look like leather straps. No winding mechanism is visible and it may be conjectured that the box was pushed under the platen by hand at this date. The other pressman (or 'beater') is holding an ink-ball, which hardly changed in appearance until it was replaced by a roller some three hundred and fifty years later. Two ink-balls were used to ink the forme. They were made of untanned leather or sheepskin, stuffed with wool or hair, and nailed around a wooden handle or stock. Ink was spread out on to a slab and rubbed out thinly with a wooden device known as a brayer.

"The little rest, or gallows, gives additional credence of the idea that there was a tympan to be thrown back on it when the forme was being inked. The unusual position of the pressman, who usually stood next to his companion, is probably the result of the artist's license as he wanted to show the figure of Death full face" (Kinsman, The Darker Vision of the Renaissance: Beyond  the Fields of Reason [1974] 25).

ISTC. id00020500

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1500 – 1550

The Rothschild Prayerbook is Illuminated Circa 1500 – 1520

The Rothschild Prayerbook, a Flemish manuscript book of hours, was illuminated from about 1500 to 1520 by several leading miniaturists in the final flowering of the Ghent-Bruges school of manuscript illumination. Most of the sixty-seven large miniatures are by the "Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximilian" (probably Alexander Bening, father of Simon) and Gerard Horenbout or the so-called Master of James IV of Scotland (possibly two names for the same artist). Other miniatures in the manuscript are by Gerard David, who was also a panel painter, or by a pupil working in his style. There are also two miniatures by Simon Bening, and work by other masters.

The early history of the manuscript is obscure, a feature shared by several important manuscripts of the late Ghent-Bruges school, which typically do not contain heraldry and portraits of their original owners. Elements in the book, such as extra mass texts and prayers beyond those usually found in books of hours, relate it to the Chartreuse des Dunes, near Bruges. By 1500 printed books of hours had, for the most part, replaced illuminated manuscripts, with the exception of luxury illuminated books like this, which were generally restricted to the higher nobility and royalty.  In the 16th century the manuscript belonged to the princely Wittelsbach family century, and then to the library of the counts palatine in Heidelberg. It left Heidelberg before 1623, after which its history is unknown until it resurfaced in the collection of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family in the late 19th century.

In 1938, soon after the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria, the prayerbook was confiscated from Louis Nathaniel von Rothschild. After the end of World War II the new Austrian government used legislation forbidding the export of culturally significant works of art, partly to pressure the Rothschilds to donate a large number of works to Austrian museums. Under this coercion the prayerbook was "given" to the National Library. In exchange the family was allowed to export other works. In 1999, after international pressure was brought to bear over this coercion, the Austrian government returned the manuscript and other works of art to the Rothschild family. Soon thereafter the manuscript was offered for sale at Christie's in London, where it realized £8,580,000 (then $13,400,000).  When I wrote this database entry in November 2013 this remained the highest price ever paid for an illuminated manuscript.

"This Book of Hours is one of a group of spectacular manuscrits-de-luxe that was produced around 1490 to 1520 for an international clientele and members of the Habsburg court in the Netherlands. These vast undertakings were achieved by the efficient coordination of labor and collaboration of several artists and their workshops. It is closely related to a Book of Hours in the British Library, the Spinola Hours (now at the J. Paul Getty Museum) and the Grimani Breviary (now in Venice, at the Bibl. Marciana). With the Rothschild Prayerbook, these are the most impressive productions of the illuminator Gerard Horenbout, who became court painter to Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, in 1515, before relocating to England to work for King Henry VIII. As well as painting and illuminating, he designed tapestries and stained glass.

"The illuminated openings, where a miniature faces a complementary full-page border, are some of Horenbout’s most exceptional creations. These scenes are thoughtfully devised and precisely observed, and they provide a fascinating record of liturgical practices of the day and they are some of the finest and most remarkable of all Flemish miniatures. The description of the fabrics of the vestments, the integration of figures in architectural space, and the extensive and atmospheric recession are evoked with a detailed delicacy and a bravura naturalism.

"One of the beguiling features of the Prayerbook is the wide variety in the decorative borders. Many of them, as well as further miniatures, recognizably belong to the repertoire of the illuminator long-known as the Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximillian, who is now generally accepted as being Alexander Bening, friend of Hugo van der Goes and Joos van Ghent. Alexander’s son also contributed miniatures to the Prayerbook, including the Vision of St Bernard (illustrated top of page). The delicacy and elegance of this scene and the subtlety of handling in the modeling of the flesh and the description of fabric and form demonstrate why Simon went on to become the most celebrated illuminator of his day.

"Several miniatures were painted by the anonymous artist known as the Master of the Prayerbooks of c.1500. This illuminator is particularly valued for his delightful secular work, above all in the Roman de la Rose in the British Library. In the Rothschild Prayerbook he was responsible for some miniatures in the Office of the Virgin, including the Nativity on one of the most colorful and engaging openings where the borders around miniature and text are used to show other episodes from the Christmas story with the lively addition of the scene of joyful, dancing shepherds" (http://artdaily.com/news/65970/Christie-s-announces-centerpiece-of-the-Renaissance-Sale--The-Rothschild-Prayerbook#.UnUUYFCshcY[/).

On October 31, 2013 Christie's announced that it would once again auction the Rothschild Prayerbook on January 29, 2014 in New York. The presale estimate was $12 million to $18 million. They issued an unusually elaborate catalogue for the sale, providing an unusually detailed description of the manuscript. In January 2014 the catalogue could be read on Christie's website at this link. The manuscript was purchased by a private collector bidding over the phone for $13.3 million, just short of the price realized in 1999, but still a record for an illuminated manuscript. In April 2015 it was announced that the manuscript would be displayed at the National Library of Australia from May 22 to August 9, 2015, having been purchased in 2014 by Australian businessman Kerry Stokes.

Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts 400 to 1600 (2005) 416-17.

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Printing Presses are Established in 282 Cities December 1500

 The 'Nuremberg Chronicle,' written in Latin by Hartmann Schedel and published in 1493, is represented by c. 1250 surviving copies, more than any other incunabulum.  (View Larger)

By the year 1500 printing presses were established in 282 cities.

"These are situated in some 20 countries in terms of present-day boundaries. In descending order of the number of editions printed in each, these are: Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, England, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro, Balearic Islands, Hungary, and Sicily."

"The 18 languages that incunabula are printed in, in descending order, are: Latin, German, Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Catalan, Czech, Greek, Church Slavonic, Portuguese, Swedish, Breton, Danish, Frisian, and Sardinian."

"Only about one edition in ten (i.e. just over 3000) has any illustrations, woodcuts or metalcuts. The 'commonest' incunabulum is Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle ("Liber Chronicarum") of 1493, with c. 1250 surviving copies (which is also the most heavily illustrated). Very many incunabula are unique, but on average about 18 copies survive of each. This makes the Gutenberg Bible, at 48 or 49 known copies, a rather common (though extremely valuable) edition" (Wikipedia article on incunabulum, accessed 12-01-2008).

The average print run of a 15th century printed book has been estimated by some methods of calculation as between 400-500 copies, with as many as 1000 copies, or more, of some books printed. By one method it was estimated that printers issued up to 35,000 different printed works of all kinds, including pamphlets and broadsides as well as books, with a total printed output somewhere around 15 to 20 million copies. Presumably no copies of certain publications—especially ephemera—survived.

♦ In January 2008 the Incunabula Short Title Database maintained by the British Library recorded 29,777 editions printed from moveable type, but not from woodblocks or engraved plates, before 1501. These included  "some 16th-century items previously assigned incorrectly to the 15th century." The number of true incunabula recorded in the database was  27,460— thought to be very close to complete coverage of the number of extant incunabula, which was estimated at 28,000.

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Fra Giovanni Giocondo Issues the First Illustrated Edition of Vitruvius May 22, 1511

 The first printed edition of 'De Architectura,' originally written by Roman architect Marcus Virtuvius Pollio, was printed in Venice in 1511 and contained 136 woodcut illustrations and diagrams.  (View Larger)

On May 22, 1511 Veronese architect, antiquary, archaeologist, and classical scholar, Fra Giovanni Giocondo published the first illustrated edition of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De architectura in Venice at the press of Giovanni Tacuino. The edition contained 136 woodcut text illustrations, woodcut initials and a woodcut title-border. The title-border, a continuous design in four parts incorporating dolphins, leaves and flowers, may be the original of one of the most influential and widely copied pieces of printed ornamentation in the 16th century. Geofroy Tory copied the border (without the shading) to use on his 1525 Horace, and variations of the floreated dolphin design appear in books from all the major European centers of printing.

This fourth printed edition, the first to be illustrated with more than diagrams, was prepared by Fra Giovanni Giocondo, the Veronese architect who took over the construction of St. Peter's in Rome after Donato Bramante's death. The illustrations probably date from around the time of printing, as those that might have accompanied Vitruvius's original text on papyrus rolls or early parchment codices had been lost for centuries.

Mortimer, Harvard College Library, Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, Italian 16th Century Books (1974) No. 543. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 2157.

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Sigismondo Fanti Issues the First Illustrated Manual on the Art of Writing 1514

Detail from page of Theorica et practica . . .de modo scribendi fabricandique omnes literarum species.  Please click on image to view entire page opening.

In 1514 Italian architect, astrologer, mathematician, and writing-master Sigismondo Fanti published from Venice Theorica et practica ... de modo scribendi fabricandique omnes literarum species. This was the first illustrated manual on the art of writing, and the first book illustrated with calligraphic models of the alphabet. It provided practical advice on selecting implements, making ink, on the correct way of holding the pen, and on spacing letters.

Osley, Luminario. An Introduction to the Intalian Writing-Books of the 16th & 17th Centuries (1972) 5-13.

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Giacomo Berengario da Carpi Issues the First Work Since the Time of Galen to Show Original Anatomical Information Based upon Personal Investigation & Observation 1521

In 1521 Italian physician Giacomo Berengario da Carpi (Jacobus Berengarius Carpensis, Jacopo Barigazzi, Giacomo Berengario da Carpi or simply Carpus) published Commentaria cu[m] amplissimis additionibus super anatomia Mu[n]dini. . . in Bologna. This thick quarto of over 1000 pages included 21 full-page woodcut text illustrations plus an architectural title-border, which included an image of a dissection scene.

Berengario was the first anatomist to publish illustrated treatises on anatomy based on his own dissections. His Commentaria on the fourteenth-century Anatomia of Mondino was the first work since the time of Galen to display any considerable amount of original anatomical information based upon personal investigation and observation. The woodcut illustrations of muscle men posed before a landscape background in this work, while crude and lacking in detail in comparison to those in Vesalius's Fabrica (1543), represent the model on which Vesalius based his series of larger and more scientifically portrayed muscle men, and the title page of Berengario's work, with its small illustration of a dissection scene in the lower margin, may have suggested to Vesalius the idea for the dramatic and famous frontispiece to the Fabrica. Vesalius also borrowed from Berengario the concept of having particular anatomical figures perform specific actions, and repeated Berengario's trick of showing a skeleton holding a skull in each hand as a means of illustrating three separate views of the skull in one woodcut.

An art collector and patron who, according to Vasari, once accepted a Raphael painting of St. John in the Desert as a fee for medical attendance, it is probable that Berengario saw some of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings, as Leonardo’s artistic techniques of depicting anatomical parts from different perspectives were incorporated in some of his woodcuts. It is also likely that Berengario would have hired a fine artist to prepare the woodcuts for his books. Some of the woodcuts have been attributed to the Italian Mannerist painter and sculptor Amico Aspertini.

The Commentaria's scientific contributions include the first reference to the vermiform appendix and the first good account of the thymus. Its descriptions of the male and female reproductive organs, the process of reproduction and the fetus were more extensive than any earlier account, and Berengario was the first to call attention to the greater proportional capacity of the female pelvis to the male pelvis.

For the attribution to Aspertini see Cazort, Kornell, Roberts, The Ingenious Machine of Nature: Four Centuries of Art and Anatomy (1996) 38-39. Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration [1920] 137-139. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 187.

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Cesare Cesariano & Colleagues Interpret Roman Architecture in the Artistic Language of the Renaissance July 15, 1521

Detail of Title Page of De Architectura Libri Dece.  Please click on the image to see the full page.

Detail of page from De Architectura Libri Dece.  Please click on the image to see the full page. 

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

Architect and architectural theorist Cesare Cesariano, humanist Benedetto Giovio and and Bono Mauro da Bergamo edited the first edition in Italian of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De Architectura Libri Decem, the printing of which was completed on July 15, 1521 in Como, Italy at the press of Gottardo da Ponte. This was the first translation of Vitruvius into a modern language. The translation and commentary were largely the work of Cesare Cesariano, a pupil of Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci; however, the address to the reader on leaf Z8r by Gallo and Aloisio Pirovano states that Cesariano left the work unfinished, and that it was completed by Giovio and Mauro. The edition may have been 1300 copies.

"Vitruvius' technical language is fraught with difficulties. Leone Battista Alberti was of the mind that the Latins thought Vitruvius was writing Greek and the Greeks, Latin. The impenetrable Latin and the lack of illustrations gave freedom to the Renaissance designers, who were able to interpret antique architecture in their own image, all' antica. Cesariano's Vitruvius gives us a clear picture of the Renaissance perception of the architecture of Classical Antiquity. Indeed the spirit of Milan's Late Gothic Duomo can be recognized in some of Cesariano's woodcuts. Among his illustrations is an attempt at rendering Vitruvius' precepts on the ideally proportioned man, successfully rendered by Leonardo, but attempted by many 15th century theorists" (Wikipedia article on Cesare Cesariano, accessed 01-21-2009).

This edition is known for its striking illustrations: "Some subjects follow the 1511 edition, but the execution is highly original and the illustration is much more detailed than that provided by Tacuino. . . . Blocks have black backgrounds and strong black lines. Aloisio Pirovano's `Oratio' to the people of Milan on leaf [-]8r refers to the collaboration of `molti excelle[n]ti pictori.' On leaves B6r, B7r, B7v are full-page plans and elevations of Milan cathedral. Cesariano's introduction of a gothic building into a classical text, apparently the first such illustration of gothic architecture, is typical of his individual approach to Vitruvius. . . . The influence of Leonardo on these illustrations has been generally noted" (Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, 16th Century Italian Books, no. 544).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2158.

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Berengario da Carpi Issues a Condensation of his Commentary on Mondino 1522

Detail of recto 32 of Berengario da Carpi's Isagoge breves perlucide ac uberime in anatomia humani corporis.  Please click on image to view entire page.

Detail of title page of Berengario da Carpi's Commentaria, from which the Isagoge was condensed. Please click on image to view entire page.

One year after publishing his Commentary on Mondino, Giacomo Berengario da Carpi issued Isagoge breves perlucide ac uberime in anatomia humani corporis. . . . from Bologna. Consisting of about 150 pages, but with most of the same woodcuts, the Isagoge is a condensation of the much larger and more expensive Commentaria (1521) intended as a manual for his students, and as a replacement for his obsolete 1514 edition of Mondino's Anathomia. It has the same arrangement of contents as the Commentaria, and includes some additional anatomical observations, such as the report of a fused kidney with horseshoe configuration seen at a public dissection in 1521, and a description of the valves of the heart.

One year later Berengario issued a revised and expanded second edition of his Isagoge, containing three more anatomical woodcuts, as well as some revisions to the illustrations that had appeared in the first edition; these alterations and additions emphasized the anatomy of the heart and brain, and included the first published view of the cerebral ventricles from an actual dissection. The architectural title-border was first used in Berengario's Commentaria (1521); here, it has been altered to read "Maria" instead of "Leo P.X.," and Berengario's surname "Carpus" appears both in the architrave and the vignette. The shield has also been altered to read "YHS."

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 136-142. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 188, 189.

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Otto Brunfels & Hans Weiditz Issue the First Accurate, Detailed Woodcuts of Plants Taken Directly from Nature 1530 – 1536

In 1530 and 1532 German botanist and theologian Otto Brunfels published the first two volumes of Herbarum vivae eicones ad nature imitationem, sum[m]a cum diligentia et artificio effigiatae. . . .  in Strassbourg. The third volume was edited by Michael Heer and published in 1536, two years after Brunfels's death.

Unlike earlier herbals, which were llustrated with conventional stylized figures, copied and recopied over the centuries from one manuscript to another, Brunfels's Herbarum was illustrated with detailed, accurate renderings of plants taken directly from nature, most of them showing all portions of the plant (root, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit), and some even going so far as to depict wilted leaves and insect damage. The artist responsible for the illustrations was Hans Weiditz; his contributions were credited in a poem appearing on leaf A4r, making him the first botanical illustrator to be recognized for his work. Comparison of Weiditz's woodcuts with the woodcuts in Leonhard Fuchs's De historia stirpium (1542) show that the artists who worked with Fuchs were strongly influenced by Weiditz's work.

In contrast to its revolutionary images, the text of the Herbarum was an uncritical compendium of quotations from older authorities, primarily concerned with the therapeutic virtues of each plant. Brunfels made no attempt to classify the plants he discussed, but related species often appear in close proximity to one another. He restricted himself to plants indigenous to Strassburg and described over forty new species. At the end of the second volume is a collection of twelve tracts edited by Brunfels, entitled De vera herbarum cognitione appendix. This includes the first published writings of both Hieronymus Bock and Leonhard Fuchs. 

Morton, History of Botanical Science (1981) 124.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 361.

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Johann Dryander & Hans Brosamer Issue the First Significant Book on the Anatomy of the Head 1536 – 1537

 Johann Dryander, one of the first German doctors to perform public disections, published his 'Anatomia Capitis Humani' in 1536, which contained the most extensive study on the human head to date, and the first 'Galenic dissection' of the brain.  (View Larger)

In 1536 German physician, anatomist, mathematician and astronomer Johann Dryander published Anatomia capitis humani. . . . in Marburg. Dryander's work was the first significant book on the anatomy of the head, and one of the earliest anatomical works with illustrations after the author's own dissections. The thin quarto of 14 leaves includes 11 full-page woodcut text illustrations, 5 of which are signed with a monogram consisting of an open pair of compasses (the emblem of the Apostle Thomas) above the letter "G", frequently with the initials "GVB" or "VB" inscribed above. This monogram has been linked to the Basel woodcutter Georg Thomas, and also to the German painter and woodcut engraver Hans Brosamer

Dryander, who studied anatomy at Paris at the same time as Vesalius, produced in his Anatomia capitis one of the most important pre-Vesalian anatomical studies, showing by means of full-page woodcuts how he learned to dissect and display human anatomy. He was one of the first physicians in Germany to perform public dissections, and the text of Anatomia capitis is the printed record of an anatomical demonstration he gave at Marburg. Anatomia capitis was probably published in a small edition, as Dryander intended it to serve as the preliminary to a full-scale anatomy.

This scheme Dryander partially realized the following year when he issued his Anatomia, hoc est corporis humani dissectionis pars prior. That expanded work included 36 leaves and 19 full-age woodcuts, plus a woodcut title border. Eight of the woodcuts (one of which is repeated) are repetitions of illustrations 1-8 in the 1536 Anatomia, with the illustration numbers removed from the blocks. Another 8 woodcuts (one, Universalis figura capitis humani, repeated) are new to this work; 3 of them are signed with the monogrammed compass device used in the 1536 edition. In addition, there are 3 illustrations made up of images rearranged from illustrations 9, 10 and 11 of the 1536 Anatomia. 

Dryander's Anatomiae contained a more extensive anatomy of the human head than his Anatomia capitis and included material on the lungs and heart; it also reprinted the manual for pig dissection, Anatomia porci, traditionally ascribed to Copho (fl. 1110), and excerpts from the Anatomia infantis of Gabriele de Zerbis.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 148-149. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 656-57.

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Masters at Colegio de Santa Cruz de Santiago Tlaltelolco Create the Florentine Codex, the First Illustrated Encyclopedia of the New World 1540 – 1585

Between 1540 and 1585 twenty tlacuilos or painters and four indigenous masters at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Santiago Tlaltelolco in Tlalelolco, Mexico, under the direction of Franciscan friar and missionary priest Bernardino de Sahagún, compiled La Historia Universal de las Cosas de Nueva España (General History of the Things of New Spain). 

In partnership with Aztec men who were formerly his students, Bernardino conducted research, organized evidence, wrote and edited findings.  The resulting text, written in Spanish and Nahuatl, is best-known from the three-volume manuscript preserved in the Laurentian Library in Florence, called The Florentine Codex. It consists of about 2,400 pages organized into twelve books with over 2,000 illustrations drawn by native artists, providing vivid images of this era. The work documents the culture, worldview, and ritual practices, society, economics, and natural history of the Aztec people.  In the process of compiling the Historia general, Bernardino pioneered new methods for gathering ethnographic information and validating its accuracy.  He has been called the first ethnographer/ cultural anthropologist of the Americas.

The Florentine codex was translated into English by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O. Anderson as Bernardino de Sahagún, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain. Translation of and Introduction to Historia General De Las Cosas De La Nueva España. The translation was published in 12 Volumes in 13 Books by the University of Utah Press, 1950-1982.  In 2009 a complete color facsimile edition of the codex was published on 16 DVDs by the Bilingual Press of Tempe, Arizona.  A full color digital facsimile is available from the World Digital Library.

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Leonhard Fuchs, Albrecht Mayer, Heinrich Füllmaurer & Viet Rudolf Speckle Issue the First "Modern" Herbal, with Self-Portraits of the Artists 1542

In 1542 German physician and botanist Leonhard Fuchs published De historia stirpium (On the History of Plants) in Basel at the office of printer Michael Isengrin. Fuchs's herbal was illustrated with full-page woodcut illustrations drawn by Albrecht Meyer, copied onto the blocks by Heinrich Füllmaurer and cut by Veit Rudolf Speckle; the artists' self-portraits appear on the final leaf. 

Describing and illustrating circa 400 native German and 100 foreign plants-- wild and domestic—in alphabetical order, with a discussion of their medical uses, De historia stirpium was probably inspired by the pioneering effort of Otto Brunfels, whose Herbarum vivae imagines had appeared twelve years earlier. "These two works have rightly been ascribed importance in the history of botany, and for two reasons. In the first place they established the requisites of botanical illustration—verisimilitude in form and habit, and accuracy of significant detail. . . . Secondly they provided a corpus of plant species which were identifiable with a considerable degree of certainty by any reasonably careful observer, no matter by what classical or vernacular names they were called. . ." (Morton, History of Botanical Science [1981] 124).

Fuchs's herbal is also remarkable for containing the first glossary of botanical terms, for providing the first depictions of a number of American plants, including pumpkins and maize, and for its generous tribute to the artists Meyer, Füllmaurer and Speckle, whose self-portraits appear on the last leaf.  This tribute to the artists may be unique among sixteenth century scientific works, many of which were illustrated by unidentified artists, or artists identified by name only. It is especially unusual for the name of the artist who transferred the drawings onto the woodblocks to be recorded, let alone for that artist to be portrayed.

The widely known and distinctive plant species Fuchsia, named after Fuchs, was discovered on Santo Domingo in the Caribbean in 1696/97 by the French scientist Dom Charles Plumier, who published the first description of "Fuchsia triphylla, flore coccineo" in 1703. The color fuchsia is also named for Fuchs, describing the purplish-red of the shrub's flowers.

"Fuchs's herbal exists in both hand-colored and uncolored versions. While some colored copies may have been painted by their owners after purchase, as was sometimes done in books of this nature, there is sufficient evidence to show that copies were also colored for the publisher Isingrin, who presumably made use of the artist's original drawings. Such 'original colored' copies possess many features in common—for example, the illustration of the rose has the left shoot bearing white flowers and the right shoot red flowers, and the plum tree shows yellow fruits on the left, blue fruits in the center, and reddish fruits on the right—and it is these features that permit one to distinguish between original colored copies and those colored later by private owners. The coloring in the colored copies issued by the publisher accords well with Fuchs's descriptions in the text, which suggest that Fuchs had some control over the painting" (Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine [1995] no. 17, pp. 66-67).

In 1543 Michael Isengin issued a German translation of De historia stirpium entitled New Kreüterbüch. During Fuchs's lifetime the book underwent thirty-nine editions in Latin, German, French, Spanish and Dutch, in folio and smaller formats. Although the text and woodcuts were technically protected decree of Charles V, as stated on Fuchs's title page, this did not prevent wholesale plagiarism of the blocks during Fuchs's life and long after his death; the woodblocks illustrating the work were reused and copied for over 300 years.

Meyer, Trueblood & Heller, The Great Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs. Volume 1: Commentary. Volume 2: Facsimile. (1999). On pp. 136-141 of vol. 1 the authors provide a history of the re-use or adaptation of Fuchs's images, and a list of works that used them between 1543 and 1862.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 846.

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Leonhard Fuchs' Unpublished Masterpiece of Renaissance Botany 1543

Between 1543 and his death in 1566 physician and botanist Leonhard Fuchs composed an expansion of De historia stirpium that he planned to have published in three volumes with a greatly expanded text and 1525 images, including descriptions of 400 plants "not mentioned by the ancients or completely unknown." However, in the interval Fuchs's publisher, Michael Isengrin, died, and Isengrin's widow was unwilling to advance the very substantial sum, known from Fuchs's correspondece to be 3000 florins, to publish the work. Thus, by the end of his life Fuchs had devoted to an enormous amount of time, effort and expense to writing a work that was never published. Remarkably, the manuscript passed down through Fuchs's family, and resisted several efforts to have it published over the centuries, and survived two world wars, before it appeared for sale at a congress of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers in Vienna in 1954, where it was purchased by the National Library of Vienna.

In the commentary volume to their edition of The Great Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs (1999) Meyer, Trueblood and Heller devote chapter 5 (pp. 147-194) to Fuchs's unpublished manuscript, which they call "The Vienna Codex." The National Library of Vienna's official name for the manuscript  is Codex Vindobonensis Palatinus. From Meyer, Trueblood and Heller's description on pp. 154-55 I quote:

"It now consists of nine small folio volumes, 4,444 pages of text and figures, with a page size of 31.5 x 20.8 cm, bound in richly ornmaented early-seventeenth century white pigskin. The Latin text is wrtten in the small italic hand of Fuchs; the plant pictures are hand-colored. The manuscript is still in good physical condition, but many of the water-colored pictures have faded because of age. Some of the illustrations suffered when the manuscript was put into its present binding, because of trimming at the top of the page, although the loss is not serious.

"The Vienna Codex includes all of the original 511 figures from the Historia of 1542 and 6 more from the German edition of 1543. In addition, there are 1,012 new figures, bringing the grand total of plates in the Codex to 1,529 by our count, although Fuchs mentions 1,525 on his title page. There are a few duplicate plates, making an accurate count more difficult. The number of plates does not reflect the number of species and other categories represented in the manuscript. Sometimes more than one species is figured on a plate, bringing the number of plants figured to ca. 1,541 in the manuscript. The count is provisional, however, until all the plants have been identified...."

When I wrote this entry in November 2013, to the best of my knowledge, Fuchs's manuscript remained the only major surviving unpublished autograph manuscript by a Renaissance scientist of the first rank.

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Andreas Vesalius Produces a Unprecedented Blend of Scientific Exposition, Art and Typography June 1543

 The title page of Andreas Versalius' 'De humani corporis fabrica libri septem,' published in 1543, was a revolutionary work of unmatched scientific and artistic precision.  (View Larger)

In June 1543, at the age of only 29, physician, surgeon, and anatomist Andreas Vesalius of Brussels published De humani corporis fabrica libri septem in Basel. This large and spectacularly produced volume revolutionized the science and teaching of human anatomy, and therefore of medicine in general. Throughout this encyclopedic 400,000 word book on the structure and workings of the human body Vesalius provided a fuller and more detailed description of human anatomy than any of his predecessors, correcting errors in the traditional, and enormously influential anatomical teachings of the Roman physician Galen, which had been obtained from primate rather than human dissection, and arguing that knowledge of human anatomy was to be obtained only from human sources. Even more revolutionary than his criticism of Galen and other medieval authorities was Vesalius's assertion that the dissection of cadavers must be performed by the physician himself—a direct contradiction of the medieval doctrine that dissection was a task to be performed by menials while the physician lectured from the traditional authorities. Only through actual dissection, Vesalius argued, could the physician learn human anatomy in sufficient detail to teach it accurately. This "hands-on" principle remained Vesalius's most lasting contribution to the teaching of anatomy; it is graphically represented in the Fabrica's woodcut title page (the earliest illustration of an anatomical theatre), which shows Vesalius with his right hand plunged into an opened cadaver, conducting an anatomical demonstration. Because it was then legal only to dissect the cadavers of executed criminals, and these cadavers were always in short supply, Vesalius urged physicians to take their own initiative in obtaining material for dissection. The Fabrica contains several amusing and unrepentant anecdotes of how students had robbed graves to obtain cadavers, especially those of women, since female criminals were rarely executed in those days.

The Fabrica also broke new ground in its unprecendented blending of scientific exposition, art and typography. Although earlier anatomical books, such as those by Berengario da Carpi had contained some notable anatomical illustrations, they had never appeared in such number or been executed in such minute precision as in the Fabrica, and they had usually been introduced rather haphazardly with little or no relationship to the text. In contrast, Vesalius sent his woodblocks to the printer with precise instructions as to placement within the text, and with exact marginal references which brought about direct relationship of text to illustrations, or even details within illustrations. The series of historiated initials, in which putti and dwarfed men humorously perform some of the more grisly actions associated with dissection, have been called pictorial footnotes to the text. The book remains the typographic masterpiece of Johannes Oporinus of Basel, one of the most widely learned and iconoclastic of the scholar printers. Another advantage to Vesalius of using Oporinus for this project was that Oporinus had been educated in medicine. Oporinus's success with the Fabrica apparently caused Vesalius to entrust to Oporinus all of his later publications. 

The Fabrica's magnificent title page and the spectacular series of hundreds of anatomical woodcuts (full-page and smaller) spread throughout the book remain the most famous series of anatomical illustrations ever published. Though Vesalius did not credit any specific artist or artists with the images, traditionally the illustrations were attributed to an associate of Titian, the Flemish artist Jan Stephan von Calcar, who drew, and possibly engraved, the three woodcuts of skeletons in Vesalius's first series of anatomical charts, Tabulae anatomicae sex (1538). For a long time an alternative theory was that the Fabrica woodcuts were produced by an unknown artist or artists in Titian's workshop in Venice. We know that Vesalius commissioned the illustrations and supervised their production, and it is also very likely that he personally drew some of the lesser illustrations for the Fabrica, as we know that he made the drawings for the first three of the Tabulae anatomicae sex. Most of the woodblocks for the Fabrica were preserved in Munich until the bombing of Munich in World War II.

In September 2014 my wife and I attended the Vesalius Continuum conference on the Greek island of Zakynthos where Vesalius died on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The conference was scheduled to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vesalius's birth. At the conference the distinguished historian of art Martin Kemp presented his latest views on the origin and significance of Vesalius's images, describing the book as a visual machine interlocked with a textual machine, and attributing most of the large images to von Calcar, and some of the lesser ones, including the small diagrams, to Vesalius. The famous woodcut title page with its architectural aspects Kemp attributed on a preliminary basis to the Italian painter Giuseppe Porta, who sometimes signed his name as Giuseppe Salviati. Kemp also considered Porta a good candidate for the artist responsible for the historiated initials.

A notable feature of the Fabrica not usually considered is Vesalius's "Index of Notable Subjects and Words" published at the end of the work. Arranged alphabetically by subject, and either by first name or surname somewhat inconsistently, this index to page number and line number on a given page amounts to a detailed outline of what Vesalius considered his significant original contributions. For example, under Galen he indexed to each specific anatomical detail where he disagreed with Galen's writings.

♦ In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1543 Fabrica was available from the National Library of Medicine at this link. Another digital facsimile of a copy hand-colored (probably in the seventeenth century) at the University of Basel was available at this link.

From 1998 to 2009 I published the first English translation of De humani corporis fabrica in five volumes, the descriptions of which are available at this link

(This entry was last revised on 09-15-2014.)

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Simultaneously with the "Fabrica" Vesalius Issues a Condensation, or Road-Map, of the Encyclopedic Work June 1543

Shortly after publishing his encyclopedic De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, Andreas Vesalius issued De humani corporis fabrica epitomealso from the press of Johannes Oporinus of Basel. This thin set of 14 unnumbered leaves, each containing images and text, and published in large folio format even larger than the Fabrica, was an outline, or precis, or road-map of essential information contained in the Fabrica, including some different and spectacular larger images. This was the first time that the author of a revolutionary medical or scientific work issued a condensation of his essential information roughly simultaneously with the main publication.

Vesalius suggested that the large sheets of the Epitome might be mounted on the walls of dissection rooms as a guide to dissection. As a result, relatively few sets of the sheets were bound up as books, and only a small portion of the original printing survives.

While the Fabrica was a very expensive encyclopedic work, Vesalius' Epitome, though larger in format, was a much less expensive work that presented essential anatomical information in a concise, comparatively easy to understand manner. It became far more widely published and distributed than the Fabrica. By August 9,1543  Vesalius published a German translation of the Epitome in Basel, and many plagiarisms and adaptations of the Epitome were published in various European countries, in a wide variety of formats, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Because of its much wider publication and distribution, even more than the Fabrica, Vesalius' Epitome was the publication that revolutionized the teaching and study of human anatomy.

The Epitome’s nine anatomical woodcuts are divided into two skeletal, four muscular and two circulatory charts, plus a neurological chart, each drawn with great attention to detail. The skeletal, muscular and one of the circulatory plates are similar, but not identical, to plates found in the Fabrica; the Epitome’s plates are larger, the figures in slightly different attitudes and less space is devoted to background scenery (leaf K1 duplicates the Fabrica’s celebrated thinking skeleton, but with the inscription on the pedestal changed). The remaining circulatory plate and the neurological plate are reproduced, with different text, on the two folding plates found in the Fabrica; the plate on M1 appears on leaf p4 of the Fabrica, and the plate on [N]1 (minus the accompanying organs) appears on the leaf m3. In addition to these nine anatomical plates, there are in the Epitome two stunning woodcuts of a nude male and nude female figure, accompanied by long descriptions of the surface regions of the body; nothing like them appears in the Fabrica. The Epitome’s title-page woodcut and portrait of Vesalius are from the same blocks used in the earlier work.

Most known copies of the Epitome are incomplete. According to the final paragraph of leaf M1, the work was issued in separate sheets and not intended to be bound together. The last two unsigned sheets (Cushing’s [N]1 and [O]1) are especially rare, as they were printed with individual parts of the body to be cut out and assembled into two figures, male and female.

Cushing, Bio-bibliography of Andreas Vesalius (1943) VI B-1.

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Charles Estienne Includes Erotic Images Made Acceptable by their Adaptation for Medical Purposes 1545 – 1546

In 1545 French physician, writer, and translator, Charles Estienne, of the Estienne printing dynasty, published De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres. . . . in Paris. Charles was the younger son of scholar printer Henri I EstienneDe dissectione, one of the most interesting woodcut books of the French Renaissance, was printed at the Estienne Press by his stepfather Simon de Colines, who ran the press from Henri I's death until Charles's brother Robert came of age.

Charles Estienne studied medicine in Paris, completing his training in 1540; in 1535, during his course of anatomical studies under Jacques Dubois  (Jacobus Sylvius), he had Andreas Vesalius as a classmate. At the time the only illustrated manuals of dissection available were the writings of Berengario da Carpi, and the need for an improved, well-illustrated manual must have been obvious to all students of anatomy, particularly the medical student son of one of the world's leading publishers. Estienne did not hesitate to fill this need. The manuscript and illustrations for De dissectione were completed by 1539, and the book was set in type halfway through Book 3 and the last section, when publication was stopped by a lawsuit brought by Étienne de la Rivière, an obscure surgeon and anatomist who had attended lectures at the Paris faculty during 1533-1536, overlapping the time of Estienne's medical study in Paris.

According to historian of surgery and economist, François Quesnay, Estienne may have attempted to plagiarize a manuscript of Étienne de la Rivière which the latter had turned over to him for translation from French into Latin. In the eventual settlement of the lawsuit, Estienne was required to credit Rivière for the various anatomical preparations and for the pictures of the dissections. Had De dissectione been published in 1539, there is no question that it would have stolen much of the thunder from Vesalius's Fabrica: it would have been the first work to show detailed illustrations of dissection in serial progression, the first to discuss and illustrate the total human body, the first to publish instructions on how to mount a skeleton, and the first to set the anatomical figures in a fully developed panoramic landscape, a tradition begun by Berengario da Carpi in his Commentary on Mondino. Nonetheless, Estienne's work still contained numerous original contributions to anatomy, including the first published illustrations of the whole external venous and nervous systems, and descriptions of the morphology and purpose of the "feeding holes" of bones, the tripartate composition of the sternum, the valvulae in the hepatic veins and the scrotal septum. In addition, the work's eight dissections of the brain provide more anatomical detail that had previously appeared.

The anatomical woodcuts in De dissectione have attracted much critical attention due to their wide variation in imagistic quality, the oddly disturbing postures of the figures in Books 2 and 3, the obvious insertion in many blocks (again, in Books 2 and 3) of separately cut pieces for the dissected portions of the anatomy, and the uncertainty surrounding the sources of the images. The presence of inserts in main blocks would suggest that these blocks were originally intended for another purpose, and in fact a link has been established between the gynecological figures in Book 3, with their frankly erotic poses, and the series of prints entitled The Loves of the Gods, engraved by Gian Giacomo Caraglio after drawings by Perino del Vaga and Rosso Fiorentino. It has also been conjectured that the male figures in Book 2 are from blocks cut for an unpublished book of anatomical designs after Rosso Fiorentino's studies of bodies disinterred from the burial grounds at Borgo; however, this speculation remains insufficiently supported by evidence.

Possible explanations of this connection between pornography and anatomy are that the engraver of the female nude woodcuts did not have access to a model, and for the sake of expediency copied the general outlines of the female nudes from "The Loves of the Gods," eliminating the male figures from the erotic illustrations. Another wood engraver, perhaps Rivière, would then have prepared the anatomical insert blocks showing the internal organs. Economic reasons may also have been a factor, as commissioning entirely new woodcuts would certainly have cost more in time and money than adapting existing artwork, and after the enforced delay imposed by Étienne de la Rivière's lawsuit, both time and money may well have been in short supply. A third explanation might have been that the publishers intended to commercialize the anatomy by stressing the erotic overtones, thus appealing to a wider market than strictly physicians. Possibly because of the erotic connection, the work sold unusually well for a anatomical treatise, appearing in French the following year, with publication of an edition of the plates alone, without text, several years later. During a period in which printed erotica was very difficult to come by there would have been considerable demand for erotic images made acceptable by their adaption for medical purposes.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 152-155. Kellett, "Perino del Vaga et les illustrations pour l'anatomie d'Estienne," Aesculape 37 (1955), 74-89. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 728.

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Guido Guidi Issues a Spectacular Book of Renaissance Surgery and Graphic Arts 1545

From the press operated by Pierre Gautier in the Paris castle of Benevenuto Cellini, Italian physician Guido Guidi (Vidius Vidius) issued Chirurgia è graeco in latinum conversa . . . .  The elegantly printed and illustrated small folio included 210 text woodcuts, most probably after drawings by the school of Francesco Salviati (Francesco de'Rossi).

Guidi's Chirurgia was derived from the Nicetas Codex, a tenth-century illustrated Byzantine manuscript of surgical works on the treatment of fractures and luxations by Hippocrates, Galen and Oribasius, discussed circa 900 in this database. In 1542, Guidi presented an illustrated copy of this manuscript, along with the manuscript of his own illustrated Latin translation, to François I of France, whom he served as royal physician from 1542 until the king's death in 1547. These manuscripts are preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Guidi had his Latin translation printed by Pierre Gaultier, a printer residing at the castle of Benvenuto Cellini, where Guidi also lived during the time he spent in Paris. The Chirurgia was the only one of Guidi's works published during his lifetime. The exquisite woodcuts of apparatus adorning Guidi's text are copies of the drawings in Guidi's Latin manuscript, which have been claimed, on the basis of a brief reference in the manuscript, to be the work of the Italian mannerist Francesco Primaticcio. However, for both stylistic and logistical reasons, it is more likely that the drawings were made by the school of Francesco [Rosso] Salviati; see Kellett, cited below. The images themselves have been traced back from the Nicetas Codex to the commentary on the Hippocratic treatise Peri arthron (On the joints) composed in the first century B.C.E. by Apollonius of Kitium

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920)  211-212.  Kellett, "The School of Salviati and the Illustrations to the Chirurgia of Vidius Vidius, 1544," Medical History 2 (1958), 264-268. Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts Part I. French Sixteenth Century Books (1964) no. 542. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 954.

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Thomas Geminus Issues the First Edition of Vesalius Published in England October 1545 – 1553

Belgian engraver, mathematical and surgical instrument maker, Thomas Geminus (Thomas Lambert or Lambrit) published Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio in London. Geminus's Compendiosa was a slightly abridged version of Vesalius's Epitome illustrated with figures from both the Fabrica and the Epitome re-engraved in copperplate by Geminus. Geminus's work introduced Vesalian anatomy to England, filling an important need by providing a summary view of Vesalius's anatomical discoveries more complete than the Epitome, less bulky and expensive than the Fabrica, and illustrated— via the new medium of copperplate engraving— with a clarity of line impossible even for the highly skilled wood engravers employed by Vesalius. The work was dedicated to Henry VIII, who in 1540 had given assent to an Act uniting Barbers and Surgeons into one Company. In the same year another Act authorized the supply of the cadavers of four executed criminals to the Barber and Surgeons Company for dissection. Geminus undoubtedly intended his book to supply needed information to English surgeons in the spirit of the new legislation. However, Vesalius did not authorize publication of the Compendiosa, and he complained about it bitterly in his China-Root Epistle (1546), so that even though Geminus declared Vesalius's authorship in the headline on leaf A1, the Compendiosa has always been considered the first of the many plagiarisms of Vesalius's anatomical works.

Geminus emigrated to England about 1540, where he practiced the arts of engraving, printing and instrument making. It has also been asserted that Geminus practiced as a surgeon until 1555 when he was examined and penalized by the College of Physicians for practicing without a license. Later in life Geminus was also a printer.

Geminus introduced to the English the use of copperplate engraving for book illustration, a technique he probably brought from his native Belgium.  A few months before the publication of the Compendiosa, Geminus produced the first engraved book illustrations published in England: two small copperplates, also copied from Vesalius, made for Thomas Raynalde's 1545 revision of The Byrth of Mankynde. The Compendiosa, with its forty copperplates, was the second English book illustrated with copperplates, and the first to contain an engraved title-page. Hind called this elaborate and elegant plate the "first engraving of any artistic importance produced in England." 

Encouraged by the success of his Latin edition of Vesalius, Geminus was persuaded, possibly by Vesalius's old roommate John Caius, to prepare a version of the Vesalian plates with English text for the benefit of "unlatined surgeons." As he doubted his proficiency in English, Geminus sought the aid of schoolmaster and dramatist Nicholas Udall, to translate the characterum indices of the Vesalian plates. The English text chosen to accompany the plates was an early translation of the Surgery of Henry de Mondeville, which Thomas Vicary, surgeon to Henry VIII, had used almost word for word in his own Anatomie of the Bodie of Man (1548). The text was rearranged in Geminus's book to follow the traditional order of conducting a dissection, beginning with the viscera and ending with the bones in order to dissect first those parts which would putrefy most rapidly. The English versions of Geminus's Compendiosa are particularly rare. Copies of the first English Compendiosa exist in two versions: the earlier has no date on the engraved title, while the later has the date "1553" in the lower right corner of the framed title on the engraved title-leaf.

Hind, Engraving in England in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries I (1952) 39-58. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 886.

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1550 – 1600

Juan Valverde de Amusco Issues the First Great Original Spanish Medical Book, Illustrated and Printed in Rome 1556

In 1556 Spanish physician Juan Valverde de Amusco published Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano in Rome at the press of Antonio Salamanca. This was the first great original medical book in Spanish and the most original of the various "plagiarisms" from Vesalius's Fabrica, although Valverde freely acknowledged that he took his illustrations from Vesalius, providing only four entirely new plates in his series of 42 copperplate engravings copied from the Vesalian woodcuts. Valverde also sometimes corrected Vesalius' images, as in his depictions of the muscles of the eyes, nose, and larynx. 

Valverde probably had his book published in Rome rather than in Spain in order to have the illustrations made to standards higher than could be accomplished in Spain at the time. The engraver he chose had come from Spain, and the artist had come from France; both were drawn to Rome to work with Michelangelo. The plates for the book were engraved by the French engraver Nicolas Beatrizet, who engraved under the direction of Michelangelo between 1540 and 1560. Beatrizet probably engraved the plates from drawings by the Spanish artist Gaspar Becerra, a pupil of Michelangelo. Thus, Valverde's medical book may be said to have been illustrated under Michelangelo's influence. One of Valverde's most striking original plates is that of a muscleman holding his own skin in one hand and a knife in the other; this has been compared to Michelangelo's painting of Saint Bartholomew in the Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel.

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Georgius Agricola Issues De Re Metallica, the Most Famous Classic on Mining and Metallurgy 1556

The increased European demand for metals that came with the revival of trade in the late Middle Ages saw a corresponding growth in the European mining industry, which developed to an advanced state in the metal-rich regions of Saxony, Austria and Bohemia. In 1556 German physician, humanist and scholar Georg Bauer, better known under the Latin version of his name, Georgius Agricola, issued De re metallica from Basel at the press of Hieronymus Froben and Nicholas Episcopus (Bischoff). Agricola became interested in the theoretical and practical aspects of mining, metallurgy and geology after being appointed town doctor of Joachimsthal (now Jáchymov), a silver-mining community on the east side of the Erzgebirge mountains (Ore Mountains) in what is now the Czech Republic. He published his first work on mining, Bermannus sive de re metallica dialogus, in 1530. This dialogue, which has been called "the first attempt to reduce to scientific order the knowledge won by practical work," contained an approving letter from Erasmus at the beginning of the book. Sixteen years later, in 1546, Agricola issued a collection of five treatises on geology and metallurgy, including the first work on physical geology (De ortu et causis subterraneorum); the first systematic mineralogy (De natura fossilium); a work on subterranean waters and gases (De natura eorum quae effluunt ex terra); a treatise on references to minerals and mining in classical history (De veteribus et novis metallis); and a reprint of Bermannus. In De natura fossilium Agricola rejected the traditional arbitrary alphabetical listing of fossils (i.e., stony substances dug from the earth), and attempted to classify them according to their physical properties.

The twelve books of Agricola's De re metallica (On Metals), illustrated with over 270 woodcuts, embraced everything connected with Renaissance mining and metallurgical industries, including administration, the duties of companies and workers, prospecting, mechanical engineering, ore processing and the manufacture of glass, sulfur and alum. Book VI provided detailed descriptions of sixteenth-century mining technologies, such as the use of water-power for crushing ore and the improvements in suction pumps and ventilation that became necessary as mine shafts were sunk deeper underground; it also includes an account of the diseases and accidents prevalent among miners, along with the means of preventing them. It is thus a pioneering work in occupational medicine. De re metallica remained the standard textbook on mining and metallurgy for over two hundred years.

In 1912 American mining engineer and industrialist, and later 31st President of the United States, Herbert Clark Hoover and his wife Lou Henry Hoover issued a semi-facsimile edition and translation, with "Biographical Introduction, Annotations and Appendices upon the Development of Mining Methods, Metallurgical provesses, Geology, Minerology & Mining Law from the earliest times to the 16th Century," in London through the offices of The Mining Magazine. The work, which remains definitive, was published in the same format as the first (1556) edition with a parchment-style binding over boards that also resembled a 16th century binding. Cyril Stanley Smith, in his catalogue of the Hoover collection, De re metallica: The Herbert Clark Hoover Collection of Mining & Metallurgy (1980), cites a summary report of March 28, 1914 stating that Hoover had received 509 copies of the translation, 31 copies had been sent for review, 814 had been sold and 122 remained in the hands of the booksellers. This gives a total of 1,476 copies printed, a figure more plausible than Hoover's later claim of 3,000 copies (Memoirs I, pp. 117-119). Mrs. Hoover, a former Latin teacher, was responsible for the translation. As far as I know, Hoover was the only U.S. President to collect rare books on a scientific or technological subject and also the only President to publish a scholarly work on the history of science and technology.

In February 2014 a searchable digital facimile of the Hoover translation was available at this link. Concerning the writing and publishing of the 1556 edition I quote from p. 19 of the Hoover edition:

"Agricola seems to have been engaged in the preparation of De Re Metallica for a period of over twenty years, for we first hear of the book in a letter from Petrus Plateanus, a schoolmaster at Joachimsthal, to the great humanist, Erasmus, 16 in September, 1529. He says: The scientific world will be still more indebted to Agricola when he brings to light the books De Re Metallica and other matters which he has on hand.' In the dedication of De Mensuris et Ponderibus (in 1533) Agricola states that he means to publish twelve books of De Re Metallica, if he lives. That the appearance of this work was eagerly anticipated is evidenced by a letter from George Fabricius to Valentine Hertel: “With great excitement the books De Re Metallíca are being awaited. If he treats the material at hand with his usual zeal, he will win for himself glory such as no one in any of the fields of literature has attained for the last thousand years.' According to the dedication of De Veteríbus et Novis Metallís, Agricola in 1546 already looked forward to its early publication. The work was apparently finished in 1550, for the dedication to the Dukes Maurice and August of Saxony is dated in December of that year. The eulogistic poem by his friend, George Fabricius, is dated in 1551.

"The publication was apparently long delayed by the preparation of the woodcuts; and, according to Mathesius, many sketches for them were prepared by Basilius Wefring. In the preface of De Re Metallíca Agricola does not mention who prepared the sketches, but does say: 'I have hired illustrators to delineate their forms, lest descriptions which are conveyed by words should either not be understood by men of our own times, or should cause difficulty to posterity.' In 1553 the completed book was sent to Froben for publication, for a letter19 from Fabricius to Meurer in March, 1553, announces its dispatch to the printer. An interesting letter 20 from the Elector Augustus to Agricola, dated January 18, 1555, reads: 'Most learned, dear and faithful subject, whereas you have sent to the Press a Latin book of which the title is said to be De Rebus Metallícis, which has been praised to us and we should like to know the contents, it is our gracious command that you should get the book translated when you have the opportunity into German, and not let it be copied more than once or be printed, but keep it by you and send us a copy. If you should need a writer for this purpose, we will provide one. Thus you will fulfil our gracious behest.” The German translation was prepared by Philip Bechius, a Basel University Professor of Medicine and Philosophy. It is a wretched work, by one who knew nothing of the science, and who more especially had no appreciation of the peculiar Latin terms coined by Agricola, most of which he rendered literally. It is a said commentary on his countremen that no correct German translation exists. The Italian translation is by Michelangelo Florio, as is by him dedicated to Elizabeth, Queen of England."

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine (1991) nos. 19-21. Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 88. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 79.

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Hubert Goltzius Issues the First Book Extensively Illustrated with Chiaroscuro Woodcuts 1557

Engraved portrait of Hubert Golzius by Simon Frisius c. 1610.

A self-portrait by Parmagianino c. 1524.

In 1557 German painter, engraver, and printer Hubert Goltzius, issued a folio volume from the press of Copen (?) Diesthem in Antwerp, Belgium, entitled Lebendige Bilder gar nach all Keyersern, von C. Julio Caesare, bisz auff Carolum.V. und Ferdinandum seinem Bruder, auxz den alten Medalien . . . . Goltzius also issued this book in Latin and Italian in 1557, in French in 1559, and in Spanish in 1560.  Besides illustrating medallic portraits of Roman emperors, Goltzius provided histories of their reigns. According to the Wikipedia, Golzius worked on this book for 12 years before it was published.

"Although the chiaroscuro woodcut was primarily a technique for making individual prints in imitation of drawings, it was occasionally used for book illustration. Hubert Goltzius, a pioneering numismatist, employed it to reproduce antique medals bearing portraits of the Roman emperors. . . .That book. . . was one of the earliest uses of chiaroscuro in a book and the first use of the technique in the Netherlands.

"The chiaroscuro process, with its different shades of the same hue and white highlights, defines light and tone but not local color; it was thus especiately appropriate for the reproduction of monochrome relief medals. One of the characteristics of Goltzius's work, the use of an etched plate for the black outlines and details, had earlier been invented by Parmagianino, but was not widely adopted by practioneers of chiaroscuro active in the sixteenth century. . . ." (Friedman, Color Printing in England 1487-1870 [1978] No. 2).

Strauss, Chiaroscuro. The Clair-Obscur Woodcuts by the German and Netherlandish Masters of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries (1973) No. 113.

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Who Discovered the Pulmonary Circulation? Servetus, Valverde or Columbo? 1559

In 1559. the year of his death. Italian physician and surgeon Realdo Colombo published De re anatomica libri XV in Venice.  Colombo's work is best known for his discovery of the pulmonary or lesser circulation, i.e., the passage of blood from the right cardiac ventricle to the left via the lungs. Although this discovery was first published in Rome in the Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano (1556) by Colombo's friend and former pupil Juan Valverde de Hamusco, the evidence in both Valverde's and Colombo's accounts indicates that the discovery was Colombo's, made through his vivisectional observations of the heart and pulmonary vessels. Colombo's account of the pulmonary circuit was preceded by that in Michael Servetus's Christianismi restitutio, and by the thirteenth-century account of  Ibn al-Nafis. However, because Servetus's Christianismi restitutio (1553) was completely suppressed, and Ibn al-Nafis' work was not published in print until the early 20th century, there is no evidence that either was available to Colombo at the time.

Colombo's observations of the heart also enabled him to gain a more correct understanding of the phases of the heartbeat, generally confused by his predecessors, who erroneously likened the heart's action to the expansive action of a bellows. Although overshadowed by his discovery of the pulmonary circulation, Colombo's observations of the heartbeat apparently directly inspired Harvey's vivisectional studies on the heart, which in turn led to his discovery of the greater circulation.

Colombo evidently died during the printing of his work, since in most copies his original dedication letter to Pope Paul IV (who also died while the work was in progress) has been replaced with a dedication to Pope Pius IV by Colombo's two sons, mentioning their father's recent demise. According to tradition, the work was to have been illustrated by Michelangelo; however, Michelangelo left no drawings or any other evidence that he ever seriously considered the task, and we can only speculate as to what sort of artistic masterpiece he might have produced. Colombo's book was published without illustrations except for the woodcut title, which was inspired by that of Vesalius's Fabrica. Schultz (p. 103) points out that the dangling right arm of the cadaver in the title-page woodcut recalls Donatello's bas-relief, The Heart of the Miser.

Schultz, Art and Anatomy in Renaissance Italy (1985) 102-104. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 501.

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Jean Cousin the Elder Issues "Livre de perspective" 1560

In 1560 French painter, sculptor, etcher, engraver, and geometrician, Jean Cousin the Elder, published Livre de perspective in Paris at the press of Jean Le Royer. The folio volume includes a woodcut title device, a frontispiece of platonic solids and 58 geometrical diagrams (16 full-page, 5 double-page) by Jean Le Royer and Aubin Olivier. The frontispiece of the platonic solids is one of the finest examples of mannerist book illustration.

“According to the printer’s introduction, leaf A3v, Le Royer received from Cousin the text and ‘les figures pour l’intelligence d’iceluy necessaries, portraittes de sa main sus planches de bois,’ and he himself cut most of Cousin’s blocks and completed others which his brother-in-law, Aubin Olivier, had started. Several of the diagrams are extended into landscapes with figures. . . . Le Royer held the title of king’s printer for mathematics. Cousin is known to have been a successful painter and designer of stained glass windows. . . . His considerable reputation as a designer of woodcuts for the Paris printers has been developed chiefly by comparison of details from this volume” (Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts Part I. French Sixteenth Century Books (1964)no. 157, quote from pp. 195-97). 

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Bartholomeo Eustachi Discovers the Eustachian Tubes and Many Other Anatomical Features 1563

In 1563 Italian physician and anatomist Bartolomeo Eustachi (Eustachius) published his Opuscula anatomica in Venice with annotations by his relative and disciple, Pier Matteo Pini. Opuscula anatomica includes 8 engraved full-page copperplate text illustrations probably drawn by Eustachi and Pini, and engraved by Giulio de Musi, probably a relation of Agostino de' Musi (Agostino Veneziano).  The illustrations are on the unnumbered pages between pp. 1-20 (first series). Pini also prepared the 168 pages of annotations to Eustachi's anatomical treatises from the writings of Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen and other authorities. These were published at the end of the book. Pini's published dedication of these Annotationes to Eustachi is dated July, 1561. 

Written during 1561 and 1562, Eustachi's Opuscula consists of a group of anatomical treatises on the kidneys (De renum structura), the organ of hearing (De auditus organis), the venous system (De vena quae azygos graecis dicitur) and the teeth (De dentibus), which he issued together under the title Opuscula anatomica. De auditus organis is dated October 1562; De motu capitis January 1561. The dedication of Libellus de dentibus is dated December 1562.

The privilege granting rights to the publisher Vincenzo Luchino is dated May 6, 1563. Most copies of this work bear the imprint Venetiis: Vincentius Luchinus excudebat, 1564. From the setting of the type on the title page of those copies it is evident that the original imprint date was 1563 and that an additional "I" was added to the roman numeral MDLXIII to turn that number into MDLXIIII  (1564) —a contrivance since the correct roman numeral for 1564 would have been MDLXIV.

In 2010 I discovered in a group of "cripples" that I bought decades ago a very incomplete copy of the Opuscula anatomica with a titlepage dated 1563, and without the name of the publisher, confirming that some copies were issued with a 1563 date. The separate title page of Libellus de dentibus dated 1563 is similar to the first issue titlepage of the Opuscula anatomica in that it does not include the name of the publisher. Thus we may theorize that Luchino decided to add his name to the title page of the Opuscula anatomica after the printing occurred. When he did so in 1564 we may theorize most of the copies may have remained in sheets and not bound. If so, it was a matter of having the first sheet run back through the press. That may explain why both the final "I" in the roman numeral MDLXIIII and "Vincenzus Luchinus excudebat" are out of register.  In October 2012 my friend and colleague William P. Watson proposed another possible scenario: through examination of several copies of the 1564 issue Watson noticed that the printing of Luchino's name and the final "I" varies in position on different copies of the title page, and theorized that Luchino's name and the final "I" was applied through some kind of a stamp, rather than by running the sheet back through a press. Whatever the method, some copies were issued without the addition of Luchino's name and without changing the date to 1564.  Because we may never know the exact chronology or methodogy of events that occurred 450 years ago, it is reasonable to assume that the copies with the title page dated 1563 were issued before the correction, and represent an earlier state.

Eustachi's treatise on the kidney, the first work devoted specifically to that organ, showed a detailed knowledge of the kidney surpassing any earlier work; it contained the first account of the adrenal (suprarenal) gland and a correct determination of the relative levels of the kidneys. The treatise on the ear provided the first post-classical account of the Eustachian tube, while the work on the azygos vein contained the first description of the thoracic duct and of the valvula venae in the right ventricle of the heart, the so-called "Eustachian valve." In his treatise on dentistry, Libellus de dentibus, Eustachi was the first to study the teeth in any great detail: basing his work on the dissection of fetuses and stillborn infants, he gave an important description of the first and second dentitions, described the hard outer tissue and soft inner structure of the teeth, and attempted an explanation of the problem of the sensitivity of the tooth's hard structure. 

The engraved plates illustrating the Opuscula anatomica were the first eight in the series of forty-seven anatomical plates engraved by Giulio de' Musi, after drawings by Eustachi and Pini. They were prepared in 1552 to illustrate a projected book entitled De dissensionibus ac controversii anatomicis, the text of which was lost after Eustachi's death. Had the full series of forty-seven anatomical copperplates been published at the time of their completion, Eustachi would have ranked with Vesalius as a founder of modern anatomy. However, it is quite probable that because of the growing fame of Vesalius' Fabrica (1543, 1555), Eustachi did not consider publication of his remaining plates, or his accompanying manuscript worthwhile. The remaining thirty-nine plates were lost for over a century after Eustachi's death but were rediscovered in the hands of a descendant of Pier Matteo Pini by papal physician, cardiologist, and epidemiologist Giovanni Maria Lancisi, who edited them for publication, and published them, along with the previously published eight plates, under the title of Tabulae anatomicae (Rome, 1714).

Eustachi's plates are stylistically different from other sixteenth century anatomical studies, as they were produced without the conventional sixteenth-century decorative accompaniments and were framed on three sides by numbered rules providing coordinates by which any part of the image could be located. The publisher of the 1714 edition provided an unnumbered plate with graduated scales to be cut out and used as a location aid. The images are generic figures, composites of many anatomical observations, and are mathematically as well as representationally exact.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 200-202. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 739-40. Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine (1995) no. 21 (stating, based on information then available to me, that the Opuscula anatomica was first published in 1563-64). When I checked OCLC in November 2010 there were four copies listed in European libraries as having the first state (1563) of the title page of the Opuscula anatomica. A somewhat larger number of listings appeared for the second state.

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Jost Amman's Images of Trades and Technologies, with Descriptions in Verse 1568

In 1568 Swiss artist and book illustrator Jost Amman and poet, playwright, and shoemaker Hans Sachs published Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln ... Durch d. weitberümpten Hans Sachsen gantz fleissig beschrieben u. in teutsche Reimen gefasset in Frankfurt am Mayn. This series of illustrated descriptions of trades, accompanied by Sach's text in verse, included one of the earliest accounts–however brief–of the printing art, and one of the earliest images of the press. It also described and illustrated the art of making woodcuts, papermaking and bookbinding. 

In March 2015 a digital facsimile was available from the University of Koeln at this link.

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Fulvio Orsini Issues the First Critically Assembled Collection and Edition of Ancient Portraiture 1569 – 1570

Imagines et elogia virorum illustrium et eruditor ex antiquis lapidibus et nomismatib expressa cum annnotationib ex bibliotheca Fulvi Ursini, issued in Rome in 1570 by librarian, collector, epigrapher and classical scholar Fulvio Orsini, was the first critically assembled collection and edition of ancient portraiture. An expert on ancient coins, gems, inscriptions, and statues, Orsini was most advantageously positioned to make the first critical collection of ancient portraiture. In the Imagines et elogia he combined portraits with brief biographies of subjects drawn from ancient history and literature. Unlike previous works such as Paolo Giovio's Vitae virorum illustrium (1549‑57) and Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarium iconum insigniorum (1553), Orsini emphasized the original physical state of the portraits illustrated rather than modifying his reproductions of the portraits to fit them into a uniform format. He also illustrated the marbles and coins as objects, sometimes presenting one or more examples of each subject. A special feature of Orsini's work was the large number of headless herm (ἑρμῆς) portraits illustrated with inscriptions on their pedestals, making the work first a corpus of epigraphical testimonia to famous and not so famous Greeks and Romans, and secondly a repertory of portraits. 

"Not only did Orsini have access to the most extensive epigraphical and iconographic collections in Rome but, more importantly, the critical method he employed in editing texts of classical authors and inscriptions served him well in the authentication of portraits. In making an identification, Orsini sought the evidence of an ancient inscription either directly on the marble or on a coin or medal that could be associated with a marble. He also collected ancient literary sources relating to the physical appearance or to the existence of ancient portraits of individual subjects. He did not hesitate to reject modern inscriptions whether on marble statuary or on gems, and he similarly rejected numismatic forgeries which by the late sixteenth century had flooded the Roman antiques market."

"In the majority of cases, Orsini (or his patron) owned the ancient coins, gems, busts, and statues that served his identifications. Hence, unlike virtually all of his predecessors, Orsini relied on 'autopsy' or first-hand experience as a critical method, anticipating the rigorous method of nine- teenth-century epigraphers like Theodor Mommsen. Orsini has been called the 'father of ancient iconography,' and, indeed, a glance at Gisela Richter's authoritative Portraits of the Greeks suffices to demonstrate the modern archaeologist's indebtedness to Orsini for the identification of a surprising number of heads of famous Greeks and Romans. Nevertheless, the documentary value of Orsini's earlier work is somewhat compromised by the fact that information about provenance is not presented consistently but, when offered, is usually buried near the end of the elogium" (Dwyer, "André Thevet and Fulvio Orsini: The Beginnings of the Modern Tradition of Classical Portrait Iconography in France," The Art Bulletin, 75, No. 3 (Sept. 1993), 467-480, quoting from 469).

Pierre de Nolhac, "Les collections d'antiquités de Fulvio Orsini," Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire," 4 (1884) 139-231.

de Nolhac, La bibliothèque de Fulvio Orsini (1887).

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Francisco Bravo Issues the First Medical Book Printed in the Western Hemisphere with the Earliest Illustrations of Plants Printed in the Western Hemisphere 1570

Printer Pedro Ocharte, born Pierre Ocharte in Rouen, France, working in Mexico City, issued Opera medicinalia by the Spanish physician, Francisco Bravo in 1570. Ocharte had married the daughter of Juan Pablos, the first printer in the New World, and had inherited his equipment. Opera medicinalia included a woodcut title border and a few botanical woodcuts, including images to distinguish the false sarsaparilla of Mexico from the true Spanish sarsaparilla of Dioscorides. It was the first medical book printed in the Western Hemisphere, and its botanical images were the first illustrations of plants printed in the Western Hemisphere.

Of the original edition only two copies are known, of which the only complete copy is at the Universidad de Puebla, Mexico. In 1862 American bookseller and bibliographer Henry Stevens purchased an incomplete copy at an auction sale of the library of collector/dealer/book thief Guglielmo Libri in London. This he resold to the American collector James Lennox. The Lennox copy is preserved in the New York Public Library.

In 1970 London antiquarian booksellers Dawsons of Pall issued a facsimile of the complete Universidad de Puebla copy with a companion volume of commentary by Francisco Guerra. The two volumes were printed on hand-made paper by J. Barcham Green, Ltd. and bound in parchment by Zaehnsdorf in London. The edition was limited to 250 hand-numbered copies.

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Volcher Coiter: One of the First Physicians to Draw the Illustrations for his Own Publications, and Take Credit for Them in Print 1572 – 1573

Dutch physician, anatomist and comparative anatomist Volcher Coiter published Externarum et internarum principalium humani corporis partium tabulae . . . .  in Nuremberg. It included 9 engravings (the first 4 on 2 leaves), all but 2 signed "V. C. D." for "Volcher Coiter delineavit," signifying that they were drawn by the author. The last 2 plates, of the human skeleton, were after the first and third skeleton figures in Vesalius's Fabrica.  The woodcut historiated initials in the work were  from the "Puttenalphabet" by Hans Weiditz, cut in Augsburg in 1531. 

A student under Gabriele Falloppio, Bartoloemo Eustachi , and Ulisse Aldrovandi, Coiter made several important contributions to the study of human anatomy, and was the first to elevate comparative anatomy to the rank of an independent branch of biology. His Externarum et internarum principalium humani corporis partium tabulae published in 1572 is a collection of ten short works, among which are the first monograph on the ear (De auditus instrumento); the earliest study of the growth of the skeleton as a whole in the human fetus (Ossium tum humani foetus . . .); the first descriptions of the spinal ganglia and musculus corrugator supercilii (in Observationum anatomicarum chirurgicarumque miscellanea); and Coiter's epochal (although unillustrated) investigation of the development of the chick in ovo (De ovorum gallinaceorum generationis. . .), based upon observations made over twenty successive days. This last was the first published study of chick embryo development based upon direct observation since the three-period description (after three, ten and twenty days of incubation) given by Aristotle in his Historia animalium two thousand years before.

Coiter was one of the first physicians to draw the illustrations for his own publications, and to take credit for them in print. It is believed that Vesalius may have done some of the simpler illustrations for the Fabrica; however, none of the Fabrica images are signed, and questions concerning their authorship have led to centuries of speculation and debate. Coiter's illustrations of the adult skeleton and skull, after Vesalius, are superior in anatomical detail; and his sketches of fetal skeletons are original.

Cole, History of Comparative Anatomy, illustrates a copy of this work with the title-page dated 1572, but the majority of copies probably appeared in 1573, as most of the references cite the later date. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 496.

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Franz Heim Illustrates Cats Carrying Incendiary Devices in Warfare? 1584

In March 2014 an image of a flaming back-pack carrying cat was making the rounds on the Internet. Here is my take on the story:

A German illustrated manuscript treatise on munitions and explosive devices entitled Feuer Buech, produced in 1584 by Franz Helm, contains, among descriptions of more conventional devices, an image of a cat and bird wearing flaming backpacks to attack a city under siege. This image appears on leaf 137 recto. Considering the notorious independence of cats, and the very limited carrying capacity of birds in flight, it is extremely doubtful that using a cat or a bird to set a city or building on fire was ever successfully employed. Most of the other devices in the manuscript seem more practical.

The manuscript is preserved at the University of Pennsylvania as part of the Edgar Fahs Smith collection on the history of chemistry. In March 2014 a digital facsimile of the entire manuscript was available at this link.

The image was printed on page 48 of Armamentarium principale oder Kriegsmunition und Artillerey-Buch ... Beneben einen Bericht der Wagenburg, issued in Franckfurt by Johann Ammon in 1625.


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Agustín's Study of Ancient Coinage: Probably the Earliest Book with Illustrations by a Woman 1587 – 1592

In 1592 Dialoghi . .. intorno alle medaglie inscrittioni et altre antichita. . . by archaeologist, humanist, jurist and Archbishop of Aragon Antonio Agustín y Albanell (Agostín, Augustino, Augustinus) was posthumously issued in Rome, from the press of Guglielmo Faciotto. This volume on ancient coins included over 1200 woodcut depictions of coins, and six half page woodcuts of arches and buildings. Agustín's work had previously been published as Dialogos de medallas in his native Spanish in Tarragona, 1587, just after his death. The book was written in the form of eleven dialogues between an experienced antiquarian and a pair of beginners eager to learn about coins, inscriptions, and other antiquities. Agustín began his book with an introduction on identifying medals and coins, and a discussion of their usefulness to historians. He also explained the function of ancient coins, confirming that they were meant to be circulated as currency. The next four dialogues he dedicated to what is found on the reverse of Roman coins by subject: deities, cities, rivers, buildings, animals, and other symbols. Agustín then moved on to discuss the medals of Africa, France, and Spain, with special focus on Andalucia, Lusitania (Portugal), and Barcelona. In his final chapter he discussed how to identify fakes. In the original Spanish edition there were 51 engraved plates, illustrating only dialogues 1 and 2, possibly because Agustín was unable to arrange for more illustrations before his death.

Agustín had gained fame as a jurist and humanist with the publication in 1543 to great aclaim of his edition and commentary on the sixth century Florentine codex of the Digesta or Pandectae portion of Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis. Appointed auditor of the Rota, the papal court, he became the center of an informal academy in Rome devoted to studying antiquities, along with Fulvio Orsini and Pirro Ligorio

Augustín wrote his Dialogos for a general audience, and because it was widely appreciated, two competing Italian translations were issued in Rome in 1592: that of Faciotto with over 1200 woodcuts inserted throughout the text, and Discorsi sopra le medaglie illustrated with 72 engraved plates issued by Ascanio and Girolamo Donangeli. Probably because the woodcuts in Faciotto's edition were easier to print and reprint than copperplates which could only withstand a limited number of impressions, the Faciotto edition became more widely distributed, and was reprinted and revised up to 1736.

The Faciotti edition of 1592 is also notable because of some of its woodcuts were cut by Geronima Parasole:

"Some of the large woodcuts bear the monograms P.M.F. (e.g. on the title border) or G.A.P. (e.g. on p. 124) attributed to Geronima [Cagnaccia] Parasole (fl. end of the 16th century), a Roman artist, cousin of Isabetta Parasole, who was with Vinciolo and Cesare Vecellio, the most important lace designer of the late 16th century. Apart from Geronima's contribution to the present work, only a few woodcuts by her after designs of Antonio Tempesta are known (cf. G.K. Nagler, Die Monogrammisten, München, 1919, II p. 968, no. 2715; IV, p. 926, no. 3141). It seems very likely that this is the earliest known book in which illustrations by a woman are found. In the sixteenth century only thirty-five women are known to have been artists, and according to our researches Geronima and Isabetta Parasole were the only women who contributed to book illustration in that period (cf. W. Slatkin Woman Artists in History, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1958, p. 38)" (My Gracious Silence 130).

Benezit, Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs VIII, 122.

Cunnally, Kagan, Scher, Numismatics in the Age of Grolier (2001) 61-63. 

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Agostini Ramelli Describes a Renaissance Information Retrieval Device and Other Machines 1588

In Le diverse et artificose machine, elegantly published from his home in Paris in 1588, Agostino Ramelli described and illustrated, among numerous remarkable inventions, a revolving book wheel. Ramelli's book wheel was one of the earliest "information retrieval" devices. He wrote:

"This is a beautiful and ingenious machine, very useful and convenient for anyone who takes pleasure in study, especially those who are indisposed and tormented by gout. For with this machine a man can see and turn through a large number of books without moving from one spot. Moveover, it has another fine convenience in that it occupies very little space in the place where it is set, as anyone of intelligence can clearly see from the drawing.

"This wheel is made in the manner shown, that is, it is contructed so that when the books are laid on its lecturns they never fall or move from the place where they are laid even as the wheel is turned and revolved all the way around. Indeed, they will always remain in the same position and will be displayed to the reader in the same way as they were laid on their small lecturns, without any need to tie or hold them with anything. This wheel may be made as large or small as desired, provided the master craftsman who constructs it observes the proportions of each part of its components. He can do this very easily if he studies carefully all the parts of these small wheels of ours and the other devices in this machine. These parts are made in sizes proportionate to each other. To give fuller understanding and comprehension to anyone who wishes to make and operate this machine, I have shown here separately and uncovered all the devices needed for it, so that anyone may understand them better and make use of them for his needs." (Ramelli, The Various Ingenious Machines of Agostino Ramelli. A classic Sixteenth-Century Illustrated Treatise on Technology. Translated from the Italian and French with a biographical study of the author by Martha Teach Gnudi. Techical annotations and a pictorial glossary by Eugene S. Ferguson [1987] 508-9)

Historian Anthony Grafton, whom many would call a Renaissance man, had one of Ramelli's book wheels constructed, and uses it in his office. In December 2010 you could view an image of Grafton with the book wheel at the Princeton website at this link.

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Architect Domenico Fontana Describes Moving the Obelisk 1590

In 1590 Italian Architect Domenico Fontana published Della transportatione dell'obelisco Vaticano....in Rome at the press of Domenico Basa. The folio volume contained 2 engraved titles, both signed by Natal Bonifacio, 35 full-page and 3 double-page engravings. It described one of the greatest engineering feats of the Renaissance -- the removal of the Vatican obelisk from its old location behind the sacristy of St. Peter's, where it had been since the reign of Caligula, to its present location in the center of the Piazza of St. Peter. The problem of transporting this 327 ton and fragile stone tower had occupied Italian engineers for many years, so that when Pope Sixtus V appointed a council to consider ways and means of moving the obelisk, nearly 500 men came to submit their plans.

The honor went to Domenico Fontana, the pope's official architect, who proved to the council the feasibility of his proposal by making a scale model in lead. Fontana erected a framed tower of timbers surrounding the obelisk and then by means of ropes attached to the tower raised the obelisk from its pedestal, and afterward lowered it so that it should rest on a wooden platform. This platform he had had drawn on rollers to the new site, where the tower was re-erected and the great stone raised from its horizontal position on the platform to the vertical and set on the new base.  The project required 900 men, 75 horses and untold numbers of pulleys and lengths of rope.

The plates in Fontana's volume also illustrate many of the buildings and designs that Fontana executed for Pope Sixtus V.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 812.

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Ottavio Ruini Issues the First Book Devoted Exclusively to the Structure of an Animal Other than Man 1598

Detail of head of horse from page of the Dell'anotomia [sic], et dell'infirmita del cavallo.  Click on link below to view and resize full image.

Detail from title page of the Dell'anotomia [sic], et dell'infirmita del cavallo.  Click on link below to view and resize full image.

Carlo Ruini.

In 1598 Conte Ottavio Ruini edited and had published in Bologna, with a dedication to Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, Dell'anotomia [sic], et dell'infirmita del cavallo [Book ii: Dell'infirmita del cavallo] by il marchese Carlo Ruini, Bolognese aristocrat, senator, and high-ranking lawyer. 

Ruini's work, was the first book devoted exclusively to the structure of an animal other than man. Following the example of Vesalius, Ruini stressed the importance of "artful instruction" about all parts of the horse's body, the diseases that afflict them, and their cures. The first part of his work gives an exhaustive treatment of equine anatomy, with especially good accounts of the sense organs; it is illustrated with sixty-four full-page woodcuts, of which the last three, showing a stripped horse in a landscape setting, were clearly inspired by the Vesalian "musclemen" plates.

The second part of the work deals with equine diseases and their cures from a traditional Hippocratic-Galenic standpoint. Some scholars, basing their arguments on Ruini's description of the horse's heart and blood vessels, believe that Ruini was active in the discovery of the greater and lesser circulatory systems. This is unlikely, but it is probable that he was one of many at that time who had a notion of the circulation of the blood.

Ruini's work appeared shortly after his death. The unusual rarity of the first edition might be partially explained by fact that a portion of the sheets of the first edition were reissued the following year by printer Gaspare Bindoni in Venice. Copies of this second issue, which is also rare, contain a cancel title and a different dedication leaf changing the dedication to César, Duke of Vendôme, natural son of Henry IV.

Cole, History of Comparative anatomy, 83-97. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1858.

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1600 – 1650

Galileo Issues Images of Revolutionary Discoveries Concerning the Universe; and the Story of a Remarkable Forgery November 1609 – March 13, 1610

After learning in 1609 that a Dutchman, Hans Lippershey, had invented an instrument that made faraway objects appear closer, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, a resident of Padua, applied himself to discovering the principle behind this instrument. By late in 1609 he built a telescope of about thirty power. This he probably first turned to the heavens in November or December 1609, with astronishing and revolutionary results. In contradiction to the doctrines of Aristotle and Ptolemy, which taught that the celestrial sphere and its planets and stars were perfect and unchanging, Galileo's telescope showed that the surface of the moon was rough and mountainous, and the Milky way was composed of thickly clustered stars. In November or December 1609 Galileo painted six watercolors on a notebook page showing the phases of the moon, as he observed them through the telescope. These images, on a sheet preserved in Florence, at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (Ms. Gal. 48, f. 28r), were the first realistic images of the moon, and the first recorded images of bodies beyond the earth seen by man. 

On the night of January 7, 2010 Galileo set up a telescope on his balcony in Padua. He spotted three stars near Jupiter, and noted their positions in a notebook. Six days later Galileo returned to his telescope and found the same stars, but by then their position had changed. At that point he realized that the three stars were moons orbiting Jupiter— proof that the universe of stars was not fixed, as postulated by Ptolemy's geocentric theory, and evidence for Copernicanism. Three months later Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, or Starry Messenger, was published in Venice in an edition of 550 copies. The Sidereus Nuncius described and illustrated with copperplate engravings the first astronomical observations made through a telescope. Its images provided revolutionary new information about the universe. Though it contained only the bare facts of Galileo's observations without any overt reference to the Copernican theory, Sidereus Nuncius aroused a sensation among the European learned community, for it provided the first hard evidence that the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic view of the universe contained inaccuracies. 

"He sent a copy of the book, along with the telescope he had been using, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici. Dr. [Owen] Gingerich said the pamphlet amounted to 'a job application' to the Medici family for whom, in one of history’s first examples of branding, Galileo named the four satellites of Jupiter. 'Other planets were gods or goddesses,' said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence institute. 'The only humans with position in sky were Medicis.' The ploy worked, Cosimo II hired Galileo as his astronomer, elevating him from a poorly paid professor at the University of Padua to a celebrity, making the equivalent of $300,000, a year, Dr. Galluzzi said. Galileo returned the favor by giving Cosimo another telescope, clad in red leather and stamped with decorations" (Dennis Overbye, "A Telescope to the Past as Galileo Visits the U.S.", The New York Times, March 27, 2009.)

It is thought that Galileo built dozens of telescopes, of which two survive, both in the Institute for the History of Science (Museo Galileo) in Florence, Italy. One covered in decorated leather, which Galileo sent to Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici, retains only one of its original lenses, but the other, covered only in varnished paper, contains its original functioning optics, and has its focal length labeled in Galileo's handwriting on the outside of its tube. This telescope was loaned to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for an exhibition from April to September 2009. (The online article in The New York Times included a video showing the original telescope being unpacked in Philadelphia.)


In June 2005 antiquarian bookseller Richard Lan (Martayan-Lan, Inc.) purchased a copy of the Sidereus nuncius from Marino Massimo De Caro and antiquarian bookseller Filippo Rotundo that was represented as a proof copy, signed by Galileo, originally from the library of Federico Cesi, founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. Instead of copperplate engraved illustrations as in other copies of the book, this copy contained watercolors of the phases of the moon similar to those which Galileo made at the end of 1609 and which are preserved in Florence. It was known that the Venetian printer had sent Galileo thirty copies with blank spaces indicating where etchings would be placed. Presumably this was one of those copies, in which Galileo had personally painted images for presentation to Federico Cesi, instead of having engravings printed in. The copy was examined by all the leading authorities, subjected to various tests, and was generally considered a unique proof copy.

The Martayan Lan copy was included in the discussions in a symposium convened at the Library of Congress in November 2010 entitled "Galileo's Moons," intended to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Sidereus Nuncius and the acquisition by the Library of Congress of an uncut copy of the first edition bound in the original limp paper boards. Papers presented at this symposium accepted the authenticity of the Martayan Lan copy.

In 2011 De Gruyter published a rather grand 2-volume set, fully illustrated in color, based on research begun in 2007. Volume one, edited by Irene Brückle and Oliver Hahn, was entitled Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius. A comparison of the proof copy (New York) with other paradigmatic copies. Volume two, written by Paul Needham, was entitled Galileo Makes a Book. The First Edition of Sidereus Nuncius, Venice 1610. Regarding the significance of Needham's study, I quote from the review by G. Thomas Tanselle, Common Knowledge19, #3, (Fall 2013), 575-576:

"Needham’s book is based on eighty-three other copies, and he draws as well on Galileo’s letters, drafts, and various external documents. The result is a detailed account of the early months of 1610, from January 15, when Galileo decided he must publish his discoveries, to March 13, when the printing was completed; an additional chapter discusses the book’s distribution and Galileo’s corrections in some copies. The task of bibliography, as stated by Needham, is to know “the materials and human actions that produced (in multiple copies) the structure of a printed book.” Systematically he takes up the paper, type, and format of Sidereus Nuncius and provides a quire-by-quire analysis of its production, making exemplary use of many techniques of bibliographical analysis, each patiently and clearly explained, with accompanying illustrations. The book could serve as an excellent introduction to this kind of work; but even more remarkably, it demonstrates how interconnected are the physical object and its intellectual content. The title sentence, “Galileo makes a book,” has a double meaning: not only did Galileo write the text, but he also attended to its physical production, making the presentation of the text integral to its meaning. Needham does not neglect Galileo’s writing itself: he calls Galileo “an artist with words,” whose “prose embodies not just close reasoning, but also life and emotion.”

"This assessment applies equally to Needham’s own writing, which combines rigorous but readable technical analysis with an awareness of the human side of that work and the story it reveals. This combination recalls an earlier bibliographical classic, Allan Stevenson’s The Problem of the Missale Speciale (1967), another full-length treatment of a single book. Even the sense of humor displayed by Stevenson has its counterpart here: when, for example, Needham explains two hypotheses as to when the printing of Galileo’s book began, he calls the one that postulates a later date “the dilatory view.” At the end Needham praises the many nameless actors, such as papermakers and printing-shop workers, who played roles in the story; and he closes with “the mules and oxen whose humble labor moved sheets of Sidereus Nuncius across the face of Europe, under the eyes of the boundless sky.” This passage, occurring in a work of bibliographical analysis, epitomizes the work’s unusual accomplishment: it breaks new ground in the study of a major book, sets forth its discoveries in an engaging narrative, and in the process shows how bibliography can be essential to intellectual history."

Until early 2012 Richard Lan was privately offering the copy for sale for $10,000,000. Then Nick Wilding, an historian of science at Georgia State University who had been asked to review the 2-volume set mentioned above, presented concrete proof that the Martayan-Lan copy was a forgery:

  • The book bears a library stamp by the founder of the Accademia dei Lincei Federico Cesi. But the stamp in the Martayan Lan copy doesn’t match those in other books with Cesi's stamp.
  • The title page was different from genuine copies, but bore similarities to a 1964 facsimile and an unsold Sotheby’s auction copy.
  • There was no record of the Siderus Nuncius in the original library from which this copy was thought to come.

Slowly the thread of fabrication began to unravel. Discovery of the forgery coincided with the exposure of massive thefts of rare books from the Girolomini Library in Naples, for which Marino Massimo De Caro, and others were eventually convicted. In 2013 the Library of Congress and Levenger Press issued Galileo Galilei, The Starry Messenger, Venice, 1610. From Doubt to Astonishment. This volume contained a facsimile edition of the Library of Congress copy, an English translation, and the text of the papers delivered at the November 2010 symposium. However, as the editor of the volume noted, Paul Needham revised his paper (now retitled "Authenticity and Facsimile: Gaileo's Paper Trail") in light of his later acceptance that the Martayan Lan copy was a forgery. On December 16, 2013 The New Yorker magazine published a detailed background article on the forgery and how it was accomplished, by Nicholas Schmidel: "A Very Rare Book. The mystery surrounding a copy of Gaileo's pivotal treatise." While the article filled in many blanks concerning the Sidereus Nuncius forgery, it raised other questions concerning other unknown thefts and forgeries by Marino Massimo de Caro and his associates.

In February 2014 De Gruyter issued an originally unintended volume three of their 2011 two-volume set entitled A Galileo Forgery. Unmasking the New York Sidereus Nuncius, edited by Horst Bredekamp, Irëne Bruckel, and Paul Needham. When I last revised this entry in August 2014 the full text of the volume was available as an Open Access PDF at no charge. This was the most comprehensive account and proof of the forgery. In many ways it was the most remarkable and admirable volume of the set, in which the scholars, recounted how the forgery was discovered, drew their final conclusions proving the forgery, and explained how they had been deceived in the first place.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 855.

(This entry was last revised on 04-04-2015.)

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François d'Aguilon & Peter Paul Rubens Describe Optics and Color Theory 1613

Belgian Jesuit mathematician, physicist and architect François d'Aguilon published Opticorum libri sex philosophis juxta ac mathematicis utiles in Antwerp at the Officina Plantiniana in 1613. Intended for use in Jesuit schools, Aguilon’s work was primarily a synthesis of classical and modern writings on optics; however, it also contained the first discussion of the stereographic process (which Aguilon named), one of the earliest presentations of the red-yellow-blue color system, an original theory of binocular vision and the first published description of Aguilon’s horopter.

“The horopter is the invention, or rather discovery, of Aguilon; he coined the term and showed how important the horopter is in explaining vision with two eyes; he even demonstrated the horopter in a simple device constructed by him and pictured by Rubens. . . . The theory of Aguilon on the horopter is a large step in the right direction, calling a halt to all previous deficient theories” (Ziggelaar, François Aguilon, 115; see also 53-133).

Aguilar’s theory of binocular vision was eventually superseded (despite claims to the contrary, he apparently knew nothing about Kepler’s ideas on the retina); nevertheless his ideas had some influence on the theorists of vision from Huygens to Newton to Helmholtz.

Production of Aguilon’s book fell to the Plantin-Moretus printing house, whose controllers were sympathetic to the Jesuits in Antwerp. The illustrations and allegorical title were prepared by painter, collector, and humanist scholar Peter Paul Rubens, a friend of Balthasar Moretus and himself deeply interested in the world of books.

“The designs for the frontispiece and six vignettes reveal Rubens’ knowledge of the actual text. . . . Rubens combined successfully Aguilonius’ references to ancient mythology and allegory into a coherent programme that also includes a connection with the science of optics, for all the various elements on the frontispiece have a direct relationship with the concept of vision” (Held, Rubens and the Book  [1977] 52).  

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 25.

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Michael Maier Publishes Early Multimedia: Words, Images and Music 1617

In 1617 German physician, alchemist, epigrammist and amateur composer Michael Maier published Atalanta Fugiens, an alchemical emblem book, in Oppenheim at the Press of engraver and publisher Johann Theodore de Bry. The work incorporated 50 emblems (images) by the German engraver Matthäus Merian, de Bry's son-in-law, each with a motto, epigram, and a three-part musical setting of the epigram, followed by an exposition of its meaning. The book extended the concept of an emblem book by incorporating 50 fugues, a technique of music composition in which a theme or themes are stated in two or more voices and repeated frequently at different pitches. The title of Maier's book, Atalanta Fugiens, or Atalanta Fleeing, alluding to the virgin huntress Atalanta of Greek mythology, who was unwilling to marry and was loved by the hero Meleager, contains a pun on the word fugue.

Early translations of Maier's work survived in manuscript: British Library MS. Sloane 3645, and Mellon MS. 48 at Yale. In December 2013 an English translation of Atalanta Fugiens reproducing the images and incorporating transcriptions from the Sloan MS, and some translations by H. M. de Jong, was available from the hermetic.com website at this link. At the time the same translation was also available from several other websites.

H. M. de Jong, Michael Maier's Atalanta Fugiens: Sources of an Alchemical Book of Emblems. (1969). 

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Gasparo Aselli's Book Includes the First Color-Printed Medical Illustrations 1627

Detail from plate from of De lactibus sive lacteis venis.  Click to see and resize image of entire page.

Detail from title page of De lactibus sive lacteis venis.  Click to see and resize image of entire page.

Image of Gaspara Aselli (engraved by Cesare Bassano).

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.

In 1627 De lactibus sive lacteis venis by the Italian physician and anatomist Gasparo (Gaspare) Aselli was posthumously published in Milan at the press of Giambattista Bidelli through the efforts of Nicolas Fabry de Peiresc. The work contained a beautiful engraved title page and a portrait of Aselli by the Milanese painter and engraver Cesare Bassano. The four folding chiaroscuro woodcuts in this work printed in black, red and two shades of brown were the first color-printed illustrations in a medical or anatomical work. They are unsigned and authorship of these has not been established.

While performing vivisection on a dog that had recently fed, Aselli noticed a network of vessels in the mesentery and along the peritoneal surface of the intestine. The vessels released a whitish fluid similar to milk when incised, so Aselli called them lacteas, sive albas venas. He made a systematic study of these vessels in different species of animals, noting the chronological relationship between their engorgement and the animal's last meal, and erroneously conjectured that the vessels led to the liver; it was not until Jean Pecquet's discovery of the thoracic duct and its continuity with the lacteal vessels that the process of absorption was clearly established.  

Norman, Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) No. 1094. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 76. Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 240-241

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Francesco Stelluti Issues the First Book Containing Images of Organisms Viewed through the Microscope 1630

In 1630 Italian scientist Francesco Stelluti published Persio tradotto in verso schiolto e dichiarato . . . in Rome at the press of Giacomo Mascardi. This translation of the works of the Latin poet Persius (Aulus Persius Flaccus), Stelluti dedicated to Cardinal Francesco Barberini in an attempt to gain the Cardinal's patronage for the Accademia dei Lincei, one of the first scientific societies, of which Stelluti was a co-founder. Stelluti’s edition of Persius was intended for the most part as a means for advertising the Accademia’s activities. “Whenever he possibly could, Stelluti took a word or phrase in Persius—almost any word or phrase—and used it as an excuse to refer to one or another aspect of the natural historical researches of the Linceans. The most insignificant reference in the elegies sparked long and short excursuses on the Linceans’ work” (Freedburg, p. 187) 

Stelluti's book was also the first book to contain images of organisms as viewed through the microscope. The book’s striking full-page image of a magnified bee (p. 52), showing minute details of the antennae, legs, sting, head and tongue, “still has the capacity to arouse the wonder of modern experts” (Freedburg, p. 189). On page 127 is a smaller illustration of a magnified grain weevil, including a detail of the tip of the insect’s snout and mandibles.

An obscure reference in Persius’s first satire to what may have been the ancient town of Eretum gave Stelluti his pretext for including the bee images, since the former Eretum was then presumably Monterotondo, seat of the Barberini country estate, and the Barberini family had adopted the bee as its emblem. Stelluti’s weevil image was likewise prompted by a mention of that insect in another of Persius’s poems.

Stelluti’s bee image is similar, but not identical to, an earlier image showing magnified views of a bee, that Stelluti published as a broadsheet in 1625 under the title Apiarium; this broadsheet is extremely rare, with only two or three copies recorded. The Apiarium was intended to form part of a projected encyclopedia by Stelluti’s fellow Lincean Federico Cesi, but this project was never realized. In 1624 Cesi had been sent a microscope by Galileo, another Lincean, and it was most likely this instrument that Cesi and Stelluti used to prepare their pioneering images of insects under magnification.

Ford, Images of Science: A History of Scientific Illustration, pp. 172-173, 179-180. Freedburg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (2003).

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The Earliest Multicolor Printed Book is Issued by the Ten Bamboo Studio in Nanjing 1633

In 1633 Chinese artist, calligrapher, seal-carver, publisher and bookseller Hu Zhengyan (胡正言) issued the Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu (Ten Bamboo Studio Collection of Calligraphy and Painting) from his Ten Bamboo Studio in Nanjing. The work, developed and printed from 1619 to 1633,  included works in eight subject categories illustrated by 50 different artists and calligraphers, with birds, plums, orchids, bamboo, fruit, stones, ink drawings, and other miscellaneous imagery, each followed by a text or poem. It was the earliest painting manual in China to be printed in color, and the first to include isolated illustrations of subject matter from nature. For the images Hu Zhengyan selected works of both contemporary and historical artists. The complete work includes 185 pictorial leaves and 139 calligraphy leaves. According to a press release issued by The Huntington Library on July 31, 2014, 18 complete copies of the first edition have survived, all in varying condition.

"By repeatedly studying and copying the models, Hu not only developed an acute sense of each artist's characteristic brush manner and compositional style for transfer onto woodblocks, he was also able to determine the appropriate color palettes and nuances of shading for every potential print.

"....A separate block was made for each color in a technique known as taoban ('set of blocks' or 'overlaid blocks') or douban ('assembled blocks' or 'decorative blocks'). The most luxurious editions of this manual incorporated the gonghua ('embossed design' or 'arched 'pattern', known in the West as gauffrage or gongban ('embossed blocks' or 'arched blocks') method, a blind-stamping technique whereby illustrations with exquisite low-relief designed were produced by pressing the paper firmly against a dry, uninked engraved woodblock. The douban technique was espeically time-consuming as numerous individual woodblocks were required for a single print. In addition, matching plates carved in intaglio and in relief were combined to produce the gonghua effect. The readied blocks were then placed in exactly the right positions and color was applied according to the hues and gradations in the model. Finally, the images were printed on flattened, slightly mostened paper in temperature-and humidity-controlled workshops. The best editions were printed on very high-quality langgan ('pearled') paper produced by Hu Zhengyan.

"The engraving was so skillfully done that virutally no stray marks from, or outlines of the cut blocks, are to be seen in finely printed editions of the manual. As a result, illustrations in the Shizhu zhai shuahua pu appear as though painted by hand" (Philip K. Hu, Visible Traces. Rare Books and Special Collections from the National Library of China (2000) No. 15).

Digital facsimile of a complete copy of the Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu from the Cambridge Digital Library at this link

The manual was printed and reprinted for at least two hundred years, resulting in a very complex bibliographical record. See Thomas Ebrey, "The Editions, superstates and states of the Ten Bamboo Studio Collection of Calligraphy and Painting", East Asian Library Journal 14 (2010) 1-119.


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1650 – 1700

Robert Hooke's Graphic Portrayal of the Hitherto Unknown Microcosm 1665

In 1665 Robert Hooke published Micrographia: Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses in London. This was the first book devoted entirely to microscopical observations, and also the first book to pair its microscopic descriptions with profuse and detailed illustrations. This graphic portrayal of the hitherto unknown microcosm had an impact rivalling that of Galileo's Sidereus nuncius (1610), which was the first book to include images of the macrocosm shown through the telescope. It was also the second book published under the auspices of the Royal Society of London.

Hooke began his observations with studies of non-living materials, such as woven cloth and frozen urine crystals, then proceeded to investigations of plant and animal life.  He published the first studies of insect anatomy, giving a lucid account of the compound eye of the fly, and illustrating the microscopic details of such structures as apian wings, flies' legs and feet, and the sting of the bee.  His famous and dramatic portraits of the flea and louse, a frightening eighteen inches long, are hardly less startling today than they must have been to Hooke's contemporaries.  His botanical observations include the first description of the plant-like form of molds, and of the honeycomb-like structure of cork, which last he described as being composed of "cellulae"— thereby coining the modern biological usage of the work "cell" to describe the basic microscopic units of tissue.

In January 2014 a digital facsimile of the first edition of Hooke's Micrographia was available from the National Library of Medicine's website at this link.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1092.

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The First Map Engraved and Published in New England 1677

In 1677 printer John Foster of Boston published A Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England, from the first planting thereof in the year 1607 to this present year. . . To which is added a Discourse about the Warre with the Pequods in the year 1637. By W. Hubbard, Minister of Ipswich. This book contained a woodcut map captioned "Map of New-England, Being the first that ever was cut here cut," with the legend "The White Hills" in the general region of the White Mountains. This was the first map engraved and published in New England and it predated by five years the earliest datable map published in Latin America.

"From June 1675 to the autumn of 1676 New England experienced an epidemic of Indian fights known ever since as King Philip's War. The Indians almost won it. Before the end of 1677, eight accounts of the war had been published in London, one of them in verse. The best of them was in the picturesque prose of the Reverend William Hubbard, teacher of the First Parish in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Foster printed a Boston edition of it in the spring of 1677; Thomas Parkhurst published a London edition a surprisingly short time later.

"Hubbard's narrative of King Philip's War is distinguished among books in that it contained the first map ever engraved and published in America. This deservedly famous production (first American map and first book illustration in one) bears no name of cartographer, engraver, or printer. But in the words of an eminent and cautious scholar, Lawrence C. Wroth, it has been 'generally conceded to be the work of John Foster.' It is the best known of Foster's engravings and the least rare. Randolph G. Adams, in his valuable study of Hubbard's Narrative, gave the locations of sixty-two maps in 1939 still in copies of the book.

"The map shows New England from Nantucket to Pemaquid Point and from New Haven almost to the White Mountains. It's orientation is odd in that it looks west instead of north. This is not uncommon among early maps of the Atlantic coast. People were still mentally in Europe; their maps tended to look across the ocean. The Foster map is a fairly primitive example of the wood engraver's art. It suggests the woodcut maps of 150 years earlier rather than the typical European copperplate map of the seventeenth century. . . .

". . . . The Forster map is printed from a block incised on the plank or side grain of the wood, probably with a knife. It measures roughly 12 by 14 inches. Needless to say, it is very unlikely that a genuine example exists without the creases resulting from being folded into the book" (Holman, "Seventeenth-Century American Prints," Prints in and of America to 1850, Morse (ed) [1970] 37-40, 41-43).

Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 1670-1870, Vol. I  (1968) No. 2.

Shadwell, American Printmaking. The First 150 Years (1969) No. 2, plate 2. Shadwell's No. 3 and plate 3 describe a variant state of Foster's map prepared to illustrate the English edition of Hubbard's book published in London by Thomas Parkhurst in 1677. In that version the caption "White Hills" in the Boston version was replaced by "Wine Hills."

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The First Hieroglyphic Bible for Children 1684 – 1692

Melchior Mattsperger compiled Die Geistliche Herzens-Einbildungen in zweihundert und fünffzig biblischen Figur-Sprüchen vorgestellet. This work, first published in 2 volumes in Augsburg, Germany in 1684 and 1692, was the first hieroglyphic bible, combining brief complete biblical passages and a combination of text and images to represent words or parts of words, in rebus form. 

The first English language edition of this work, A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible, was printed in London in 1783. The first American edition followed in 1788. Introducing children to brief biblical passages with an intriguing combination of text and image, numerous editions with a variety of biblical selections and illustrations were issued through the first half of the nineteenth century.

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Anatomy in the Style of Dutch Still-Life Painting 1685

Plate from Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis. Please click on the link below to view and resize full page. 

Title page of Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis. 
Please click on the link below to view and resize full page. 

Govert Bidloo.

Gerard de Lairesse (1641–1711) by Rembrandt.  Lariesse suffered from congenital syphilis.

In 1685 Dutch physician, anatomist, poet, and playwright Govert Bidloo published Anatomia humani corporis. This large folio contains an engraved title, engraved portrait of Bidloo by Abraham Bloteling after Gérard de Lairesse and 105 engraved plates after Lairesse, probably by Bloteling and Peter and Philip van Gunst. The work was issued in  Amsterdam for the widow of Joannes van Someren, the heirs of Joannes van Dyk, Henry Boom and widow of Theodore Boom.

Considered as an artistic meditation on anatomy, Gerard de Lairesse’s designs are a total departure from the idealistic tradition inaugurated in the mid-16th century by the Vesalian woodcuts. They are also worlds apart from the productions of the Odoardo Fialetti - Giulio Casserio collaboration. Lairesse displayed his figures with everyday realism and sensuality, contrasting the raw dissected parts of the body with the full, soft surfaces of undissected flesh surrounding them; placing flayed, bound figures in ordinary nightclothes or bedding; setting objects such as a book, a jar, a crawling fly in the same space as a dissected limb or torso. He thus brought the qualities of Dutch still-life painting into anatomical illustration, and gave a new, darker expression to the significance of dissection. De Lairesse’s images of dissected pregnancies and premature infants also reflect compassion—a quality unusual in art that was intended primarily to be scientific.

A painter and writer on art theory, Lairesse was influenced by Rembrandt, who painted his portrait in 1665, and also by the French styles of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. The French called Lairesse the “Dutch Poussin.” Lairesse suffered from congenital syphilis, which gave him a deformed nose visible in Rembrandt’s portrait. Perhaps because he had always lived with disease Lairesse had more than a casual interest in medicine. Syphilis made him blind in 1690, and for the rest of his active life Lairesse supported himself by lecturing and writing about art, publishing two books on drawing and painting which were widely reprinted and translated throughout the eighteenth century.

Some of Lairesse’s drawings were probably engraved by Abraham Bloteling (Blooteling). A line engraver and creator of mezzotint plates who worked in both Holland and England, Bloteling was particularly famous for the quality of his mezzotints, for which he initiated a more thorough system of preparing the grounds, and may have invented the rocker. According to historian of medical book illustration Ludwig Choulant, prior medical scholars Albrecht Haller and Johann Carl Wilhelm Moehsen believed that some plates in the series were engraved by the brothers Pieter and Philip van Gunst. Despite imperfections from the point of view of dissection, which Choulant and others have pointed out, the Bidloo-de Lairesse anatomical studies reflect much that is good, including early depictions of skin and hair from observation with a microscope.

Bidloo began this project with de Lairesse around 1676 during a period in which he was also writing plays in Amsterdam, obtaining his medical degree, and working as a surgeon. It would appear that Bidloo brought his flair for drama to the conception and realization of this project. The 105 large drawings were probably completed about 1682, after which the plates had to be engraved—a huge production.

In 1690 Bidloo's publishers issued an edition in Dutch, and in 1698 William Cowper issued an expanded English with new text using Bidloo's original plates, but without crediting Bidloo, resulting in a famous plagiarism dispute in the era before copyright.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 250. Dumaître, La Curieuse Destiné des Planches Anatomiques de Gérard de Lairesse (1982). Hofer, Baroque Book Illustration, 146. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 231. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body, 309-17. Wax, The Mezzotint: History and Technique (1990) 25-26.

♦ In 2012 it was my pleasure to sell a spectacular large paper copy of Bidloo's atlas, bound in contemporary full red morocco, and emblazened with the coat of arms of its first owner, to Vassar College as their 1,000,000th book. Vassar produced a spectacular website describing the copy, with background, images and a video. The excellent video, which beautifully described this wonderful copy, is here:

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The First Printed Facsimile of a Manuscript 1697

In 1697 German historian of law Heinrich Günther von Thülemeyer published from Frankfurt Copia manuscripti aureae bullae Caroli IV Rom. Imp. quo in Austiissmia Bibliotheca Caesarea Vindobonensi invenitur, atque annot Christ. 1400 . . . .  This large folio publication was a page-for-page reproduction of an illuminated medieval manuscript of Die Goldene Bulle commissioned by King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia, and produced in 1400. The manuscript was preserved  in Vienna (Codex Vindobonensis 338).

Significant for book history, Thülemeyer's edition followed the large format of the medieval manuscript exactly, reproducing the two-column calligraphic text of all 46 leaves in type, and the numerous color images in black and white copperplate engravings, very close to their appearance in the original. Thülemeyer followed his facsimile with a commentary. This was the first full facsimile of a manuscript ever printed. It was not an exact facsimile since the images were not in color and the printed pages did not include all the marginal ornamentation present in the manuscript.

In 1977 publisher Akademische Druck in Graz, Austria published a full-size folio facsimile of Thülemeyer's 1697 facsimile, reproducing twenty pages of the original illuminated manuscript in color facing corresponding pages in the black and white facsimile showing the correspondence between the original manuscript and the 1697 edition. The 1977 edition, itself a minor landmark in the history of books as "the first facsimile of the first facsimile," was edited by Armin Wolf. Unlike most of Akademische Druck's facsimiles, which were expensive limited editions, the 1977 work was issued as a trade publication, and presumably in a relatively large printing, at a reasonable price.

(This entry was last revised on 01-12-2015.)

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Baroque Anatomy and Plagiarism (?) 1698

English surgeon and anatomist William Cowper published The Anatomy of Humane Bodies. . . . in 1698. This large folio volume included a mezzotint portrait of Cowper by Smith after Closterman, an allegorical engraved title attributed to Abraham Bloteling with pasted-on English title in cartouche, a second engraved title with vignette by Sturt, and 114 plates, of which 105 were designed by Gérard de Lairesse and probably engraved by Bloteling, and 9 plates mostly drawn and engraved by Michael van der Gucht. The volume was printed in Oxford at the Sheldonian Theatre and issued in London by Samuel Smith & Benjamin Walford.  From the format standpoint it is one of the largest volumes published in England during the seventeenth century.

Cowper's atlas was the first edition in English of the original anatomical plates designed for Govert Bidloo by Gérard de Lairesse, a painter who rivaled Rembrandt in popularity in his time. The plates were originally issued with Bidloo's Latin text and published in 1685. There was also an edition in Dutch in 1690. Bidloo’s text, however, was widely criticized, and perhaps because of this, or because sales were disappointing, Cowper, or his publisher, was able to obtain 300 sets of Bidloo's original plates from the publishers in Amsterdam. Cowper arranged to supply an entirely new text in English to accompany the reissue of the original engravings, with a few additions. Cowper also commissioned nine new plates. Cowper's new English text was clearly superior, and the basis for later Latin editions. However, Cowper did not acknowledge Bidloo, even going so far as to paste over Bidloo’s name with his own in the cartouche on the engraved allegorical title.

At this time neither copyright nor rights of authorship existed. The first copyright law passed was the British Statute of Anne in 1709. Without legal recourse, Bidloo chose to attack Cowper in print, resulting in a bitter plagiarism dispute between the two— one of the most famous in medical history. In 1700 Bidloo went so far as to publish his Gulielmus Cowper, criminalis literari citatus, coram tribunali, attacking Cowper in considerable detail. 

Russell, British Anatomy, no. 211.

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The Structural Relationships between the Body of Man and the Anthropoid Ape 1699

In 1699 English Physician and comparative anatomist Edward Tyson published in London Orang-Outang, sive Homo Sylvestris; or, the Anatomy of a Pygmie Compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape and a Man, including 8 folding plates engraved by Michael Vandergucht after drawings by the artist and anatomist, William Cowper.

Tyson's anatomy of the "orang-outang" (in Tyson's case a chimpanzee rather than an orangutan) was the first work to demonstrate the structural relationships between the anatomy of man and the anthropoid ape. For Tyson the term Orang-Outang meant "man of the woods."

In 1641 the Dutch surgeon and anatomist Nicholas (or Nicolaes) Tulp had used the same words to describe a chimpanzee, which he illustrated in his Observationum medicarumThis book included the first, limited description by a scientist of an African anthropoid ape. Regarding Tulp's description Tyson said that "I confess that I do mistrust the whole representation."

The ape which Tulp described seems to have come from Angola, and Tulp had the opportunity to observe it in the private menagerie of the Prince of Orange. Tulp seems to have learned the name orang-outang from Samuel Blomartio, a friend who had lived in Borneo and was familiar with the Javanese word for "man of the woods." Tulp seems to have been under the impression that orangutans were widely distributed throughout the tropics rather than limited to Asia, and thus confused the two species. The classification of the orangutan in the the Ponginae (Pongo) subfamily of the family hominidae, outside of the subfamily homininae from which humans descend, and to which the chimpanzee belongs, had not yet occurred.

Perhaps with some humor, but also to confirm the anatomical similarities, Tyson had Cowper draw the standing dissected figures of chimpanzees in the style of the famous Vesalian musclemen. A believer in the "Great Chain of Being" or scala naturae, Tyson identified the chimpanzee as the link directly below mankind, stating in his "Epistle Dedicatory" that it "seems the Nexus of the Animal and Rational."

Tyson's anatomical study— the first conducted of a great ape— had a powerful influence on all subsequent thought on man's place in nature. Thomas Huxley referred to it extensively in his 1863 book with that title. Tyson's last section of Orang-Outang is devoted to "A Philological Essay Concerning the Pygmies of the Ancients," an early contribution to the study of primate-oriented folklore.

Cole, History of Comparative anatomy, 198-221. Montague, Edward Tyson (1943) ch. 8. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2120.  Spencer, Ecce Homo. An Annotated Bbiliographic History of Physical Anthropology (1986) no. 1.92.

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1700 – 1750

Friedrich Ruysch's Anatomical Preparations: Surrealism Centuries Before Surrealism Became Fashionable 1701 – 1725

In Amsterdam Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch published Thesaurus anatomicus in ten parts from 1701 to 1716, and the first and only part of his Thesaurus animalium in 1710. An index to the Thesaurus anatomicus appeared in 1725.

Probably the most original artist in the history of anatomical preparations, Ruysch enjoyed making up elaborate three-dimensional emblems of mortality from his specimens. These fantastic, dream-like concoctions constructed of human anatomical parts are illustrated in the Thesaurus on large folding plates mostly engraved by Cornelis Huyberts, who also engraved plates for the painter Gérard de Lairesse, illustrator of Govert Bidloo’s anatomy. In their dreamlike qualities many of the plates depicting the preparations reflect surrealism centuries before surrealism became fashionable. Ruysch’s Thesaurus anatomicus and his Thesaurus animalium describe and illustrate the spectacular collections of “Anatomical Treasures” which he produced for display in his home museum between 1701 and 1716 using secret methods of anatomical injection and preservation.

Ruysch's unique anatomical preparations attracted many notables to his museum, including Czar Peter the Great of Russia, who was so fascinated with the preparations that he attended Ruysch’s anatomy lectures, and in 1717 he bought Ruysch’s entire collection, along with that of the Amsterdam apothecary Albert Seba, for Russia's first public museum, the St. Petersburg Kunstkammer. Over the years most of the dry preparations in St. Petersburg deteriorated or disappeared, but some of those preserved in glass jars remain. A few later specimens by Ruysch, auctioned off by his widow after his death, are also preserved in Leiden. Because most of the preparations did not survive, Ruysch’s preparations, and his museum, are known primarily from these publications.

Ruysch's methods allowed him to prepare organs such as the liver and kidneys and keep entire corpses for years. He used a mixture of talc, white wax, and cinnabar for injecting vessels and an embalming fluid of alcohol made from wine or corn with black pepper added. Using his injection methods Ruysch was the first to demonstrate the occurrence of blood vessels in almost all tissues of the human body, thereby destroying the Galenic belief that certain areas of the body had no vascular supply. He was also the first to show that blood vessels display diverse organ-specific patterns. He investigated the valves in the lymphatic system, the bronchial arteries and the vascular plexuses of the heart, and was the first to point out the nourishment of the fetus through the umbilical cord. Ruysch's discoveries led him to claim erroneously that tissues consisted solely of vascular networks, and to deny the existence of glandular tissue. 

Impey & Macgregor (eds.) The Origins of Museums (1985)  55-56. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1875.  Rosamond Purcell & Stephen Gould, Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors (1992) chapter 1 reproduces spectacular color images of Ruysch’s preparations from Czar Peter’s Wunderkammer, and Leiden.  Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Human Body (1992) 290-98.

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The Bernard-Picard Collaboration: the First Global View of Religion 1723 – 1743

Between 1723 and 1743 Dutch bookseller and publisher Jean-Frédéric Bernard of Amsterdam published Ceremeonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde in seven small folio or large quarto volumes plus two supplementary volumes, with an allegorical frontispiece representing all the religions of the world, and over 266 plates by French engraver Bernard Picard

The Bernard-Picart collaboration was the most famous encyclopedic work on religion of the 18th century. It was later called the first global vision of religion. The publisher, Bernard, compiled this work from many sources, including the writings of R. Simon, J. Abbadie, Dupin, Thiers, P. le Brun, Boulainvilliers, Reland, Banier, Mascrier, Du Tilliot, etc.; the illustrations were prepared by Bernard Picard, described by Benezit as “le représantant le plus remarquable de la gravure hollandaise du premier tiers du XVIIIe siècle, influence par l’École française.” The first seven volumes described and illustrated in detail the various religious customs, ceremonies and costumes of both the ancient and modern world: the first and second volumes dealt with the Jews and Roman Catholics; the third with the religions of the Americas and India; the fourth with the Protestant religions; the fifth with Protestants and Greek Orthodox; the sixth with Anglicans, Quakers and Anabaptists; and the seventh with Islam, African religions and the religions of the Far East. Two supplementary volumes entitled Superstitions anciennes et modernes (1733-36) contained descriptions and illustrations of religiously oriented rites and festivities such as the Greek Bacchanals, the worship of Priapus, carnival, etc. The remaining two volumes discussed the superstitions of the world.

Between 1733 and 1739 Picart's work was translated into English and published in seven volumes in London by William Jackson for Claude du Bosc as Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the World. The English edition included 233 engraved plates. 

Brunet I, 1742. Cohen-De Ricci 134-35. Hunt, Jacob, & Mijnhardt, Bernard Picart and the First Global Vision of Religion (2010).

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Mark Catesby Publishes the First Natural History of North American Flora and Fauna 1729 – 1747

In 1729 Mark Catesby published the Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands in London "Printed at the Expence of the AUTHOR: and Sold by W. INNYS and R. MANBY, at the West End of St. Paul's, by Mr. HAUKSBEE, at the Royal Society House, and by the AUTHOR, at Mr. BACON'S in Hoxton." This splendid set of 2 folio volumes was the first natural history of North American flora and fauna, with 220 plates engraved by Catesby and colored under his supervision, systematically illustrating American birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and mammals for the first time. Catesby was the first to place his birds and animals in their natural habitats, a style of representation that would later be used by Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon. He was also the first to abandon the Native American names for his subjects, trying to establish scientific names based on generic relationships. Linnaeus would use Catesby’s work as the basis for his system of binomial nomenclature for American species in the tenth edition of Systema naturae (1758).

Having studied with the naturalist, John Ray, Catesby made his first trip to America to visit his sister who lived in Williamsburg, Virginia. He returned to England in 1719. On this visit Catesby became intrigued with the strangeness and variety of American plants, birds and animals, and decided to return again to the New World for another extended trip. For this second visit he acquired a number of sponsors for whom he was to collect and sketch botanical samples. Amongst his sponsors were William Sherard and Sir Hans Sloane. Catesby returned to America in 1722, settling in Charlestown, Carolina, and moving to Bermuda in 1725 as the guest of Governor Phenny. On this trip he collected  botanical samples for his sponsors, but he also sketched painted the birds, plants and animals that he saw on his wanderings throughout rural Southeastern America.

In 1726 Catesby returned to London and sought funding to produce and publish his researches by subscription.  “Catesby worked as a horticulturist first in the nursery of Thomas Fairchild, which passed to the hands Stephen Bacon in 1729, and then in Christopher Gray's nursery in Fulham. His work as a horticulturist and his reputation as an importer of exotic species helped him to generate subscribers for the Natural History as many of his clients read Catesby's work as an 'illustrated catalogue' of the exotic plants Catesby sold.

“Catesby's connections within the Royal Society proved indispensable in financing his American expedition, and they served him equally well in his publication of Natural History; Twenty-nine of his one hundred and fifty-four subscribers were members.Three individual members of the Royal Society were instrumental to producing and publishing the Natural History. Peter Collinson, a wealthy businessman with a keen interest in natural history, lent Catesby "considerable Sums of Money...without interest" and was the main financial supporter of Catesby's work. Sir Hans Sloane, by this time President of the Royal Society, continued to aid Catesby through his own financial support and by helping him enlist subscribers. For help with the Latin names of his subjects, Catesby turned to botanist William Sherard, who had been central in sending Catesby to America in the first place.

“Catesby wanted to send his watercolors to Paris or Amsterdam to be engraved for printing, but the cost was prohibitive. And so, by now in his mid-forties, the self-taught artist endeavored to learn etching. The print maker Joseph Goupy taught Catesby to etch his own plates. His lack of experience and expertise actually served as asset, freeing him to innovate. Instead of the traditional "Graver-like manner" he opted to ‘omit their method of cross-Hatching and to follow the humour of the Feathers, which is more laborious, and I hope has proved more to the purpose’. Each copy was then hand-coloured, though Catesby did have some assistance with this.

“As Catesby sorted through his paintings, deciding which to reproduce, he organized his materials into two volumes. The first hundred images of birds, frequently posed with the plants on which they feed or in which they dwell, would make up Volume I. Volume II was divided into sections treating fish, amphibians, mammals and insects, again, often with related plants. Volume II included plates treating only plants and ended with an appendix, which depicted some animals and plants Catesby was unable to see in person. As a preface to the second volume Catesby wrote a collection of essays discussing the geology, climate and peoples of "Carolina and the Bahama Islands."

“Each volume consists of five parts, each of which Catesby presented to the Royal Society upon completion. While the publication date on the title page of the first volume is 1731, he presented parts I-V between 1729 and 1732. Between 1734 and 1743 he presented parts VI-X, followed by the Appendix in 1747. Catesby sold the sections separately for two guineas a piece. A complete set, at twenty-two guineas, was one of the most expensive works of the 1700s. The order in which these sections of appear vary from copy to copy of the first edition as patrons had the works bound themselves. While Catesby's original proposal for publication stated that a smaller uncolored set would also be available for a single guinea a section, no known black and white copies exist” (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma02/amacker/etext/pre_3.htm, accessed 12-28-2008).

In February 2014 all the images and captions from Catesby’s work could be viewed at the website created by Kristy Amaker at this link.

In 2007 The Catesby Commemorative Trust produced a beautiful film about Catesby's life and work entitled The Curious Mister Catesby.

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Ibrahim Müteferikka Issues the First Illustrated Book Printed by Muslims 1729

In 1729 printer and publisher Ibrahim Müteferikka issued his second book from his press in Constantinople. A maritime history of the Turks by the Ottoman writer Hajj Khalifa, this work was 150 pages long. As with the Arabic-Turkish dictionary he printed the same year, Mutteferikka issued 1000 copies of this work. Containing five illustrations, including a map, it was the first illustrated book printed by Muslims using movable type, and also the first book printed by Muslims containing a map:

"one showing the two hemisphere, another showing the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, another the islands under Ottoman rule, the fourth a map of the Adriatic and its islands, the fifth a double mariner's compass, beautifully engraved, with the names of the winds in Turkish, Persian and other languages. These illustrations testify to Ibaham Muteferrika's skill as a map maker and engraver.

"The Maritime Wars also contains information on cities, ports, borders, islands and sites of improtant naval battles; it give an account of Ottoman naval battles in the Archipelago, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Venice, lists famous Ottoman admirals, including Piri Reis, and describes different methods of navigation" (http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=988, accessed 06-10-2012).

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John Newberry Issues the First Printed Book Specifically for the Amusement of Children: No Copies of the First Edition Survive June 18, 1744

In 1744 printer and publisher John Newbery of London announced the availability of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer by M. F. Thwaite and John Newbery. The first edition appears to be known only from an advertisement in the Penny London Morning Advertiser published on June 18, 1744. If copies were issued at that time they appear to have been read out of existence.

This small book, of which very few copies of early editions survived, is generally considered the first book for children in the modern sense. It consists of simple rhymes for each of the letters of the alphabet. To market the book to the children of the day the book could be purchased alone for 6d., or with a ball (for boys) or a pincushion (for girls) at a cost of 8d. 

The book includes a woodcut of stoolball and a rhyme entitled "Base-Ball." This is the first known instance of the word baseball in print. In the book "Base-Ball" refers to the game Rounders, which had been played in England since Tudor times.

The book was very popular in England, and was first published in Colonial America in 1762. 

♦ A facsimile of the edition printed in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1787 by Isaiah Thomas is available the Library of Congress website. In 1966 Oxford University Press issued a facsimile of the earliest known complete copy of an edition— that of London, 1767, preserved in the British Library. The facsimile included an introductory essay and biibliography by M. F. Thwaite, and an index to the introduction and bibliography. Thwaite wrote in his introduction, p. 3:

"The world of the day probably had little idea that this small work was in any way notable, or that it marked a new era in literature for the young. But there was one word in the advertisement which might have struck them an unusual. It was a word which was to open up new realms to young minds. To avow 'amusement' as a principal end in a book for boys and girls indicated that a revolution had taken place. In the past children's books had been reluctant to admit this feature, but in this new century of reason it was to be demonstrated that pleasure should be an important element, even though still firmly leashed to the old purposes of morality and instuction. Newbery was therefore only expressing the new spirit abroad. Before 1700 books for the young had been dominated by religious teaching, moral lessons or scholastic purpose. Now amusement was to be an equally desirable aim. And no one in those formative years of children's book-making was to follow it so well or to carry it so far as John Newbery."

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Bernhard Siegfried Albinus' Cool, Elegant Aesthetic of Anatomy 1747

In 1747 Dutch physician and anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus published Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani in Leiden at the printing office of Johan & Hermann Verbeek. The plates in this large folio work are unsurpassed for their cool, elegant aesthetic and scientific accuracy. They were drawn and engraved by Jan Wandelaar, a pupil of the engravers Jacob Fokema and Guillem van der Gouwen, and the painter Gérard de Lairesse, who prepared the drawings for Govert Bidloo's atlas (referenced in this database). Prior to working for Albinus, Wandelaar worked for anatomist Friedrik Ruysch. Albinus, however, provided Wandelaar with the opportunity for the full expression of his talents as a draftsman and engraver. For many years Wandelaar worked nearly exclusively for Albinus, and lived in Albinus' house, illustrating the long series of superb books which Albinus produced. Choulant states that when Wandelaar died Albinus fell into a severe depression, from which he only gradually recovered. The Tables of the Skeleton and Muscles of the Human Body represents the apogee of an exceptional collaboration between physician and artist which lasted from 1721 until the artist's death in 1754, and resulted in a series of unsurpassed publications.

Roberts and Tomlinson described the innovative method that Wandelaar and Albinus devised for the transfer of the most accurate and proportional images of the anatomy to the drawings, using two nets, or grids, of small cords. The first plates are finished representations of the skeleton and are each accompanied by an outline-plate of the same size. The following 9 plates represent complete finished musclemen, each with an additional outline plate. The 14 plates following these represent special muscles and parts of muscles. Each of the very numerous figures on these last 14 plates is supplied with an outline-drawing unless the letters are engraved directly upon the finished figures. There are a total of 40 plates.

The 3 finished plates of the skeleton and the 9 finished muscle men are some of the most beautiful plates in the history of engraving. Wandelaer placed each figure in a carefully chosen landscape setting, and the artistic results are so pleasantly successful that the anatomical figures, although composed of many separate parts, appear to be actually stepping out of the picture.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 276-83. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Human Body (1992) 320-339. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography (1991) No. 399. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 29. Sappol, Dream Anatomy (2006) 118-19.

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"Descriptions des Arts et Métiers": Mechanical and Industrial Arts of 18th Century France 1749 – 1814

In 1749 French scientists René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur and Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau issued the first volume of Descriptions des arts et métiers faites ou approuvées par Messieurs de l'Académie royale des Sciences from Paris. Eventually comprising 72 works in 114 parts printed in folio format, with over 2100 engraved plates and plans, the work was completed 65 years later, in 1814. 

This series was the most important and the largest work on the mechanical and industrial arts of eighteenth century France, and one of the earliest projects of its kind undertaken in any country. Although encyclopedic in scope, the work was not conceived in parallel to Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, but in response to the perceived function of the Académie royale des sciences. A statement was published in 1699 in Histoire, an organ of the Académie, that outlined the motives and aims behind a proposed Description des arts et métiers:

“When this work is completed, it will be easy for each craft to compare the practices in vogue in France with those pursued in other countries; and from this comparison, the French and the inhabitants of these foreign lands will profit equally” (quoted in Cole and Watts, p. 7).

Each article had sections on materials, tools and apparatus, processes and methods, and illustrations of the métier. The wide range of crafts and industries covered nearly every aspect of French industrial and artisan life: coal-mining, fishing, textile manufacture, carpentry and cabinet-making, masonry, glass-blowing, ceramics, candle- and soap-making, barbering and wig-making, papermaking and bookbinding, iron- and tinsmithing, among other fields. Although the work was very much a separate enterprise, the Arts et métiers inspired many articles in the Encyclopédie, and can be said to complement the latter work. Both were essential to any well-balanced library in France and abroad.

The two principal figures involved in the Arts et métiers were René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur  and Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau. The former was elected to the Académie at age 25, and had a prodigious output, submitting memoir after memoir on a variety of subjects, mostly relating to pure mathematics and pure science, but including his celebrated description of English steel production. Duhamel de Monceau, who succeeded Réaumur, was interested in applied sciences, in particular chemistry, botany and mechanics. Réaumur died before the first cahier of the Arts et métiers appeared, and Duhamel du Monceau assumed control of the project some time after Réaumur’s death in 1757. Other contributors included François Bedos de Celles, Fredrik Chapman, Charles Romme, Michel Ferdinand d’Albert d’Ailly, duc de Chaulnes, the Abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet, Jean-Jacques Perret, Charles-René Fourcroy de Ramecourt, August-Denis Fougeroux de Bondaroy, François-Alexandre Pierre de Garcault, Jérome le Français de Lalande, Jean Jacques Paulet, Jeanne-Marie Roland de la Platière, Nicolas Christien de Thy, comte de Milly (1728-84) and others. The Académie and the authors of the Arts et métiers sought help from men with practical experience whenever possible.

Though it was written by the elite rather than the artisan class, the combination of the best scientific minds and the best practical minds of the era produced an invaluable reference work and an unparalleled social record of the artisan classes, and recorded for posterity manufacturing methods that would soon disappear with the coming of the Industrial Revolution. Like Diderot’s Encyclopédie, the Arts et métiers is one of the greatest productions of the French Enlightenment, and a benchmark in social and scientific history.

Arthur H. Cole and George B. Watts, The Handicrafts of France as Recorded in the Description des Arts et Métiers (1952).

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1750 – 1800

Diderot & d'Alembert's Encyclopédie, the Central Enterprise of the French Enlightenment 1751 – 1780

Between 1751 and 1780 French philosopher, art critic, and writer Denis Diderot and French mathematician, mechanician, physicist and philosopher Jean le Rond d'Alembert edited and wrote portions of the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres in 17 folio volumes of text plus 11 folio volumes (i.e., 10 volumes in 11) of plates. The first 7 volumes were published in Paris, but volumes 8 to 17 had to be published under a false Neuchâtel imprint. The main work appeared between 1751 and 1772. A supplement of 4 volumes plus one plate volume was published in Paris and Amsterdam from 1776 to 1777. The Table analytique et raisonnée for the set was published in 2 folio volumes in Paris and Amsterdam in 1780. Altogether there were 35 volumes, with 71,818 articles, and 3,129 plates.

The central enterprise of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie embodied that movement's liberal, anti-clerical and scientific spirit, its preoccupation with man as a creature of nature, and its conception of culture and society as mutable products of the evolutionary processes of history. As such, the work challenged the twin authorities of the French monarchy and the Catholic Church, both of which derived their power from the traditional belief in a divinely ordained, unchanging order. Well aware of the dangers of affronting such powerful authorities, the philosophes who contributed to the Encyclopédie relied heavily on irony and subterfuge in their attacks on the established order, but the epistemological basis of these attacks was clearly stated in the Encyclopédie's "Discourse préliminaire," written by d'Alembert, who, "although he formally acknowledged the authority of the church, . . . made it clear that knowledge came from the senses and not from Rome or Revelation" (Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie 1775-1800 [1979] 7).

"The Encyclopédie was an innovative encyclopedia in several respects. Among other things, it was the first encyclopedia to include contributions from many named contributors, and it was the first general encyclopedia to lavish attention on the mechanical arts. Still, the Encyclopédie is famous above all for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article 'Encyclopédie,' the Encyclopédie's aim was 'to change the way people think.' "(Wikipedia article on Encyclopédie, accessed 01-26-2010).

The first seven volumes of the Encyclopédie were produced in relative safety, due in part to the support of powerful protectors, notably Madame de Pompadour, but official tolerance came to an end in 1759, when the Encyclopédie was condemned by the Parlement of Paris and placed on the Index librorum prohibitorum by Pope Clement XIII. Diderot was forced to complete the remaining ten volumes in secret and to publish them under a false Neuchâtel imprint.  "In truth, secular authorities did not want to disrupt the commercial enterprise, which employed hundreds of people. To appease the church and other enemies of the project, the authorities had officially banned the enterprise, but they turned a blind eye to its continued existence" (Wikipedia).

A high percentage of the Encyclopédie's 71,818 articles were written by Diderot and d'Alembert themselves, with another large portion, about 400 articles, written by the Baron d'Holbach. Other famous contributors included Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. The most prolific contributor was the French scholar Louis de Jaucourt who wrote 17,266 articles, or about 8 per day between 1759 and 1765.   Altogether 140 people contributed articles to the project.

The Encyclopédie was a considerable commercial success, resulting in a print run of 4250 copies (Wikipedia), much larger than the typical print run of most publications at the time.

The discussion and exposition of printing in the Encyclopédie is among the most significant of the 18th century. Of this Giles Barber wrote in French Letterpress Printing (1969)9-10:

"The Encyclopédie provides one of the best general explanations of printing of the century, being both detailed and accurate. The main article is well supported by a host of minor ones including numerous definitions of terms and processes and by an excellent and evocative series of plates showing general workshop scenes as well as details of presses and other equipment. The authorship of all these articles is not, as yet ascertained. In their Preface the editors say: 'On juge bien que sur ce qui concerne l'Imprimerie et la Librairie, les memes tous les secours qui'il nos était possible de désirer'. In addition two of the publishers are credited with particular articles, David l'ainé with 'catalogue" (based on a manuscript by the abbé Girard bequeathed to Le Breton) and Le Breton himself with 'encre noire'. The technical part of the long and important article on 'imprimerie' is ascribed to the prote in Le Breton's shop, who we learn from the article 'prote', also ascribed to him, was one Brullé. J.B.M. Paillon, the famous engraver, wrote a number of minor articles on engraving ('dentelle, dorure sur parchemen, fleuron') and provided notes for others. Pierre Simon Fournier, the type founder, is similarly thanked in the Préface for providing background notes on his trade. "Papeterie' is by L. J. Goussier, one of the regular contributors, assisted by 'M. Prevost de Langlée près de Montargis'.

"Of the chief editors we know that d'Alembert wrote 'bibliomanie' and that Diderot's editorial asterisk, indicating his responsibility for either part or all of the article, occurs before 'bibliothécaire', caractère de'imprimerie (doubtless basically written by Fournier), chassis, corps, correcteur' and a few other minor subjects. But the chief editor as far as printing was concerned was undoubtedly the Protestant chevalier Louis de Jaucourt. Among his more important contributions were parts of 'imprimerie' covering 'histoire des inventions modernes' and 'imprimerie de Contantinople', the historical part of 'papier' and the articles on 'privilege d'impression' and 'relieur' as well as a large number of short ones.  It has also bee suggested the printer Claude François Simon wrote many of the printing articles but no internal confirmation of this has been found."

♦ Charles C. Gillespie reproduced 485 of the most notable plates in the Encyclopédie with informative and entertaining commentary in A Diderot Pictorial Encylopedia of Trades and Industry (2 vols. 1959). These included all or most of the plates concerning book production (papermaking, printing, copperplate engraving, bookbinding, leather production).

♦ Lough, Essays on the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert (1968) provided an authoritative bibliographical study and identified the authors of a significant percentage of the unsigned articles. 

♦ There are numerous versions of the Encyclopédie online. The ARTFL Encyclopédie Database from the University of Chicago contains "20.8 million words, 400,000 unique forms, 18,000 pages of text, 17 volumes of articles, and 11 volumes of plate legends."

♦ For an English translation there is the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project at the University of Michigan. When I checked in 2013 significant portions of the Encyclopédie had been tranlsated.

♦ In February 2014 the full text of the first edition of the Encyclopédie was available from the French Wikipedia at this link. As I searched through the text Google Chrome provided a machine translation.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 200.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 637.

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Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy": Philosophical and Comedic Digressions and Innovative Illustration Techniques 1759 – 1767

English writer Laurence Sterne published the bawdy, humorous novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman in nine volumes, the first two appearing in 1759, and seven others following over the next seven years (vols. 3 and 4, 1761; vols. 5 and 6, 1762; vols. 7 and 8, 1765; vol. 9, 1767). As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story, but one of the central jokes of the novel is that Tristram cannot explain anything simply, and must make explanatory digressions (often erudite) on the widest variety of topics to add context and color to his tale, to the extent that his own birth is not even reached until Volume III. 

In the work Laurence Sterne employed unusual visual imagery that became famous in the history of book illustration: a black page that mourned the death of a character, a squiggly line drawn by another character as he flourished his walking stick, and on page 169, vol. 3, of the first edition an example of actual marbled paper mounted on a page. Sterne, an eccentric and tubercular Anglican priest, badgered his publisher, Dodsley, to include the marbled paper (which he called “the motley emblem of my work”) in order to suggest something about the opacity of literary meaning. Later editions economized production cost by replacing the actual mounted piece of marbled paper with a monochrome engraved reproduction.

Editions, translations and adaptations of Tristram Shandy continue to occur in many media. Relevant to illustrations in particular, in 2009, commemorating the 250th anniversary of Sterne's "Black Page," originally published in 1779 on p. 73 of Volume I, the Lawrence Sterne Trust held The Black Page Exhibition at Sterne's home, Shandy Hall, inviting 73 writers and artists to create their own "Black Page for exhibition and sale at auction. The page contained links to the websites of nearly all of the artists, reproducing the images each created for the exhibition. In 2011, on the 250th anniversary of Sterne's marbled page, the Lawrence Sterne Trust invitied 170 artists to produce their own versions of Sterne's "Emblem of My Work, most of which were reproduced at this link.

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Frank Nichols Publishes Probably the First Color-Printed Illustrations in a Major Scientific Periodical 1761 – 1762

On November 26, 1761 English physician Frank Nicholls's  "Observations concerning the Body of his late Majesty, October 26, 1760" was read before the Royal Society. This paper,  in which Nicholls described and illustrated a rupture of the right ventricle he discovered at the autopsy of the late George II, was published in Philosophical Transactions Vol. 52, Pt 1, 265-272. It was illustrated with two folding plates of the heart engraved by J. Mynde and printed in two colors (brown and sanguine). These were probably the first color-printed plates in a major scientific periodical.

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Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece: Probably the Earlest Illustrated Medical Book Published in the American Colonies 1766

In 1766 a printer calling himself Zechariah Feeling (perhaps a pseudonym for Zechariah Fowle) issued from Boston Aristotle's Complete Master-Piece, in Three Parts; Displaying the Secrets of Nature in the Generation of Man . . . to which is Added, a Treasure of Health, or the Family Physician . . . This octavo edition of 140 pages contained a woodcut frontispiece and 9 woodcut illustrations (one repeated), two by Isaiah Thomas. 

This edition, a copy of which passed through my hands in 2012, designated itself the "Thirtieth Edition". First published in London in 1684, Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece, an anonymous reproductive and sexual manual, went through hundreds of editions between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, but because the work was considered pornographic, it was often issued under false imprints and sold "under the table." "Largely a compendium of reproductive lore, Aristotle's Masterpiece also contained a prescriptive message about sexuality. It repeated early modern English beliefs that sexual pleasure for both male and female was not only desirable but also necessary for conception. That reproduction was the primary goal of sexuality recurred as a theme throughout its various editions" (D'Emilio & Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America [1988], 19-20).

Austen's Early American Medical Imprints 1668-1820 does not cite any illustrated American medical works prior to the 1755 "26th" edition of the Masterpiece, which is the earliest edition of this work that Austen records. Hamilton's Early American Book Illustrators and Wood-Engravers 1670-1870, a catalogue of the Hamilton collection at Princeton, does not record any examples of illustrated American medical works prior to the 1796 edition of the Masterpiece. The woodcuts in our edition of Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece included a frontispiece showing a large and a small human figure, an illustration of a dissected pregnant uterus, four rather fanciful illustrations of birth defects (conjoined twins and hairy cyclops), two astrological illustrations (Man of Signs) and a small cut of a hand. The two "Man of Signs" cuts were executed by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831), the famous American printer and publisher, who became Zechariah Fowle's apprentice in 1755 at the early age of six and remained with Fowle until 1765. Thomas's cuts were also used by Fowle in his 1767 edition of The New Book of Knowledge. The woodcut frontispiece appears again in Nathaniel Coverly's 1770 edition of The Narrative of the Captivity of Mary Rowlandson.

The American Antiquarian Society's online catalogue cites five earlier American, or possibly American editions: the "25th," published in 1748; the "26th" and "27th," both published in 1755; another "27th," published in 1759; and the "28th," published in 1766. The AAS's copies are the only recorded examples of these editions. None of these earlier editions includes a place name in its imprint, so it is difficult to state with certainty that they were published in the American colonies. The "26th" edition, although cited in Austen and Bristol, is most likely a British imprint. The edition numbers are meaningless; the 1796 edition of the Masterpiece is also described as the "30th."

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Von Heineken Issues the First Systematic Guide to Collecting Prints, Blockbooks, and the Earliest Printed books 1768 – 1771

Idée générale d'une collection complette d'estampes. Avec une dissertation sur l'origine de la gravure & sur les premiers livres d'images was the first systematic guide to collecting prints, blockbooks, and the earliest printed books. It was issued in 1771 from Leipzig and Vienna by Karl Heinrich von Heineken (Carl Heinrich von Heinecken), a German art historian, art collector, librarian, diplomat, and director of the Dresden Print Room (Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden). Of the eighteenth century guides to collecting, von Heincken's work was exceptional in the number and quality of its illustrations, including 32 engraved and woodcut plates (21 folding, 11 single-page) and occasional small woodcut text illustrations.

Heineken's 1771 guide represented partly a condensation, reorganization and, and of course, a translation of portions of his much longer Nachrichten von Künstlern und Kunstsachen issued from Leipzig in two volumes in 1768 and 1769. Both works were issued by the same publisher, Johann Paul Kraus, and shared some of the same illustrations. In the Nachrichten Heineken provided an account of the earliest Dutch writers on chalcography, and conjectured that Gutenberg took the idea of printing from playing-card makers, who were the first engravers of subjects intermingled with texts. Heinecken believed, incorrectly, that Gutenberg's early efforts at Strassbourg were ineffectual and that Gutenberg's first successful productions were the product of woodblock printing.

Heineken undertook a multi-volume Dictionnaire des artistes dont nous avons des estampes, avec une notice détaillé de leurs ouvrages gravées. Of this work only the first four volumes were published between 1778 and 1780, covering the letters A-Diz. The manuscript of the remaining work was preserved in Dresden, but has been considered lost since World War II, and was possibly destroyed during the bombing of the city.

Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1884; 2001 edition) 320, 310-320.

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James Granger Inspires "Grangerizing," A Mania for Extra-Illustration 1769 – 1774

In 1769 English clergyman, biographer and print collector James Granger published the first two volumes of Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, consisting of Characters dispersed in different Classes, and adapted to a Methodical Catalogue of Engraved British Heads. Intended as an Essay towards reducing our Biography to System, and a help to the knowledge of Portraits; with a variety of Anecdotes and Memoirs of a great number of persons not to be found in any other Biographical Work. With a preface, showing the utility of a collection of Engraved Portraits to supply the defect, and answer the various purposes of Medals.

This work, with its supplement published in 1774, and numerous following editions, was responsible for the fashion of "Grangerizing," or collecting additional illustrations to be interleaved with a text, particularly a history of a town or country.  The practice stimulated the destructive process of cutting up copies of books with plates to extra-illustrate other books. 

Granger, himself, owned a collection of about 14,000 engraved portraits which was dispersed in 1778 after his death.

"Before the publication of the first edition of Granger's work in 1769 five shillings was considered a good price by collectors for any English portrait. After the appearance of the ‘Biographical History,’ books, ornamented with engraved portraits, rose in price to five times their original value, and few could be found unmutilated. In 1856 Joseph Lilly and Joseph Willis, booksellers, each offered for sale an illustrated copy of Granger's work. Lilly's copy, which included Noble's ‘Continuation,’ was illustrated by more than thirteen hundred portraits, bound in 27 vols., price £42. The price of Willis's copy, which contained more than three thousand portraits, bound in 19 vols., was £38 10s. It had cost the former owner nearly £200. The following collections have been published in illustration of Granger's work: (a) ‘Portraits illustrating Granger's Biographical History of England’ (known under the name of ‘Richardson's Collection’), 6 pts. Lond. 1792–1812; (b) Samuel Woodburn's ‘Gallery of [over two hundred] Portraits … illustrative of Granger's Biographical History of England, &c.,’ Lond. 1816; (c) ‘A Collection of Portraits to illustrate Granger's Biographical History of England and Noble's continuation to Granger, forming a Supplement to Richardson's Copies of rare Granger Portraits,’ 2 vols. Lond. 1820–2." (Wikipedia article on James Granger, accessed 12-17-2011).

The Huntington Library holds 1000 "Grangerized" or extra-illustrated sets of books on a wide variety of subjects. "Particularly rich are the Kitto Bible, which contains 30,000 prints illustrating the Old and New Testaments, and Granger’s A Biographical History of England, 1769-1774 which numbers 14,000 portraits of British notables" (http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=548, accessed 12-17-2011).

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"Kaitai Shinsho" : The First Book on Western Medicine and Science Published in Japanese 1774

In 1774 Sugita Genpaku and colleagues published Kaitai Shinsho (解体新書 Kyūjitai解體新書; Anatomical Tables) in Tokyo. This translation into Japanese of Johann Adam Kulmus's Dutch text on anatomy, Ontleedkundige Tafelen, was the first work on Western medicine or science published in Japanese.

As the first translation into Japanese of a Western medical text,

"Kaitai Shinsho represented the beginning of two epoch-making developments. First and most directly Gempaku's work set in motion the modern transformation of Japanese medicine, revealing not only many anatomical structures hitherto unknown in traditional [Japanese] medicine, but also and more fundamentally introducing the very notion of an anatomical approach to the body--the idea of visual inspection in dissection as the primary and most essential way of understanding the nature of the human body. Second and more generally, Kaitai Shinsho inspired the rise of Dutch studies (Rangaku) in Japan, thus giving birth to one of the most decisive influences shaping modern Japanese history, namely the study of Western languages and science" (S. Kuriyama, " Between Mind and Eye: Japanese Anatomy in the Eighteenth Century," IN: Leslie & Young [eds.] Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge [1992] 21).

Kaitai Shinsho was drawn largely from Gerard Dieten's 1773 Dutch translation of Johann Adam Kulmus's Anatomische Tabellen (1731) although its Western-style title-age was copied from Valverde's Vivae imagines partium porporis (1566), and the last four anatomical woodcuts were taken from the 1690 Dutch edition of Bidloo's anatomy. According to Genpaku, the instigator and primary editor of the book, the inspiration for Kaitai Shinsho came in 1771 when he and two other students of Dutch medicine bribed an executioner to let them see the dismembered body of a criminal. The three compared what they saw to the anatomical illustrations in Kulmus's book, and, struck by the accuracy of the European representations, determined to prepare a Japanese edition of Kulmus's anatomy. Completed in just two years, the book was a sensation on publication, selling out almost immediately and going through numerous editions in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

After publication of Kaitai Shinsho Genpaku continued to help advance Western knowledge in Japan. In 1815 he published a chronicle of these advances entitled Rangaku Kotohajime (The Dawn of Western Science in Japan).

♦ In February 2014 the images from Kaitai Shinsho were available from the website of the National Library of Medicine at this link

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 1196. 

J. Norman, Anatomy as Art: The Dean Edell Collection, NY: Christie's, 5 October 2007, No. 106.

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Jacques Gamelin Issues an Anatomy for Artists including Fantastical Elements 1779

Detail of plate from Gamelin's Nouveau recueil d'ostéologie et de myologie, dessin‚ d'après nature. . . pour l'utilit‚ des sciences et des arts..  Please click on link below to view and resize full image.

Jacques Gamelin.

In 1779 French painter Jacques Gamelin issued from Toulouse Nouveau recueil d'ostéologie et de myologie, dessin‚ d'après nature. . . pour l'utilit‚ des sciences et des arts. The folio volume, made up of 128 unfolded single sheets, included 90 engraved plates, and text vignettes engraved in a variety of techniques by Gamelin and his pupils Lavallée and Martin after Gamelin's original drawings.

Gamelin is known for his paintings and engravings of battle scenes. The plates for his anatomical atlas, issued in an edition of only 200 copies, were prepared from drawings made at his own dissection facility; they are distinct from the plates of other works of its type, being larger, more artistically varied, and more expressive and fantastic in their conceptions. "The work is known for its display of both talent and imagination, with striking scenes of the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, and skeletons at play. Aside from the full-page copperplate illustrations by Gamelin and the engraver Lavalée, the work contains a number of intriguing vignettes on the title pages and elsewhere, which show battle scenes, visitations by death on unsuspecting revelers, and the anatomical artist's studio" (Wikipedia article on Jacques Gamelin, accessed 02-08-2009).

Gamelin's plates show a constant interplay between the artistic and the anatomic: emblematic images in the seventeenth-century tradition, vignettes in the coquettish eighteenth-century manner, and classic studies of figures in repose and movement vie with straightforward "medical" depictions of bones and muscles. Gamelin's technical perfection, coupled with the emotional and fantastical elements in his images, have led him to be seen as a precursor of Goya; it is possible that the young Goya may have known or studied with Gamelin, who taught in Rome during the time Goya was there. 

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 872.

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William Playfair Founds Statistical Graphics, and Invents the Line Chart and Bar Chart 1785 – 1786

In 1785 Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair issued in London a privately circulated preliminary edition of his The Commercial and Political Atlas; Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Exports, Imports, and General Trade of England, at a Single View. 

The next year Playfair formally published the work in London with an even longer title as The Commercial and Political Atlas; Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Exports, Imports, and General Trade of England, at a Single View. To which are Added, Charts of the Revenue and Debts of Ireland, Done in the Same Manner by James Correy.  For this work Playfair invented the line chart or line graph or times series plots, present in the book in 43 variants, and the bar chart or bar graph, represented by a single example. The first 10 plates were engraved by Scottish engraver and cartographer John Ainslie in 1785 for the preliminary edition; the remainder were engraved by Samuel John Neele. It is thought that Playfair, often short of funds, may have hand-colored the charts himself—the coloring process that he curiously designated as "staining" in the titles.

As one inspiration for his information graphics concerning economics and finance, Playfair cited Priestley's timelines as published in his New Chart of History.

"Over the course of the next half century, Plafair's line graph, which counterposed two quantitative axes, (one for time, the other for economic measures such as exports, importants and debts) became on of the most recognizable chronographic forms" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time [2010] 136).

"Playfair had a variety of careers. He was in turn a millwright, engineer, draftsman, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, statistician, pamphleteer, translator, publicist, land speculator, convict, banker, ardent royalist, editor, blackmailer and journalist. On leaving Watt's company in 1782, he set up a silversmithing business and shop in London, which failed. In 1787 he moved to Paris, taking part in the storming of the Bastille two years later. He returned to London in 1793, where he opened a "security bank", which also failed. From 1775 he worked as a writer and pamphleteer and did some engineering work" (Wikipedia article on William Playfair, accessed 03-16-2010).

In 2005 the third edition (1801) of Playfair's atlas with the first edition (1801) of the breviary were reproduced in color as Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary, Edited and Introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence. 

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Jacob Perkins Invents Steel Engraving Circa 1792 – 1819

In 1792 American inventor Jacob Perkins invented steel engraving for the process of banknote printing. In America Perkins was unable to commercialize the process successfully. Motivated by a £20,000 prize offered by the British government for development of unforgable banknotes, in 1818 Perkins moved to England. He and associates "set up shop in England, and spent months on example currency, still on display today. Unfortunately for them, Sir Joseph Banks thought that 'unforgable' also implied that the inventor should be English by birth. Sir Joseph Banks's successors awarded future contracts to the English printing company started with Charles Heath" (Wikipedia article on Jacob Perkins, accessed 10-21-2012).  

In 1819 Perkins received British patent No. 4400 for: "Certain Machinery and Implements Applicable to Ornamental Turning and Engraving, and to the Transferring of Engraved or Other Work from the Surface of One Piece of Metal to another Piece of Metal, and to the Forming of Metallic Dies and Matrices; and also Improvements in the Construction and Method of Using Plates and Presses for Printing Bank Notes and other Papers, whereby the Producing and Combining various Species of Work is effected upon the same Plates and Surfaces, the Difficulty of Imitation increased, and the Process of Printing facilitated; and also an Improved Method of Making and Using Dies and Presses for Coining Money, Stamping Medals, and other Useful Purposes."  The patent included six large folding engineering drawings.  

In England Perkins entered into business arrangements with English engraver, currency and stamp printer, book publisher and illustrator Charles Heath. To produce steel engravings engravers such as Heath had to use special plates supplied by Perkins. These plates had to be printed on presses designed and provided by Perkins; both the plates and the presses were described in Perkins's patent. The publisher who first recognized the aesthetic and economic advantages of steel engraving was Longman, who issued twenty books containing, all together, around seventy steel engravings beginning in 1821. Longman's first production using steel engravings was the edition of Thomas Campbell's The Pleasures of Hope issued by Longman on January 10, 1821. Heath's four engraved illustrations for this work, including its engraved title page, were dated 1820. According to Longman's ledgers, 3000 copies of this edition were printed, and in November 1824 a further 3000 copies were printed from the same plates, reflecting the extreme durability of steel engravings compared to engravings from copperplates. There was also a printing dated 1822, as I have a copy in my collection bearing that date. 

Roughly twenty years later in 1840 Perkins's methods reached true mass production when they were used to print the world's first adhesive postage stamp. The process, which proved the extreme durability of steel plates compared to any other available graphic reproduction medium of the time, remained in use until 1879:

"Henry Courbould made a drawing of Queen Victoria from the Medal struck on her accession to the throne for which Perkins, Bacon and Petch paid him £12.00. A piece of steel 3" square x 9/16" thick was annealed several times to remove the carbon and when completely soft the background was engraved with the aid of the geometric lathe, followed by the engraving of Queen's head and the inscription "Postage - One Penny". After hardening, the die became harder than it had been originally and 240 impressions were transferred to the printing plate using the Roll Transfer Press. This Master Die 1 was in use from 1840 to 1855 with master Die 2 being used until 1879 - a tribute to the excellence of Jacob Perkins' plate hardening system. It was proved that fully 400,000 imprints could be taken from a single plate without signs of wear. Altogether, over twenty-two thousand million stamps for Great Britain and the Colonies were printed by the Perkins' process during these years" (http://www.bphs.net/GroupFacilities/J/JacobPerkinsPrinting.htm, accessed 06-24-2012).

Hunnisett, Engraved on Steel. The History of Picture Production using Steel Plates (1998) 112.

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Alois Senefelder Invents & Develops Lithography 1796 – 1819

In 1796 German actor and playwright Alois Senefelder invented lithography (from Greek λίθος - lithos, 'stone' + γράφω - graphο, 'to write') as a cheaper way of publishing his plays. Lithography was the first planographic printing process, and the first radically new method of printing since Gutenberg’s invention of printing by movable type.

Senefelder experimented with a new etching technique using a greasy, acid resistant ink as a resist on a smooth fine-grained stone of Solnhofen limestone from Bavaria (Bayern), halfway between Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Munich (München). He discovered that this could be extended to allow printing from the flat surface of the stone alone. Gradually he brought his technique into a workable form, perfecting both the chemical processes and the special form of printing press required for using the stones. Senefelder called it Steindruckerei (stone printing) or chemical printing, but the French name lithographie (lithography) became more widely adopted. With the composer Franz Gleißner, in 1796 Senefelder started a publishing firm using lithography. The two collaborated for about 30 years. In his A Complete Course of Lithography (1819) p. 13-14 Senefelder described how how he and Gleissner decided in 1796 to apply Senefelder's new printing process to publishing music as a first commercial venture:

"A page of wretchedly printed music from a prayer-book, which I accidentally met with at a shop at Ingolstadt, suggested to me the idea that my new method of printing would be particularly applicable to music printing; I, therefore, resolved on my return to Munich, to go directly to Mr. Falter, a publisher of music, to offer him my invention, and beg his assistance. My natural shyness alone prevented me from executing this plan immediately; I had twice passed his door, without having the courage to enter the house, when I accidentally met an acquaintance, to whom I had occasionally communicated something of my invention; and, conversing with him, I learned that Mr. Gleissner, a musician of the Elector's band, was just about to publish some pieces of sacred music. This was most welcome news to me, as Mr. G. was a particular friend of mine.

"Without further delay, I called on Mr. Gleissner, to whom I communicated my new invention, offering him, at the same time, my services for the publication of his music. The specimens of music, and other printing, which I showed him, obtained his and his wife's highest approbation; he admired the neatness and beauty of the impressions, and the great expedition of the printing; and, feeling himself flattered by my confidence, and the preference I gave him, he immediately proposed to undertake the publication of his music on our joint account. I had, in the mean time, procured a common copper-plate printing press, with two cylinders; and, though it was very imperfect, it still enabled me to take neat impressions from the stone plates. Having, therefore, copied the twelve songs, composed by Gleissner, with all possible expedition, on stone, I succeeded in taking, with the assitance of one printer, 120 copies form it. The composiing, writing on stone, and printing, and had been accomplished in less than a fortnight; and in a short time we sold of these songs to the amount of 100 florins, though the whole expense of stones, paper, and printing, did not exceed 30 florins, which left us a clear profit of 70 florins."

According to Hans Schneider, Makarius Falter (1762-1843) und sein Münchner Musikverlag I:Der Verlag im Besitz der Familie (1796-1827); Verlagsgeschichte und Bibliographie (1993) p. 75, the title of Senefelder's first commercial publication by means of lithography was 12 Neue Lieder für's Klavier. . . von Franz Gleissner. .  . München, 1796. As Senefelder recounts in his Complete Course of Lithography p. 20 the following year Falter issued his first lithographed edition of music: Mozart's IIme Partie de Grand Opera Die Zauberflöte (Munich, 1797; Schneider  p. 81.) This was drawn on stone by Senefelder and printed at Mr. Falter's house by two soldiers whom Senefelder had instructed in the process of printing. "But these workmen, not entering into the spirit of the art, spoiled a great deal of paper, so that Mr. Falter at last prefrred printing again from copper." Nevertheless Falter continued to issue music printed both by lithography and copper plate engraving. 

In 1799 Senefelder met with German composer and music publisher Johann Anton André in Munich. Senefelder agreed to collaborate with André, and granted André's firm the right to use the new printing method. This occurred for the first time in 1800 when a 10-page selection from André's own opera Die Weiber von Weinsberg came off the press

On June 20, 1801 Senefelder received British patent no. 2518 for "A New Method and Process of performing the Various Branches of the Art of Printing on Paper, Linen, Cotton, Woollen and other Articles." This patent, with 18 pages of text and 9 figures on a large folding plate, represented Senefelder's earliest technical description of the process of lithography. It may be worthy of note that, as the specification of the patent indicated, Senefelder foresaw the wide range of applications of his process beyond strictly printing on paper. By 1803 Senefelder adapted zinc plates as substitutes for limestone in the process of lithography. Zinc plates eliminated the necessity of using smooth fine-grained limestone, and made it possible to lithograph larger plates with zinc plates that were much lighter in weight, and thus more manageable in the press than stones of equivalent dimensions.

In order to promote the virtues of lithography for reproducing art works, in 1808 Senefelder issued from his press in Munich an edition of the prayer book with Albrecht Dürer's drawings as Albrecht Dürers Christlich-Mythologische Handzeichnungen.  Three centuries earlier, in 1512 Maximilian I, archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor, had appointed Dürer artistic advisor for his print projects. Like all rulers of his age, Maximilian was acutely aware of his personal status; he became the first ruler to recognize the potential of the print as an effective way of perpetuating his name and dynasty. Among Dürer's commissions for the emperor, were forty-five pages of marginal drawings to the manuscript Prayer Book of Maximilian (1515). These revealed a light-hearted and witty side to Dürer's graphic work. Dürer's drawings for Maxmilian's prayer book remained unpublished until Senefelder's edition. Frequently this small folio volume from 1808 has been considered the first book printed entirely by lithography. It contained a lithographed portrait of Dürer, a lithographed title in black and violet, 2 pages of lithographed text in Senefelder's hand, and 43 lithographs by Johan Nepomuk Strixner reproducing each drawing in the single color in which Dürer drew it, the single colors per drawing, including violet, sepia, red, black or green. However, the honor for the first book printed by entirely by lithography may be assigned to Johann Anton André's  Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Kompositionen von W.A. Mozart (1805).

In 1817 when Anglo-German bookseller, inventor, lithographer, publisher and businessman Rudolph Ackermann set up his lithographic press in London his first publication was an English version of Senefelder's first lithographic book: Designs of the Prayer Book. Published September 1, 1817 at R. Ackermann's Lithographic Press.  The following year Senefelder published a manual of lithography in Munich entitled Vollständiges Lehrbuch der SteindruckereyThis outstanding and comprehensive manual, which included many different examples of lithography, also introduced  chromolithography, with a two-color lithographic reproduction of the first page of the 1457 Mainz Psalter reproducing its large two-color initial letter. Senefelder's book was translated into French and published Paris in 1819 as l'Art de la lithographie en construction pratique contenant la déscription claire et succincte des différents procédés à suivre pour déssiner, graver et imprimer sur pierre; precédée d'un histoire de la lithographie et de ses progrès. The same year the book appeared in English, published in London by Ackermann as A Complete Course of Lithography: ... Accompanied by Illustrative Specimens of Drawings. To Which is Prefixed a History of Lithography. Of the three editions of Senefelder's textbook, it has been argued that the English edition had the most impact in spreading the technique of lithography around the world.

Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850 (1970) 26-27, 257.

(This entry was last revised on 02-17-2015.)

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1800 – 1850

William Playfair Invents the Pie Chart 1801

In 1801 Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair published in London The Statistical Breviary; Shewing, on a Principle Entirely New, the Resources of Every State and Kingdom in Europe; Illustrated with Stained Copper-Plate Charts, Representing the Physical Powers of Each Distinct Nation with Ease and Perspicuity. To which is added, a Similar Exhibition of the Ruling Powers of Hindoostan. In this work Playfair invented the pie chart. It has also been suggested that Playfair, often short of funds, may have colored the charts in all the copies himself—the process he characterized as "staining" in the title.

Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical 
, Edited and Introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence (2005). This edition reproduces in color the third edition of the atlas (1801) and the first edition of the breviary (1801).

(This entry was last revised on 02-04-2015.)

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The First Illustration is Printed in "The Times" of London January 10, 1806

On January 10, 1806 The Times of London newspaper published its first illustration—a distinctive woodcut showing all the designs of the upper cover and sides of Horatio Nelson's coffin.  This was one of the earliest illustrations in a newspaper.

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John Thomas Smith Publishes the First Steel-Engraved and the First Lithographed Book Illustrations June 9, 1807

On June 9, 1807 English painter, engraver, antiquarian and sometime Keeper of Prints at the British Museum John Thomas Smith issued Antiquities of Westminster. . . . in London. According to its title page the work contained two hundred forty-six engravings of topographical subjects, of which one hundred and twenty-two were no longer in existence when the book was published. These engravings were published on 38 plates, nearly all either drawn or engraved by Smith, of which two were tinted and twelve were hand-colored (two heightened with gold). As a supplement to this work Smith issued Sixty-Two Additional Plates to Smith's Antiquitie's of Westminster, advertising the price of these as six guineas on its engraved and hand-colored title page. These plates were mostly either drawn or engraved by Smith.   

In his Antiquities of Westminster Smith experimented with various print media, including etching, engraving, mezzotinting, aquatint, and lithography. For his plate of the Ceiling of the Star Chamber facing p. 29. Smith used an old steel saw blade in its unsoftened state as a medium. He broke a number of burins in the process, and it took him two months to complete the plate instead of the two days it would have taken to engrave the plate on copper. Because of the difficulty with this print Smith did not return to steel engraving. The image was, however, the first steel engraved book illustration.

Smith's plate "Internal view of the painted chamber" facing p. 48,

"a rather weak pen drawing in the style of an etching, is the first known instance of a lithograph being used to illustrate a book. The original intention was to illustrate the whole edition with one plate only produced by lithography; but the process was obviously not quite so easy as it seemed, as after 300 prints had been taken the stone was ruined and it was decided to revert to etching on copper for the remaining copies. The first 300 copies of the edition have both the lithographed and etched versions as Smith decided to use his failure as an opportunity to describe the process" (Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850 [1970] 30). 

"The exact date of Smith's drawing on stone is not known, but he describes in the text (p. 49) how he was supplied with materials by André, and if this was so then the drawing must almost certainly have been made prior to André's departure in 1805. It must in any case have been completed and spoilt by 19 November 1806 since this is the date borne by the copper-engraving that replaced it for the rest of the edition. The print of the plate may therefore ahve been done by either André or Vollweiler (Twyman, op. cit., footnote 1, p. 30).

Smith's book arose from the chance discovery by workmen of a section of 14th century wall at Westminster, complete with its original wall paintings, sculpture and stained glass. Smith quickly secured permission to record what had been revealed before it was demolished and this became the basis of his superb work. His book remains the main source of information for the appearance of the Palace of Westminster, which fortunately it depicts in great detail, before the fire of 1834 and also of the Abbey precincts before the clearance of the winding alleys and sinister rookeries reflected in the names of Thieving Lane and Little Sanctuary

The text for Smith's book was written by John Sidney Hawkins, antiquarian son of Sir John Hawkins, the friend and first biographer of Samuel Johnson. However, Hawkins was a difficult collaborator, and so antagonized Smith that Smith removed Hawkins's name from the title page and elsewhere in the volume. The conflict between the co-authors became very public.  My copy has bound at the back an elaborate supplement by Smith entitled Mr. John Thomas Smith's Vindication: Being an Answer to a pamphlet, written and Published by by John Sidney Hawkins. . . . concerning Mr. J.T. S's conduct in relation to the "Antiquities of Westminster." Abbey, Scenery, 210; Lowndes p. 2426. 

Hunnisett, Engraved on Steel. The History of Picture Production Using Steel Plates (1998) 110-11.

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Brunet Compiles "Manuel du libraire," "The Best and Last of the General Rare Book Bibliographies" 1810 – 1865

Having previously published in 1802 a fourth and supplementary volume to Caillot and Duclos' Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares, in 1810 French antiquarian bookseller Jacques Charles Brunet issued in 3 volumes the Manuel du libraire et de l'amateur de livres, contenant

1.* Un Nouveau dictionnaire bibliographique, Dans lequel sont indiqués les Livres les plus précieux et les Ouvrages les plus utiles, tant anciens que moderns, avec des notes sur les différentes éditions qui ont été faites, et des remarques pour en reconnaitres les contrefaçons; on y a joint des détails nécessaires pour collationner les Livres anciens et les principaux Ouvrages à Estampes; la concordance des prix auxquels les éditions les plus rares ont été portées dans les ventes publiques faites depuis quarante ans, et l'évaluation approximative des Livres anciens qui se recontrent fréquement dans le commerce de la Librairie;

2.* Une table en forme de catalogue raisonné, Où sont classés méthodiquement tous les Ouvrages indiqués dans le Dictionnaire, et de plus, un grand nombre d'Ouvrages utiles, mais d'un prix ordinaire, qui n'ont past dû être placés an rang des Livres précieux

Brunet continued to revise and expand this encyclopedic guide during the rest of his life, completing the fifth edition in six volumes published from 1860-1865. Three supplementary volumes by booksellers Pierre Deschamps and Pierre Gustave Brunet were published from 1870 to 1880. This encyclopedic reference for antiquarian booksellers and collectors contained annotations concerning the scholarly and commercial value of rare books that in some cases remain unsurpassed in the early 21st century. More significantly it provided bibliographical, scholarly, and price information in one convenient, authoritative reference that was and often remains, invaluable for antiquarian booksellers, collectors, bibliographers, and librarians.

One of the many ways in which Brunet's work was useful and influential was in his expansion of the then-traditional classification scheme for information used in France since the beginning of the 18th century. This classification scheme, which divided information into five great divisions, originated in the seventeenth century, and was promoted by the first great book auctioneer in Paris, Gabriel Martin, who first employed it in the Bigot sale in 1706. The scheme, which was expanded in Catalogus librorum bibliothecae Joachimi Faultrier digestus a Prospero Marchand (1709), categorized information into the following subject areas: theology, jurisprudence, sciences and arts (initially called philosophy), belles-lettres (humane letters), and history. Thomas Hartwell Horne summarized Marchand's system in his Outlines for the Classification of a Library (1825) 3:

"The system of Prosper Marchand, an eminent Bookseller of Paris during the former part of the eighteenth century, is developed in his preface to the catalogue of the Library of M. Faultrier. Marchand first considers the different orders, according to which a Bibliographical System may be formed, viz. The natural order, the order of nations, the order of languages, the chronological order, and the alphabetical order. He then exhibits his plan, which he divides into three primary chapters, to comprehend the several classes of Books. To these he prefixes Bibliography, by way of introduction, and subjects Polygraphy as an appendix. The three primary chapters or fundamental classes are— Human Science or Philosophy, Divine Science or Theology, and the Science of Events or History. Philosophy is divided into two parts— Literae Humaniores or the Belles Lettres, and Literae Severiores, or the Sciences. The system of Marchand had many admirers when it first appeared, but it has been superceded by that of De Bure. . . ."

Marchand's preface to the Faultrier catalogue, incorrectly dated 1704, was translated into French and published in Claude-François Achard's, Cours elémentaire de bibliographie vol. 2 (1807) 100-106. In January 2015 I acquired from Librairie Paul Jammes in Paris a variant separate printing of Marchand's 52-page introduction to the Faultrier catalogue, with the addition of an index in very small type printed on its last leaf. This undated pamphlet, presumably issued in 1709, was entitled Epitome systematis bibliographici, seu Ordinis recte distribuendi Librorum Catalogi. My copy is bound in a volume with other works and may be lacking a separate title page, if one was issued. By comparing the online version of the complete catalogue with my version of the introduction, I have concluded that they were issued by the same printer, using the same typeface and the same ornamental head and tailpieces, but from a different setting of type. Most notably, on the first page of my version, Prosper Marchand identifies himself as the author, which he does not do in the full Faultrier catalogue. The index added to the text of my copy does not appear in the version that prefaces the Faultrier catalogue.

In Brunet's time Marchand's basic scheme, as modified by De Bure and others, was still used in French library cataloguing schemes, limiting the utility of subject cataloguing. In the third volume of his Manuel Brunet published Ordre des principales divisions de la table méthodique des ouvrages cités dans le nouveau Dictionnaire Bibliographique. This divided the traditional five subject categories into numerous sub-categories and divisions within those sub-categories. This he followed by listings of significant books in each of the categories and sub-categories in the classification scheme.

Breslauer & Folter,  Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 118.

(This entry was last revised on 02-21-2015.)

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John William Lewin Issues the First Illustrated Book Published in Australia 1813

In 1813 Australian natural history artist and naturalist John William Lewin issued Birds of New South Wales from Sydney. J W Lewin was the first free settler professional artist and engraver in Australia. He was also one of the first artists not to use English painting conventions when depicting Australia. He was the son of William Lewin, the author of The Birds of Great Britain with Their Eggs, Accurately Figured.  

Birds of New South Wales was the first illustrated book published in Australia. Of this work only 13 copies survived, four of which are preserved in the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.  The book was printed by George Howe, the government printer, who in 1802 had issued the first book printed in Australia. 

Prior to issuing his 1813 book Lewin had published in England a treatise on entomology entitled Prodromus Entomology (1805), and in 1808 a book on Australian birds entitled Birds of New Holland, which described a selection of birds that he had shot. The texts of these books were edited by Lewin's brother John with the help of eminent scientists, and printed in England. Of the 1808 book only six copies are recorded: those of George III and five English subscribers. However, in Sydney, Lewin had sold subscriptions for fifty-five copies of this book, but none ever reached Sydney, the edition presumably having been lost at sea.

To make up for this loss Lewin put together another work which he called Birds of New South Wales, illustrating it with prints left over from the 1808 edition. Because Lewin compiled the copies of Birds of New South Wales from spare or discarded prints, none of the thirteen copies are identical.

In 1822 Lewin's widow, having returned to England, issued a revised second edition of Lewin's Birds of New Holland. In 1833 the third edition of Lewin's work appeared, using some sheets of text printed in 1822, on paper watermarked Whatman 1821, and some sheets printed in 1838 on paper watermarked Whatman 1838. Both the second and third editions incorporated restrikes of Lewin's original plates.  For the 1838 edition, the plates were colored from specimens lent by John Gould, and the nomenclature was overseen by Thomas Campbell Eyton. There are two issues of the third edition.

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Mairet Issues a Manual of Lithography, Bookbinding, and Cleaning and Restoring Paper 1818 – 1824

In 1818 F. Mairet published from Dijon, Notice sur la lithographie. Mairet, a paper merchant and distinguished bookbinder, set up the second lithographic press in Dijon, and became the first lithographic printer, besides Senefelder himself, to write a manual on lithography. The book sold successfully and six years later Mairet issued a revised edition, adding to it an essay on bookbinding and on the cleaning (blanchiment) of books and prints.  The title of the second edition, issued from Chatillon-sur-Seine, was Notice sur lithographie. . . suivi d'un essai sur la relieure et le blanchiment des livres et gravures. The second edition, then, became one of the earliest discussions in book form of the methods of restoring books and prints.

Bigmore & Wyman II, 14. , Twyman, Lithography, 93-94.

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The First Lithograph Printed in the United States July 1819

In its issue for July 1819 The Analectic Magazine published in Philadelphia included on pp. 67-73 "Art. IX.- Lithography." The original lithograph illustrating this article, created and drawn on stone by the American artist, portrait painter and inventor, Bass Otis, was the first lithograph created and published in the United States. The illustration, signed "Bass Otis lithographie," represents a woodland scene—a flowing stream and a single house upon the bank of the river. The article, signed "C" for the lawyer, chemist, geologist, economist Thomas Cooper, proudly explained how the lithograph came about, using a stone imported from Bavaria and presented to the American Philosophical Society by master printer Thomas Dobson.

Notably Otis's pioneering lithograph appeared within months of the publication by Rudolf Ackermann in London of the English translation of Senefelder's A Complete Course of Lithography: ... Accompanied by Illustrative Specimens of Drawings. To Which is Prefixed a History of Lithography. It is believed that the English translation of Senefelder's work was highly instrumental in spreading the technique of lithography.

In America on Stone (1931) Harry T. Peters raised the issue of whether a frontispiece portrait of Abner Kneeland that Otis engraved for Kneeland's A Series of Lectures on the Doctrine of Universal Benevolence (Philadelphia, 1818) was a lithograph. In 1913 Joseph Jackson, in his article "Bass Otis, America' First Lithographer," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography XXXVII (1913) 385-94, asserted that this image is a lithograph, based indirectly on a statement published by Senefelder in his Vollständiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerey (Munich, 1818, p. 132) that lithography was being practiced in Philadelphia in 1818. In any case, Otis signed the image, "B. Otis sc.", an abbreviation for B. Otis sculpsit, meaning B. Otis engraver, rather than lithographer. Furthermore, Jackson acknowledged that Otis's portrait of Kneeland was a combination of printmaking techniques: 

"It displays so many different styles that one is forced to admit that the engraver was not confident of his skill. The background is pure lithotint, part of the face is in stipple, and the remainder of the portait is in line and lithotint. No amateur of engravings can look at it without being struck by its many peculiarities, which until it is shown to have been a lithographic product must have been baffling to every theory concerning the probable method employed.... Strictly speaking the work is not engraving, as that process is generally understood; it is not pure lithography, but an etching on stone in a most primitive manner."

Reading this description of the portrait 100 years after Jackson published, and viewing the reproduction of the portrait online, it seems highly unlikely that Bass's frontispiece portrait of Kneeland is actually a lithograph, as it contains too many different print-making styles that resemble engraving or aquatint. It seems more likely that Jackson was attempting to fit this print into the proverbial Procrustian bed, making a lithograph out of a print that was not a lithograph. In his extensively documented and researched paper, "The Beginnings of Lithography in America," Journal of the Printing Historical Society, No. 27 (1998) 49-67,  Philip J. Weimerskirch confirmed that Otis's 1819 image was the first lithograph published in America.

According to Smyth, The Philadelphia Magazines and their Contributors, 1741-1850 (1892) 180, The Analectic Magazine ceased publication in 1821.

(This entry was last revised on 03-19-2016).

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The First American Book with Lithographed Illustrations 1822

In 1822 publisher James V. Seaman of New York issued Henry Muhlenberg's expanded edition of James Edward Smith's A Grammar of Botany, Illustrative of Artificial, as Well as Natural Classification with an Explanation of Jussieu's System. The book had first appeared in London in 1821. The first American edition contained 21 black & white plates lithographed by William Armand Barnet and Isaac Doolittle, who had received lithographic training in France, and had opened their lithography business, Barnet & Doolittle, at 23 Lumber Street in New York. "Barnet was the son of the American consul in Paris and Doolittle was a mechanic with an interest in steamboats. Together they studied lithography and arrived in New York in the fall of 1821" (Barnhill, Commercial Nineteenth-Century American Lithography: An Economic History [2010] 3).

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The Double Publication of the Double Elephant Folio of Anatomy 1823 – 1826

Considering that it is among the rarest of all anatomies, and certainly the largest, it is remarkable that two nearly identical editions of Paolo Mascagni’s posthumous life-size anatomy were published almost simultaneously. From 1823 to 1826 Francesco Antommarchi, a physician and anatomist of Corsican descent, issued from Paris Planches anatomiques du corps humain executes d’après les dimensions naturelles. This huge work contained 83 lithographed plates of which 48 were hand-colored and 35 were outline keys. The uncut sheets of the atlas measured 970 x 650 mm., or 25.5 x 38.25 inches. To accompany these plates Antommarchi published a folio text (Explication des planches anatomiques . . . in normal folio size with sheets 545 x 350 mm. or 21.5 x 13.75 inches. 

An edition with engraved plates was also published in Pisa under the title Anatomia universa (1823-32). Though the two editions were printed by different processes, the image quality of the two is remarkably similar and it is debatable which is superior from either the artistic or scientific standpoint. In an hommage to Vesalius, Antommarchi had imaginary landscape backgrounds created for the base of his musclemen. These did not appear in the Italian edition. There are other subtle differences: Antommarchi included letter keys within the images of some of the less-complex plates, eliminating the need for outline plates to those images. He also published more anatomical plates than the Italian edition, and, of course, his text was substantially different.

The publication history of these two editions is complex and usually misunderstood. The Paris edition was issued in 15 parts between 1823 and 1826 by the lithographic press of the Comte de Lasteyrie, one of the two founders of lithography in France (the text volume, issued in 1826, bears the imprint of Lasteyrie’s successor, R. Brégeaut). The atlas, with magnificent plates printed on single broadsheets measuring 970 x 650 mm., is comparable in size to the double elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America (1827-38), which measures about 985 x 660 mm.

Antommarchi's work is undoubtedly the largest lithographically printed book issued during the incunabula period of lithography. It is also the second anatomical atlas ever reproduced through the medium of lithography, overlapping in its years of publication with the Anatomie de l'homme ou descriptions et figures lithographes de toutes les parties du corps humain by the artist/anatomist Jules Germaine Cloquet, which was issued in five normal-sized folio volumes, also in Paris at the presses of Engelmann and de Lasteyrie from 1821 to 1831.

Antommarchi's atlas was issued in both colored and uncolored versions; according to the historian of anatomical illustration Ludwig Choulant, writing in the 1840s when copies of both editions may have remained available from the publishers, copies with colored plates could be purchased for 1050 francs and uncolored copies for 375 francs.

The preface to the text volume of the lithographed edition, written by Antommarchi, and personally signed by him on the verso of the title page, provides valuable information about this work’s publication history. Antommarchi studied under the great Italian anatomist Paolo Mascagni, and at the time of Mascagni’s death was serving as his prosector, responsible for preparing dissections for demonstration. During his career Mascagni spent a great deal of his time, energy and money in the production of a life-sized human anatomy, titled Anatomia universa, which he intended to have printed using engraved copperplates; this required meticulous preparation of very large copperplates for the work’s enormous images. Some scholars have suggested that Mascagni was hoping to have this work printed in color by the Le Blon / Gautier d’Agoty process; however, that process of color-printing mezzotints would not have been able to reproduce Mascagni’s drawings in sufficient detail. At his death Mascagni left this project unfinished, along with two others: an illustrated anatomy for sculptors and painters; and a treatise on the tissues of animals and plants intended as an introduction or “Prodromo” to the Anatomia universa. These manuscripts he put in the hands of Antommarchi, who was left in charge of publishing these three works on behalf of the Mascagni family.

In 1816 Antommarchi issued Mascagni’s anatomy for artists, edited by the author’s brother and grandson, under the title Anatomia per uso degli studiosi di scultura e pittura. According to Antommarchi’s preface to the present work (pp. iii-iv), the uncompleted works by Mascagni that remained after the publication of Anatomia per uso degli studiosi consisted of the following:

1. Trente planches ombrées, gravées sur cuivre et non terminés, de sa grande Anatomie;  

2. Quinze planches au simple trait, gravées presque toutes au dos des planches ombrées. Une multitude de fautes et d’erreurs s’étaient glissées dans la gravure, quoiqu’elle eût été faite du vivant de cet homme célèbre, et sur des dessins aussi soignés qu’ils étaient exacts;

Dix-neuf planches gravées sur cuivre, avec quelques cahiers manuscrits qui devaient servir de prodrome ou l’introduction à la grande anatomie;

4. Un certain nombre de dessins anatomiques et de cahiers manuscrits sur l’anatomie descriptive et l’économie rurale.

[1. Thirty shaded plates, engraved on copper and not completed, of his grand Anatomy;

2. Fifteen outline plates, almost all engraved on the backs of the shaded plates. A multitude of faults and errors have slipped in during the engraving, even though they were made during the lifetime of this famous man [Mascagni], and from drawings as detailed as they were exact;

3. Nineteen plates engraved on copper, with several manuscript notebooks intended to serve as the prodrome or introduction to the grand Anatomy;

4. A certain number of anatomical drawings and manuscript notebooks on descriptive aantomy and rural economy.]

Since the publication of the Prodromo and the grand anatomy would require a large sum of money, a private company was formed, with the Mascagni family’s permission, to supply the necessary funds. As Antommarchi states in his preface (p. iv),

Je fus mis à la tête de cette opération, chargé de coordonner les matériaux, de perfectionner les planches, de faire les textes, et de soigner la publication successive de ces deux ouvrages. [I was placed in charge of this operation, charged with coordinating materials, perfecting the plates, preparing the texts and overseeing the successive publication of these two books.]

Antommarchi issued the Prodromo in 1819. In the meantime he had been appointed physician to Napoleon, then in exile on the remote island of St. Helena, and on 10 September 1819 he was sent to St. Helena to provide medical care to the deposed emperor. It is possible that Napoleon requested Antommarchi’s services because, like Napoleon, Antommarchi was Corsican by birth. Antommarchi brought copies of Mascagni’s plates for the grand anatomy to St. Helena, and continued working on the project in his spare time. Napoleon took a great interest in the anatomy and even consented to have it dedicated to him; however, the emperor died in May 1821, prior to the completion of Antommarchi’s editorial labors. Antommarchi directed Napoleon’s autopsy, cast Napoleon’s death mask, and later published best-selling books about his experiences with the late emperor. Since he could not dedicate his edition to the living man, in homage to Napoleon’s memory, and in reference to the isolation of Napoleon’s remains on the remote island, Antommarchi dedicated his edition of Mascagni’s grand anatomy to the emperor’s tomb on St. Helena. (Napoleon’s body remained on the island until 1840, when it was moved to a tomb created for him in Paris.)

Upon Antommarchi’s return to Italy, as he recounts in his preface (p. v), he received an offer from the private company and Mascagni’s heirs,

où l’on me proposait de m’abandonner en totalité les exemplaires du Prodrome, les cuivres de cet ouvrage, ceux de la grande Anatomie, ainsi que tous les papiers qui pouvaient y avoir rapport. On demandait une somme de huit mille écus de Toscane, pour le paiement desquels on donnerait du temps et prendrait des sûretés convenables. La famille Mascagni, convaincue qu’il serait avantageux à l’acquéreur de ces deux ouvrages d’avoir les cuivres et les exemplaires qui restaient du “Traité sur les vaisseaux lymphatiques” et de l’Anatomie pittoresque, m’en proposait aussi l’acquisition pour la moitié de ce qui portait le prospectus.

[where they proposed to surrender to me in totality the copies of the Prodrome, the copperplates for that work, those of the grand Anatomy, as well as all the papers relating to it. They asked the sum of eight thousand Tuscan crowns, to be paid over time, for which they would take suitable security. The Mascagni family, convinced that it would be advantageous to the buyer of these two works to have the copperplates and remaining copies of [Mascagni’s] “Treatise on the lymphatic vessels” [1787] and the artists’ anatomy, also proposed that I purchase these works for half the sum indicated on the prospectus.]

Before this could be accomplished, however, Antommarchi was informed by M. Moggi, one of the private company’s representatives, that the company had decided not to go through with the deal, and that it wanted to dissolve itself. Antommarchi then went to Florence to propose another arrangement with the Mascagni family:

Je m’adressai de suite à la famille Mascagni, et lui proposait sept mille cinq cents écus, au lieu de six mille cinq cents que lui payait la société. Nous fûmes bientôt d’accord, les actes étaient rédigés, on allait signer; mais Moggi, qui était l’âme de toute cette affaire, avait d’autres vues. L’autorité intervint et refusa de sanctionner la transaction. “Puisqu’on m’empêche d’acquérir, qu’on s’exécute.—Nous ne voulons pas.—Mon travail?—Vous l’avez.—Je l’utiliserai.—Libre à vous.—Résilions.—Nous ne demandons pas mieux.” Ainsi fut fait; nous parùmes devant le magistrat, qui déclara la société dissoute. Mais l’opération était déjà passée en d’autres mains; je n’avais pu l’avoir pour sept mille cinq cents écus: on la céda pour trois mille. La famille Mascagni était désintéressée, je ne devais rien à la nouvelle société; je me disposai à tirer parti de mon travail.

[I next spoke to the Mascagni family and offered them seven thousand five hundred crowns in place of the six thousand five hundred that the company would have paid them. We were soon in agreement, the papers were drawn up and ready to be signed; but Moggi, who was the prime mover in this whole affair, had different ideas. Authorities intervened and refused to sanction the transaction. “Since you are forbidding me to purchase, then you take over.—We don’t want to.—My work?—You have it.—I will use it.—You are free to do so.—Let us quit.—We ask nothing better.” This was done; we appeared before the magistrate, who declared the company dissolved. But the operation had already passed into other hands; I could not have it for seven thousand five hundred crowns: they had sold it for three thousand. The Mascagni family was paid off, I owed nothing to the new company; I prepared to take advantage of my work.] 

The Mascagni family sold the copperplates of the grand anatomy to three professors at Pisa who began preparing their own edition of the work; this edition, containing 44 engraved illustrations and 44 outline plates (compared to 48 hand-colored plates and 35 outline plates called for in our edition) was published between 1823 and 1832 under the title Anatomia universa. In the meantime Antommarchi proceeded to Paris where he arranged to have his versions of the Mascagni plates lithographed by de Lasteyrie and issued under the title Planches anatomiques du corps humain. It is clear from his preface that Antommarchi believed he had full authority to publish his edition which, because of his close working relationship with Mascagni, may be closer to Mascagni’s original intention than the Italian version. Choulant, who provided an incorrect collation of Antommarchi’s edition, objected to the fact that Antommarchi left Mascagni’s name off the title page, but otherwise appears to have agreed. If one thinks of the Anatomia universa, edited by the three Pisa professors, as an adaptation of Mascagni’s plates according to the ideas of the three editors, he may, on the other hand, look upon Lasteyrie’s lithographed edition as Antommarchi’s adaptation, evidently prepared by him at St. Helena for his edition of Mascagni’s plates (Choulant, p. 319).

Complete sets of Antommarchi’s edition, with both the text and all the plates, are extremely rare, especially with the plates hand-colored. In 2012 OCLC and the Karlsruhe Virtuelle Katalog cited four copies of the text and atlas in American libraries (U. Chicago, National Library of Medicine, U. Minnesota and the College of Physicians in Philadelphia) plus six copies in France (Bibliothèque Nationale, Bibliothèque St. Geneviève, Paris BIUM, Bordeaux, U. Reims and U. de Lille), a copy at the British Library and four other European copies (Sachsische Landesbib., U. Leiden, Berlin, Halle). The library database records for these copies did not indicate whether the atlas plates were colored or black and white.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 315-320. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body (1992) 384-96. Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850,  50-52.

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The English Church Missionary Society Establishes a Press in Malta to Print Books in Arabic & Turkish 1825 – 1842

In 1825 the English Church Missionary Society established a press in Malta to publish books in Arabic and Turkish. These included Christian texts and also secular educational texts intended for Muslim, Christian and Jewish pupils in the new missionary schools and colleges of the Middle East. They also issued a periodical in the style of a newspaper.

Through 1842 this press issued over 150,000 books for distribution throughout the Middle East and Turkey.

"The role of the Malta press in standardising layouts and methods of presentation of printed Arabic texts had a significant impact. Some of the new features which it introduced correspond with several which Elizabeth Eisenstein mentioned, in her seminal work on the printing press as an agent of change, as significant in the systematisation of thought-processes in the formative era of European print culture. The use of title-pages engendered 'new habits of placing and dating' as well as helping the later development of new standards of cataloguing and enumerative bibliography. The use of footnotes, running heads and abbreviations, as well as Shidyaq's experiment's with punctuation, all served to 'reorder the thought of readers and to create a new 'esprit de système.'

"The plates and engravings in some of the Malta books also broke new ground. The views and story illustrations incorporated perspective, which was still a very new convention in Arab pictorial representation, and one which, as McLuhan and others have pointed out, implied a new reordering of concsciousness by the adoption of a fixed point of view. The lithographed diagrams, which accompanied an astronomical work published in Malta in 1833, were another important new feature of the Arabic book. Technical illustrations were sometimes found in Arabic manuscripts; but, as David James has aptly observed, 'in the absence of the printing press, transmission of technical data depends upon the accuracy of the scribe. The problem becomes doubly difficult when information has also to be communicated in the form of diagrams. . . . [which] were regarded by the copyists as little more than an exotic appendage, frequently misplaced and sometimes omitted.' With the introduction of standard, repeatable, engraved diagrams incorproated into printed books, the presentation of such information became transformed.

"In this the Malta press shared with the Bulaq press [founded in 1822] a pioneering role in the Arab world, and what was true of diagrams was equally true of printed maps, in which field the Malta atlas of 1835 also broke new gound. In Tunisia the first atlas was printed in 1860, in Egypt regular Arabic map printing did not begin until 1870, although copies of the Malta atlas itself were made there at an earlier date. . . ." (Roper 118-119).

Roper, "Arabic Books Printed in Malta 1826-42:Some Physical Characteristics," Sadgrove (ed) History of Printing and Publishing the the Languages and Countries of the Middle East (2005) 111-130, with illustrations.

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The First "Livre d'Artiste," Illustrated by Delacroix 1828

Faust, Tragédie M. de Goethe, Traduite en Français par M. Albert Stapfer, illustrated by French romantic artist Eugène Delacroix, and published in 1828 in Paris by Ch. Motte and Sautelet, is usually considered the first livre d'artiste. It contained a frontispiece portrait of Goethe and 17 lithographed plates drawn on stone by Delacroix. This was one of the major art books illustrated by lithography and the beginning of the French tradition of the painter-lithographer, with the artist preparing his own images on stone for the press. 

Though the edition met initially with a hostile reception because of the free, fantastic style of the images, Goethe appreciated their power, writing to Eckermann after he had seen some of the lithographs in November, 1826:

"One must acknowledge that this M. Delacroix has a great talent, which in Faust has found its true nourishment. The French public reproach him for an excess of savage force, but, actually, here it is perfectly suitable . . . If I have to agree that M. Delacroix has surpassed the scenes my writing has conjured up in my own imagination, how much more will readers of the book find his compositions full of reality, and passing beyond the imagery which they envision?" (translation in Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book 1700-1914 [1982] No. 143, p. 208).

Concerning the images Delacroix later remarked:

"The peculiar character of the illustrations themselves invited caricature and confirmed my reputation as one of the leaders of the school of ugliness. Gérare, however, although an academician, complimented me on some of the drawings, particularly that of the tavern" (translation in Breon Mitchell, The Complete Illustrations from Delacroix's "Faust" and Manet's "The Raven" [1981] vii.)

(This entry was last revised on 05-20-2014).

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Writer & Publisher Charles Knight Explains How Mechanized Printing Delivers Information Faster & at Costs Affordable to All 1831

In 1831 writer and publisher Charles Knight of London issued a book entitled The Results of Machinery, namely Cheap Production and Increased Employment. intended for working men, and also presumably women, who were concerned that mechanization was eliminating their jobs or lowering their wages. Knight, who devoted his life and much of his writing and publishing career to making books and periodicals affordable to all, was one of the first to write about the socio-economic advantages of what I have called the mechanized, rather than the hand-printed book. Knight explained how mechanization of papermaking and printing--developments that had in the past 20 years, had both increased the speed of book production while reducing costs, thereby greatly widening the market for books and expanding an industry and creating tens of thousands of new jobs. He was motivated to write this book by Luddite style riots protesting mechanization of agriculture, which had occurred in the South of England in 1830. Knight's book reminds us that the mechanization of the book took place in a period of social resistance to mechanization of various industries. It is also notable that 50,000 copies of Knight's book were sold by the time he issued a new edition in 1845.

"The difference between those of you who object to machines, and the persons who think with Joseph Foster [that the introduction of machinery in weaving is inevitable] is, as it appears to us, a want of knowledge. We desire to impart to you that knowledge. Now, how shall we set about the business of imparting it? You are many in number and are scattered over a large extent of country; some of you are sorely pressed as we conceive, by the evils that result from a want of knowledge, which make it the more necessary that we should address ourselves to you speedily; and some of you are poor, and therefore have not much spare, even for what you may believe may do you good. You, therefore, want this knowledge to be given to you, extensively, quickly, cheaply. It would be out of our power to impart this knowledge at all without machinery: and, therefore, we have begin by explaing how the machinery, which gives you knowledge of any sort by the means of books, is a vast blessing, when comparted with slower methods of multiplying written language; and how, by the aid of this machinery, we can produce a book for your use, without any limit point of the number of copies, with great rapidity, and at a small price.

"It is about 350 years since the art of printing books was invented. Before that time all books were written by the hand. There were many persons employed to copy out books, but they  were very dear, although the copiers had small wages. A Bible was sold for thirty pounds in the money of that day, which was equal to a great deal more of our money. Of course, very few people had Bibles or any other books. An ingenious man invented a mode of imitating the written books by cutting the letters on wood, and taking off copies from the wooden blocks by rubbing the sheet on the back; and soon after other clever men thought of casting metal types or letters, which could be arranged in words, and sentences, and pages, and volumes; and then a machine, called a printing-press, upon the principle of a screw, was made to stamp impressions of these types so arranged. There was an end, then, at once to the trade of the pen-and-ink copiers; because the copiers in types, who could press several hundred books while the writers were producing one, drove them out of the market. A single printer could do the work of at least two hundred writers. At first sight this seems a hardship, for a hundred and ninety-nine people might have been, and probably were, thrown out of their accustomed employment. But what was the consequence in a year or two? Where one written book was sold, a thousand printed books were required. The old books were multiplied in all countries, and new books were composed by men of talent and learning, because they could then find numerous readers. The printing-press did the work more neatly and more correcdtly than the writer, and it did it infinitely cheaper. What then? The writers of books had to turn their hands to some other trade, it is true, but type-founders, paper-makers, printers, and bookbinders, were set to work, by the new art or machine, to at least a hundred times greater number of persons than the old way of making books employed. If the pen-and-ink copiers could break the printing-presses, and melt down the types that are used in London alone at the present day twenty thousand people would at least be thrown out of employment to make room for two hundred at the utmost; and what would be even worse than all this misery, books could only be purchased, as before the invention of printing, by the few rich, instead of being the guides, and comforters, and best friends, of the millions who are now within reach of the benefits and enjoyments which they bestow.

"The cheapness of production is the great point to which we shall call your attention, as we give you other examples of the good of machinery. In the case of books produced by the printing-press you have a cheap article, and an increased number of persons engaged in manufacturing that article. In almost all trades the introduction of machines has, sooner or later the like effects. This we shall show you as we go on. But to make the matter even more clear, we shall direct your notice to the very book you hold in your hand, to complete our illustration of the advantages of machinery to the consumer, that is, to the person who wants and buys the article consumed, as well as to the producer, or the person who manufactures the article produced.

"This little book is intended to consist of 216 pages, to be printed, eighteen on a side upon six sheets of printing paper, called by the makers demy. These six sheets of demy, at the price charged in the shops, would cost four-pence. If the same number of words were written, instead of being printed—that is, if the closeness and regularity of printing were superseded by the looseness and unevenness of writing,—they would cover 200 pages, or 50 sheets, of the paper called foolscap, which would cost in the shops three shillings; and you would have a book difficult instead of easy to read,because writing is much harder to decipher than print. Here, then, besides the superiority of the workmanship, is at once a saving of two shillings and eight pence to the consumer, by the invention of printing, all other things being equal. But the great saving is to come. Work as hard as he could, a writer could not transcribe this little book upon these 200 pages of foolscap in less than ten days; and eh would think himself very ill paid to receive thirty shillings for the operation. Adding, therefore, a profit for the publisher and retail tradesman, a single written copy of this little book, which you buy for a shilling could not be produced for two pounds. Is it not perfectly clear, then if there were no printing-ress, if the art of printing did not exist, that if we found purchasers at all for this dear book at the cost of two pounds, we should only sell, a the utmost, a fortieth part of what we now sell; that instead of selling ten thousand copies could only sell, even if there wree the same quantity of book-buying funds amongst the few purchasers as amongst the many, two hundred and fifty copies; and that therefore, although we might employ two hundred and fifty writers for a week, instead of about twenty printers in the same period, we should have forty times less employment for paper-makers, ink-makers, book-binders, and many other persons, besides the printers themselves, who are called into activity by the large demand which follows cheapness of production. 

"You will perceive, without having the subject dwelt upon, that if we could not give you this book cheaply, we could not give it to you extensively; that, in fact, the book would be useless; that it would be a mere curiosity; that we should not attempt to multiply and copies, because those whose use it was intended for could not buy it. It is also perfectly clear, that if, by any unnatural reduction of the wages of labor, such as happens to the Hindoo, who works at weaving muslin for about sixpence a week, we could get copiers to produce the book as cheaply as the printing-ress (which is impossible,) we could not send it to the world as quickly. We can get ten thousand copies of this book printed in a week, by the aid of about twelve compositors, and two printing machines, each machine requiring two boys and a man for its guidance. To transcribe ten thousand copies in the same time would require more than ten thousand penmen. Is it not perfectly evident, therefore, that if printing, which is a cheap and a rapid process, were once again superseded by writing, which is an expensive and slow operation, neither this book, nor any other book, could be prodcued for the use of the people, that knowledge, upon which every hope of bettering your condition must ultimately rest, would again become the property of a very few; and that mankind would lose the greater part of that power, which has made, as is making them truly independent, and which will make them virtuous and happy?

"The same principle applies to any improvement of the machinery used in printing, or in the manufacture of the paper upon which books are printed. by the use of the printing machine, instead of the printing press, (which machine is only profitably applicable to books printed in large numbers,) the cost of production is diminished at least one-tenth; and by the use of the machine for making paper, a better article is produced, also at a lower rate. This book is printed upon paper as fine as is needful for comfortable reading, instread of paper of a wretched quality; because the paper-machine had diminished the cost of production, by working up the pulp of which paper is composed more evenly, and therefore with a saving. And from both causes united, the diminished price of printing by the machine instead of printing by hand, and the diminished price of machine-made paper, the buyers of this book have six sheets, or 216 pages instead of five sheets, or 180 pages, for a shilling. Thus, not only is the price lessened to the consumer, by the increase of the quantity, but one-sixth more paper, one -sixth more more ink, one-sixth more labor of the compositor or printer who arranges the types, one-sixth more labor of the sewer or binder of the book; all these additions of direct labor and of materials produced by labor are consumed. In selling you this book, therefore, for a shilling, we give you a sixth more matter than you could have had without these new inventions; if we were to take that sixth in quantity, we could lessen the price, and give you the smaller book for tenpence. Thus, there is a decided advantage to the consumer in the diminished cost of the production, and an ample equivalent in mere labor, (which, bear always in mind, is the means of producing commodities, and not the end for they are produced,) in the place of labor thrust out by the printing-machine and the paper-machine.

"We cannot conclude this branch of our subject without one other illustration. About seven years ago the art of engraving on steel was invented; this art arose out of an attempt to multiply plates by machinery. it was said that this art would ruin the engravers as a body; for as steel-plates would not wear out with prining twenty thousand copies, and copper-plates could not give more than a thousand impressions, one steel-plate would stand in the place of twenty copper ones. Yet engravers, as a body, were never so numerous or so flourishing as they are at this moment; simply because steel-plates having made engravings cheap, numbers can have the pleasure of psessing prints, which were formerly only within the reach of a very few. The class of books called Annuals, which consist each of ten or twelve beautiful engravings, with amusing reading at a moderate price, and of which at least one hundred thousand copies are sold, having cost in their production about £50,000, could never had existed without the invention of steel engraving; and there are many other publications of landscapes,views of buildings, maps, &c. which, being rendered cheap by steel engravings, have produced exactly the same effects of increasing the enjoyments of the consumers, and bettering the condition and increasing the numbers of the producers.

 "We think that in the article of Books we have proved to you that maninery has rendered productions cheaper, and has increased the demand for manual labor, and consequently the number of laborers; and that, therefore, machinery applied to books is not objectionable...."

This writing by Charles Knight came to my attention in February 2016 when I read portions of another book that I had acquired by Knight entitled Capital and Labour; Including The Results of Machinery (London: Charles Knight & Co., 1845). The original cloth binding has blind-stamped on its covers: Knight's Weekly Volume for All Readers." Knight inscribed my copy on the front free endpaper: "To Geo. Nicholls Esq With the author's respectful Compts."  Nicholls, a British Poor Law Commissioner, was a particularly appropriate recipient for the book. Knight's "Advertisement" prefacing his 1845 book helps place his 1831 work in perspective:

" 'The Results of Machinery' was written in by me at a period of great national alarm, when a blind rage against a power supposed to interfere with the claims of Labour was generally prevalent, and led, in the Southern agricultural districts expecially, to many acts of daring violence. That little book had a most extensive sale, and is still in constant demand. Fifty thousand copies have been sold since its first publication. I wrote a second tract, 'Captial and Labour,' which was to form part of a Series entitled 'The Rights of Industry.' This Series I never could find leisure to proceed with. It has appeared to me that the two parts might be advantageously incorporated. machinery, in connexion with Capital and labour, is one of the great instruments of Production. In this Volume, then,  thus remodelled, the general object of The Production of Wealth is fully, though, popularly expounded. The original tracts were especially addressed to Working Men. This volume is addressed to all. The statistical details are brought up to the present time."

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The First Lithographed Books Printed in Persia are Issued 1832 – 1837

The first book printed in Persia (Iran) by means of lithography was a copy of the Koran published in Tabriz, dated either 1248/1832 or 1250/1834.  The first illustrated book printed by lithography in Persia was a copy of Maktabi's Leili va Majnun published in 1259/1843. 

"Illustrating lithographic books became a current practice in Iran as of 1263/1847.

"Shortly after the year 1270/1854, printing in movable type ceased altogether [in Iran]. For about two decades, all books published in Iran were produced by way of lithographic printing" (Marzolph, "A Projected Thesaurus Universalis Lbiri Lithographici Illustrati Persorum," Sadgrove (ed) History of Printing and Publishing in the Languages and Countries of the Middle East [2004] 27).

"The first lithographic printing press was brought to Persia in 1821 from Tiflis (Tbilisi), on the orders of the Crown Prince, ʿAbbās Mirzā. The Persian painter Allāhverdi who had studied lithography there, returned to Tabriz in March 1821 with a complete set of lithographic equipment (Akty, sobrannye kavkazskoyu arkheograficheskoyu komissieyu VI/2, pp. 238-39). The four volumes mentioned by Moḥammad-ʿAli Khan Tarbiyat (1934, p. 662), namely the two-volume of Majlesi's Ḥayāt al-qolub (I, pub. in 1240/1824-25; II, in 1241/1825-26), the Bustān of Saʿdi (1247/1831-32), and the Maḵāreq al-qolub of Nerāqi (1248/1832-33), were probably printed in Tabriz by this press.  

"What is certain is that in 1248/1832-33 a lithographic printing press began to operate in Tabriz. It was established through the efforts of Mirzā Ṣāleḥ Širāzi. In 1829, the equipment for the lithography and a printing specialist were presented as a gift to the Embassy of Ḵosrow Mirzā to Russia of which Mirzā Ṣāleḥ was a member (Rozanov, p. 225; Shcheglova, 1979, p. 31). The first books lithographed were the Qur’ān in 1248/1832-33 and the Zād al-maʿād of Majlesi in 1251/1836. The lithographer was Āqā-ʿAli b. Ḥājji Moḥammad-Ḥosayn al-Šarʿ Tabrizi (Tarbiyat, 1931, p. 450).  

"In Tehran, the first lithographed item was, the newspaper called Kāḡaḏ-e aḵbār (lit. newspaper) published by Mirzā Ṣāleḥ in 1837. There were only three issues, and these came out in Moḥarram-Jomādā I 1253/May-August 1837 (Ṣadr-Hāšemi I, no. 37). As far as printing of books is concerned, the first publications are datable to 1838. These were the Noḵba of Moḥammad-Ebrāhim Eṣfahāni (Mošār, col. 1571), the Soʾāl o javāb of Majlesi (Ibid, col. 909), and the kolliyāt of Hafez (Tarbiyat, 1931, p. 453). It is possible, however, that the first lithographed book was the Qur’ān, as reported by Il’ya Berezin (1819-96) who visited Tehran in 1843 and met Mirzā Ṣāleḥ there (Berezin, p. 248). Berezin also noted that the lithographic press remained mainly idle.  

"The first lithographic editions, as well as those typeset, were the work of printing enthusiasts who enjoyed the financial backing and patronage of such princely notables as ʿAbbās Mirzā in Tabriz and Manučehr Khan Moʿtamed-al-Dawla in Tehran. The number of published books remained therefore insignificant until the middle of the 1840s, when businessmen and booksellers began to realize the potential profits of the book printing trade. By late 1840s, there were already at least six lithographic printing houses at work in Tehran, and dozens of books were published (Shcheglova, 1979, pp. 33-34). From this time on, one can speak of regular lithographic book printing in Persia. The reasons for the success of the lithographic method of printing are obvious and well-known: simpler and cheaper equipment in comparison to that required for the typographic printing, availability of a large number of professional copyists, and the traditional culture of calligraphy. Although considerably less expensive than manuscripts, lithographed books retained the usual format of the handwritten codex in a sturdy binding. . . ." (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/lithography-i-in-persia, accessed 05-26-2012).

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Exploiting the New Technology of Mechanized Printing, Charles Knight Publishes "The Penny Magazine," Britain's First Low Priced Mass-Circulation Magazine 1832 – 1845

English writer, publisher, printer, and social reformer Charles Knight published The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge every Saturday from March 31, 1832 to October 31, 1845. The magazine, of which each issue consisted of 8 pages liberally illustrated with woodcuts, was marketed to the English working classes, and the developing middle class. The images allowed even the semi-literate to derive enjoyment from its pages. As its title indicated, the magazine sold for only a penny per issue, the price being the same anywhere within the United Kingdom, making the magazine affordable to virtually anyone. In the April 7, 1832 issue Knight published an essay by the American writer, educator and politician Edward Everett entitled "Advantages of the Diffusion of Knowledge" about the value of education in improving the mass of society, a view which Knight, and other members of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, which sponsored the magazine, undoubtedly shared. Besides literary and historical books, Knight, sometimes in cooperation with the SDUK, published many works oriented toward social and economic reform, including all four editions of Charles' Babbage's On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactureswhich coincidentally was first published the same year that Knight began publication of The Penny Magazine.

An aspect of the magazine was that Knight, as publisher and frequent writer, sometimes communicated with his readers by writing articles for the magazine himself. At the end of the first year of publication, on December 18, 1832 he wrote a preface to the first volume. In that he stated that the magazine was very successful, with circulation reaching 160,000 by the end of the first month after publication, and reaching 200,000 the first year. From this he assumed that the magazine was being read each week by a million people. Only forty years earlier, he wrote, Edmund Burke had written that there were only 80,000 readers in all of England.

To print and distribute 200,000 copies weekly required large quantities of machine-made paper, and pushed the limit of printing technology at the time, using stereotype plates on mechanized presses invented by Augustus Applegath, which were in operation at the printing house of William Clowes in London. Obviously proud of the technical aspects which made the magazine affordable and widely available, in the magazine's second year of publication Knight wrote and published a memorable series of articles in four "Monthly Supplements" to the regular issues under the general title "The Commercial History of a Penny Magazine." "No. 1--Introduction & Paper-Making"  appeared in Issue 96, August 31 to September 30, 1833, pp. 377-84. "No. 2. Wood-cutting and Type-founding" appeared in Issue 101, September 39 to October 31, 1833, pp. 417-24. "No. 3. Compositors' Work and Sterotyping" appeared in issue 107, October 31 to November 30, 1833, pp. 465-72, and "No. 4. Printing Presses and Machinery—Bookbinding" appeared in issue 112, November 30 to December 31, 1833, pp. 505-11. These articles represent the one of the best illustrated introductions to the history and technology of printing, woodcut illustration and binding as practiced during the first third of the nineteenth century. They also appear to be the earliest widely circulated general description of the new processes of machine paper manufacturing and high speed printing technology. In Issue 96, p. 381 there is a full-page woodcut of a papermaking machine--undoubtedly the first image of a device of this type seen by a wide number of people. Incidentally the paper on which my copy of the first three volumes was printed is of very good quality. In issue 112, p. 509 there is a full-page woodcut of an Applegath steam-powered press as used in Clowes' pressroom, with detailed explanatory captions. This was undoubtedly the first widely seen image of a high speed cylinder press.

Regarding the advantages of the high speed steam rotary press developed by Koenig and Applegath, Knight first explained how two men, using the fastest iron handpress, such as that invented by Earl Stanhope, could produce 250 impressions per hour. He then compared this output to that of the new printing machinery: 

"Before the invention of stereotyping it was necessary to print off considerable impressions of the few books in general demand such as bibles and prayer-books, that the cost of composition might be so far divided as to allow the book to be sold cheap: with several school-books, also, it was not uncommon to go to press with an edition of 10,000 copies. Two men, working eight hours a day each, would produce 1000 perfect impressions (impressions on each side) of a sheet per day; adn thus if a book consisted of twenty sheets, (the size of an ordinary school-book,) one press would produce the twenty sheets in 200 days. If a printer therefore, were engaged in the production of such a school-book, who could only devote one press to the operation, it wouldrequire nearly three quarters of a year to complete 10,000 copies of that work. . . . 

"But take a case which would allow no time for this long preparation. Take a daily newspaper, for instance, of which great part of the news must be collected, and written, and printed within twenty four hours. Before the application of machinery to the printing of newspapers, in 1814, there were as many daily London newspapers as at present; but their average size was much smaller than those now published. The number of each paper printed was less than at present; and the later news was much more incompletely given. The mechanical difficulties of printing a large number within a limited time required to be overcome by arrangements which involved considerable expense; and thus less capital was to be expended upon that branch of the outlay by which the excellence of a newspaper is mainly determined,--namely, the novelty, the completeness, and the accuracy of its intelligence. Let us take, for example, the 'Times' newspaper for some years prior to 1814, when it began to be printed by machinery. When that was originally established, somewhere about forty years ago, the present system of reporting speeches in parliament on the same night that they were spoken was scarcely ever attempted. A few lines mentioning the subject of the debate, and the names of principal speakers, were sometimes given, but anything like a sektch of the general debate or a report of any remarkable speech, was deferred to a future day, if it were published at all. . . . .

"The printing press, as we have mentioned, will, at the ordinary rate, enable two men to take off two hundred and fifty impressions in an hour. By the most violent exertions the pressmen of a daily newspaper were enabled, with relays, to work off about five hundred copies in an hour. One press would therefore produce ten thousand copies in about twenty hours. It is manifest that such a rate of speed, if such a quantity were demanded, would be incompatible with the production of a daily paper, the condition of whose existence is that it must be wholly printed and issued in four and twenty hours. Let us double the speed by printing in duplicate; and we find that ten thousand copies can be produced in about ten hours. But even this rate carries the publication of several thousands of the ten thousand printed into the next afternoon. We may, therefore, assume that without triplicates, which we believe were never resorted to, no daily paper previous to 1814 could aim at the sale of a greater number of copies than could be printed off even with duplicates in six hours--of which number the publication would often not be complete till after mid-day. The number printed of the most popular daily paper, would therefore be limited to five thousand; and this number could not be produced in time without the most perfect division of labour aiding the most intense exertion, provided that paper were printed by hand. The 'Times' newspaper now produces ten thousand copies in two hours and a half, from one set of types.

"If the difficulties that existed in producing any considerable number of newspapers before the invention of the printing machine were almost insurmountable, equally striking will the advantages of that invention appear when we consider its application to such a work as the 'Penny Magazine.' Let us suppose that the instruction of the people had gone on uninterruptedly in the schools of mutual instruction, and that the mechanical means for supplying the demand for knowledge thus created had sustained no improvement. In this series of papers we have endeavoured constantly to show that the price at which a book can be sold depends in great part upon the number printed of that book. But at the same time it must be borne in mind, that the number of any particular work thus produced must be limited by the mechanical means of production. If the demand for knowledge had led to the establishment of the 'Penny Magazine' before the invention of the printing machine, it is probable that the sale of twenty thousand copies would have been considered the utmost that could have been calculated upon. This invention has forced on other departments of printing, and larger presses have therefore been constructed to compete in some degree with the capacity of the machine for printing a large form of types. Twenty years ago there probably was no press in England large enough to work off a double number of the 'Penny Magazine.' One thousand perfect copies, therefore, could only have been daily produced at one press by the labour of two men. The machine produces sixteen thousand copies. If the demand for the 'Penny Magazine,' printed thus slowly by the press, had reached twenty thousand, it would have required two presses to produce that twenty thousand in the same time, namely ten days, in which we now produce one hundred and sixty thousand by the machine; and it would have required one press to be at work one hundred and sixty days, or sixteen presses for ten days, to effect the same results as the machine now effects in ten days. But, in point of fact, such a sale could never have been reached under the old system of press-work. The hand-labour, as compared with the machine, would have added at least forty per cent. to the cost of production, even if the sixteen presses could have been set in motion. Without stereotyping, no attempt would have been made to set them in motion; for the cost of re-engraving wood-cuts, and of re-composing the types, would have put a natural commercial limit to the operation. With stereotypes, the numbers printed would have been limited by the time required for the production of the stereotype-plates; in the same way as the number of a newspaper worked by hand is limited, as we have seen, by certain natural obstacles, which could not be passed with profit to those concerned in the production. At any rate the difference in the cost of printing by machinery and printing by hand would either have doubled the price of the 'Penny Magazine,' or in the same proportion diminished its size and its quality. Under those circumstances a sale at twenty thousand would have been a large sale. The saving of labour and the saving of time by the printing machine enable, in a great degree, this little work to be published at its present cost, and to be delivered, without any limitation to its supply, at regular periodical intervals throughout the United Kingdom. Without this invention a demand beyond the power of a press or two to meet would have become embarrassing. The work would have been perpetually out of print, as a failure in the supply of a book is termed. If extraordinary efforts had been made to prevent this, great expenses would have been created by the irregular exertion. The commercial difficulties of attempting a supply beyond the ordinary power of the mechanical means employed would have been insurmountable--the demand could not have been met.

"Having thus explained the general advantages of the printing machine for meeting the demand which now exists for books of large numbers, we will conduct our readers to Mr. Clowes's printing establishment, where there are more printing machines at work than at any other office in the world. It may be convenient, how ever, first to refer to the engraving of the sort of printing machine there principally employed, with the description of its several parts. The visitor to Mr. Clowes's office will be conducted into a room in which there are ten machines generally in full work. In an opposite room are six similar machines. The power which sets these in motion is supplied by two steam-engines. Upon entering the machine-room the stranger will naturally feel distracted by the din of so many wheels and cylinders in action; and if his imagination should present to him a picture of the effects which such instruments are producing and will produce, upon the condition of mankind, it may require some effort of the mind to understand the mode in which any particular machine does its work. Let us begin with one on which the 'Penny Magazine' is preparing to be printed off. One man, and sometimes two men, are engaged in what is technically called making ready; and this with stereotype plates is a tedious and delicate operation. The plates are secured upon wooden blocks by which they are raised to the height of moveable types; but then, with every care in casting, and in the subsequent turning operation, these plates, unlike moveable types, do not present a perfectly plane surface. There are hollow parts which must be brought up by careful adjustment; and this is effected by placing pieces of this paper under any point where the impression is faint. This process often occupies six or seven hours, particularly where there are casts from wood-cuts. Let us suppose it completed. Upon the solid steel table at each end of the machine lie the eight pages which print one side of the sheet. At the top of the machine, where the laying on boy stands, is a heap of wet paper. The visitor will have seen the process of wetting previously to entering the machine-room. Each quire of paper is dipped two or three times, according to its thickness, in a trough of water; and being opened is subjected, first to moderate pressure, and afterwards to the action of a powerful press, till the moisture is equally diffused through the whole heap. If the paper were not wetted, the ink, which is a composition of oil and lamp-black, would lie upon the surface and smear. To return to the machine. The signal being given by the director of the work, the 'laying-on boy turns a small handle, and the moving power of the strap connected with the engine is immediately communicated. Some ten or twenty spoiled sheets are first passed over the types to remove any dirt or moisture. If the director is satisfied, the boy begins to lay on the white paper. He places the sheet upon a flat table before him, with its edge ready to be seized by the apparatus for conveying it upon the drum. At the first movement of the great wheels the inking apparatus at each end has been set in motion. The steel cylinder attached to the reservoir of ink has begun slowly to move,--the 'doctor' has risen to touch that cylinder for an instant, and thus receive its supply of ink,--the inking-table has passed under the 'doctor' and carried off that supply--and the distributing-rollers have spread it equally over the surface of the table. This surface having passed under the inking-rollers, communicates the supply to them; and they in turn impart it to the form which is to be printed. All these beautiful operations are accomplished in the fifteenth part of a minute, by the travelling backward and forward of the carriage or table upon which the form tests. Each roller revolves upon an axis which is fixed. At the moment when the form at the back of the machine is passing under the inking-roller, the sheet, which the boy has carefully laid upon the table before him, is caught in the web-roller and conveyed to the endless bands of tapes which pass it over the first impression cylinder. It is here seized tightly by the bands, which fall between the pages and on the outer margins. The moment after the sheet is seized upon the first cylinder, the form passes under that cylinder, and the paper being brought in contact with it receives an impression on one side. To give the impression on the other side the sheet is to be turned over; and this is effected by the two drums in the centre of the machine. The endless tapes never lose their grasp of the sheet, although they allow it to be reversed. When the impression has been given by the first cylinder, the second form of tapes at the other end of the table has been inked. The drums have conveyed the sheet during this inking upon the second cylinder; it is brought into contact with the types; and the operation is complete.

"The machine which we have thus imperfectly described is a most important improvement of Koenig's original invention. That, like most first attempts, was extremely complicated. It possessed sixty wheels. Applegath and Cowper's machine has sixteen only. The inking apparatus of this machine is by far the most complete and economical that ever was invented. Nothing can be more perfect than the distribution of the ink and its application to the types. It has therefore entirely superseded Koenig's machine: and as the patent has expired, its use is rapidly extending, not only in England, but throughout Europe. Our limits will not permit us to attempt any description of the other machines which are employed in London. The most remarkable are the two now used by the 'Times' newspaper; each of which produces four thousand impressions per hour on one side of a sheet. These machines are modifications of Applegath's and Cowper's; and the additional speed is gained by having the sheets laid on at four different points instead of at one, and by employing four printing cylinders to press in succession upon one form. . . . " 

According to the title pages of volumes 1-3 in my collection, after these volumes were completed the issues of volume 1 were available for 4s. 6d. in nine monthly parts or 6s. bound in cloth, and issues of volume 2 were available for 6s in twelve monthly parts and 7s. 6d. bound in cloth, the same low price maintained for volume 3. Besides his own series on printing and book manufacturing, from 1841 to 1843 Knight commissioned from George Dodd a series of 44 illustrated articles on various manufacturing industries in England for The Penny Magazine. These he reissued in book form in 1843 as Days at the Factories; or, the Manufacturing Industry of Great Britain Described and Illustrated by Numerous Enravings of Machines and ProcessesThis included expanded versions of Knight's articles on book production.

In February 2015 I was surprised to find a copy of the American issue of Volumes 1 & 2 of Knight's Penny Magazine. This was characterized on its title page as "American Re-Issue, From the English Plates." It was printed on different, inferior paper, from the original stereotype plates, its main publisher being J. S. Redfield in New York in 1845. Copies were also distributed by various other named publishers in different cities as well as "The Cheap Publication Offices Generally Throughout the United States." This version did not include Knight's introduction to the first volume. Whether this reissue was a result of Knight's termination of the magazine in London in 1845, or just a coincidence, was unknown to me.

(This entry was last revised on 02-21-2015.)

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Charles Knight Invents "Illuminated Printing" & Offers Printed Color Plates at a Low Price for the Mass Market 1838 – 1845

In 1838 English printer and publisher Charles Knight received British patent No. 7673 for "Improvements in the Process and in the Apparatus used in the Production of Coloured Impressions on Paper, Vellum, Parchment, and Pasteboard by Surface Printing." Knight called his color printing process "illuminated printing," and invented it for the economical printing of colored pictures, maps, and drawings.

"At first only four colours were contemplated, and by some ingenious mechanism he contrived that they should all be applied in the course of a single passage of the sheet through the press, which was operated by hand. Knight, like Savage, had a decided preference for a press of the 'Ruthven' type, in which the platen was normally at the back, but was brought over the forme by means of two springs, which 'gave' to the pull, but resumed their ordinary position when the bar was released. Knight fitted the machine, in place of the usual bed, with a polygonal revolving frame, or, as he called it, 'prism' (attached to a rising table), each face of which, carrying a colour block, was applied in sucession to the sheet as the frame revolved. In an alternative method, the frame with the blocks on it revolved ona sort of turn-table, placed on the bed of the press; whilst in a third, the tympan, with the sheet attached, was carried from block to block. It will be remembered that this idea of printing several colours at one operation of the press had been to some extent anticpated by Lalleman, at Paris, two centuries earlier. The specification also describes an apparatus in which the colour blocks were on beds, hinged to the sides of a square table, and turned backward to be inked by hand, and down again for the impression. The process was in regular operation in 1839, as the Quarterly Review for December in that year contains an article, headed "The Printer's Devil," in which is a description of Clowes' printing establishment, and a fairly lengthy reference to Knight's colour-printing method, which the writer of the article in question saw at work, in connection with the production of "Patent Illuminated Maps." He describes the printing apparatus as resembling a square box, each of the four sides of which carried a printing plate, for blue, yellow, red and black respectively, which were applied to the sheet in the ordered named, the last having the letterpress matter for the names of places,etc. The tints being partly blended on the paper, three more were furnished in that way, i.e. the yellow and the red gave orange, the yellow and blue green, and so on, there being thus seven colours in all" (Burch, Colour Printing and Colour Printers [1910] 141-43).

In 1839 Knight issued a couple of examples of his "illuminated printing" in his publication of engraver John Jackson's A Treatise on Wood Engraving Historical and Practical. One of my copies contains at p. 715 as called for in the List of Illustrations, "A Café in Constantinople, and a Design for a Pattern, two of "Mr. Knight's Patent Illuminated Prints." My other copy substitutes Knight's "Patent Illuminated Map" of Ancient Jerusalem, a double-page tip-in, for the Constantinople scene.  Both copies also contain a more finely detailed Baxter print of "Parsonage at Ovingham" at p. 713. This book, which contained 269 illustrations, for the most part wood-engravings by Jackson himself, including a full-page engraved portrait of Jackson's teacher, Thomas Bewick, was co-authored by the writer William Chatto, who wrote the first seven chapters, and signed a preface explaining his authorship. Jackson failed to credit Chatto on the title page—a fault that was corrected in the second edition of 1861. A specially bound copy in my collection, presented by Jackson to the London bookseller Thomas Tegg on July 10, 1839, is labeled on the spine "Treatise on Wood Engraving / Illustrations by Jackson" confirming, however, that Jackson did not take credit for the text.

In 1840 Knight published a series of his "illuminated maps" in Hughes, The Illuminated Atlas of Scripture Geography: A Series of Maps Delineating the Physical and Historical Features in the Geography of Palestine and the Adjacent Countries accompanyied with An Explanatory Notice of Each Map. . . This small 4to contained 20 double-page maps color-printed by Knight's process. Regarding the maps, the work stated on p. 6:

"Lastly, we have to explain in a few words the peculiarities which distinguish the appearance of these Maps from any which have hitherto been published. These are, —1st, That, by a novel method of printing, the various divisions of the countries are covered with distinct colours, so that the boundaries are clearly perceived at the first view; and 2nd, That the mountains, instead of being, as in maps engraved in the usual manner, indicated by black lines, are in white, distinctly and prominently relieved by the coloured ground. In the best engraved maps a serious imperfection has always been felt to result from the names and the hills being alike printed in black, in consequence of which, either names are obscured by the hills, or the hills must be omitted in order to allow of the names being read. This renders them exceedingly difficult of reference; and it may be generally remarked of engraved maps, that in proportion as the physical features of country are fully and correctly delineated, so do the names and boundaries become obscure and unintelligble. In the ordinary process of map-engraving, the evil complained of appears unavoidable; but this is no longer the case when a different medium is used for conveying each part of the requisite information. By the method adopted in this series of Maps, the physical features of the countries—their hills and valleys—their lakes and streams—are clearly delinieated, without in the least interfering with the exhibition of names and places; while their various divisions, distinguished by colours, are presented at once and distinctly to the eye of the student. They will thus, it is believed, be found better calculated than any hitherto published to serve the important purposes of School and Home Education."

While the quality of the color prints in the works issued in 1839 and 1840 was quite good, during 1844 and 1845 Knight issued Old England: A Pictorial Museum in ninety-six fascicules in small folio format containing 24 plates printed by his patented color printing process, and a total of 2,488 numbered wood engravings. The color plates in this work are relatively crude and take on an almost painterly quality in their inexact registration. When the set was complete title pages were issued for two volumes, and Knight offered the set for sale in publisher's cloth bindings, blind-stamped and gilt in 1845. Old England must have been a commerical success, selling a large number of copies, since copies were readily available on the rare book market more than 100 years later in 2012, when I acquired two copies.

(This entry was last revised on 02-11-2015.)

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The First American Book with Chromolithographed Illustrations 1841

In 1841 American Thomsonian physician Morris Mattson published The American Vegetable Practice, or a New and Improved Guide to Health, Designed for the Use of Families. The book, in 2 volumes, the first concerning men, and the second, shorter volume concerning women's health, was issued in Boston by Daniel L. Hale. The first volume included 2 black and white plates and 24 chromolithographed botanical plates produced by the Boston lithographer William Sharp and his partner Francis Michelin, both of whom had previously worked for lithographer and chromolithographer Charles Hullmandel in London. In his preface Mattson wrote (p. xi):

"The colored illustrations in the material medica, will, I presume, meet with the entire approbation of the public. They have been procured at great expense; and were executed by a new process, invented by Mr. Sharp, recently of London, being the first of the kind ever issued in the United States. The different tints were produced by a series of printed impressions, the brush not having been used in giving effect or uniformity to the coloring. Connoisseurs in the arts have spoken of them in terms of admiration, and Mr. Sharp will no doubt succeed in bringing his discoveries to a still greater degree of perfection."

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The First Book Illustrated with Photographs October 1843 – 1853

In October 1843 Anna Atkins, an English amateur botanist and the first woman phtographer, published the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Atkins published this work privately with a handwritten text from her home in Sevenoaks, Kent, England. She issued a very small number of copies from cyanotypes contact printed by placing specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a sillhouette effect. Photographs of British Algae was the first book illustrated with photographs, and the first serious application of photography to a scientific subject. The paper Atklns used for the first volume contains a watermark reading "Whatman Turkey Mill 1843." Atkins extended the work into three volumes, with the last part appearing in 1853. 

In May 2011 only seventeen copies of Atkins's book were recorded, in various states of completeness. Only the copy in the Royal Society seems to be complete as Atkins intended, with 389 plates.  Robert Hunt's copy, with 382 plates was sold at Christie's, London for £229,250 ($406,460) in May 2004.

♦ In December 2013 further background information and digital facsimiles were available from the NYPL Digital Gallery.

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) No. 5.

(This entry was last revised on 01-14-2014.)

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Foundation of Microphotography; Landmark in Hematology, Oncology, and Pathology 1844 – 1845

In 1844 and 1845 French physician Alfred François Donné published Cours de microscopie compémentaire des études médicales in Paris. The folio atlas of plates, which appeared one year after the text, included twenty plates showing engraved images of 86 microdaguerreotypes taken by medical student, later physicist Léon Foucault. Because daguerreotypes were unique images they could not be duplicated by a photographic process like prints from photographic negatives, and had to be engraved for reproduction by printing.

Donné, a French public health physician, began teaching his pioneering course on medical microscopy in 1837, a time when the medical establishment remained largely unconvinced of the microscope’s usefulness as a diagnostic and investigative tool. In July 1839 Louis Daguerre, one of the inventors of photography, announced to the Académie des Sciences his “daguerreotype” process for creating finely detailed photographic images on specially prepared glass plates. Donné immediately embraced this new art, and within a few months had created not only the first documented photographic portrait in Europe, but also the earliest method of preparing etched plates from daguerreotypes. Donné resolved to incorporate photography into his microscopy course, and in February 1840 he presented to the Académie his first photographic pictures of natural objects as seen through the microscope. “It was Alfred Donné who foresaw the helpful role that projections of microscopic pictures could play during lectures on micrography” (Dreyfus, p. 38).

Over the next few years Donné continued to refine his photomicrography methods with the help of his assistant, Léon Foucault (who would go on to have a distinguished career as a physicist).  Donne's and Foucault's work was the first biomedical textbook to be illustrated with images made from photomicrographs. Among its noteworthy images are the first microphotographs of human blood cells and platelets, and the first photographic illustration of Trichomonas vaginalis, the protozoon responsible for vaginal infections, which Donné had discovered in 1836. The text volume of the Cours contains the first description of the microscopic appearance of leukemia, which Donné had observed in blood taken from both an autopsy and a living patient. His observations mark the first time that leukemia was linked with abnormal blood pathology:

"There are conditions in which white cells seem to be in excess in the blood. I found this fact so many times, it is so evident in certain patients, that I cannot conceive the slightest doubt in this regard. One can find in some patients such a great number of these cells that even the least experienced observer is greatly impressed. I had an opportunity of seeing these in a patient under Dr. Rayer at the Hôpital de la Charité. . . . The blood of this patient showed such a number of white cells that I thought his blood was mixed with pus, but in the end, I was able to observe a clear-cut difference between these cells, and the white cells . . . "(p. 135; translation from Thorburn, pp. 379-80).

The following year this abnormal blood condition was recognized as a new disease by both John Hughes Bennett (a former student of Donné’s) and Rudolf Virchow.

Norman, Morton's Medical Bibliography (1991) nos.  267.1, 3060.1. Dreyfus, Some Milestones in the History of Hematology, pp. 38-40, 54-56, 76-78. Frizot, A New History of Photography, p. 275. Gernsheim & Gernsheim, The History of Photography 1685-1914, pp. 116, 539. Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. 1, p. 1120. Wintrobe, Hematology: The Blossoming of a Science, p. 12. Bernard, Histoire illustrée de l’hématologie, passim. Thorburn, “Alfred François Donné, 1801-1878, discoverer of Trichomonas vaginalis and of leukaemia,” British Journal of Venereal Disease 50 (1974) 377-380.

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The First Photographically Illustrated Book Commercially Published. June 1844 – April 1846

From June 1844 to April 1846 British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot published The Pencil of Nature in six fascicules in London through the firm of Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans. This work was illustrated with 24 calotypes or talbotypes, a photographic process invented by Fox Talbot in 1841, in which salted paper prints were made from paper negatives. It was the "first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published," or "the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs."  

Because the work was a complete novelty to the book-buying public Fox Tablot published a brief "Notice to the Reader" explaining the nature of the images:

"The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone without any aid whatever from the artist's pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation."

Fox Talbot originally intended to publish additional fascicules but discontinued publication after six because the work was a commercial failure. "The numbers of issues produced were not great in comparison to printed works for obvious reasons of technical difficulty, but were still considerable for such a pioneering endeavour. There is slight variance in the numbers quoted in different sources but it is certain over a thousand booklets of the six parts were manufactured. It is beyond dispute that 285 copies of the first pamphlet were created and, with encouraging sales figures 150 copies were produced of the second part. It seems probable that 150 copies of each of the final parts were manufactured. Fox Talbot himself sold the parts for 7/6d, 12/- and 21/-. Additionally, some of the completed series were bound together and a subscription list raised headed by Queen Victoria, while Fox Talbot also gifted a few to his family and close friends. A very few of these bound volumes still exist today" (http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/Feb2007.html, accessed 01-14-2015). Approximately 40 copies of original edition of The Pencil of Nature have survived.

Two facsimiles were published in print in the 20th century, one in the 21st. The text and images are also available online. 

(This entry was last revised on 01-14-2015.)

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The First Periodical Issued With a Mounted Paper Photograph 1846

Eager to show that paper photography was the equal to graphic media such as lithography, etching, steel and wood engraving, William Henry Fox Talbot, author of The Pencil of Nature, made a deal with Samuel Carter Hall, editor of the most important Victorian magazine on art, the Art Union Monthly Journal, to include one of his paper photographs in every copy of the June 1846 issue in Volume 8 of the journal. 

To make the approximately 6,000 calotypes needed for the Art Union issue, Fox Talbot's assistant and printer, Nicolaas Henneman, used every negative he could find in the shop. More than half of the images published in The Pencil of Nature (15 different images) also turn up in copies of the Art-Union. However, Henneman's print staff was not capable of such mass production, resulting in poor print quality. The paper was not properly exposed, nor well fixed or washed, and prints were sometimes badly pasted onto the magazine leaves. These factors caused the images to fade almost as soon as they were created, resulting in poor publicity for Talbot. Nevertheless, as few copies of Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature were issued, Vol. 8 of the Art Union Monthly Journal was the first periodical to be illustrated with a mounted paper photograph, and the photographs it included were the first paper photographs seen by a wide audience.

Gernsheim, Incunabula of Photography, No. 620.

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) p. 15.

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1850 – 1875

Mirza Mohammad-Vali Hakimbashi Introduces Western Anatomical Illustration into Persian Culture 1854

In 1271 A. H. (1854 CE) Persian physician Mirza Mohammad-Vali Hakimbashi issued Cheragh haa rewshenaaa der asewl pezeshekea [Illumination of the fundamentals of medicine] from Tabriz at the Dar al-Tabae [State Printing House]. This lithographed book was the first work to introduce Western anatomical illustration into Persian Culture.

During the 19th century, under the rule of the Qajar dynasty, Persia (now Iran) increased its contacts with European governments, while at the same time enjoying periods of relative political stability and a growing sense of nationalism. In the arena of public health and medical education, these influences resulted in “a mounting sense of responsibility on the part of the Government with regard to its citizenry. Moreover, an emerging sense of national ‘shame’ [aberou] in the face of staggering epidemics, together with a growing need to counter Western imperial interventions resulted in stronger stimuli for the promotion of an organized policy of public health. Hence, Iran’s social, military, economic and mercantile interests became stronger advocates of sanitary reform” (Afkhami, p. 122).

In 1851, at the urging of Prime Minister Mirza Taghi Khan Farahani (میرزا تقی‌خان فراهانی‎) known as Amir Kabir (امیرکبیر‎), Persia established its first modern institution of higher learning, the Dar al-Fonun (Persianدارالفنون‎) (English: Polytechnic, now the University of Tehran), which included a medical school for the training of army physicians. “Whereas Iranian Hakims of the mid-19th century could, in hindsight, have claimed to rival their European counterparts in therapeutics, a superior anatomical knowledge on the part of Western surgeons made them better caregivers on battlefields. Consequently, clinical instruction became a cornerstone of the Dar al-Fonun and like the academies of Europe, Amir Kabir also founded a ‘Government Hospital’ in January 1850 for the purpose of instructing medical students” (Afkhami, p. 123).

As part of this effort to modernize medical education in Persia, medical textbooks such as Mirza Mohammad-Vali’s Illumination of the Fundamentals of Medicine were written or translated by Persian authors and printed by lithography for publication by the Dar al-Fonun or the Dar al-Tabae, the state printing house established in the 1840s. Mirza Mohammad-Vali, who had been named chief physician of the Persian army in 1852, was also supervisor of the physicians at the Government Hospital and most likely taught at the Dar al-Fonun. Mirza Mohammad’s dependence on Western sources in this early period of modern Persian medical education is evident in his book’s numerous anatomical illustrations, adapted from Vesalius, Scarpa, Fabrici and other European authors.

The Qajar period also saw the introduction of the lithographic press, the first successful method for the mass production of books in Persia. Several attempts had been made to establish letterpress printing in Persia beginning in the 17th century, but casting type in Arabic script raised technical problems beyond those faced by typographers creating Roman typefaces, and it was not until the 1820s, when the first lithographic printing press began operating in Tabriz, that books, newspapers and other printed material began to be manufactured in Persia on a large scale.

“By the late 1840s, there were already at least six lithographic printing houses at work in Tehran, and dozens of books were published. From this time on, one can speak of regular lithographic book printing in Persia. The reasons for the success of the lithographic method of printing are obvious and well-known: simpler and cheaper equipment in comparison to that required for the typographic printing, availability of a large number of professional copyists, and the traditional culture of calligraphy. Although considerably less expensive than manuscripts, lithographed books retained the usual format of the handwritten codex in a sturdy binding . . . In the latter part of the 1840s, the State Printing House (dar al-taba a-ye dowlati) began its work; and was operative until the end of the first decade of the 20th century. After the opening of the Dar al-fonun (the first modern polytechnic on European lines in Persia) in 1851, a lithographic press was established within it for printing teaching aids. Activities of these two printing houses were of some significance for the cultural and scientific life of Persia, since they published books on new subjects: manuals on exact and natural sciences, both translated and original, and works on history and geography” (Shcheglova).

Afkhami, “Epidemics and the emergence of an international sanitary policy in Iran,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 19 (1999): 122-134. Shcheglova, Olimpiada P. “Lithography 1. In Persia,” Encyclopaedia Iranica. 15 Aug. 2009, accessed 04-24-2015).  Ebrahimnejad, Medicine, Public Health and the Qajar State: Patterns of Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Iran (2004), p. 51. 

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Paul Pretsch's "Photographic Art Treasures," the First Book of Printed Reproductions of Photographs 1854 – July 1857

In 1854 Viennese photographer resident in London Paul Pretsch patented a process called "photo-galvanography" for the printed reproduction of photographs. The first print that Pretsch issued was called "Scene in Gaeta after the Explosion." It was "the first relief half-tone and the first commercial use of half-tone" (Printing and the Mind of Man. Catalogue of the Exhibitions Held at the British Museum and at Earls Court, London [1963] No. 629).

In November 1856 Pretsch issued through his Patent-Photo-Galvano-Graphic Company the first fascicule of a book entitled in an oddly circular manner Photographic Art Treasures, or, Nature and Art Illustrated by Art and Nature. This fascicule, which also immodestly characterized itself as "A New Era in Art" on its printed cover, was the first part of the first book of printed reproductions of photographs, as distinct from books illustrated with pasted-in original photographs. A total of five fascicules were published between November 1856 and July 1857, each with 4 "photo-galvano-graphic" plates.

Pretsch's photo-galvanographic process began with a photographically exposed dichromated-gelatine mould which was made to reticulate, from which he produced a copper intaglio plate by galvanoplasty. His halftone method was not entirely original. Others had developed methods of engraving from photographs. As early as the 1830s William Fox Talbot had patented a method of using "photographic screens or veils" in connection with a photographic intaglio process.

"However, Pretsch's system achieved one thing that no others had previously managed— the inclusion of half-tones— the greys which make the photographic image unique. At the time, the half-tone dot screen had not yet been invented and all engravings from photographs such as those used in the Illustrated London News from Fenton's Crimea portraits, were hand-drawn impressions of the original photograph. Even the more advanced process which Pretsch was now attempting to market did not completely dispose of the need for long and careful hand-retouching on the part of the engraver and it took an average of six weeks hard work to prepare just one plate. After all that work, only about five hundred prints could be made before the image started to break up. As with all such processes, the first prints were of a far superior quality to the last— so a sliding scale of charges was evolved, the price depending on the state of the plate at the time the print was made. . . .

"Pretsch was no photographer, however, and he left it to others to provide the pictures for his patent process. Roger Fenton took up his appointment as manager of the Photographic Department and chief photographer, in August 1857. . . .In the short time Fenton had been employed at Holloway Place, the company's head office in Holloway Road, he had not had time to acquire prints by other photographers and so that the first publication of four prints [in the first fascicule of Photographic Art Treasures] was entirely his own work. . . ." (Hannaway, Roger Fenton of Crimble Hall [1976] 65-67).

Paul William Morgan, "Paul Pretsch, Photogalvanography and Photographic Art Treasures," accessed 01-12-2015).

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) No. 131.

(This entry was last revised on 01-12-2015.)

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The "Illustrated London News" Christmas Supplement, the First Newspaper Printed in Color December 22, 1855

On December 22, 1855 the Illustrated London News issued its "Christmas Supplement." Pages [729]-736 consisted of an an 8-page insert printed on somewhat thicker paper than the regular issues of the newspaper, containing a full-color cover and 3 additional full-page color images printed from woodblocks by George Leighton, who had apprenticed with George Baxter. Each color print was credited "George C. Leighton Red Lion Square." Two of the images were "after Sir John Gilbert," one "after 'Phiz'," and one "after G. Thomas."  The remainder of the "Christmas Supplement" (Vol. XXVII, No. 776, pp. [737]-752), was printed in black and white.

"John Gilbert. . .was the most prolific graphic artist of his day. He drew for Punch and for the London Journal, but  the greatest portion of his work was done for the Illustrated London News, for which he is reputed to have made 30,000 drawings, at one period providing two-thirds of all their illustrations. The deadlines inherent to weekly journalism required Gilbert to produce his pictures with great speed, and it is said that he could make a full-page drawing directly on the wood block while a messenger waited. When particular speed was necessary he could even unscrew the individual squares of wood which constituted a large block and send the finished parts to the engraver piecemeal without seeing the whole design until it was printed" (Friedman, Color Printing in England 1486-1870 [1978] No. 78).

Leighton's production of these first color images proved that color printing could be done in high volume to meet the high circulation of the Illustrated London News, and at comparatively low cost. "The designs were engraved as woodcuts in the ordinary way, and the impressions from them coloured by etched tone blocks; both blocks and colouring are extremely crude, but the idea caught on with the public and Leighton could not produce the plates fast enough to satisfy the demand" (Burch, Colour Printing and Colour Printers [1910] 147). 

"This was the launch of coloured journalism, a revolution still continuing and one which will not be complete until daily newspapers are in full colour throughout. In addition to the title page Leighton produced for the supplement a convivial Christmas scene entitled 'Returning from Church' and two other full -page colour prints" (Gascoigne, Milestones in colour printing 1457-1859 [1997] 52, plate 20).

In August 1858 Leighton became the printer and publisher of the Illustrated London News. He continued color printing from wood blocks, or wood blocks combined with metal cuts, until the 1880s, when the process was replaced by chromolithography. 

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Hugh Miller Issues the First Book to Include a Photograph of its Author 1857

Self-taught Scottish geologist and writer, folklorist and evangelical Christian Hugh Miller published in Edinburgh The Testimony of the Rocks; or, Geology in its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed. 

Miller's book was the first to include a photograph of its author, and only a small portion of the edition contained the photograph. The portrait shows the bearded and extremely hirsute Miller seated at a table reading. Miller believed that the fossil record confirmed, in broad outline, the cosmic drama depicted symbolically in the Bible. He opposed evolutionary theory, and argued vehemently for man's separation from the lower animals. This was Miller's last work; he committed suicide while seeing it through the press.

"For most of the year 1856, the brilliant researcher and speaker had been bothered by terrible headaches that seemed to burn inside his head. Had he lived in the 20th century, Miller's doctors could have diagnosed the problem. Perhaps it was a tumor that caused the headaches, and later, the awful hallucinations. Victorian-era medicine could not help. He feared that he might harm his wife or children during his delusions in which he pursued imaginary robbers with his gun. Miller committed suicide the night he finished checking printers' proofs for his book on Scottish fossil plants and vertebrates, The Testimony of the Rocks. Before his death, he wrote a poem called Strange but True" (Wikipedia article on Hugh Miller, accessed 10-26-2009)

Gernsheim, Incunabula of British Photographic Literature, 67.

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Imprimerie Alfred Mame's Spectacular Portrayal of Large Scale Book Manufacturing 1867

In April 2013 I acquired a copy of a spectacular volume, Imprimerie - Librairie - Relieure. Alfred Mame et Fils à Tours. Notice et specimens. This folio work, in its original red blind-stamped and gilt cloth binding, with gilt edges, with pages measuring 395 x 270 mm., was issued at Tours in 1867 by Imprimerie Alfred Mame to advertise and promote its business. Printed on excellent paper, the work has only 18 pp. of text, interleaved with many full-page illustrations, followed by more than 100 pages of specimens of title pages, text and illustrations, sometimes printed in two colors, and including many fine examples of engraving. The folio format was used in order to include full-size folio specimens.

My interest in the volume was primarily in its spectacular engraved images of the different elements of large-scale book production in the mid-19th century. Mame clearly used machine presses on a large scale, as the image of his huge pressroom shows. Notably, however, Mame continued to employ manual typesetters, as before the development of the Linotype and the Monotype, mechanical typesetting remained troublesome and of inferior quality. The image of Mame's very large bindery suggests that virtually all of the binding work was still done by hand. A common element to all the images is that none show women employed in any of the book production tasks.

Mame's business model involved bring in house all aspects of book production including typesetting and printing, engraving, binding, and even bookselling. Mame also was part-owner of a paper mill. From the majority of the specimens shown the firm seems to have specialized in publishing religious or devotional books. Presumably, this may have been the largest topic of commercial book consumption in France during that very religious time. His firm employed about 700 people in production and 400-500 in sales in what appears to be a rather grand facility, though we may assume that the images glorify or beautify what cannot always have been ideal working conditions. Nevertheless, the environment may have been rather copasetic as, according to the Wikipedia, "Inspired by the social Catholic ideal, Alfred Mame established for his employees a pension fund for those over sixty, wholly maintained by the firm. He opened schools, which caused him to receive one of the ten thousand francs awards reserved for the 'établissements modèles où régnaient au plus haut degré l'harmonie sociale et le bien-être des ouvriers'. In 1874 Mame organized a system by which his working-men shared in the profits of the firm." (Wikipedia article on Aflred Mame, accessed 05-18-2013).

Bigmore & Wyman II, 16.

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Alexander Kennedy Issues the First Book on Birds Illustrated with Actual Photographs 1868

In 1868 Alexander W. M. Clark Kennedy, who characterized himself as "An Eton Boy" issued from Eton and London The Birds of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire: A Contribution to the Natural History of the Two Counties. The book was illustrated with 4 hand-tined albumin prints of birds, photographed in taxidermic settings— the first photographic illustrations of birds. At the time it was impossible to photograph any animal in motion because of the lack of telephoto lenses and sufficiently light-sensitive plates to allow short exposures. In 1885 Eadweard Muybridge would publish the first photographs of birds in flight in his Animal Locomotion.

Eton was a very unusual location for the publication of a book in England, and this volume was undoubtedly paid for by the author, or his family. Clark Kennedy (1851-94) would have been only 17 at the time of publication. My copy was inscribed by Clark Kennedy to the amateur ornithologist Harry Blake Knox, a large landowner in Ireland the year after its publication, January, 1869.

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) No. 96.

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Darwin Founds Ethology, Studies the Conveyance of Information, and Contributes to Psychology 1872

In 1872 Charles Darwin issued The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals through his publisher, John Murray. This book, which contained numerous wood-engraved text illustrations, was also illustrated with seven heliotype plates of photographs by pioneering art photogapher Oscar Gustave Rejlander, and was the only book by Darwin illustrated with photographs.

“With this book Darwin founded the study of ethology (animal behavior) and conveyance of information (communication theory) and made a major contribution to psychology” (DSB). Written as a rebuttal to the idea that the facial muscles of expression in humans were a special endowment, the work contained studies of facial and other types of expression (sounds, erection of hair, etc.) in man and mammals, and their correlation with various emotions such as grief, love, anger, fear and shame. The results of Darwin’s investigations showed that in many cases expression is not learned but innate, and enabled Darwin to formulate three principles governing the expression of emotions—relief of sensation or desire, antithesis, and reflex action.

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1875 – 1900

The "New York Tribune" Publishes the First Significant Series of Illustrations in a Daily Newspaper June 30, 1875

On June 30, 1875 the New York Tribune published a series of 36 relief blocks on its front page showing the targets at an International Rifle Match in Dublin, Ireland.

The blocks were produced in New York from target coordinates transmitted over the Atlantic telegraph. These were the first significant series of illustrations published in a daily newspaper.

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The Caxton Quadricentennial Celebration: Probably the Largest Exhibition on the History of Printing Ever Held; Collecting its Publications June 30 – September 1, 1877

In the summer of 1877, four hundred years after printer William Caxton published The Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres, the first book printed in England, the Caxton Celebration opened in the western International Exhibition Galleries on the Queen's road side of the Horticultural Society's Gardens at South Kensington in London. The exhibition was organized by its Chairman, typefounder and politician Sir Charles Reed, by large scale industrial printer William Clowes, by mathematician and physicist from a family of major printers, William Spottiswoode, by printer, biographer and bibliographer of Caxton and rare book collector, William Blades, and various committees. Two hundred or more people participated in some way as patrons or members of committees, representing a "who's who" of the printing industry in England and Europe at the time, along with leading scientists, scholars, librarians and collectors. A few Americans such as printing machine designer and builder Richard M. Hoe were also involved in committees. The exhibition was open for two months, from June 30 to September 1, 1877. According to David McKitterick, Old Books, New Technologies  (2013, p. 175) the exhibition "attracted a reported 23,684 visitors" —an impressive number considering the population size and literacy levels of the time.

Planning for the exhibition, of course, started many months before it opened, and publicity was extensive. The illustrated newspaper, The Pictorial World in their issue of February 24, 1877, reported on a preliminary meeting of planners, including Sir Charles Reed and W. Spottswoode, held in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey, a published an engraving showing 12 mostly bearded men sitting around a table, including a secretary taking notes. Publicity for the show eventually seems to have included marketing to children, or at least to parents who read to children. It is hard to imagine how such incentives would have any appeal to children, or their parents, in the second decade of the 21st century:

"Maclise's celebrated painting of Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to Edward IV had been painted twenty years earlier, and when it was engraved in 1858 it was in the possession of John Forster (d. 1876). In 1877 it was on loan from its new owner, Lord Lytton, to the South Kensington Museum. The central part of the engraving was reissued in April 1877, as a contribution to the festivities. Reproductions were available at reduced prices to readers of Young Folks and Young Folk's Weekly Budget. As the original copies of the steel engraving had cost 4 guineas and upwards, the special offer price of a shilling plus vouchers from the magazines was a considerable bargain" (David McKitterick, Old Books, New Technologies [2013] 170-71.)

In their issue of June 30, 1877, the opening day of the exhibition, the British illustrated weekly newspaper, The Graphic, published a double-page image captioned "The Caxton Celebration. William Caxton Showing Specimens of His Printing to King Edward IV and His Queen." In their issue of July 1, 1877 The Illustrated London News published a collection of images related to the exhibition called "Caxtoniana." The same newspaper in their issue of July 7 (p. 18) published an article on the opening of exhibition and on p. 17 a large image captioned, "Mr. Gladstone at the Caxton Memorial Exhibition, South Kensington, on Saturday Last." The image showed Prime Minister Gladstone watching printing done on a "Gutenberg-style" hand-press. The Illustrated London News described the opening ceremony of the exhibition as follows:

"The opening ceremony was brief and simple. The leading part was borne by the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone. He was met by Sir Charles Reed, chairman of the committee; Mr. W. Blades, the biographer of Caxton; and the other gentlemen we have named, with the Archbishop of York. A large assembly of ladies and gentlemen filled the rooms assigned for this ceremony, as well as the adjacent galleries. After a special dedicatory prayer offered by the Archbishop, Sir Charles Reed read a short statement of the occasion and the objects of the Exhibition. Mr. Hodson, secetary to the Printers' Pension Corporation, handed to Mr. Gladstone a copy of the Exhibition Catalogue. The right hon. gentleman then declared the Exhibition to be opened. This formal declaration was immediately hailed by a flourish of trumpets from the band of the Royal Horse Guards Blue. Mr. Gladstone was conducted through the exhibition, which he examined with attentive interest. Our Illustration shows him looking at the working of an old press. There was a luncheon provided by the Conservatory of the Horticultural Society's Gardens. The chair was occupied by Mr. Gladstone, at whose right hand sat his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, but the Emperor left the table before the toasts were proposed. His Majesty's health was, of course, duly honoured next to that of our Queen and Royal family. In his principal speech, giving the memory of William Caxton for the chief toast, Mr. Gladstone commented upon the invention of printing, with his usual copiousness of thought and knowledge, and expressed his admiration of the results now attained. The other speakers were the Bishop of Bath and Wells; Dr. Joseph Parker; Mr. Hall, of the Oxford University Press; M. Chaix, of Paris; Herr Fröbel, of Stuttgart; Sir C. Reed, and Mr. G. Spottiswoode. Subscriptions and donations to the Printers' Pension Corporation fund were announced, amounting to £2000, besides which there will be the receipts from the Exhibition." 

The Tablet, The International Catholic News Weekly, took an interest in the exhibition, reviewing it on pp. 7-8 of its issue dated July 28, 1877. An Irish novelist, Catherine Mary MacSorley, commemorated the anniversary by publishing an historical novel for young people about Caxton entitled The Earl-Printer. A Tale of the Time of Caxton (London, 1877).

As a record of the exhibition, a catalogue was edited by George Bullen (1816-94) Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum, entitled Caxton Celebration, 1877. Catalogue of the Loan Collection of Antiquities, Curiosities, and Appliances Connected with the Art of Printing. In its final form this 472 page book listed, sometimes with descriptive bibliographical notes, a total of 4734 items exhibited, making this probably the largest exhibition of rare books, prints, and printing equipment ever held. It encompassed works from the Gutenberg Bible and the Mainz Psalter up to 1877, including about 190 Caxtons, classics illustrating the spread of printing, landmarks of book illustration, examples of music printing, books on papermaking, notable achievements in color printing, examples of historic, unusual or new technologies in printing, as well as printing presses and typesetting and typefounding equipment. Notably, the catalogue contained no images. Presumably it was a sufficient challenge just to publish a non-illustrated bibliographical record of such an enormous exhibition, crediting the numerous lenders to the show.

I first learned about this exhibition when, out of curiosity, I happened to order a copy of the catalogue online, probably in 2010. When I skimmed through the catalogue, the size and extent of the exhibition amazed me. Then I noticed that there seemed to be different versions of the catalogue available, so I began to collect as many different ones as I could. Collecting about and around this exhibition in 2011 and 2012 allowed me to reconstruct some of the history of the exhibition, and the strangely complex publication of this exhibition catalogue. By June 2012 I identified 8 editions or states:

(1) During the early days of the exhibition a small number of preliminary "Rough Proof" copies of the catalogue were available. (This version I have not seen.) Also available for one shilling was a 32-page pamphlet written by William Blades entitled A Guide to the Objects of Chief Interest in the Loan Collection of the Caxton Celebration, Queen's Gate, South Kensington. (This I have not seen.)

(2) A bit later during the exhibition a "Preliminary Issue" with 404pp. and 10 leaves of advertisements was issued in pale blue printed wrappers for sale at 1s. This version, which was called "Preliminary Issue" on both its printed wrapper and title page, listed 4633 entries. In it Class C was entitled "The Comparative Development of the Art of Printing in England and Foreign Countries Illustrated by Specimens of the Holy Scriptures and Liturgies." The number of entries in Class C ended at 1351, leaving a gap of 100 items between the next entry in the catalogue, No. 1451 beginning "Class D, Specimens Noticeable for Rarity or for Beauty and Excellence of Typography." This indicates that the cataloguing of Class C was incomplete at the time the Preliminary Issue was printed.

(3) Later during the exhibition a version with 456pp and 11 leaves of advertisements was issued. My copy of this is bound in original brown cloth, edges untrimmed. It lists 4734 entries. In this version pp. xiv-xviii were reset to allow the addition of several names to various committees. Also the entire Class C was substantially rewritten and expanded, which required resetting numerous pages. In this version Class C is headed "The History of Printing Illustrated by the Printed Bible, 1450-1877, By Henry Stevens." A new gathering  M*was inserted, between gatherings M and N, its pages numbered 176a to 176q, bringing the Bibles catalogued up to No. 1450, and the Liturgies numbered 1450a-1450θ. Since  Henry Stevens's introduction to Class C is dated July 25, 1877 we may presume that this version came out either very late in July or during August. 

(4) Virtually at the end of the exhibition a "Revised Edition" of the catalogue was issued in tan printed wrappers, containing 472 pages and 11 leaves of advertisements at the back. The designation "Revised Edition" appeared only on the upper printed wrapper, and not the title page. This was priced 2s. 6d. My copy of this version bears the inscription of George William Reid, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, who, according to Bullen's Introduction (p. xi), catalogued the various woodcuts, copper-plates and other engravings in Class G of the exhibition. Reid's inscription is dated September 1877. Without the printed wrappers the different versions can be determined by the number of pages. It is evident that many or all gatherings were reprinted for this edition in which the entries were renumbered in one series with continuous pagination.

(5) After the exhibition 157 hand-numbered large-paper copies of the revised edition with 472pp. were available on "superfine toned hand-made paper," edges untrimmed in a special original brown cloth binding for 1 guinea, and

(6) 12 hand-numbered copies were available on extra large, thick hand-made paper at the cost of 5 guineas, likewise in an original brown cloth binding, edges untrimmed. No copies of  (5) or (6) that I have seen had wrappers or ads. (Remarkably, I was able to acquire two of the twelve extra large paper copies issued.)

(7)  After the exhibition some of the copies of the catalogue printed on regular paper were bound in cloth for sale. I have a copy bound in original green cloth, edges trimmed, without ads.

(8) I also have a copy bound in original red cloth, edges trimmed, stamped "PRESENTATION COPY" on the upper cover with an inscription to British Museum Librarian, G. W. Porter, from J. S. Hodson, Honorary Secretary of the Executive Committee dated November 17, 1877. This copy contains 2 leaves of ads at the back. In his introduction to the catalogue George Bullen credits Hodson, who was Secretary of the "Printers' Pension, Almshouse and Orphan Asylum Corporation," for "having originated this celebration," the proceeds of which went to support the Printers charities that Hodson managed.

The most extensive section in the exhibition, and also the most extensively annotated portion of the catalogue, was "Class C, The History of Printing Illustrated by the Printed Bible, 1450-1877" by the American bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller Henry Stevens who lived in London. Stevens ran into conflicts with the organizers of the exhibition, who were concerned that Stevens's extensive exhibition and detailed cataloguing was unduly prominent. They may also have been irritated that some of Stevens's extensive cataloguing was not finished until the middle of show. At the end of his introduction to Class C Stevens, whose extensive bibliography proves that he clearly enjoyed writing, indicated that he would publish a revised edition of his portion of the catalogue after the show. This he duly published as an unillustrated 151 page book in 1878 under the following verbose title:

The Bibles in the Caxton Exhibition MDCCCLXXVII or a bibliographical description of nearly one thousand representative Bibles in various languages chronologically arranged from the first Bible printed by Gutenberg in 1450-1456 to the last Bible printed at the Oxford University Press the 30th June 1877. With an Introduction on the History of Printing as Illustrated by the printed Bible from 1450 to 1877 in which is told for the first time the true history and mystery of the Coverdale Bible of 1535 Together with bibliographical notes and collations of many rare Bibles in various languages and divers versions printed during the last four centuries.  

This book Stevens issued both as an octavo trade edition on ordinary paper and clothbound, and on large paper printed on Whatman hand-made paper. Large paper copies were advertised for 15s in a half-roan binding or in red morocco extra by Bedford for £4.4s.  My copy of the large paper edition is in an original green cloth binding matching the binding of the trade edition, and comes from the library of Henry Frowde of Oxford University Press, who became Publisher of the press in 1880. In his book Stevens explained that his efforts were the culmination of 30 years of work on Bible bibliography. Stevens began his book with an essay entitled "The Flavour." This was largely in response to a review of his Bible exhibition published in The Saturday Review on August 17, 1877—the last of five reviews of the Caxton exhibition published in that journal. Stevens evidently felt so highly his essay that he had it published separately as a pamphlet in printed wrappers.[ This I did learn about until I found a copy in February 2016.]  For the exhibition Stevens borrowed Bibles from sources including the British Museum, the Bodleian, Queen Victoria, Earl Spencer, the Earl of Leicester, Francis Fry, the Signet Library and its librarian, David Laing of Edinburgh, and Henry J. Atkinson of Gunnersbury House in Middlesex.

The Caxton Memorial Bible as a Demonstration of Progress in Book Production Since Caxton's Time

At the instigation of Henry Stevens, Henry Frowde of Oxford University Press undertook the publication of a Bible that would demonstrate the advances in printing technology since its introduction in England by Caxton. By Stevens's account this was a last minute idea of Stevens undertaken by the press only a few days before opening of the exhibition. The Bible was printed on machine presses at Oxford by Oxford University Press, and bound by Oxford University Press in London in an edition of 100 numbered copies, with the printing and binding occurring in only twelve hours on the opening day of the exhibition, June 30, 1877. Printing began at 2:00 AM on June 30, and the first bound copies were delivered at the opening of the exhibition at 2:00 PM on the same day. Copy No.2 was presented to Gladstone when he opened the show, copy No. 1 having been reserved for Her Majesty the Queen. In March 1878 Stevens published a small 30-page book (page size 115 x 85 mm) entitled The History of the Caxton Memorial Bible printed and bound in twelve consecutive hours on June 30, 1877. In this book Stevens told the story of this remarkable achievement in which copies of the 1052-page volume were printed from standing type on paper specially made for the edition by Oxford University Press only a few days before printing. The printed sheets were artificially dried and hand-bound in turkey morocco by 101 binders assigned to the task. Stevens calculated that had type composition been necessary it would have taken "2000 compositors and 200 readers to set up and properly read the Bible in these same twelve hours." (In 1877, about a decade before the invention of the Linotype and Monotype, there was no widely used method of machine composition.) It was agreed that all copies of the Memorial Bible would be presented and none would be sold, and that copy No. 1, and every third number, would be allotted by Oxford University Press, that copy No. 2 and every third number thereafter would be allotted by Henry Stevens, and that every third number thereafter would be allotted by the Delegates of the University Press and the Dons of Oxford.

In October 2014 I was able to purchase a copy of the Caxton Memorial Bible—certainly the highlight of my Caxton Celebration collection. The page size of the volume is 160 x 110 mm. It is bound in full black crushed morocco, raised bands on the spine and tooled in gold on the spine "The Caxton Memorial Bible. Oxford, June 30th 1877." The edges are gilt. On the upper cover is stamped the arms of Oxford University. On the turn-in below the front pastedown endpaper is stamped in gold "Bound at the Oxford University Binding Establishment in London on this 30th day of June 1877." Facing the title page is printed "Wholly printed and bound in twelve hours, on this 30th day of June, 1877, for the Caxton Celebration. Only 100 copies were printed, of which this is No. 20." Beneath this is handwritten "Allotted to William Amhurst Tyssen-Amherst Esq. M. P. by Henry N. Stevens 24 May 1889." Lord Amherst was a distinguished collector of books, manuscripts and Egyptian antiquities. As the allotment to Amherst occurred twelve years after publication it is evident that Stevens held onto at least one copy for more than a decade after the exhibition. Stevens crossed out the printed word "Presented" and replaced it with "alloted." The title page of the Bible states at its head "[In Memoriam Gul. Caxton.] and at its foot "Minion 16mo. June 30, 1877. Cum Privilegio." At the foot of the first page of each of the 32 gatherings that comprise the book is printed "The Oxford Caxton Celebration Edition, 1877." My copy is enclosed in a full black straight-grained morocco pull-off case labeled in the same typeface as is stamped on the spine of the Bible. Inside the slipcase "No 20" is stamped in gold. All the copies were bound identically and presented in this way. 

In comparison with the speed of papermaking, printing and binding in Caxton's time the speed of production of the Caxton Memorial Bible represented an enormous advance, so great that it would be difficult to quantify, and it is evident that the producers of the Caxton Memorial Bible were very proud of these advances. What would have taken perhaps a year or more in Caxton's time for the paper to be made by hand, for the typesetting to be done by hand, for the printing to be done on a handpress, and for the binding to be done by hand, was accomplished in less than a day. Particularly in the 15th century type was a scarce and very expensive commodity so no printer could have kept more than a few formes before they would have to be run through the press, and the type reused to print the next formes, but by the 19th century large printers such as Oxford University Press kept many standard works in standing type even though they could use stereotype plates instead.  If we compare the speed of completion of these hundred Caxton Memorial Bibles with 21st century printing technology it is probable that the papermaking and printing could be done as rapidly or perhaps even faster than what was achieved on June 30, 1877. However, I doubt if in the 21st century 101 hand binders capable of binding the volumes as rapidly and enclosing them in the elaborate pull-off slipcase could be found and organized to do the task without exceptionally elaborate and time-consuming preparation-maybe years of training. To achieve anywhere near this speed of production of such an elaborate binding and slipcase the work would have to be done by machine.

For enclosure with the Bible Stevens had a special version of his History of the Caxton Memorial Bible produced on very thin paper and bound in brown moire silk over very thin boards. In this Stevens repeated the autograph inscription that he wrote in the Bible, and he added Lord Amherst's name to the list of recipients of copies printed at the back of his small book. The edition is so thin that it fits in the slipcase with the Bible. My copy of the regular edition is printed on relatively thick laid paper, and in its binding of blind-stamped and gilt calf over boards is roughly five times as thick as the thin paper version.

The Roles of William Blades and Talbot Baines Reed

The remarkable exhibition of rare books on the history of printing and typography described in the exhibition catalogue for the Caxton Celebration was loaned in its entirety by William Blades, who also catalogued all the Caxtons and other early English printed books in the exhibition. Blades was also a collector of medals relating to the history of printing and hoped to have a medal struck commemorating the 1877 celebration. For the purpose he issued a prospectus with a reproduction of the proposed design; however, there were insufficient subscribers, and the medal is known only from the prospectus, the design from which was reproduced by Henry Morris in his introduction to the 2001 facsimile reprint of Bigmore & Wyman.

The superb exhibition of type specimens in the show was curated by writer, typefounder, historian of type foundries, and son of Sir Charles Reed, Talbot Baines Reed

♦ One of the more unusual Caxton Celebration items I collected is an 8-page 4to pamphlet entitled Caxton Celebration June 1877. A Biographical Notice of William Caxton The First English Printer Reprinted from the "Leisure Hour" for May, 1877 in Phonetic Spelling with a Specimen page of Caxton's Type and Woodcuts. This pamphlet, with an introduction by Isaac Pitman dated May 29, 1877, was issued by Fred. Pitman in London and offered for sale at the price of one penny, presumably at the exhibition. In his lengthy introduction Issac Pitman referred to the Elementary Education Act of 1870, requiring education of children in England and Wales, and took the opportunity to promote phonetic spelling as a way of simplifying British education and improving national literacy. In a footnote he wrote: "The Educational Blue Book for 1875-6 gives the following statistics:- 2,221,745 children were presented for examination. Of this number, 19,349 (or less than one per cent.) reached Standard VI :- and 53,587 (3 1/2 per cent, including the previous number) reached Standard V, which a pupil must pass before he is permited to leave school under 13 years of age."

Other publications issued in connection with the exhibition were a new edition of William Blades's The Biography and Typography of William Caxton England's First Printer (1877; first published 1861), William Caxton, the First English Printer. A Biography by printer and publisher Charles Knight (1877). This was a new edition of a work previously issued in 1844; on its upper printed wrapper the printers stated that it was "Printed and Presented to the Caxton Celebration by William Clowes and Sons." Also published in 1877 was a 47-page pamphlet entitled, Who Was William Caxton? by "R[owland] H [ill] B[lades]", brother of William Blades. This was intended to fill a need for an inexpensive, relatively brief account of Caxton. In March 2016 I came across a reference to still another publication produced for the exhibition: A Short History of the Art of Printing in England by Arthur. C. J. Powell. Issued as a Supplement to the Printers' Register, in commoration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Introduction of Printing into England. London: Joseph M. Powell, "Printers' Register" Office, 1877. This was a well-illustrated 66-page article.  An unusual aspect was the advertisment facing the title page in which the publisher, Joseph M. Powell, Type Broker, and Manufacturer of Printing Materials, offered to supply a "Small Printing Office complete for £115."

There were two elaborate publications associated with the exhibition:

1. A facsimile of Caxton's The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers. A Facsimile Reproduction of the First Book Printed in England by William Caxton in 1477. This facsimile, printed in two-color photolithography, included an introduction by William Blades printed by letterpress. The volume was offered for sale by the London publisher Elliot Stock in 1877 at the price of one guinea bound in a heavy coated paper binding over boards, and blindstamped very effectively to resemble a blind-stamped calf binding of the 15th century.

2. A facsimile limited to 257 signed copies, with woodcuts printed from the "original woodblocks" entitled New Biblia Pauperum Being Thirty-Eight Woodcuts Illustrating the Life, Parables & Miracles of Our Blessed Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, with the Proper Descriptions thereof, extracted from the Translation of the New Testament, by John Wiclif, Sometime Rector of Lutterworth. This was issued from London, "Printed at the Sign of The Grasshopper," by Unwin Brothers, The Gresham Press, 1877. The edition was bound in blind-stamped drab boards, copying a design taken from an early block book in the British Museum, with two brass catches and clasps. The work seems to have been a kind of hodge-podge in that the original woodblocks, which dated sometime between 1470-1540, were purchased by the Unwin brothers, and used to illustrate the facsimile text of John Wycliffe's New Testament of 1525, which was printed in Caxton Type No. 2. At the time it was unknown what work these woodblocks originally illustrated. as they were not "recognized as belonging to any printed book." The publishers intended the facsimile to supply two markets: interest in Caxton's printing stimulated by the 1877 Caxton Celebration, and the Wycliffe quincentenary of 1377, which occurred the same year. 

Thinking about this celebration in 2016, one of the most unusual elements that I found in my web researches, was a parallel Caxton celebratiion exhibition held in Montreal also in 1877, just a few days before the celebration occurred in London. That this parallel exhibition was held may be explained by the fact that Canada was a self-governing entity within the British Empire at the time. A 35-page pamphlet about that exhibition, published by La Bureau de La Revue de Montreal, was entitled Célébration du quatrième anniversaire séculaire de l'établissement de l'imprimerie en Angleterre par Caxton: revue de l'exposition de livres, manuscrits, médailles, etc., tenue sous les auspices de la Société des antiquaires et des numismates de Montréal : discours de MM. Dawson, Chauveau, White et MayThe actual catalogue of the Canadian exhibition, which remarkably included over 2000 items, was entitled Condensed Catalogue of Manuscripts, Books and Engravings on Exhibition at the Caxton Celebration, Held under the Auspices of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal, at the Mechanics' Hall on the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th June 1877, in Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the Introduction of Printing into England. Montreal: Printed at the "Gazette" Printing House, 1877.

The first historical account of the exhibition was written by one of its key organizers, James Shirley Hodson, and published as Chapter X of his History of the Printing Trade Charities (London, 1883). Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing I (1880-84) 124-26. Twyman, Early Lithographed Books (1990) 258. 

(This entry was last revised on 03-25-2016.)

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Morgand & Fatout Issue Perhaps the Earliest Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue Illustrated with Plates Printed in Color 1878

In April 2013 Roland Folter, an expert bibliographer, retired antiquarian bookseller, and noted collector of the history of bibliography and the book trade, suggested to me that the earliest antiquarian bookseller's catalogue illustrated with plates printed in color might be Bulletin Mensuel No. 8, October 1878, issued in Paris by the firm of Damascène Morgand and Charles Fatout. Upon hearing of this I was able to acquire a nicely bound copy of Volume I of the Bulletin (1876-78), containing the first 8 issues describing a total of 4562 priced items continuously numbered, followed by an elaborate index of authors and anonymous works found in the first volume. According to Roland Folter, the lot numbering continued in 9 subsequent volumes of the Bulletin, comprising 59 issues in 10 volumes (1876-1904), describing 46,593 lots on well over 10,000 pages with 91 plates (19 in color) and over 600 text illustrations, making it perhaps the most voluminous antiquarian bookseller's catalogue ever published. (This set was continued as Bulletin - Nouvelle Série, published in 21 individually paginated and individually numbered issues from 1904 to 1920.) 

Issue No. 8 contains 6 finely printed color plates of bookbindings, each with a tissue guard. In the introduction to this volume the publishers stated that they had desired to include facsimiles of bookbindings earlier but found the reproduction quality unsatisfactory until the availability of a new process they call a combination of photogravure and "chromotypographie." This appears to be a combination of photogravure – the modern form of which was invented in 1878 – and chromolithography.

Bulletin Mensuel resembles twentieth century antiquarian catalogues in terms of format and occasional annotations.  Some of the line cuts of title pages are even printed in both red and black. In issue No. 8 the booksellers also included detailed black & white engraved reproductions of medieval miniatures, another feature which may have been unusual for the time.  I find it interesting that the booksellers chose to reproduce bindings in color even though the spectacular bindings reproduced were by no means as expensive as some other books in the catalogue, especially the illuminated manuscripts. Clearly the reproduction quality for attempts at illustrating elaborate images of medieval manuscripts with their wide color range might have been unsatisfactory, or perhaps prohibitively expensive at the time, with many more color impressions required for each plate.

Another unusual element in the catalogue is that the second color plate, illustrating No. 3948, reproduces a miniature bookbinding in its original size. The Grolieresque mosaic binding on a miniature 1828 edition of Horace is priced only 270 F; certainly this is the earliest color reproduction of a miniature bookbinding in an antiquarian booksellers's catalogue. Were miniature books reproduced in their original size in antiquarian booksellers' catalogues prior to this?

Searching for information on Morgand & Fatout, I found the following information on Damascène Morgand in an online issue of the American magazine, The Curio, Vol.1, No. 3, published in November 1887. The article, written by the presumably forgotten journalist Max Maury, was entitled "The Great Booksellers of the World. Damascene Morgand, of Paris." From it I quote:

"A little farther at No. 55 Caen used to present an alluring stock of illuminated manuscripts, incunables, first editions XVII. and XVIII. century bindings, engravings and etchings in their earliest and most perfect states, and of late years, in 1875, I think Damascène Morgand, having bought out the Caen business, began his career of unprecedented success, built upon that solid experience acquired under old Fontaine's careful tuition. In 1882 his partner, Mr. Fatout, died, and the forty-seven year old Norman connoisseur began his rapid strides towards his world-wide reputation. The great bibliophiles placed orders in his hands with a feeling of full security; and in all the great public sales, Damascène Morgand, dignified, cold as steel and as sharp as a Yankee of Yankeeland, came forward as the buyer of the highest-priced lots and of unique examples of books, bindings, and prints. Such collectors as the Baron James de Rothschild, the Count de Lignerolles, Ernest Quentin-Bauchart, Eugène Paillet, Louis Roederer (of Champagne fame), the Baron de La Roche-Lacarelle, etc., took from his hands the most famous jewels of their choice libraries. From such customers a dealer learns more than he teaches, and, in fact, the spirit of the collector possessed Mr. Morgand as deeply as it did his buyers. As a tangible proof of his gigantic work, his firm has published, for the last ten years, monthly bulletins, embellished with costly illustrations fac-similes of frontispieces, reproductions of bindings engraved in colors, and the collection of these bulletins is sought after as the basis of every bibliophile's library of information."

Roland Folter also pointed out to me in an email on May 3, 2013 that 1878 appears to be a watershed year for the introduction of printed color plates in commercial rare book catalogues as, in addition to the Morgand & Fatout catalogue, a few copies of the Sotheby catalogue of the J. T. Payne sale in London on April 10, 1878 were "struck off on thick paper with Eleven facsimile Illustrations in gold and colours. Price 5s.", and a Bachelin-Deflorenne auction catalogue for a sale in Paris in June 1878, listing among other things a Gutenberg Bible, was issued with 5 color plates (2 folding). I have not seen the Bachelin-Deflorenne catalogue, and cannot judge the quality of its color plates, but as it predated the Morgand & Fatout catalogue by 5 months, it is conceivable that Morgand & Fatout decided it was time to introduce color printed images in their catalogue when they saw the color plates in the Bachelin-Deflorenne catalogue.

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A Prayerbook Entirely Woven by the Jacquard Loom 1886 – 1887

During 1886 and 1887 bookseller and publisher, A. Roux, in textile center Lyon, France, issued Livre de Prières tissé d'après les enluminures des manuscrits du XIVe au XVI siecle. It consisted of monochrome sheets of woven silk, designed by R.P. J. Hervier after pages from manuscript books of hours from the 14th to 16th century. The weaving was undertaken by the firm of J. A. Henry. Perhaps 50 or 60 copies were produced.

The pages included elaborate borders, decorative initials, and three miniatures of the Virgin and Child, Crucifixion and Nativity, all produced on the Jacquard loom by J. A. Henry, the designs having been punched into thousands of Jacquard cards. The work was issued with the approval of the Archbishop of Lyon.

The technical virtuosity, and degree of finesse achieved in this production represented a high point in the application of the Jacquard loom to the weaver's art. It is not known how many punched cards it took to produce the book, but estimates are between 200,000 and 500,000 cards to weave 400 woof threads per 2.5 cm. (approximately one square inch), demanding machine movements of not more than a tenth of a millimeter. Fine quality gray and black silk threads were used.

It took two years and close to fifty trials before a copy was successfully completed. Once woven, the fragile sheets of silk were carefully folded in half (the recto of one page on the left and the
verso of the preceding page on the right) and glued over a piece of cardboard that served to give the necessary stiffening to the delicate fabric. 

"The designer’s use of facsimile illustrations of manuscript illumination has been treated by L. Randall (1981). She notes that Hervier (whose identity she was unable to discover) used a composite manuscript facsimile entitled the Imitation de Jésus-Christ published by Gruel and
Engelmann in the late 1870s or early 1880s. The donor portraits that occur in the Lyon imprint on pp. 1 and 4 occur also in the Imitation, plates XXXI-XXXII, and these plates in turn copy a manuscript from Ghent, datable to c. 1425 made for Elizabeth van Munte and Daniel Rym now on the Walters Art Museum (W. 166). Two of the large illustrations, the Nativity and Christ with the Virgin and John the Baptist, were inspired by Italian Renaissance paintings—respectively the Linaiouoli Triptych attributed then to Fra Angelico (the Nativity) and Raphael’s Disputà in the Stanza della Segnatura (cf. Randall, 1981, pp. 655-58). The Crucifixion derives from a painting by Fra Bartholomeo. The celebrated Jean Bourdichon, made popular by the facsimile of the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany published by Engelmann and Graf between 1846 and 1849, influenced much of the border decoration. The title page is indebted to the Grandes Heures du duc de Berry (BnF, MS lat. 919, f. 86), surely also available in facsimile during the period.

"With regard to its illustrative content, the Livre de Prières exemplifies nineteenth-century attitudes toward manuscript illumination. Through editions such as Gruel’s Imitation de Jésus-Christ, devotional publishing sought to teach catechism to children and to promote “good taste” through manuscript illumination. The Imitation de Jésus-Christ appeared in fascicules on the tenth, twentieth, and thirtieth day of each month, not unlike the serial publication of novels. With
Gruel, Geoffreoy Engleman, later joined by Auguste Graf, held a near-exclusive on the production of the gift book, that is, books for the Mass, “livres de raison,” and marriage books, churned out in large editions, but also sometimes written and illuminated entirely by hand by neo-Gothic artists. These facsimiles and the related neo-Gothic manuscripts went a long way toward forming a basis for the re-appreciation of medieval manuscript illumination on the eve of
modern times. The Livre de Prières figures in that history of recovery. In some ways, it is an elegant, though unorthodox, version of the nineteenth-century gift book, entirely in keeping
with the taste of the times (Hindman et al, 2001, esp. pp. 132-143). Comparing the Lyon imprint to gift books, Harthan declared it to be the “final exaltation of the medieval Book of Hours” (Harthan, 1977, p. 174" (http://www.medievalbooksofhours.com/boh_description-pdf/boh_84---livre-de-prieres-tisse.pdf, accessed 12-14-2013).

The original designs for the whole work are held by the Musées des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs de Lyon

Randall, L.M.C. “A Nineteenth-Century ‘Medieval’ Prayerbook Woven in Lyon,” in Art the Ape of Nature. Studies in Honor of H. W. Janson, ed. Moshe Barasch and Lucy Freeman Sandler (1981)  651-668. 

P. Arizzoli-Clementel, La Musée des Tissus de Lyon (1990) 100.

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"Le Journal Illustré" Publishes the First Photo-Interview September 5, 1886

On September 5, 1886 Le Journal Illustré in Paris published on pp. 284-88 "L'Art de vivre cent ans. Trois entretiens avec Monsieur Chevreul." This appeared in Vol. 23, No. 36 of the periodical.  Besides the portrait of Chevreul on the cover, the article included  half-tone reproductions of a series of twelve unposed photographs taken on August 18, 1886 by photographer Paul Nadar of his father, the photographer and aeronaut Félix Nadar, interviewing the chemist and sceptic Michel Eugène Chevreul on Chevreul's 100th birthday. This was the first photographic interview, sometimes called the first media interview. 

In front of the camera, Nadar and Chevreul discussed photography, color theory, Molière and Pasteur, the scientific method, the crazy ideas of balloonists, and – of course – how to live for 100 years. It was a lively and interesting conversation between two legends of the 19th century: one born before the French revolution; the other destined to see the marvels of the airplane and motion pictures.  

In 2012 ABC Australia made a commercial documentary film re-creating the interview in the style of an early motion picture.  

Auer, Paul Nadar. Le premier interview photographique. Chevreul. Félix Nadar. Paul Nadar (1999), included a reduced-size fold-out reproduction of the issue of Le Journal Illustré in which the photo-interview was published so that the images could be viewed side-by-side in sequence.

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Historical Graphic Interpretation of Man's Quest for Knowledge of the Universe 1888

In 1888 astronomer and prolific writer Camille Flammarion published  L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire in Paris.  What remains most notable about this work was a single wood engraved image which it published for the first time, known historically as the Flammarion engraving. This pastiche is one of the most widely studied and reproduced historical interpretations of man's quest for knowledge of the universe.

"The engraving depicts a man, clothed in a long robe and carrying a staff, who kneels down and passes his head, shoulders, and right arm through a gap between the starry sky and the earth, discovering a marvellous realm of circling clouds, fires and suns beyond the heavens. One of the elements of the cosmic machinery bears a strong resemblance to traditional pictorial representations of the "wheel in the middle of a wheel" described in the visions of the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel. One of the most significant features of the landscape is the tree, which some people have interpreted as the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The caption that accompanies the engraving in Flammarion's book reads

"A missionary of the Middle Ages tells that he had found the point where the sky and the Earth touch..."

"In 1957, astronomer Ernst Zinner claimed that the image dated to the German Renaissance, but he was unable to find any version published earlier than 1906. Further investigation, however, revealed that the work was a composite of images characteristic of different historical periods, and that it had been made with a burin, a tool used for wood engraving only since the late 18th century. The image was traced to Flammarion's book by Arthur Beer, an astrophysicist and historian of German science at Cambridge and, independently, by Bruno Weber, the curator of rare books at the Zürich central library.

"Flammarion had been apprenticed at the age of twelve to an engraver in Paris and it is believed that many of the illustrations for his books were engraved from his own drawings, probably under his supervision. Therefore it is plausible that Flammarion himself created the image, though the evidence for this remains circumstantial. Like most other illustrations in Flammarion's books, the engraving carries no attribution. Although sometimes referred to as a forgery or a hoax, Flammarion does not characterize the engraving as a medieval or renaissance woodcut, and the mistaken interpretation of the engraving as an older work did not occur until after Flammarion's death. The decorative border surrounding the engraving is distinctly non-medieval and it was only by cropping it that the confusion about the historical origins of the image became possible. According to Bruno Weber and to astronomer Joseph Ashbrook, the depiction of a spherical heavenly vault separating the earth from an outer realm is similar to the first illustration in Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia of 1544, a book which Flammarion, an ardent bibliophile and book collector, might have owned.

"In Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire, the image refers to the text on the facing page (p. 163), which also clarifies the author's intent in using it as an illustration:

Whether the sky be clear or cloudy, it always seems to us to have the shape of an elliptic arch; far from having the form of a circular arch, it always seems flattened and depressed above our heads, and gradually to become farther removed toward the horizon. Our ancestors imagined that this blue vault was really what the eye would lead them to believe it to be; but, as Voltaire remarks, this is about as reasonable as if a silk-worm took his web for the limits of the universe. The Greek astronomers represented it as formed of a solid crystal substance; and so recently as Copernicus, a large number of astronomers thought it was as solid as plate-glass. The Latin poets placed the divinities of Olympus and the stately mythological court upon this vault, above the planets and the fixed stars. Previous to the knowledge that the earth was moving in space, and that space is everywhere, theologians had installed the Trinity in the empyrean, the glorified body of Jesus, that of the Virgin Mary, the angelic hierarchy, the saints, and all the heavenly host.... A naïve missionary of the Middle Ages even tells us that, in one of his voyages in search of the terrestrial paradise, he reached the horizon where the earth and the heavens met, and that he discovered a certain point where they were not joined together, and where, by stooping his shoulders, he passed under the roof of the heavens...

"The same paragraph had already appeared, without the accompanying engraving, in an earlier edition of the text published under the title of L'atmosphère: description des grands phénomènes de la Nature ("The Atmosphere: Description of the Great Phenomena of Nature," 1872). The correspondence between the text and the illustration is so close that one would appear to be based on the other. Had Flammarion known of the engraving in 1872, it seems unlikely that he would have left it out of that year's edition, which was already heavily illustrated. The more probable conclusion therefore is that Flammarion commissioned the engraving specifically to illustrate this particular text, though this has not been ascertained conclusively (Wikipedia article on Flammarion engraving, accessed 11-29-2012).

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1920 – 1930

The Literature and Culture of Suicide 1927

In 1927 journalist and suicide researcher Hans Rost published one of the more unusual specialized bibliographies: Bibliographie des Selbstmords mit textlichen Einführungen zu Jedem Kapitel.  This bibliography on the literature of suicide considered the subject from many points of view including philosophical, medical, psychological, religious, literary, and artistic, as well as topics like family suicide, mass suicide and euthanasia, from the 15th to 20th centuries. The bibliography listed about 4000 works in thematic chapters, to each of which Rost wrote an introduction. The book included 54 illustrations, which may have represented the first published collection of historical images on suicide. 

Rost's library of suicide literature was acquired by the city library of Augsburg in 1928.  Since 1988 the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Suizidprävention (DGS)(German Association for Suicide Prevention) has presented the Hans Rost Prize for outstanding scientific achievements in suicidology and for outstanding practical solutions toward the prevention of suicide.

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1940 – 1950

The Fitzwilliam Museum Exhibition of Printing: Precursor to "Printing and the Mind of Man" May 6 – May 16, 1940

Detail of cover of catalogue for An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum.  Please click to view entire cover of catalogue.

An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge was planned for May 6 to June 23, 1940, taking the year 1940 as the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention of printing, just as had been done in 1840 for the quatercentenary, in 1740 for the tricentennial, and in 1640 for the bicentennial. Exhibitions of this kind normally require years of advance planning, but from the brief account in Nicolas Barker's Stanley Morison (1972) it appears that the prospectus for this exhibition was sent out only at the beginning of March, 1940:

"At the beginning of March a prospectus was circulated to librarians, members of the Bibliographical Scoiety, the Roxburghe Club, and others.

"Though more than half Europe is at present too tragically absorbed in the future of its civilisation to be able to pay much thought to its past, the five-hundredth anniversary of Gutenberg's invention none the less demands to be recognized. The conditions which make it impractical to hold a worthy exhibition in London are happily absent in Cambridge; and plans for stage here a modest tribute to Gutenberg's memory have developed into a resolution to make good the general deficiency with a major exhibition.

"The theme of the exhibition was then set out; a full representation of every aspect of human thought and action served by Gutenberg's invention; 'wherever civilization has called upon the craft of printing from movable type to promote its ends, there is subject matter for this exhibition'.

"The response for the request for loans was conspicuously prompt and generous. Nearly 100 lenders produced over 600 exhibits. . . " (Barker, op. cit., 376-77).

According to Brooke Crutchley, "The Gutenberg Exhbition at Cambridge, 1940," Matrix 12 (1992) 77-82:

"The decision to celebrate the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention by holding an exhibition in Cambridge in 1940 was largely an act of defiance. The outbreak of war in September 1939 and the swift conquest of Poland were followed by an uneasy quiet in western Europe while armies lined up against each other in preparation for the battle that was to come. Meanwhile the Fitzwilliam Museum had sent its principal treasures to Wales for safe keeping, the windows of King's College chapel were boarded up, civilisation seemed to have been put on ice. An exhibition to show the contribution that printing had made over five hundred years, and would continue to make when the madness was over, might be seen as a challenge to the forces of destruction." 

As a guide and record of the exhibition, an unillustrated catalogue describing 641 items was published by Cambridge University Press and offered for sale for one shilling. On the cover was an emblem symbolizing Gutenberg's type designed by wood engraver Reynolds Stone.

The Foreword to the catalogue read as follows:

"There is no moral to this exhibition. It aims at portraying, as objectively as possible, the uses to which printing from movable type has been put since Gutenberg and his associates invented it five hundred years ago; the spread of knowledge more quickly and accurately than was possible before, the storing of human experience, the providing of entertainment, the simplication of the increasingly complicated business of living. Those books, papers, and other printing have been chosen (so far as the difficulties of the times would permit) which made most effective use of the medium of type; in other words, those which, composed and multiplied, most strongly influenced people and events. Others have been chosen for their illustration of events and trends of particular importance or interest; others again for their intrinsic curiosity as examples of the exploitation of print. All are shewn so far as possible in the original editions in which they were first presented to the world.

"The exhibition has been designed therefore to illustrate the development of man's use of movable type as a tool; its spread from Mainz through the countries of the world, through all the fields of knowledge, through the whole range of man's activities. Running through the story another theme presents itself and draws occasional comment--the development of the actual form of printing. The technical display deals with the old and modern methods fo type-founding and composition, and briefly illustrates the development of type design. That part of the exhibition is education; for the rest, though there is much to learn from it, it does not set out to teach. It is simply an illustration to that proud but unattributed saying: With my twenty-six soldiers of lead I have conquered the world."

Persons involved with organizing the exhibition and writing catalogue entries included writer on typography Beatrice Warde, antiquarian bookseller and writer Percy Muir, typographer John Dreyfus, writer and antiquarian bookseller John Carter, economist and book collector John Maynard Keynes, and scientist, sinologist and historian of science Joseph Needham. According to Sebastian Carter, "Printing & the Mind of Man," Matrix  20 (2000) 172-180, typographer Stanley Morison, typographic advisor to Cambridge University Press, was involved in the planning, but the bulk of the organization of the exhbiition was done by the Assistant University Printer, Brooke Crutchley, helped by John Dreyfus. The largest private lender to the exhibition was stockbroker (later intelligence agent), book collector and writer, Ian Fleming, who had pioneered in collecting influential books, or those which, in the words of Sebastian Carter, had "started something."

Among several innovative aspects of the exhibition was a display of books published in the year 1859, including, among others, Darwin On the Origin of Species, Mill On Liberty, Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

The catalogue did not appear until June 1940, after the exhibition had been closed on May 16, only 10 days after it had opened, because of war. It was reprinted in the following month. In my copy of the second printing the following statement appeared:

"As this catalogue was about to go to press, a sudden change in the war situation made it appear advisable to close the Exhibition when it had been open only ten days. The catalogue was printed off, nevertheless, so that copies might be sent to all who had helped and others be available for sale. The demand proved greater than had been expected, and this reprint was in hand in which a few errors and oversights have been made good."

When I originally wrote this entry for From Cave Paintings to the Internet on October 25, 2011, I had never previously seen a copy of the 1940 exhibition catalogue, in spite of my roughly 50 years experience in the world of books. Until reading the catalogue I was unaware how much this forgotten exhibition held early in World War II had influenced the 1963 exhibition, Printing and the Mind of Man. The overlap in choices between the 1940 and 1963 catalogues is significant, especially as Carter & Muir were heavily involved in both exhibitions held 23 years apart, and some of the same lenders, especially Ian Fleming, contributed notable items to both exhibitions. It would be useful some day to compare the selections of the two exhibitions carefully.  Before doing that I would observe that the organizers of the 1940 exhibition must have been well aware of the significance of Hitler's writings leading up to World War II, as they included the  February 24, 1920 Munich Auszug aus dem Programm der national-sozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei as item 620 in their exhibition, and Hitler's Mein Kampf as item number 623.

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1960 – 1970

William Fetter Issues the First Book on Computer Graphics 1965

Example of image from Computer Graphics in Communication.  Please click to view larger image.

Detail of cover of Computer Graphics in Communication. Please click to see entire image.

Detail of title page of Computer Graphics in Communication. Please click to see entire image.

William Fetter taken when he worked at Boeing.

In 1965 William A. Fetter of The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, issued the first book on computer graphics: Computer Graphics in Communication. This 110-page work with nearly 100 illustrations may be the first monograph illustrated with computer graphics. Fetter had coined the term "computer graphics" in 1960. The book was "Written for the Course Content Development Study in Engineering Graphics Supported by the National Science Foundation September, 1964." As a reflection of the novelty of its topic, the book contained a bibliography of seven references but stated that none were used directly in its development.

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Walter Allner Designs the First Magazine Cover Using Computer Graphics July 1965

Detail of cover of the July 1965 issue of Fortune.  Please click to see entire image.

The color cover of the July 1965 issue of Fortune magazine was the first magazine cover designed using computer graphics, though the editor and designer made not have been aware of that at the time. The cover reproduced a photograph of graphics displayed on a computer screen. Two color filters made the computer image appear in color.  On p. 2 of the issue the magazine explained their cover as follows:

"This cover is the first in Fortune's thirty-five years to have been executed wholly by machine— a PDP-1 computer manufactured by Digital Equipment Corp., and loaned to Fortune by Bolt Beranek & Newman Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The myriad arrows photographed in upward flight across the machine's oscilloscope symbolize the predominant direction of corporate statistics in 1964, while the large, glowing numeral [500] represents the number of companies catalogued in the Directory of the 500 Largest Industrial Corporations. . . ."

On p. 97 editor Duncan Norton-Taylor devoted his monthly column to the cover, writing:

"In the course of events, Fortune's art director, Walter Allner, might have frowned on filling the column at left with an array of abbreviations and figures, for Allner is no man to waste space on uninspired graphics. But these figures are his special brain children. They are the instructions that told a PDP-1 computer how to generate the design on this month's cover. This program was 'written' to Allner's specifications and punched into an eight-channel paper tape by Sanford Libman and John Price, whose interest in art and electronics developed at M.I.T.

"Generating the design on an oscilloscope and photographing required about three hours of computer time and occupied Price, Allner, and Libman until four one morning. Multiple exposure through two filters added color to the electron tube's glow. . . . 

"Walter Allner was born in Dessau, Germany. He studied at the Bauhaus-Dessau under Josef Albers, Vasily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. . . . 

"Allner confesses to certain misgivings about teaching the PDP-1 computer too much about Fortune cover design, but adds, philosophically: 'If the computer puts art directors out of work, I'll at least have had some on-the-job training as a design-machine programer [sic]."

Herzogenrath & Nierhoff-Wielk, Ex Machina—Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. Ex Machina—Early Computer Graphics up to 1978 (2007) 243.

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Lloyd Sumner Issues The First Monograph by a Computer Artist December 1968

Cover of Computer Art and Human Response by Lloyd Sumner.

In 1968 print dealer and book collector Paul B. Victorius of Charlottesville, Virginia published Computer Art and Human Response by computer artist Lloyd Sumner. This oblong 8vo of 96 pages, dedicated "To my good friends the Burroughs B5500 and the Calcomp 565," appears to be the first monograph by a computer artist, and because it explains techniques, it is probably the first book on how to produce computer art, as William Fetter's 1965 book on Computer Graphics in Communication was focused on computer graphics used in engineering.

Sumner's book is extensively illustrated with numerous plotter images output on the Calcomp 565, several of which are reproduced in color, making it one of the earliest books exclusively illustrated with computer graphics. Sumner's book was probably published in December 1968.  The text refers to Sumner's participation in the Cybernetic Serendipity show in London held from August to October 1968, indicating that "over 50,000 people" attended that show, and the introduction to the book by the president of the University of Virginia is dated August 1968. Two presentation copies in my collection are dated December 12 and 13 respectively.

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1970 – 1980

Franke Issues the First Comprehensive Treatise on Computer Graphics with the First History of Computer Art 1971

Cover of Computergraphik-Computerkunst, by H.W. Franke. Please click on image to see larger version of image.

Herbert W. Franke.

In 1971 Austrian scientist, science fiction writer, and computer graphics artist Herbert W. Franke published Computergraphik-Computerkunst in Munich at the press of F. Bruckmann.  Within the same year his book was also translated into English by Gustav Metzger and published by Phaidon in London and New York as Computer Graphics, Computer Art. In many respects Franke's extensively illustrated book was the first comprehensive treatise on computer graphics, representing the state of the art in 1971.  It also contained the first history of computer art in graphics, sculpture, film, music, architecture, theater and dance.

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1980 – 1990

The First Book Written by a Computer Program 1984

Detail from cover of The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed, the first book written by a computer program.  Please click on image to see image of entire cover of book.

In 1984 American writer and programmer William Chamberlain of New York published The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed, a volume of prose and poetry that, except for Chamberlain's introduction, was entirely written by a computer program called RACTER that had been developed by Chamberlain with Thomas Etter. The program was given credit for authorship on the title page which read: The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed. Computer Prose and Poetry by Racter. Illustrations by Joan Hall. Introduction by William Chamberlain. The bright red cover of the paperback stated that this was "The First Book Ever Written by a Computer." It also called it "A Bizarre and Fantastic Journey into the Mind of a Machine." The blurb stated that the book contained:

"• Poetry and limericks

"• Imaginatige Dialogues

"• Aphorisms

"• Interviewss

"• The published short story , "Soft Ions" and more.

"You are about to enter a strange, deranged, and awesome world of images and fantasies– the 'thoughts' of the most advanced prose-creating computer program today."

The program, the name of which was an abbreviation for raconteur, could generate grammatically consistent sentences with the help of a pre-coded grammar template. Although certainly readable in the sense that each sentence displayed a competent grammar, any anxiety that the program could replace human authors would have been put to rest after a single glance at the computer-generated narrative:

"At all events my own essays and dissertations about love and its endless pain and perpetual pleasure will be known and understood by all of you who read this and talk or sing or chant about it to your worried friends or nervous enemies. Love is the question and the subject of this essay. We will commence with a question: does steak love lettuce? This question is implacably hard and inevitably difficult to answer. Here is a question: does an electron love a proton, or does it love a neutron? Here is a question: does a man love a woman or, to be specific and to be precise, does Bill love Diane? The interesting and critical response to this question is: no! He is obsessed and infatuated with her. He is loony and crazy about her. That is not the love of steak and lettuce, of electron and proton and neutron. This dissertation will show that the love of a man and a woman is not the love of steak and lettuce. Love is interesting to me and fascinating to you but it is painful to Bill and Diane. That is love!" 

According to Chamberlain's introduction to the book, RACTER ran on a CP/M machine. It was written in "compiled BASIC on a Z80 micro with 64K of RAM." 

The book was imaginatively published by Warner Books, extensively illustrated with black and white collages combining 19th century imagery with computer graphics by New York artist Joan Hall.

Describing the "author," the book stated on its first preliminary page:

"The Author: Racter (the name is short for raconteur) is the most highly developed artificial writer in the field of prose synthesis today. Fundamentally different from artifical intelligence programming, which tries to replicate human thinking, Racter can write original work without promptings from a human operator. And according to its programmer, 'Once it's running, Racter needs no input from the outside world. It's just cooking by itself.' Racter's work has appeared in OMNI magazine and in 1983 was the subject of a special exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York. Now at work on a first novel, Racter operates on an IMS computer in New York's Greenwich Village, where it shares an apartment with a human computer programmer."

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1990 – 2000

Digital Scriptorium is Founded November 1997

Logo of digital scriptorium page on Bancroft Library website.

Detail of partial screen shot of digital scriptorium website (as of October 2013).  Please click on image to view entire image.

In November 1997 Digital Scriptorium, an image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts, hosted by Columbia University Libraries, was founded. It united scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research.

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2005 – 2010

"Tango with Cows" : A Virtual Exhibition November 18, 2008

Cover of Tango with Cows, Vasily Kamensky.  Please click on image to view larger image.

On November 18, 2008 The Getty Museum opened an exhibition entitled Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1917. On the website of the show you could turn the pages of virtual copies of rare art books exhibited, view English translations, and hear readings of the text in Russian. (I last accessed the website in December 2013).

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2012 – 2016

The 2013 Contender for the World's Smallest Printed Book 2013

Possibly the worlds smallest book: Shiki no Kusabana (Flowers of Seasons).

With pages measuring 0.75 millimeters (0.03 inches), the 22-page micro-book, entitled Shiki no Kusabana (Flowers of Seasons), contains names and monochrome illustrations of Japanese flowers such as the cherry and the plum.

Toppan Printing, who have been producing micro books since 1964, used the same micro-engraving technology employed in the production of bank notes to prevent forgery to produce letters in Shiki no Kusabana just 0.01 mm. wide.

"The book is on display at Toppan's Printing Museum in Tokyo, and is on sale, together with a magnifying glass and a larger copy, for 29,400 yen (£205). Toppan said it would be applying to Guinness World Records to claim the title of world's smallest book, presently held by a 0.9 mm, 30-page Russian volume called Chameleon, created by Siberian craftsman Anatoliy Konenko in 1996." (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9927200/Is-this-the-worlds-smallest-book.html, accessed 05-01-2013).

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Indexing and Sharing 2.6 Million Images from eBooks in the Internet Archive August 29, 2014

On August 29, 2014 the Internet Archive announced that data mining and visualization expert Kalev Leetaru, Yahoo Fellow at Georgetown University, extracted over 14 million images from two million Internet Archive public domain eBooks spanning over 500 years of content. Of the 14 million images, 2.6 million were uploaded to Flickr, the image-sharing site owned by Yahoo, with a plan to upload more in the near future. 

Also on August 29, 2014 BBC.com carried a story entitled "Millions of historic images posted to Flickr," by Leo Kelion, Technology desk editor, from which I quote:

"Mr Leetaru said digitisation projects had so far focused on words and ignored pictures.

" 'For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works,' he told the BBC.

"They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that. . . .

"To achieve his goal, Mr Leetaru wrote his own software to work around the way the books had originally been digitised.

"The Internet Archive had used an optical character recognition (OCR) program to analyse each of its 600 million scanned pages in order to convert the image of each word into searchable text.

"As part of the process, the software recognised which parts of a page were pictures in order to discard them.

"Mr Leetaru's code used this information to go back to the original scans, extract the regions the OCR program had ignored, and then save each one as a separate file in the Jpeg picture format.

"The software also copied the caption for each image and the text from the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it in the book.

"Each Jpeg and its associated text was then posted to a new Flickr page, allowing the public to hunt through the vast catalogue using the site's search tool. . . ."

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