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

1500 to 1550 Timeline


Early Printing in Hebrew 1500

Fewer than 150 editions of Hebrew incunabula (15th century books) were produced— less than half a percent of the total production of printed books during the 15th century.

By the end of the 20th century only about 2000 copies of all these editions combined were preserved in institutional libraries. The editions were printed in Italy, Spain and Portugal, and one edition was published in the Ottoman Empire. Many of these editions are very rare, with one-third of them known in only one, two or three copies.

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Origins of the Pencil Circa 1500 – 1565

 Pencil 'lead' has never actually contained the metal; its name arrose from a visual similarity between the two substances. (View Larger)

Sometime between 1500 and 1565 an "enormous" deposit of very pure and solid graphite was discovered near Borrowdale parish, Cumbria, England. The substance appeared to be a form of lead, and consequently it was called plumbago, the Latin word for lead ore. The material could easily be sawn into sticks; the locals found that it was very useful for "marking sheep."

The Cumbria deposit was the only large scale deposit of graphite ever found in this solid form, and until the end of the 18th century this deposit remained the only source of graphite for pencils, allowing England to retain a monopoly on solid graphite used for pencils until about 1860. 

Other aspects of the early history of the pencil remain uncertain. Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti are believed to have created the first carpentry pencil. They did this by hollowing out a stick of juniper wood. "Shortly thereafter, a superior technique was discovered: two wooden halves were carved, a graphite stick inserted, and the two halves then glued together—essentially the same method in use to this day. The black core of pencils is still referred to as 'lead,' even though it never contained the element lead."

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Richard Pyson Issues the First English Cookbook, Known from a Single Surviving Copy 1500

A recipe for Custarde taken from the Boke of Kokery, c. 1440.

In 1500 printer Richard Pyson, a native of France and eventually a naturalized Englishman, issued from "without" Temple Bar, London, a book entitled This is the boke of Cokery. The earliest cookbook printed in the English language, the work is known from a single surviving copy in the library of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, England.

"In his Boke of Cokery, Pynson not only gave his readers a variety of recipes to choose from, heading this section 'The Calender of Cokery,' but set out details of as many historical royal feasts as he could muster. Whether he carried out the necessary research himself, or, as seems more likely, used the services of some unknown expert in such affairs, remains a mystery, but he undoubtedly made good use of an early manuscript of recipes now at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. Due to his efforts we known that 'The Feast of King Harry the Fourth to the Spenawdes and Frenchmen when they had jousted in Smythe Felde,' was composed of three courses of exotic game and meats, a typical list reading:

'Creme of Almondes; larks, stewed potage; venyson, partryche rost; quayle, egryt; rabettes, plovers, pomerynges; and a leache of brauwne wyth batters' "

(Quayle, Old Cook Books. An Illustrated History [1978] 24-25).

♦ The website of the British Library describes a manuscript written around 1440 entitled A Boke of Kokery, (accessed 06-07-2009).

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The Transition from Latin to the Vernacular in the 16th Century Circa 1500 – 1600

"The well defined traditional groups of readers knew Latin, and many read it with ease and better than their own mother tongue. Books in the vernacular languages were for 'every man, as well rude as learned,' and the student of literacy and literary taste must be as much concerned with the 'rude' as with the learned. Latin, the language of the educated, was the international language throughout the Middle Ages; this fact is reflected by the book production. Slightly more than three-fourths of surviving incunables are in Latin, the rest in different verancular languages. Throughout the XVIth century the percentage of books in the verancular increased, caused in part by the mounting concern of authors, printers and publishers with the 'rude' (men, women and children who were able or willing to read books in their own tongue, but not in Latin). It is also true that the importance of Latin as the language of communication among the learned declined, in spite of the revival of learning and increased concern with the classics and their style. Already during the first half of the XVIth century books in Latin and those in the vernacular languages were much more evenly distributed, and by the end of the XVIth century the latter accounted probably for more than half of the total production. Latin had lost its international character except among the clergy (of the Catholic Church), a coterie of Neo-Latin writers, and limited groups of scholars and professionals. National languages had won the battle. The favorable reception of books in the mother tongue was only one of several causes. Political and religious ferment of this period involved an ever increasing number of persons. In order to reach the largest possible number, the leaders and the propagandists turned more and more to the vernacular. A third factor was the changing attitude of the educated towards their own native language" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling, Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 132). 

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The Growth of Literacy from 1100 to 1500 Circa 1500

"it was a commonplace of medieval schoolroom practice that legere (meaning 'reading' in the sense of proncouncing the text correctly) preceded intellegere (meaning 'understanding' the text through grammar and vocabulary). Children might learn 'reading' at home from their parents using a primer, but they could only achieve 'understanding' in a grammar school– and these schools were restricted to boys. Because women got no schooling in grammar (which meant Latin), they missed out on learning to write as well, since writing was taught by copying out the alphabet and Latin vocabulary. Even though signatures (instead of seals) were increasingly being required from women as men to authenticate legal documents, the numbers of women who could write in 1500 may have been as low as 1 percent of the population.

"Inability to write contrasts with the large numbers who might have been able to read, at least in the restricted medieval sense of legere. Derek Brewer estimates that in England 'probably more than half the population could read, though not necessarily also write, by 1500.' . . . This estimate depends on the number who might have been instructed–in the home rather than at school–in the basics of the reading primer. Certainly by 1500, and probably as early as 1200, writing had become familiar to the whole medieval population: as noted above, 'everyone knew someone who could read.". . . Book-learning had been integrated into the life of the male clerical elite of monks and priests by the beginning of our period in 1100. The achievement of the years 1100 to 1500 was to extend the book-learning from monasteries and churches into the domestic sphere of the family. The reading primer, which reinforced the link between religion and learning as strongly as the clergy did, had the potential to make everyone a literate and a book-owner. Shortly after 1500, booksellers' catalogues were selling primers, described as 'abcs's', for a penny each. These were printed booklets, but their form was the same as it had been for centuries" (Clanchy, "Parchment and Paper: Manuscript Culture 1100-1500," Eliot & Rose (eds) A Companion to the History of the Book [2007] 205).

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Leonardo's Lost Painting, "Salvator Mundi", Discovered Circa 1500

On July 10, 2011 artdaily.org reported that:

"A lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci has been identified in an American collection and will be exhibited for the first time this November. Titled Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) and dating around 1500, the newly discovered masterpiece depicts a half-length figure of Christ facing frontally, holding a crystal orb in his left hand as he raises his right in blessing. One of some 15 surviving Leonardo oil paintings, the work will be included in 'Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan,' to be held at the National Gallery in London from November 9, 2011 until February 5, 2012. The last time a Leonardo painting was discovered was in 1909, when the Benois Madonna, now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, came to light.


"Leonardo's painting of the Salvator Mundi was long known to have existed, but was presumed to have been destroyed. The composition was documented in two preparatory drawings by Leonardo and more than 20 painted copies by students and followers of the artist, as well as a meticulous 1650 etching made after the original painting by the Bohemian artist Wenceslaus Hollar.


"The recently rediscovered painting was first recorded in the art collection of King Charles I of England in 1649. It was sold after his death, returned to the Crown upon the accession of Charles II, and later passed to the collection of the Duke of Buckingham, whose son put it at auction in 1763 following the sale of Buckingham House (now Palace) to the King. All trace of the work was then lost until 1900, when the picture was acquired by Sir Frederick Cook, but by then the painting had been damaged, disfigured by overpaint, and its authorship by Leonardo forgotten. Cook's descendants sold the painting at auction in 1958, when it brought 45 pounds Sterling. A photograph taken before 1912 records its compromised appearance at that time. This photograph has recently been circulated in the media, as has another photo [with Christ in a red tunic], incorrectly identified as the (recently rediscovered) work. In 2005, the painting was acquired from an American estate and brought to a New York art historian and private dealer named Robert Simon for study. The Salvator Mundi is privately owned and not currently for sale.


"After an extensive conservation treatment, the painting was examined by a series of international scholars. An unequivocal consensus was reached that the Salvator Mundi was the original by Leonardo da Vinci. Opinions vary slightly in the matter of dating, with some assigning the work to the late 1490's, and others placing it after 1500.

"Scholars were convinced of Leonardo's authorship due to the painting's adherence in style to the artist's known paintings; the quality of execution; the relationship of the painting to the two preparatory drawings; its correspondence to Wenceslaus Hollar's etching; its superiority to the numerous versions of the known composition; and the presence of pentimenti, or changes by the artist not found in copies" (http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=48949, accessed 07-10-2011).

On March 4, 2014 AFAnews.com reported on the sale of the painting:

"Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi," which was discovered by American art dealer Alexander Parish at an estate sale in the mid-2000s, was sold to an unidentified collector for between $75 milllion and $80 million in May 2013. The details of the sale, which was organized by Sotheby's, remained confidential until this week.

" 'Salvator Mundi,' a half-length protrait of Christ holding a crystal orb in one hand, was created around 1500. Since 1900, the heavily over-painted canvas was attributed to Boltraffio, an artist who worked in da Vinci's studio. It wasn't until Paris acquired the work and it underwent  extensive cleaning and research that it was deemed an original da Vinci formerly owned by King Charles I of England. Prior to last year's sale, Paris and two other art dealers shared ownership of the work.

"In 2012, after raising tens of millions of dollars, the Dallas Museum of Art attempted to buy 'Salvator Mundi.' Museum officials made a formal offer to Paris and the painting's other owners but were rebuffed after some discussion."

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A Census of Print Runs for Fifteenth-Century Books 1500

In March 2013 A Census of Print Runs for Fifteenth-Century Books by Eric Marshall White, Curator of Special Collections at the Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, came to my attention. White's research, published in the form of a database, and prefaced by a scholarly introduction which documented prior work on the topic, was published on the website of the Consortium of European Research Libraries, www.cerl.org. From White's introduction I quote a few representative selections. White's footnotes, not included here, will be found in the PDF downloadable from the website:

"Many historians seeking to measure the impact of the ‘printing revolution’ in fifteenth century Europe have taken a quantitiative approach, multiplying the total of all editions by the number of copies in a typical edition. However, whereas the Incunable Short Title Catalog (ISTC) lists more than 28,000 fifteenth-century editions that are represented by surviving specimens, the number of lost editions will always remain indeterminate. The second factor in the equation – the typical or ‘average’ fifteenth-century print run – is just as indeterminate as the first, if not more so. Inevitably, the ‘editions × copies’ formula has produced estimates of fifteenth-century press production that range anywhere from eight million to more than twenty million pieces of reading material. Such irreconcilable results (in which the margin for error may be larger than the answer itself) only serve to demonstrate that any effort to arrive at a meaningful quantification of fifteenth-century press production will require a much more systematic analysis of the available data on print runs. The present study, a census of print runs for fifteenth-century books, takes a step in that direction by asking a much more basic question: what is the available data?"

"Historically, as several scholars have conceded, our knowledge of early print runs has been lamentably poor. However, this is not because data does not exist – the print runs of fifteenth-century books currently number more than 250 editions – but because the data has remained so unavailingly scattered throughout a vast literature dedicated to other questions. Consequently, even well-informed specialists have been able to call forth only a few familiar examples, such as the 37 fairly uniform print runs publicized in 1472 by Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz at Rome,6 the seventeen print runs (including a spurious Breviarium) canonized in Konrad Haebler’s essential Handbuch der Inkunabelkunde, 7 or the 33 print runs recorded in the Diario of the Florentine press at San Jacopo di Ripoli (1476-1484). In 1998, however, the first truly extensive catalogue of fifteenth-century print runs, moving beyond the usual suspects, was compiled by Uwe Neddermeyer. Unfortunately, his table of “bekannte Auflagenhöhen” (known print runs) for the fifteenth century actually includes an undifferentiated mix of about 130 true print runs as well asseveral dozen inconclusive, speculative, or spurious entries. Therefore, because Neddermeyer’s list is not accompanied by the original documentation, one has to perform considerable research simply to verify which fraction of his data is truly useful. In contrast, each of the 250+ print runs listed in the present CERL-based census has been included on the basis of contemporary documentation. It is hoped that in the near future we will be able to provide transcriptions of these primary sources and citations of secondary literature for virtually all of the census entries."

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Avvisi: Hand-Written Newsletters Conveying Political, Military and Economic News 1500 – 1700

Before the development of the first regularly issued printed newspapers in the mid-17th century, from about 1500 to 1700, hand-written newsletters, known in Europe by various names such as avvisi, reporti, gazzette, ragguagli, nouvelles, advis, corantos, courantes, zeitungen, were the fastest and most efficient means by which military and political news could be circulated. From the middle of the 16th century newsletter writers in Italy especially, called menanti, reportisti, or gazzettieri, set up news services, the regularity of which may have been dictated by the postal service network in their region.  By this time postal services in various forms had developed over all of Europe. 

Used to convey political, military and economic news quickly, avvisi first developed in Italy, especially in Rome and Venice, generated by the political intrigues and debates which were a feature of Italian courts at the time. and the desire of each court to know the activities of opposing and even allied courts.  Courts

"were perennially precoccupied with projecting a specific image of their own activities and equally, were comitted to penetrating the political activities and secrets of other courts. Printed gazettes, however, first developed as reports political activities involving the German states and the Flemish area, even though for a long time there was a link between these and the earlier, hand-written, manuscript Italian forms.

"The avvisi produced in Rome in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century are very interesting for many reasons, in particular because they offered the rest of Europe a fairly well-developed, evolved model. . . . Perhaps, indeed, the sixteen-century roots of the avvisi lie in Venice rather than in Rome, but by the middle of the century they were well established in both cities. The news arrived, was gathered, 'packaged' and broadcast.

"It is not difficult to understand why these two cities, in particular, should have played a central role in the development of a 'news service'. The words of Vittorio Siri, explaining his reasons for choosing the place where he would work as a contemporary historian, offer one explanation. He says he needed 'a city like that which Plutarch sought for a historian, that is, where there was a great and powerful court, full of ambassadors and minsters', where 'more than in any other city in the world one could see a multitude of personages and soldiers who had been ambassadors at all the courts of Europe and where civil questions were managed by nobles, where people practiced who possessed refined judicial abilities and were knowledgeable about the affairs of princes. Sir was referring to Venice, bu the capital of the Roman Catholic church was no different. Indeed, only a few years earlier Maiolino Bisaccioni, one of the many adventurous historian-gazsetteers of the period, had declared 'Rome, as you know [is] the place where all the news in the world is found" ( Infelise, "Roman Avvisi: Information and Politics in the Seventeenth century" IN: Signorotto & Visceglia (eds) Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492-1700 [2002] 212-213).

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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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"Paper accounts for as much as fifty percent of the cost of a Renaissance-era book" Circa 1500

"Paper accounts for as much as fifty percent of the cost of a Renaissance-era book, and it is consumed in vast quantities: three reams, or 1500 sheets, per day per press. Smooth paper costs five times as much as paper of inferior quality and over time the price fluctuates wildly; from the beginning of the sixteenth century demand grows so much that competition becomes more intense and manufacturers are forced to lower their prices. Printers need to go into debt in order to buy paper and so it is farly common for papermakers to become creditors, advancing a ream (500 sheets) at a time until the printing is finished, and taking control of the printing house when things go badly. Indeed, it is not infrequent for suppliers of 'white paper,' who control the raw material, to start trading in 'black paper' (printed paper), as in the case of Paganini, publishers of the first Koran" (Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 26). 

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Aldus's "Rules of the Modern Academy" Known From a Single Surviving Copy Circa 1500

About 1500 Humanist printer Aldus Manutius described on a single printed sheet preserved in the Vatican Library (Stamp. Barb. AAAIV 13) the Rules of the Modern Academy, indicating that his publishing house was also a center of learning:

“He calls for those concerned with preparing and correcting editions of the Greek classics in his shop in Venice (many of whom were émigrés from Greece or Crete) to speak only classical Greek. Those who fail to do so must pay fines, and when these have sufficiently accumulated, they are to be used to pay for a ’symposium’—a lavish common meal (the rule states that it must be better than the food given printers, which was legendarily meager.) The Renaissance idea of the publishing house as a center of learning emerges vividly” (Anthony Grafton, "The Vatican and its Library," Grafton (ed.) Rome Reborn [1993] 15, plate 11).

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By 1500 Five Different Kinds of Music Notation Were Cut into Type Circa 1500

"By the end of the fifteenth century five different kinds of music notation had been cut into type. So far as we know, they first appeared in the books listed below:

"1. Gothic plainchant

[ca. 1473] Graduale, [Germany?].

"2. Roman plainchant

1476 Missale Romanum, Rome, Ulrich Han.

"3. Ambrosian plainchant

1482 Missale Ambrosianum, Milan, Christoph Valdarfer.

"4. White mensural notation

1480 Niger, Grammatica, Venice,Theodor Franck of Würzburg for Johann Santritter.

"5. Black mensural notation

[1486] Graduale, [Basel, Michael Wenssler and Jacob de Kilchen].

"A sixth notation, tablature, would be added by Octaviano Petrucci in the first decade of the sixteenth century" (Duggan, Italian Music Incunabula. Printers and Type [1992] 14).

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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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The Number of Early Printed Editions Which Survived Versus the Number of Surviving Medieval Manuscripts December 1500

Since incunabula are books printed during the second half of the 15th century, and the Middle Ages spanned roughly 1000 years from the death of Boethius in 524 or 525 CE to the end of the 15th century, it significant that in 2009 German libraries held roughly twice as many printed incunabula produced during the last 50 years of the Middle Ages as they held medieval manuscripts printed during the entire 1000 year span of the Middle Ages. 

These facts confirm the enormous increase in information production stimulated by the increased speed of output and cost reductions caused by the introduction of printing from movable type, as compared to the distribution of information by manuscript copying. 

". . . many more incunabula have survived from the second half of the 15th century than manuscripts from the entire Middle Ages. Of circa 28,000 fifteenth-century editions known today (the number of publications printed is bound to have been much larger), German collections preserve a total of 135,000 copies. As a result of two decades of work on the 'Inkunabelcensus Deutschland', these are now recorded in the London database of the 'Incunabula Short Title Catalogue' (ISTC). By contrast, the number of medieval manuscripts in German libraries is estimated circa 60,000. Holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at Munich display a similar relationship: about 20,000 copies of 9,700 fifteenth-century editions are kept alongside circa 10,500 medieval Latin and 1,800 German manuscripts - roughly a sixth of the total German holdings" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufren lerneten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] 15).

(This entry was last revised on March 23, 2014.)

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Pope Alexander VI Confirms & Expands Censorship 1501

 Pope Alexander VI issued a bull granting cesorial powers over book printing to Archbishops and local authorities serving under them. (View Larger)

In 1501 highly controversial Pope Alexander VI (Roderic Llançol, later Roderic de Borja i Borja, Italian: Rodrigo Borgia) published his bull, Inter Multiplices. In this bull Alexander confirmed that an ecclesiastical imprimatur was necessary before print publication would be allowed. Archbishops, especially those of Cologne, Magdeburg, Trier, and Mainz were to prohibit, under pain of excommunication (latae sententiae), the printing of books in their provinces without their imprimatur, which was to be granted gratis. Secondly, the censorial powers of the Archbishops could be delegated to local authorities. Thirdly, the scope of the censorship was confined to questions of what is orthodoxae fidei contrarium; questions of public or private morality were apparently not included. The jurisdiction extended over corporations, universities and colleges. If necessary the civil powers could be invoked, and in order to motivate the local authorities, they were to receive half of the monetary penalties collected.  

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The Aldine Virgil: the First Book Completely Printed in Italic Type and the First of Aldus's Pocket Editions of the Classics, Model for the Portable Printed Book Format April 1501

In April 1501 Venetian scholar printer Aldus Manutius issued an edition of the poems of Virgil (Vergil) in Italic type designed by the punchcutter Francesco Griffo, also known as Francesco da Bologna. A very skilled craftsman, Griffo was also a "tumultuous character" who ended his life in the hangman's noose for murdering his son-in-law. This was the first book completely printed in Italic type, an adaptation of humanist script, possibly Aldus's own handwriting. Facing the first page of Virgil's text, Aldus included a poem praising the skill of Griffo who designed the new type. In addition to its elegant design, Italic type had the advantage of a higher character count, allowing more information to be printed legibly in less space than Roman or Gothic type.

Aldus’s edition of Virgil was also the first of a series of volumes that he issued in the pocket, or octavo format. This smaller format had previously been used for editions of devotional texts, but Aldus was the first to use the smaller format to make non-devotional literature available in the more portable format, and at lower cost. Davies pointed out that a signifcant reason for Aldus's introduction of the octavo format was the collapse of the credit market in Venice in 1500 caused by "Venetian defeats and Turkish advances," which caused many business failures, and would have motivated Aldus to publish books that could be sold at lower cost.

"The innovation lay not in the small format, often used by printers for devotional texts, but in applying it to a class of literature hitherto issued in large and imposing folios or quartos. It is also certain that the small-format manuscripts in Bernardo Bembo's library included a good number written by the leading Paduan scribe, Bartolomeo Sanvito, whose hand seems to be the best and closest model for the Aldine italic.

"This famous type was a sympathetic rendering by Francesco Griffo of the best humanist cursive script of the day, a wholly new departure in Latin typography but parallel to Aldus's adaptation of Greek cursive hands for his earlier work. If italic has today become practically confined to words that convention dictates be 'italicized', we must also recognize that it appeared to contemporaries as a revelation of elegance -- to Erasmus, 'the neatest types in the world'. The narrow set of the type is also very economical of paper, an important consideration in those days. The very first appearance is in a few words set in the woodcut that adorns the folio St Catherine . . . , followed by limited use in the preface to the second (quarto) edition of Aldus's Latin grammar of February 1501. Italic reached its manifest destiny as the text type of the book which began Aldus's great series of octavo classics, the Virgil of April 1501" (Martin Davies, Aldus Manutius: Printer and Publisher of Renaissance Venice [1999] 42).

Aldus' pocket editions of Virgil were a commercial success:

".. . . By the time of the dedication to Bembo in 1514, Aldus had already exhausted two editions of the works of Virgil (which we can estimate to have been about 3,000 for each run). By contrast, nearly all the incunable editions of his Greek folios were still available in the third advertisement of 1513, some at reduced prices. Not that the octavos were cheap—Isabella d'Este, the learned Marchioness of Mantua (and another former pupil of Battista Guarino), sent back some vellum copies she had ordered when she was told by her courtiers that they were worth no more than half the price Aldus's partners were asking. These may have been special illuminated copies costing five ducats or more—some exquisite vellum editions that she did buy from Aldus survive in the British Library—but even the plain paper copies, according to Aldus's annotation of the 1503 advertisement, went for a substantial quarter of a ducat" (Davies, op. cit., 46).

"Aldus's great innovation was his production of the libelli portatiles, or 'portable little books,' a phenomenon that is analogous to the paperback revolution of the past half century. He called his creation (later misnamed pocketbooks) the enchiridion, or 'handbook,' meaning a book that could be held comfortably in the hand. He thought of them as noble instruments (he referred to pseudo-Virgilian pornographic verse as 'unworthy of the enchiridion') and intended the series to be composed only of good literature: the 'classics' in Greek, Latin, and, very selectively in Italian. His tripartite achievement consisted simultaneously of (1) an edited text issued without commentary (2) printed in a novel typeface that mimicked chancery script, the humanist's cursive handwriting, (3) produced in a light, small book of elongated format that would sit comforably in the hand.

"In my view, the portable octavo is the quintessential Aldine, and is probably what first comes to mind when the books of the Press are mentioned even if thereafter one quickly thinks of the imposing Greek folios from the incunabular period. The portable library set new goals for Aldus's contemporaries, and publishers have been inspired to honor Aldus's revolution by imitating his achevement ever since" (H. George Fletcher, In Praise of Aldus Manutius. A Quincentenary Exhibition [1995] 50).

 In April 2014 the John Rylands Library, in their blog Manutius in Manchester, featured a copy of the 1501 Aldine Virgil printed on vellum, and illuminated for the Pisani family of Venice. Also in April 2014, a larger image of the illuminated page of the Pisani Virgil from the Rylands Library was available from the Wikipedia at this link

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Michelangelo Creates his Statue of David September 13, 1501 – September 8, 1504

 Michelangelo's marble 'David,' symbol of the Florentine Renaissance, depicts the biblical hero holding rock and sling, his right hand intentionally enlarged to show the power of God acting through him. (View Larger)

At the age of 26 Italian painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (Michelangelo) sculpted David in Florence from a block of Carrara marble. 

This masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture 5.17 meters (17 feet) high, on which Michelangelo labored for three years from September 13, 1501 to September 8, 1504, depicts the Biblical king David either after he made the decision to fight Goliath, but before the battle took place, or after the battle when he contemplated his victory.

"It came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici themselves. This interpretation was also encouraged by the original setting of the sculpture outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence" (Wikipedia article on David (Michelangelo) accessed 12-23-2009.

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Filed under: Art / Art Trade

Ambrosio Calepino Issues the First Modern Dictionary & the Most Successful & Widely Reprinted Reference Work of the Early Modern Period 1502

In 1502 Italian lexicographer Ambrosio Calepino (or Calepio) issued  Ambrosii Calepini bergomatis eremitani dictionarium from Reggio Emilia, Italy at the press of Dionysio Bertochi. This work became the most successful and most widely reprinted reference book of the early modern period, undergoing an astonishing 166 editions in the sixteenth century, followed by 32 in the seventeenth and 13 in the eighteenth.

Calepino, an Augustinian monk from Bergamo,

“devoted some thirty years to composing his dictionary, which focused on classical Latin usage and on encyclopedic information and literary examples from ancient culture. In the years after his death many, mostly anonymous editors made modifications, corrections, and especially additions, often borrowing from other dictionaries . . . In the early modern period the Calepino not only became the most widely recognized brand of dictionary, still active in the early twentieth century, but it also came to stand for the entire dictionary genre . . . At the same time the success of the Calepino solidified the association of the title ‘dictionarium’ with the dictionary genre—only a few major dictionaries were called by another title” (Anne M. Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age [2010] 122).

The first edition of the Dictionarium was in Latin with a few Greek equivalents, but in 1545 editions began to be published with vernacular equivalents, and later editions boasted up to eleven languages.

“In the early modern period the Calepino not only became the most widely recognized brand of dictionary, still active in the early twentieth century, but it also came to stand for the entire dictionary genre” (Blair, 122).

The Dictionarium’s enormous success as a reference work meant that copies were “read to death”; also, the fact that the work underwent numerous revisions during its long publishing history suggests that the earlier editions might not have been retained in scholarly libraries. In January 2013 the first edition of Calepino's Dictionarium was quite rare: OCLC and the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue cited 11 copies in libraries, only one of which (the Indiana State University copy) was in the United States. 

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Aldus Manutius Publishes the Editiones Principes of Thucydides, Sophocles, and Herodotus 1502

1502 was a year of remarkable scholarship and publishing productivity for the scholar printer Aldus Manutius. On May 14 he completed the first edition of Thucydides in Greek (editio princeps), and only a few months later, in September, he completed the first edition of Herodotus in Greek. Between the two, in the month of August, he was able to issue the editio princeps of Sophocles, his first edition of a Greek text in his octavo portable book format. The following year Aldus also published an edition of the Scholia to Thucydides, resulting from his editorial work on that text.

This entry will briefly discuss Aldus's achievements in publishing the editiones principes of the two leading ancient Greek historians. Though Aldus frequently employed editors to prepare his texts, he was apparently interested enough in both Thucydides and Herodotus to edit their texts himself. From a sentence in the dedicatory epistle of his edition of Thucydides we learn that during that period of his life, at least, he insisted on having at least three manuscripts of an author before printing:

"eram daturus . . .τα τε ΧενοΦϖντος, Πλνθωνος, . . .sed quia non habebam minum tria exemplaria, distulimus in aliud tempus."

In his paper, "The Aldine Scholia to Thucydides," Classical Quarterly 30, No. 3/4 (July-October 1936) 146-50, from which Aldus's statement is quoted, J. Enoch Powell reconstructed the texts that Aldus consulted, identifying in theory the three codices that Aldus probably used, and elements of their subsequent history. He also indicated (on p. 147) that "nothing seems to be known about the ultimate fate of Aldus' private library: all that I can find is that according to his will his property of every kind was divided equally between his three sons; the family became extinct in 1601." In April 2014 a listing of the extant exemplars of Thucydides were available from Roger Pearse's tertullian.org at this link. It was unclear how those correlated with the manuscripts mentioned in Powell's paper.

Similarly in his dedication to his editio princeps of Herodotus, Aldus claimed that he corrected the text from multiple exemplars. While Lorenzo Valla had used manuscripts of Herodotus from Rome for his Latin translation of Herodotus, Aldus obtained manuscripts from Florence, which contained variant readings. In 1993 Brigitte Mondrain discovered Aldus's manuscript for the editio princeps of Herodotus in a library in Nuremberg: Mondrain, "Un nouveau manuscrit d’Hérodote: le modèle de l’impression aldine," Scriptorium 49 (1995) 263-273. (When I wrote this entry in April 2014 I had not had the opportunity to read Mondrain's paper, which I assumed would fill in signficant details.)

Aldus designed his editions of Thucydides and Herodotus as a matching set. The editions share the same paper stock, all types, and the number of lines per page. 

The Aldine Press: Catalogue of the Ahmanson-Murphy Collection of Books by or Relating to the Press in the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles (2001) Nos. 57 (Thucydides) and 62 (Herodotus).

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Domenico Nani Mirabelli Issues One of the First General Reference Works Produced for the Printed Book Market 1503

In 1503 Domenico Nani Mirabelli (Dominic Nannius Mirabellius, Domenicus Nannus) issued Polyanthea opus suavissimis floribus exornatum . . .  from Savona, Italy at the press of Francesco Silva. This encyclopedic work of roughly 680 pages was one of the first general reference works produced for the printed book market. It was also one of the most popular reference works printed in the sixteenth century.

Nani Mirabelli, rector of schools and archpriest of the cathedral in Savona, also served as papal secretary. The Polyanthea contained selections from the writings of over 150 authors from Aristotle to Dante, arranged in alphabetical order and covering subjects in the fields of classical antiquity, medieval history, natural history and medicine. In the preface to the work Nani Mirabelli

"boasted that he had selected the best of literature, appropriate for the moral edification of young and old and of both sexes, and desired it to 'be useful to as many people as possible'. Nani devoted his ode to the reader to praising the censorship value of his selections—which 'plucked gold from amid filthy squalor'—perhaps precisely because he had cast his net more widely than his predecessors and feared criticism for doing so. He listed 163 authors excerpted and acknowledged that some of these had mocked the Holy Scriptures and taken positions contrary to the Catholic truth. But thanks to his careful selection, Nani promised safe passage through the shoals of pagan literature—both the raciness of Ovid or Horace and the obscurity of Aristotle—for the moral edification of Christians; he included quotations from a few recent authors like Dante and Petrarch. This theme of religious edification and safety was underscored by the engravings present in the first two editions. The title page of the first edition featured the author seated at an altar reaching for a basket of flowers around which were clustered religious and other worthy figures; the image helped elucidate a Greek title that Nani also explained in his preface lest readers not understand it as synonym for florilegium.

"At the same time as he played up the religious themes, Nani identified his principal audience as young people studying rhetoric. For them especially, Nani was proud to offer definitions and descriptions; Latin translations of all Greek expressions; sentences of philosophers, historians, and poets in Latin and Greek; and a tabular outline of the larger topics. The early Polyanthea served in part as a dictionary of hard words, offering in addition to the major articles, many very short ones, with just a definition, a Greek etymology, and one or even no quotation as an example" (Ann M. Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age [2010] 177-178; see also 179-85).

The Polyanthea went through at least 41 editions between 1503 and 1681, nearly all of which were revised and expanded by their successive editors. Blair estimated the length of the first edition at 430,000 words, and estimated the 1619-20 Lyon edition at no less than 2.5 million words. Like other popular reference works of the early modern period, copies tended to suffer hard usage, and relatively few copies of the first edition survived. Blair was able to locate 20 copies of the first edition cited in online library catalogues, most of which were in Italy. In January 2013 OCLC recorded 10 copies, only three of which (Newberry Library, Harvard and U. Chicago) were in the United States.

Collinson, Encyclopedias: Their History Throughout the Ages (1964), 76-77. University of Chicago, Encyclopedism from Pliny to Borges, no. 17.

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Newly Discovered: The Earliest Surviving Globe Showing the New World Circa 1504

On August 19, 2013 The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society, published in its issue 87 an article by Stefaan Missinne describing "A New Discovered Early Sixteenth-Century Globe Engraved on an Ostrich Egg. The Earliest Surviving Globe Showing the New World."

"The previously-unknown globe, which is about the size of a grapefruit, was made from the lower halves of two ostrich eggs, and dates from the very early 1500s. Until now, it was thought that the oldest globe to show the New World was the 'Lenox Globe' at the New York Public Library, but the author presents evidence that this Renaissance ostrich egg globe was actually used to cast the copper Lenox globe, putting its date c. 1504. The globe reflects the knowledge gleaned by Christopher Columbus and other very early European explorers including Amerigo Vespucci after whom America was named. The author points to Florence Italy as where the globe was made, and offers evidence that the engraver was influenced by or worked in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci.

"Tom Sander, Editor of The Portolan, who has personally inspected the globe, noted that 'This is a major discovery, and we are pleased to be the vehicle for its announcement. We undertook a very extensive peer review process to vet the article, which itself was based on more than a year of scientific and documentary research.' The author, S. Missinne, PhD. is an independent Belgian research scholar who has published on the subject of ancient globes made from different materials such as ivory. He said, 'When I heard of this globe, I was initially skeptical about its date, origin, geography and provenance, but I had to find out for myself. After all no one had known of it, and discoveries of this type are extremely rare. I was excited to look into it further, and the more I did so, and the more research that we did, the clearer it became that we had a major find.' The globe was purchased in 2012 at the London Map Fair from a dealer who said it had been in an 'important European collection' for many decades. The current owner made it available to the author for his research, which included scientific testing of the globe itself, computer tomography testing, and carbon dating, assessment of the ink used to color its engraved surface, and close geographical, cartographic, and historical analysis. More than 100 leading scholars and experts were consulted worldwide and are cited in the article’s acknowledgements, and gratitude was expressed to the New York Public Library for its helpful assistance.

"The globe contains ships of different types, monsters, intertwining waves, a shipwrecked sailor, and 71 place names, and one sentence , “HIC SVNT DRACONES” (Here are the Dragons). Only 7 of the names are in the Western Hemisphere. No names are shown for North America, which is represented as a group of scattered islands; three names are shown in South America (Mundus Novus or “New World”, Terra de Brazil, and Terra Sanctae Crucis, or”Land of the Holy Cross”). For many countries and territories in the world, (e.g. Japan, Brazil, Arabia) this is the oldest known engraved depiction on a globe. A full list of place names on the globe is included in the article, along with several illustrations."

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Johannes Trithemius Great Expands his Abbey Library as a Result of the Development of Printing 1505

Tomb relief of Johannes Trithemius

By the time he left the Abbey at Sponheim, Germany Johannes Trithemius expanded its library to 2000 volumes of printed books and manuscripts from the 40 works present in the library when he became Abbot in 1482. 2000 volumes represented an exceptionally large library for the time.

Besides a reflection of Tritheimius's skill and tenacity as a book collector, the growth of the Sponheim Abbey library reflects the increased availability of information after the development and spread of printing in Europe.

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Symphorien Champier Publishes the First Medical Bibliography of Medical Literature and the First Medical History after Celsus 1506

Portrait of Symphorien Champier.

In 1506 French physician and writer Symphorien Champier published in Lyon De medicine claris scriptoribus in quinque partibus tractatus, as part of his Libelli duo. Champier's biographical study of famous medical writers included a brief listing of their writings which is considered the first published bibliography of medical literature after Galen's bibliography of his own writings, De libris propriis liber, which was written in the second century CE, but not printed until 1525, and the brief bibliography of Galen's writings which was first published in Articella seu Opus artis medicinae, edited by Franciscus Argilagnes (Venice, 1483). Champier's work has also been called the first history of medicine written after De medicina by the first century CE Roman writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 10.

(This entry was last revised on 02-22-2015.)

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Filed under: Bibliography, Medicine

Martin Waldseemüller Creates the First Map to Name America: A Wall Map & Globe Gores April 1507

A portion of the last surviving copy of the Waldseemüller map, made by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507, was the first published map to include the name 'America.' (View Larger)

Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorumque lustrationes, or the Waldseemüller Map, a large wall map of the world drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, was one of the first maps to chart latitude and longitude precisely, following the example of Ptolemy, and the first map to use the name "America".

Waldseemüller also created globe gores, printed maps designed to be cut out and pasted onto spheres to form globes of the Earth. At the time he drew his wall map, Waldseemüller was working as part of the group of scholars of the Vosgean Gymnasium at Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in Lorraine, which then belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. The maps were accompanied by the book Cosmographiae Introductio produced by the Vosgean Gymnasium.  

"The Waldseemüller map depicts North and South America as two large continents. The main map shows the two continents slightly separated, while the small inset map in the top border shows them joined by an isthmus. The name "America" is placed on South America, this being the first map known to use this name. As explained in Cosmographiae Introductio, the name was bestowed in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.

"In depicting the Americas separate from Asia, the map shows a great ocean between the mountainous western coasts of the Americas and the eastern coast of Asia. The first historical records of Europeans to set eyes on this ocean, the Pacific, are recorded as Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513 or, Ponce de León in 1512 or 1513. Those dates are five to six years after Waldseemüller made his map. In addition, the map predicts the width of South America at certain latitudes to within 70 miles.

"Apparently among most map-makers until that time, it was still erroneously believed that the lands discovered by Christopher Columbus, Vespucci, and others formed part of the Indies of Asia. Thus some believe that it is impossible that Waldseemüller could have known about the Pacific, which is depicted on his map. The historian Peter Whitfield has theorised that Waldseemüller incorporated the ocean into his map because Vespucci's accounts of the Americas, with their so-called "savage" peoples, could not be reconciled with contemporary knowledge of India, China, and the islands of Indies. Thus, Waldseemüller reasoned, the newly discovered lands could not be part of Asia, but must be separate from it, a leap of intuition that was later proved uncannily precise.

"Most importantly, Mundus Novus, a book attributed to Vespucci (who had himself explored the extensive eastern coast of South America) was widely published throughout Europe after 1504, including by Waldseemüller's group in 1507. It had first introduced to Europeans the idea that this was a new continent and not Asia. It is theorised that this lead to Waldseemüller's separating America from Asia, depicting the Pacific Ocean, and the use of the first name of Vespucci on his map.

"The wall map consists of twelve sections printed from wood engravings measuring 18 x 24.5 inches (46 x 62 cm). Each section is one of four horizontally and three vertically, when assembled. The map uses a modified Ptolemaic conformal projection with curved meridians to depict the entire surface of the Earth."

"Of the one thousand copies of the wall map printed, only one complete copy is known. It was originally owned by Johannes Schöner (1477–1547), a Nuremberg astronomer, geographer, and cartographer. Its existence was unknown for a long time until its rediscovery in 1901 in the library of Prince Johannes zu Waldburg-Wolfegg in Wolfegg Castle in Württemberg, Germany by the Jesuit historian Joseph Fischer. It remained there until 2001 when the United States Library of Congress purchased it from Waldburg-Wolfegg-Waldsee for ten million dollars. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany symbolically turned over the Waldseemüller map on April 30, 2007, within the context of a formal ceremony at the Library of Congress, in Washington, DC. In her remarks, the chancellor stressed that the U.S. contributions to the development of Germany in the postwar period tipped the scales in the decision to turn over the Waldseemüller map to the Library of Congress as a sign of transatlantic affinity and as an indication of the numerous German roots to the United States. Since 2007 it has been permanently displayed in the Library of Congress, within a display case filled with argon. Prior to display, the entire map was the subject of a scientific analysis project using hyperspectral imaging with an advanced LED camera and illumination system to address preservation storage and display issues.

"Four copies of the globe gores are known still to exist. The first to be rediscovered was found in 1871 and is now in the James Ford Bell Library of the University of Minnesota. Another copy was found inside a Ptolemy atlas and is in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. A third copy was discovered in 1992 bound into an edition of Aristotle in the Stadtbücherei Offenburg, a public library in Germany. A fourth copy came to light in 2003 when its European owner read a newspaper article about the Waldseemüller map. It was sold at auction to Charles Frodsham & Co. for $1,002,267, a world record price for a single sheet map There has been some suggestion that a sheet of the map is from a second edition produced about 1515. Its preservation seems to be due to the several sheets being bound into a single cover by Schöner" (Wikipedia article on Waldseemüller Map, accessed 11-10-2009).

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Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar Issue the First Book Printed in Scotland September 15, 1507

 The printer's mark of Androw Myllar, who together with Walter Chepman became the first printer in Scotland under King James IV.

On September 15, 1507 James IV of Scotland granted Walter Chepman, an Edinburgh merchant, and his business partner Androw Myllar, a printer and bookseller, the first royal licence for printing in Scotland.

"The first printed book from this press with a definite date was a vernacular poem by John Lydgate 'The Complaint of the Black Knight' which was printed on 4 April 1508 on the press they had set up, near what is now Edinburgh's Cowgate. The only known copy is held in the National Library of Scotland's collections" (http://www.500yearsofprinting.org/printing.php, accessed 02-28-2009).

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Wynkyn de Worde Issues the First English Book on Preparing and Carving Meat, Game and Fish 1508

In 1508, from his shop in Fleet Street, London, printer and publisher Wynkyn de Worde issued The Boke of Kervynge. This was the first book in English on carving and preparing different types of meat, game and fish. Of the first edition only a single copy survived, at the University Library Cambridge. Similarly only a single copy survived of the second edition dated 1513. It is preserved in the British Library.

Quayle, Old Cook Books. An Illustrated History (1978) 27-28.

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The Introduction of Pasteboard for the Covers of Bindings 1508 – 1520

Pasteboard for the covers of bindings, instead of wood, was in use in Paris by 1508, and was introduced in England about 1520.

Pollard, "Describing Medieval Bookbindings," Alexander & Gibson (eds) Medieval Learning and LIterature. Essays presented to Richard William Hunt (1976) 64.

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Filed under: Bookbinding

Walter Chepman & Androw Myllar Issue The Aberdeen Breviary, the First "Major" Book Printed in Scotland 1509 – 1510

 The Aberdeen Breviary, published in 1507 and the first major work to be printed in Scotland, briefly recounts the lives of various Scottish saints. (View Larger)

The first "major" book printed in Scotland was Breuiarij Aberdone[n]sis ad percelebris eccl[es]ie Scotor[um] potissimu[m] vsum et consuetudine[m] [The Aberdeen Breviary for the principal use and custom of the most famous church of the Scots]. It is generally known as the Aberdeen BreviaryThe book was commissioned by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, and printed from 1509 to 1510 in Edinburgh at the press of the first printers in Scotland, Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar

No complete copies of this work exist. The finest copy is preserved in Edinburgh University Library. The National Library of Scotland holds two imperfect copies and a fragment from a third. Aberdeen University Library and the British Library hold imperfect copies. One copy remains in private hands.

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Maximilian I Orders the Confiscation of Jewish Books, but Eventually Rescinds the Order August 19, 1509 – June 6, 1510

   Maximilain I, who greatly extended the House of Habsburg around the turn of the 16th century, decreed in 1509 the confiscation of Jewish books as a method of encouraging Jewish conversion to Christianity; however, he reversed his decision in 1510 and the texts were returned.      (View Larger)

Influenced by Johannes Pfefferkorn, a German-Jewish Catholic theologian and writer, who had converted from Judaism, and who devoted his career to preaching and writing against Jews and attempting to convert them to Christianity, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, ordered Jews to deliver to Pfefferkorn all books opposing Christianity. He also ordered the destruction of any Hebrew book except the Hebrew Bible. Previously Maximilian had expelled the Jews from Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola. The justification for confiscating their books was that depriving the Jews of their religious texts would be the first step in their conversion.

"Pfefferkorn began the work of confiscation at Frankfort-on-the-Main, or possibly Magdeburg; thence he went to Worms, Mainz, Bingen, Lorch, Lahnstein, and Deutz.

"Through the help of the Elector and Archbishop of Mainz, Uriel von Gemmingen, the Jews asked the emperor to appoint a commission to investigate Pfefferkorn's accusations. A new imperial mandate of 10 November 1509, gave the direction of the whole affair to Uriel von Gemmingen, with orders to secure opinions from the Universities of Mainz, Cologne, Erfurt, and Heidelberg, from the inquisitor Jakob Hochstraten of Cologne, from the priest Victor von Carben, and from Johann Reuchlin. Pfefferkorn, in order to vindicate his action and to gain still further the good will of the emperor, wrote In Lob und Eer dem allerdurchleuchtigsten grossmechtigsten Fürsten und Herrn Maximilian (Cologne, 1510). In April he was again at Frankfort, and with the delegate of the Elector of Mainz and Professor Hermann Ortlieb, he undertook a new confiscation.

"Hochstraten and the Universities of Mainz and Cologne decided in October 1510 against the Jewish books. Reuchlin declared that only those books obviously offensive (as the Nizachon and Toldoth Jeschu) would be destroyed. The elector sent all the answers received at the end of October to the emperor through Pfefferkorn. Reuchlin reported in favor of the Jews, and on May 23, 1510, the emperor suspended his edict of 10 November 1509, and the books were returned to the Jews on June 6" (Wikipedia article on Johannes Pfefferkorn, accessed 12-10-2008).

Not satisfied with the Emperor's decision, between 1511 and 1521 Pfefferkorn engaged Reuchlin in a pamphlet war on the topic, reflective of the battle between Dominicans and the humanists, and outlined in the Wikipedia article cited above.

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Ferninand Columbus Collects One of the Largest Private Libraries of the 16th Century Circa 1510 – 1539

Ferdinand Columbus (Fernando Colombo, Fernando Colón), the second son of Christopher Columbus, returned from the New World in 1510, and proceeded to collect one of the largest private libraries of the sixteenth century. This library, La Bibliotheca Colombina, included about 15,000 volumes, of which about 7000 survive today, including 1194 books printed before 1501.

Ferdinand Columbus's library, which also includes a number of volumes from the personal library of his father Christopher Columbus, is preserved in the Cathedral of the City of Seville in Andalucia. Among the volumes in La Bibliotheca Colombina is the manuscript catalogue of Ferdinand's print collection. According to Mark McDonald, editor of this manuscript catalogue listing 3200 sheets (including 390 prints by Albrecht Dürer), no print collection from the fifteenth or sixteenth century has survived, and the manuscript catalogue of Columbus' print collection is the only record of such a print collection that has survived. Columbus's print catalogue is notable for its organizational scheme. McDonald (editor) The Print Collection of Ferndinand Columbus 1488-1539: A Renaissance Collector in Seville (2004).

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Francesco Albertini Issues the First Guidebook to Ancient and Modern Rome: a New "Mirabilia Romae" 1510

Since the early Middle Ages guide-books were written for the use of pilgrims to Rome. The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue maintained by the British Library cites over 100 different printed editions of the medieval guide known as Mirabilia Romae issued before 1501. Opusculum de mirablis novae & veteris urbis Roma first issued in 1510 by Francesco Albertini, a pupil of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio who became canon of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence and chaplain of Cardinal Fazio Santoro in Rome, was the first guidebook to both ancient and modern Rome. It was well designed as a guidebook with a detailed table of contents of its three parts in the beginning and running heads relating to each section, making it easy to find specific sections of the guide.

Besides an account of ancient Rome, with information about excavations and archaeological discoveries, Albertini discussed the churches and buildings commissioned by Julius II and the artists who decorated them. In connection with the Sistine Chapel we learn about Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Lippi, and Michelangelo. This latter reference, together with another in Albertini’s Memoriale of the same year, represents the earliest printed notice of that artist. In the third section there is one of the earliest description of the Vatican Library in qua sunt codices auro et argento sericinisque tegminibus exornati, and mentioning the Codex Vergilianus (probably the Vergilius Vaticanus,) among other notable works. Albertini also refers to the Library’s collections of astronomical and geometrical instruments.

The final portion of the work is a laudatory account of the cities of Florence and Savona (the birthplace of Pope Julius II, to whom the book is dedicated). Here we also find mention of many eminent literary and artistic persons such as Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, et al. In this section Albertini refers to Amerigo Vespucci and his New World discoveries: Albericus Vespulcius of Florence, sent by the most Christian King of Portugal, but lastly by the Catholic King of Spain, first discovered new islands and unknown countries, as is plainly set forth in his book, where he describes the stars, and the new islands, as is also seen in his Letter upon the New World, addressed to Lorenzo de Medici the Younger. 

"By the begnning of the sixteenth century the collecting of statuary, inscriptions, and other antiques was being regarded with greater interest than hitherto. This is evident from the literary remains of Francesco Albertini. . ., which are also of some interest in showing how by this time the Mirabilia were no longer satisfying even those who were not professional antiquarians. Albertini himself cannot be consdiered a real scholar. He was in fact a gifted amateur with a flair for vulgarisation and an eye for works of art; not for nothing had been a pupil of Ghirlandaio in Florence, which makes one wonder whether he may have been the author of the drawings of Rome and Roman antiquities not at the Escorial, which clearly betray a hand trained by that painter. . . .

" It was in the household of Cardinal Fazio Santoro in Rome that Albertini composed his Opusculum novae et verteris Urbis Romae. But the suggestion to write it had actually come from Cardinal Galeotto della Rovere, who had expressed the wish to see a reliable and up-to-date guide of the city. While the Opusculum is invaluable for the information it supplies on contemporary Rome, it certain constitutes no landmark in the development of antiquarian science. Even its avowed aim to replace the Mirabilia had really been anticipated a couple of generations earlier by Biondo. What Albertini really achieved was a new Mirabilia, a handbook meant for the cultured visitor to Rome, where medieval legend was replaced by the new knowledge resulting from about a century of humanist investigation. Its structure is still that of the old Mirabilia with the subject matter still subdivided in the traditional way, its chapters dealing with the walls, the 'viae', the theatres, etc. It is in fact a kind of swollen catalogue, nor is such an arrangement abandoned in the second part, where Albertini dealt with the Rome of his own time. But here similarities with the Mirabilia cease. For Albertini did not hesitate to summon to his aid all the sources on which could lay his hands, thus relaying the considerable range of his reading. Classical texts used by him included not only the better known authors and the catalogues of the regions, naturally in the text revised by Pomponio Leto, but also Festus, Vitruvius and Frontinus, on whom he of course relied for his section on aqueducts. He was obviously at home with inscriptions, and besides relying on the evidence they supplied, he often quoted them in full, not hestiating to include some discovered only very recently. Like other antiquarians, he did not ignore the evidence offered by ancient coins. But perhaps what shows most clearly the range of his interest is his references to humanist writings. For here besides Petrarch, Biondo, Leto, and Poggio, we also find appeals to the authority of Alberti, Landino, Petro Marsi, Beroaldo, and Raffaele Maffei. Like so many of his contemporaries, he too was taken in by Annion da Viterbo's outrageous forgeries of ancient texts and antiquities, just as he did not escape the usual mistakes, such as the identification of the small temple by the Tiber with that of Vesta, or the attribution of the well-known Dioscuri to Pheidias and Praxiteles.

"Albertini's account of ancient Rome is certianly valuable, It is so particularly because of what he tells us about excavations and recent archaeological discoveries, and also because of the information he gives about the Roman collections of antiques in his time. It certainly proved something of a best-seller during the first quarter of the sixteenth century, as is brought home to us by its no less than five editions between 1510 and 1523" (Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity [1969] 84-86).

In November 2014 I could not find a digital facsimile of the 1510 or 1515 Rome editions, but a digital facsimile of the Basel, 1519 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link, and a digital facsimile of the Lyon, 1520 edition was available from the Internet Archive at this link.  

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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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Hakob Meghapart Issues the First Book Printed in Armenian 1512

In 1512 printer Hakob Meghapart (Հակոբ Մեղապարտ, Jacob the Sinner) issued from Venice Urbatagirk (Ուրբաթագիրք) or The Book of Fridays. This was the first printed book in the Armenian language.

"Little is known about Hakob Meghapart, or why he styled himself “the Sinner” (or “the Sinful”). Armenia was at that time under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, and the Diaspora community played a critically important role in keeping alive the Armenian language and literary tradition. Written in Grabar (Classical Armenian), the book consists mainly of prayers and remedies for the sick, together with long quotations from the Narek, the collection of mystical poems by Saint Grigor Narekatsʻi (Gregory of Narek, 951–1003)" (http://www.wdl.org/en/item/11302/, accessed 08-08-2013).

The copy in the National Library of Armenia (Հայաստանի Ազգային Գրադարան) in Yerevan, Armenia, is bound with the Parzatumar (Armenian liturgical calendar), another book published in 1512–13 by Hakob Meghapart. It contains four engravings. The pages have titles surrounded by decorative frames. At the end of the text is the cruciform printer’s symbol in Latin letters, D.I.Z.A. The type is based on the manuscript style of bologir (rounded letters).

In August 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the National Library of Armenia at this link.

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Marcellus Silber Issues the First Book Printed in the Ancient Ethiopian Language of Ge'ez and the First Book Printed in Rome in Oriental Type 1513

The first book printed in the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge'ez, and the first book printed in an Oriental type face in Rome, was issued by printer Marcellus Silber in 1513. Entitled the Psalterium David et cantica aliqua in lingua Chaldea, this book was the result of a remarkable collaboration between the Ethiopian Christian community in Rome and Johannes Potken, a German churchman, papal notary, and scholar/printer who became fascinated with Ethiopian liturgy, language and culture. The book, which was printed in red and black, and began with a striking woodcut portrait of David printed in red, contained the Psalter, certain Biblical hymns and prayers, and the Song of Solomon.

Potken commissioned the Ethiopian typeface and published the volume. He based his text on Vat. etiop. 20, a manuscript Ge’ez Psalter in the Vatican Library, as well as other Ge'ez Psalters in the Vatican. "Oddly, despite his long study of the Ge’ez language and evident erudition, Potken made the fundamental mistake of believing that Ge’ez was a version of the Aramaic or Chaldean language, and he never swerved from this belief, referring consistently to the language of the Psalter as Chaldean." When he left Rome in 1515-16 Potken took his Ethiopian type font with him, and in 1518 in Cologne he published, with the help of a relative, Johannes Soter, a Psalter with parallel texts in Hebrew, Greek, Ge'ez, and Latin entitled Psalterium in quatuor linguis hebrea graeca chaldea latina.

In December 2014 a digital facsimile of Psalterium David et cantica aliqua in lingua Chaldea was available from Kings College London at this link.

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Richard Fawkes Issues the Earliest English Printed Newsbook September 1513

The earliest English newsbook, a forerunner of the newspaper, may be a pamphlet of 4 leaves called Hereafter ensue thee trew encountre or Batayle lately don betwene. Englande and: Scotlande. In whiche batayle the. Scottsshe. Kinge was slayne. It was printed in London by Richard Fawkes (Faques) and dated September 1513. The pamphlet provides an eyewitness account of the large and bloody Battle of Flodden Field won by the English against the Scots, with a list of the English heroes involved.

Printing and the Mind of Man. Catalogue of the Exhibitions Held at the British Museum and at Earls Court, London (1963) No. 640. Schwarz, Vivat Rex! An Exhibition Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Accession of Henry VIII (2009) No. 24.

The Morgan Library & Museum holds a contemporary manuscript account of the Battle of Flodden Field: MA 3673.  Schwarz, Vivat Rex! (2009) No. 25.

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Gregorio de Gregorii Issues the First Book Printed in Arabic by Movable Type 1514 – 1517

 Gregorio de Gregorii, an Italian printer, published the first book in Arabic with moveable type in 1514, commissioned by Pope Julius II for delivery to Christians in the Middle East.    (View Larger)

Between 1514 and 1517 Gregorio de Gregorii, a Venetian, published from Fano, Italy, a Book of Hours entitled Kitab Salat al-Sawa'i, intended for distribution among the Christians of the Middle East, perhaps for export to the Melkite Christian communities of Syria. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, this was the first book printed in Arabic by movable type.

"The notes printed at the end of the work give us information about the printer, the location where it was printed and the year it was printed. The fact that the well-known Venetian printer, de Gergorij, had this book published not in Venice but in Fano may probably be explained by the fact that he wished to avoid the privileges that were in force in Venice relating to the printing of books in Oriental type. Only some of the at least ten surviving copies (for example the one housed in the Nuremberg Municipal Library) show a title page. It gives the Arabic title in red letters. Nine of the total of 240 pages of have noteworthy decorations in the form of edgings, which show a vareity of basic type faces, including three floral embellishments and flourth kind with a combination of birds and flower patterns" (Lehrstuhl für Türishche Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur, Universität Bamberg, The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims [2001] no. 1).

Philip K. Hitti, "The First Book Printed in Arabic," The Princeton University Library Chronicle 4, no. 1 (November, 1942).

Miroslav Krek, "The Enigma of the First Arabic Book Printed from Movable Type," J. Near East. Stud., no. 3 (1979) 203-212. 

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Painter Quentin Matsys Uses a Book of Hours as a Prop for Satire 1514

A panel painting in oil from 1514 by the Flemish painter Quentin Matsys of Antwerp, entitled The Moneylender and his Wife contains satirical undertones. It depicts the moneylender handling his scale and numerous gold coins. His wife, sitting at his left, is handling a beautiful illuminated manuscript, probably a book of hours. Her eyes are on the coins rather than on the book. The luxurious book is clearly a symbol of her prosperity, and presumed literacy, but her fixation on the gold coins suggests that she may be more interested in money than in piety.

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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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The Grimani Breviary: a Remarkable Artistic Collaboration Circa 1515 – 1520

The Grimani Breviary, a key work in the final flowering of the Ghent-Bruges school of manuscript illumination, was produced in Ghent and Bruges from about 1515 to 1520.  By 1520 it was owned by Cardinal Domenico Grimani, Bishop of Ceneda, though it was possibly not originally commissioned by him.

The work was a remarkable artistic collaboration between a group of great masters, who worked under the supervision of Alexander Bening (Sanders Bening).  Other artists who contributed to the manuscript were Bening's son, Simon Bening, the Master of James IV of Scotland and Gerard David.

"Sanders Bening, who was in charge of the work on the Grimani Breviary, was in possession of almost all the drawings made for miniatures and decoration of the manuscripts made before 1484, and formerly attributed to a so-called Master of Mary of Burgundy. Previous generations of art historians have since the 1890's believed that the miniatures in the Grimani Breviary were direct copies after the originals, and several attempts have been made to explain how the various manuscripts could have been brought together and made available to the painters in the workshop. The registration of models used for the Grimani Breviary (and its immediate antecedants from c.1500-1514) has now become so comprehensive, that it would have required the presence in one location of more than six of the major works made before 1484, which is unthinkable. The continuous use of the original model-sheets can only be explained by their presence in the possession of Sanders Bening himself, who inherited many of them in 1482 from Hugo van der Goes and later left them to his son Simon at his death in 1519. Beside the original drawings did Sanders Bening apparently also make personal copies of many miniatures and kept them for his private use. This explains how not only the outlines of the figures and whole compositions could reappear more than 30 years later, but sometimes also be painted partly in the same colours as the first known version" (Drigsdahl, The Grimani Breviary and the Iconographical Heritage in Ghent, CHD Miscellanea 2002, accessed 11-02-2013). 

The manuscript is preserved in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice.

Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The World's Most Famous Illuminated Manuscripts 400-1600 (2005) 412-415.

(This entry was last revised on 07-21-2014.)

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Pope Leo X Decrees the Most Stringent Papal Censorship Before the Reformation May 4, 1515

 Pope Leo X, famous for later fighting Martin Luther's 95 theses, issued the strictest decree of papal censorship to date in 1515, with the aim of eliminating 'dangerous' texts which were causing evil to propogate 'from day to day.' (View Larger)

The most stringent censorship decree antedating the Reformation was the Papal bull Inter Solicitudines issued by Pope Leo X following the May 4, 1515 session of the Fifth Lateran Council.

"It may have been under the influence of the Reuchlin controversy (and now not directed against any particular territory or town) that Leo X ordered censorship to be applied to all translations from Hebrew, Greek, Arabic and Chaldaic into Latin, and from Latin into the verancular. The regulations were to be enforced by bishops, their delegates or the inquisitores haereticae pravitatis. The decree bemoaned the fact that readers were supplied by printers with books 'which not only fail to edify, but promote errors in faith as well as in daily life and the mores.' The Pope saw acute danger that the evil 'may grow from day to day' (as indeed it did). By 1515 the reading of 'dangerous' texts had apparently reached dimensions which, in the eyes of the established church, posed a real threat to orthodoxy. Censorship before the Reformation may seem tame compared with its subsequent development. But we should not emphasize unduly the effect of the Reformation. Without the spread of print and reading stern censorship would not have been necessary. Moreover, without this spread, the Lutheran Reformation might well have failed.

"Nobody will ever know how many texts planned and actually produced failed to survive due to confiscation. i believe that the great majority of Lutheran, Zwinglian and Calvinist writings, against which so many regulations were directed, managed to survive, largely because they were published in sizable editions and frequently republished. Even if all copies of one edition were suppressed, the text still had a fair chance to survive in another issue. Complete loss is most likely to have occurred among the works of the so-call 'Left,' the writings of the revolutionary reformers, hated with equal fervor by the Catholic hierarchy and their more conservative fellow reformers. Censorship retarded here and there the spread of ideas; whether it ever successfully extinguished any idea completely is doubtful. Censorship during the XVIth century may have helped in keeping disputed ideas with the fold of one denomination or the other. It certainly limited the publication of protestant publications in catholic, and of catholic in protestant territories; thus strengthening the barriers erected against the free flow of ideas; but controversial pamphlets were peddled far afield, and unwelcome idease spread, of course, also by word of mouth" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 90).


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Samuel ben Isaac Nedivot & his Son Isaac Issue the First Book Printed on the Continent of Africa 1516

In 1516 at Fez (Fes), Morocco, Samuel ben Isaac Nedivot and his son Isaac, Jewish refugees who had worked for the printer Rabbi Eliezer Toledano in Lisbon, set up the first press on the African continent. The first book they printed was an exact copy of the Sefer Abudarham which they had helped to produce twenty-seven years earlier in 1489 at Toledano's press in Lisbon. The only changes were in the colophon, which in 1516 celebrated "the holy labors of the honored and pious Samuel ... and his learned and wise son Isaac, whose desire it is to produce books beyond number for all to study and read ... may God reward them for their beneficence ... and in their days may we see redemption ... [and alluding to the contents of the published volume] then we will sing a new song in the house of God."

The Sefer Abudarham was the first book in any language printed on the African continent. In the introduction, the Nedivots complained that they encountered great difficulty in obtaining paper because the Spanish government ordered that paper not be sold to them. But they persisted and in the course of a decade they were able to print fifteen books.

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Alessandro Minuziano Records the First Documented Legal Case Concerning Copyright 1517

    Alessandro Minuziano was effectively the first to challenge a 'copyright' by reprinting an edition with exclusive rights; the Pope who issued the right was angered, but later allowed the publication after a detailed apology from Minuziano.   (View Larger)

In 1517 printer and publisher Alessandro Minuziano of Milan issued, with official permission of Pope Leo X, P. Cornelii Taciti libri quinque noviter inventi atque cum reliquis eius operibus editi. This was initially an unauthorized reprint or piracy of the first complete edition of the Annales, Historiae and other writings by the Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, edited, using a manuscript owned by Pope Leo X, by humanist and librarian of the Vatician, Filippo Beroaldo, the Younger. That edition had been first published in Rome by Stephanus Guilleretus de Lotheringia in 1515.

The story began in 1508 when Pope Leo X, formerly Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, had the opportunity to purchase a manuscript of the "lost" first books of Tactitus's Annals. The manuscript had been stolen from the monastery of Corvey in Westphalia, but that did not deter a passionate collector. Wishing to share his collecting discovery with the world, on November 14, 1514 Leo granted Beroaldo the exclusive right or privilegio for printing the text. Violators of the privilegio were threatened with excommunication.  Beroaldo's edition was the first to include Books I-VI of the Annals, and also the first to include the "Annotationes" of the jurist and legal humanist Andrea Alciato (Alciati, Andreas Alciatus).

"According to the well-known story, the codex containing the six books by Tacitus (the so-called 'Mediceo primo" [Laurentianus Mediceus 68.1] had been stolen from the monastery of Corvey in Westphalia. In 1508 it was in the hands of Francesco Soderini from whom it was acquired by Cardinal Giovanini de' Medici (the future Leo X). In 1515, after becoming pope, Leo X granted Beroaldo the exclusive rights to the printing of the book. One of the printed books Leo sent to the Abbey of Corvey, together with a plenary indulgence, as a replacement for the 'borrowed' manuscript. Much to the annoyance of Leo X, the Milanese scholar and publisher Alessandro Minuziano ignored the  paper privilegio and reprinted Beroaldo's edition of Tacitus word-for-word. Minuziano was duly summoned to Rome to answer directly to the Pope. His detailed apology, however, appeased Leo X's anger and, with a papal letter of absolution, Minuziano was permitted to publish the work, provided he came to terms with Filippo Beroaldo" (Witcombe, Copyright in the Renaissance: Prints and the Privilegio in Sixteenth-Century Venice and Rome (2004) 48-49).

Landau and Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550 (1994) 301-02 point out that Minuziano attempted to skirt the privilegio in a clever way, which involved illegal cooperation with someone working in the printing office of Stephanus Guilleretus de Lotheringia in Rome: 

"In the meantime in Rome the issue of privileges had suddenly been brought to the attention of Leo X when it was discovered in 1515 that the Milanese publisher Alessandro Minuziano had found a loophole in the privilege granted to Filippo Beroaldo for his Storie. Minuziano did not copy the whole book once it had appeared, but page after page (obtained illegally) while it was being printed. The main reason the Pope was so exceeding angry was that he had paid the vast sum of 500 ducats for the manuscript. . . ."

Because he was copying the Rome edition as fast as it was being printed we may presume that Minuziano intended to issue his pirated edition almost simultaneously with the 1515 Rome edition. However his scheme was found out, and the dispute over the privilegio forced Minuziano to suspend publication until the matter was resolved. The matter was serious, especially as Leo X actively involved himself in issues of publication and censorship. Because the case was eventually resolved in Minuziano's favor, he added an appendix to the edition containing the key documents pertaining to the case. These included the papal privilege of November 14, 1514, Minuziano's “supplication and prayers” to Leo X of March 30, 1516, defending himself, remarkably, by claiming ignorance of the Pope’s privilegio, pleading for absolution and to be allowed to finish his edition, and the papal letter of pardon dated September 7, 1516, reiterating Minuziano’s defense, and granting Minuziano permission to publish his edition.

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Martin Luther Launches the Protestant Reformation October 31, 1517

 Martin Luther begins the Protestant Reformation in Germany in 1517, the spread of which is largely due to the mass availability of Luther's 95 Theses in German, making the movement of the Reformation 'one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press.' (View Larger)

In response to the sale of indulgences in 1516 and 1517 by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar and papal commissioner for indulgences, sent to Germany by the Roman Catholic Church to raise money to rebuild St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Martin Luther wrote to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, protesting the sale of indulgences. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences." This later became known as The 95 Theses.

According to Philipp Melanchthon, writing in 1546, Luther nailed a copy of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October—an event now seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation.  Church doors were the bulletin boards of Luther's time.

Some scholars have questioned the accuracy of Melanchthon's account, noting that no contemporaneous evidence exists for it. Others have countered that no such evidence is necessary, because this was the customary way of advertising an event on a university campus in Luther's day.

Two broadside editions of the 95 theses exist--one printed in Nuremberg, the other in Leipzig. There was also a 7-page quarto edition, of which a copy is preserved at Harvard College Library. No broadside appears to have been issued from Wittenberg, which suggests that the copy Luther posted on the Castle Church door was probably a manuscript. (Luther 1483-1983. An Exhibition at the Houghton Library, with a List of sixteenth-Century Luther Editions at Harvard [1983]).

"The 95 Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German, printed, and widely copied, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press." (Wikipedia article on Martin Luther, accessed 12-09-2008).

"The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in the Holy Roman Empire, where the Ninety-five Theses famously appeared, held one of Europe's largest collections of religious artifacts, or holy relics. These had been piously collected by Frederick III of Saxony. At that time pious veneration, or viewing, of relics was purported to allow the viewer to receive relief from temporal punishment for sins in purgatory. By 1509 Frederick had over 5,000 relics, purportedly 'including vials of the milk of the Virgin Mary, straw from the manger [of Jesus], and the body of one of the innocents massacred by King Herod.'

"The relics were kept in reliquaries and exhibited once a year for the faithful to venerate. "In 1509, each devout visitor who donated toward the preservation of the Castle Church received an indulgence of one hundred days per relic." This would allow the person relief of 100 days in purgatory, and thus hasten their entry into heaven. By 1520 Frederick had increased his collection to over 19,000 relics, allowing pilgrims viewing all of them to receive an indulgence that would reduce their time in purgatory by 5,209 years" (Wikipedia article  on The 95 Theses, accessed 12-09-2008).

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Johannes Trithemius Issues the First Book on Cryptography July 1518

 The 'square table' of abbot Johannes Trithemius’s 'Polygraphiae libri sex. - Clavis polygraphiae' was an example of how a message might be encoded through the use of multiple alphabets. (View Larger)

The abbot Johannes Trithemius’s (Tritheim's) Polygraphiae libri sex. - Clavis polygraphiae, a book on many forms of writing, but actually the first book on codes and cryptography, was posthumously published in Basel in 1518, two years after his death. Publication had been delayed because of ecclesiastical disapproval.

The codes that Tritheim invented and described in this book, notably the "Ave Maria" cipher, which takes up the bulk of the work (each word representing a letter, with consecutive tables making it possible to so arrange a code that it will read as a prayer), and the "square table", a sophisticated system of coding using multiple alphabets, were used for centuries. The remarkable title page is composed of a 7 woodcut blocks, showing the author presenting his book, and a bearded monk presenting a pair of keys, to the Emperor Maximilian. This block is within historiated woodcut borders of scholars holding emblems of science, arms of Maximilian and three other armorial shields at corners, and a reclining portrait of Trithemius himself at bottom.

Kahn, The Codebreakers  (1967) 134-35.

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Daniel van Bomberghen, a Devout Christian, Issues the First Printed Edition of the Complete Babylonian Talmud 1519 – 1523

Having obtained permission from both the Venetian Senate and the Pope to become the first publisher of Hebrew books in Venice, from 1519 to 1523 devout Christian Daniel van Bomberghen (Daniel Bomberg) issued the first complete printed edition of the approximately two million word Babylonian Talmud.

Over his 40 year career Bomberg issued 240 editions of books in Hebrew.

"Based on current knowledge of contemporary Venetian printing practices, we can safely speculate that each Bomberg edition of the Talmud was produced in print-runs of approximately 1500 copies, though of course most of them did not find their way into full sets. We do have evidence from a book catalog printed sometime between 1541 and 1543 that a complete set was available for purchase for the price of twenty-two Venetian ducats. This was at a time when one of Bomberg’s typesetters earned somewhere between 2½ and 3 ducats per month. Thus, even when first printed, these volumes were considered expensive and accessible to only the wealthiest of individuals."

"Bibliographers variously surmise that the Bomberg Talmud was normally bound in twelve or fifteen volumes in a standard order, though this is problematic. Among the fourteen known complete sets that survive as sets from the sixteenth-century, in addition to this set two others are bound in six volumes, one in eight volumes, three in nine, one in ten, one in seventeen, one in twenty-two, and only four sets are bound in twelve volumes. Even among those bound in twelve volumes, there is no standard ordering of the tractates in the various volumes" (Mintz & Goldstein, Printing the Talmud from Bomberg to Schottenstein [2005] No. 20).

On December 22, 2015 antiquarian bookseller Stephan Lowewnetheil of the 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop purchased the Valmadonna Trust Library complete copy of the Bomberg Talmud at Sotheby's, New York, for $9,300,000. It was announced that Lowentheil acted as agent for billionaire collector Leon Black

Sotheby's excellent description of the set, which comprised tractates from the first (1519/20-23) and second (1525-1539) editions, was available at this link. This was the highest price ever paid for any single piece of Judaica. The Valmadonna copy, which had been preserved for centuries in the library of Westminster Abbey, was the only complete set remaining in private hands, and one of the finest of the few complete sets that survived. 

The Valmadonna Trust Library was formed in the second half of the 20th century by Jack Lunzer. An excellent account of its formation was published in Tabletmag.com on September 9, 2009. Further information was provided by Tablet on December 22, 2015.

Unusual features of Sotheby's description included a complete census of extant complete copies of the Bomberg Talmud including condition comparisons of each set plus a long note concerning book prices in the sixteenth century which considerably expands the quotation from Mintz and Goldstein above.  I quote this in full, including its very extensive bibliography:


Even by sixteenth-century standards these Talmud volumes were expensive, so it seems we should expect more than a bibliophile's interest to explain why these particular publications were so desirable.  A brief survey may be useful to establish that these volumes would have been considered a luxury, where the scudoducataurea and florin/gulden were all roughly of the same value. (For reference purposes, it may also be noted that 20 solidi = 1 lira; 1 ducat = 124 solidi (or 6 ¼ lira ).  Already at the end of the fifteenth-century, legal and academic texts, in folio, regularly sold for between 1 and 2 ducats.  Similar prices for folios printed at other Venetian printing houses continued to be seen throughout the sixteenth-century.  Specifically concerning Bomberg imprints, in 1518 Philip Melanchthon purchased a Bomberg first edition Rabbinic Bible for 14 aurei, and two years later Johannes Reuchlin purchased one for 8 aurei.  Elijah Levita wrote in the second of his two poems following the colophon at the end of the fourth volume of Bomberg's second edition Mikra'ot Gedolot, that the price for the set was six golden ducats, or 1½ ducats per volume.  In fact, Damian Irmi (a wealthy Basel merchant trader with Italy) purchased a copy of Bomberg's second edition Mikra'ot Gedolot for Konrad Pellikan for eleven gulden.  The price for this Rabbinic Bible in Gesner's 1545 list was 10 ducats; Alfasi, three volumes, 18 ducats; Rambam, two volumes,10 ducats.  In a list written sometime after 1532 of books available from Koberger's bookshop in Nürnberg: Bomberg's first edition Mikra'ot Gedolot sold for 14 fl., or approximately 10 ducats.  Finally, it is interesting to note that Johannes Buxtorf the Elder (1564-1629, Basel) and Sebastian Beck (1583-1654, Basel), state that circa 1617 one of the old Bomberg Rabbinic Bibles cost between 30 and 50Reichsthalers, which was the equivalent of 75-125 fl.

In general, books printed in Italy were considered expensive already by mid-sixteenth century, as we note that "in 1554 the jurist [Georg] Tanner wrote to Bonifacius Amerbach in Basel that the high price of Italian books prevented many buyers from making purchases."  And specifically about the Bomberg Talmud, we know from an entry dated 25 April 1541, in a daybook concerning purchases in Venice, that a Talmud set was not purchased for the University of Wittenberg because it was felt that the price was exorbitant.

Based on the examples cited above, it is safe to say that in the sixteenth century, each of the forty-four tractates in the Bomberg Talmud (allowing for two editions of Mishna Tohorot, one with the commentary of Maimonides and one with the commentary of Shimshon of Sens), if and when they were available, would have cost at least 1½ -2½ ducats.  Given Bomberg's standard for the highest quality both with regard to materials and workmanship, his folios likely were priced at the upper end of this range.  This results in the contemporary price for a full set to be somewhere around 110 ducats, plus the cost of binding.  For copies printed on heavy watermarked 'royal' paper such as the Valmadonna (#12) and Wittenberg (#1) sets, it is reasonable that they would have garnered two or three times that amount.  In order to put these figures in perspective, there is rather specific wage and income data available for sixteenth-century Italy and this data demonstrates the luxury of owning a complete Bomberg Talmud set. 

The prices we have calculated were realized at a time when a master craftsman earned 30-50 solidi/day, and a semi skilled laborer in construction earned 20-37 solidi/day.  In the mid- to late-fifteenth-century Italian typesetters earned 3ducats/month, a press operator earned 2½, and a foreman earned 5-9 ducats/month.  Contemporary Jewish sources also give a glimpse of wages for rabbis and teachers.  Elijah Capsali tutored Rabbi Isserlein for a sum of 37 ducats per year plus board.  Isaac Corcos, rabbi to the community in Otranto (southern Italy) received 70 ducats per year, Rabbi Azreil in Sulmona (central Italy) received 80 scudi (approximately 73 ducats), and Don David Ibn Yahya was to have received 100 scudi(approximately 92 ducats) as rabbi in Naples (though the promised sum never materialized).  For laborers, rabbis or teachers these wages range between 3 and 7⅔ ducats per month, and an income of anything more than 10 ducats per month would have been considered relative affluence.  And only with some level of affluence would an individual have had sufficient disposable income to purchase Bomberg folios.  Put in more descriptive terms, "a folio volume retailing for 6 or 8 lire, i.e., the equivalent of 3 to 6 days pay for a master, would be difficult but not impossible to buy."  However, while individual folios may have been within the price reach of a skilled laborer, he could not purchase such items on a regular basis and clearly that laborer would not be purchasing multi-volume sets all at once.  Finally, we bring these wage figures only to demonstrate the relative worth of the volumes, since the likelihood that laborers would have actually purchased such texts is negligible, not only due to the issue of disposable income, but we have said nothing of sixteenth-century literacy rates.

Dr. Bruce E. Nielsen, 
Judaic Public Services Librarian and Archivist,
University of Pennsylvania

references for “A Note about Book Prices in the Sixteenth Century”

Currency:  20 solidi = 1 lira; 1 ducat = 124 solidi; 

General folio prices: M. Lowry, "The Printer, the Reader and the Market," pp. 173-206 in, Nicholas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, U.K.; Cambridge Mass.:  Blackwell, 1991) 179-180; P. F. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1977) 12-14; S.Z. Baruchson-Arbib, "The Prices of Printed Hebrew Books in Cinquecento Italy," Bibliofilia 97.2 (1995) 149-61;

Melancthon: R. Wetzel, ed., Melanchthons Briefwechsel, 15 volumes (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1991), Bd. 1, 75 letter #24; 

Reuchlin: H. Scheible, ed., Willibald Pirckheimers Briefwechsel, 4 (Munich: C.H.Beck, 1997) 251, letter #693; 

Irmi: B. Riggenbach, ed., Das Chronikon des Konrad Pellikan (Basel: Bahnmaier's Verlag (C. Detloff), 1877) 116; 

Gesner: C. Gesner, Bibliotheca Universalis, vol. II (Tiguri: Christophorum Froschouerum, 1548) 41b-43b; 

Koberger: O. Hase, Die Koberger (Leipzig: Breitkopf u. Härtel, 1885) 386, where one florin = one rheinische Gulden, and 40 ducats = 55 gulden; 

Buxtorf: S. G. Burnett, From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies (Leiden:  Brill, 1996) 172 n. 12; 

Tanner: F. Kapp, Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Leipzig : Börsenvereins, 1886) 1:312; 

Wittenberg: W. Friedensburg, Urkundenbuch der Universität Wittenberg (Magdeburg : Selbstverlag der Historischen Kommission, 1926-7) 1:225;

Wages: M. Lowry, "The Printer, the Reader and the Market," in Nicholas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : Blackwell, 1991) 187; Baruchson-Arbib, op.cit. 157-58 with comparison to consumables; R. Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading, 1450-1550 (Wiesbaden : Otto Harrassowitz, 1967) 36; 

Capsali et al.: A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (New York:  JTSA, 1941) 137, 164-65; 

Descriptive terms: P. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press, 1540-1605 (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1977) 14." 

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2015.)

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Nicolaus Copernicus Writes "De Revolutionibus" in His Own Handwriting Circa 1520 – 1541

Virtually none of the original manuscripts of the greatest classics of the scientific revolution, including Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (1543) and Fuchs, De historia stirpium insignes (1542) have survived, except, remarkably, the original autograph manuscript for Copernicus, De revolutionibus (1543). One explanation for the loss of these manuscripts is that authors and printers typically did not retain manuscripts of texts after they were printed. Nevertheless, the library of Jagiellonian University in Cracow, where Copernicus received his education, preserves Copernicus's autograph working manuscript, written by Copernicus from about 1520 to 1541. It remained in Copernicus's possession until his death on May 24, 1543.

Upon Copernicus's death his papers and books passed to his closest friend, Tiedemann Giese, a bishop in Chelmno. However, Copernicus's autograph manuscript of De revolutionibus passed to astronomer Georg Joachim Rheticus, who prepared Copernicus's book for publication. Rheticus used a fair copy of Copernicus's text for the printed edition, and personally retained Copernicus's autograph manuscript.

"The autograph together with its new owner stayed for some time in Leipzig and in Cracow (about 1554 to 1574). Then it went to Kosice (Kaschau). There, after Rheticus' death, the new owner became his pupil and colleague, Valentine Otho (about 1545 - about 1603), who took it with him to Heidelberg. After Otho's death the autograph was bought by a professor from Heidelberg, Jakub Christmann (1554-1613). From professor's widow the manuscript was purchased on 17 January 1614 by the famous scholar and teacher from Moravia, Jan Amos Komensky (1592-1670). Maybe the autograph together with Komensky came again to Poland. It is not known what happened to it next. On 5 October 1667 the holdings of Otto von Nostitz (1608-1664) library, located in Jawor Slaski at that time were registered; the Copernicus' autograph is entered in this inventory. Otto left his signature on the flyleaf. The Nostitz library was then moved to Prague. The autograph had stayed in the aforesaid library until the end of the Second World War being used by the scholars for the research studies and publications. In 1945 the collection of Nostitz library in Prague was nationalized by the government of the contemporary Republic of Czechoslovakia and so the Copernicus manuscript became part of the collection of the National Museum Library in Prague. On 7 July 1956 the government of Czechoslovakia passed the priceless historical monument, on exchange, to the Polish nation and on 25 September 1956 it was given to Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Finally, the autograph was taken care of by the university in which Nicholas Copernicus was educated and from which he received scientific foundation for his memorable work"(http://www.bj.uj.edu.pl/bjmanus/revol/intro_e.html, accessed 11-12-2013).


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Some Tentative Observations on Dating Carta Rustica Bindings Circa 1520 – 1850

On December 1, 2013 Nicolas Pickwoad, Director of the Ligatus Research Centre, University of the Arts London, contributed the following observations on dating carta rustica bindings (limp bindings made of rough handmade paper typically associated with Italian books) to the Exlibris newsgroup:

"There is no rule of thumb and very little serious historical research into these very common and remarkable bindings. From my own research I have arrived at the following tentative conclusions: 

"It is apparent that they had appeared in the Italian book trade by the 1520s, possibly somewhat earlier, though in their first version, they use a stiff, often quite thick, hard-sized cartonnage without turn-ins, but with cut bookblock edges and sometimes with endbands. They will occasionally have fore-edge cover extensions (often erroneously called yapp edges).
"The earliest of all are likely to be sewn on double, white, split-strap alum-tawed sewing supports rather than the rolled or twisted supports that were used slightly later (cord supports were apparently not used until the eighteenth century, and twisted parchment supports may also occasionally be found). 
"In the sixteenth century, covers of all types will often have fore-edge ties and these may have been laced through the outermost endleaf at each end to attach it to the cover (they have often pulled out by now, but there will be holes in the fore-edges of the endleaves where they were once laced through). 
"The use of spine linings on these bindings seems to be restricted to the sixteenth century.
"At some point in the mid-sixteenth century, a thinner cartonnage was introduced which required turn-ins to stabilise the edges of the cover, and it also appears from the number of examples with deckle edges on all four turn-ins that these sheets were made for bookbindings in standard format sizes. 
"Unfortunately, once the standard pattern was established by the end of the sixteenth century - i.e. laced-case cartonnage covers, uncut edges (hence no endbands), two parallel creases on each joint about 1cm apart (the joint crease and the spine crease, made to ease the opening of the cover), no adhesive on the spine, no ties - they look much the same until the end of the eighteenth century and beyond (the latest I have seen is on an edition of 1856). 
"Also, to add to the confusion, the thicker covers without turn-ins also survived until at least the end of the eighteenth century, often with secondary covers of decorated paper. 
"Laced-case cartonnage cases attached by means of the endband slips only, copying similar versions in parchment, appeared in the last quarter of the sixteenth century and through the seventeenth, and those will have cut edges in order to work the endbands.  
"The quality of the cartonnage changes somewhat over the years, and different examples can look quite different. It seems that the higher the quality of the cover, the whiter it will be. The cartonnage was made on a wide variety of textile screens which leave an impression of the weave in the cartonnage, but we do not yet know enough about its manufacture to be able to date the covers.
"Laced-case cartonnage bindings should not be confused with longstitch bindings sewn through cartonnage, though both appear to have been referred to as legature alla rustica or carta rustica at the time of their manufacture."
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Pope Leo X Responds to Luther's "95 Theses" June 15, 1520

 The title page of Pope Leo X's bull 'Exsurge Domine,' bearing the Papal coat of arms, was written to warn Martin Luther that he must recant his 95 Theses or risk excommunication. (View Larger)

With the papal bull  Exsurge Domine  on June 15, 1520 Pope Leo X warned Martin Luther that he risked excommunication unless he recanted 41 sentences drawn from his writings, including the 95 Theses, within 60 days.

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Martin Luther Issues the Manifesto of the Reformation August 1520

Martin Luther's 'On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church,' in which he criticizes the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, was the second of three treatises published by Luther in 1520 which became manifestos for the Reformation.  (View Larger)

In August 1520 Martin Luther published An den Christlichen Adel Deutscher Nation; von des Christlichen Standes Besserung (To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation). This and two other tracts he published in 1520—On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian—became manifestos of the Reformation.

" 'To the Christian Nobility' was published in the middle of August 1520 and by the eighteenth of the month four thousand copies were sold; seventeen further editions were published in the sixteenth century. It was shortly followed by the two other revolutionary tracts: 'Concerning Christian Liberty' (on justification by faith alone) and 'On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church' (criticizing the sacramental system of the Church)" (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] no. 49).

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Luther Burns Leo X's Papal Bull December 10, 1520

On December 10, 1520 Martin Luther, who had sent the Pope a copy of On the Freedom of a Christian in October, publicly set fire to the Papal bull Exsurge Domine and decretals at Wittenberg.

Luther defended this act in his pamphlets entitled Why the Pope and his Recent Book are Burned and Assertions Concerning All Articles.

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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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Pope Leo X Excommunicates Martin Luther January 3, 1521

 Pope Leo X excommunicates Reformation leader Martin Luther after Luther refused to recant his 95 Theses criticizing the Church. (View Larger)

On January 3, 1521 Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther in the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, to effect the excommunication threatened in his earlier papal bull Exsurge Domine (1520), since Luther failed to recant. Luther had burned his copy of Exsurge Domine on December 10, 1520, at the Elster Gate in Wittenberg, indicating his response to the threat. The original manuscript of the January 3, 1521 bull is preserved in the Vatican Library.

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The Emperor Charles V Issues "The Law of Printing" in Response to the Excommunication of Luther May 26, 1521

Following upon Luther's excommunication, as part of the Edict of Worms Charles V issued the first major secular anti-Reformation legislation: Der römischen Kaislerlich Majestät Edikt wider Martin Luthers Bücher und Lehre, seine Anhänger, Enthalter und Nachfolger und etliche andere schmähliche Schriften. Auch Gesetz der Druckerei:

"Item. We ask you and command that 'with the sounding of the trumpet' you call the people from the four corners of the villages and cities where this edict will be published and gather them where it is customary to publish our edicts and mandates. You will then read this edict word for word and with a loud voice. We order, upon the penalties contained herein, that the contents of this edict be kept and observed in their entirety; and we forbid anyone, regardless of his authority or privilege, to dare to buy, sell, keep, read, write, or have somebody write, print or have printed, or affirm or defend the books, writings, or opinions of the said Martin Luther, or anything contained in these books and writings, whether in German, Latin, Flemish, or any other language. This applies also to all those writings condemned by our Holy Father the pope and to any other book written by Luther or any of his disciples, in whatever manner, even if there is Catholic doctrine mixed in to deceive the common people.  

"For this reason we want all of Luther's books to be universally prohibited and forbidden, and we also want them to be burned. We execute the sentence of the Holy Apostolic See, and we follow the very praiseworthy ordinance and custom of the good Christians of old who had the books of heretics like the Arians, Priscillians, Nestorians, Eutychians, and others burned and annihilated, even everything that was contained in these books, whether good or bad. This is well done, since if we are not allowed to eat meat containing just one drop of poison because of the danger of bodily infection, then we surely should leave out every doctrine (even if it is good) which has in it the poison of heresy and error, which infects and corrupts and destroys under the cover of charity everything that is good, to the great peril of the soul.  

"Therefore, we ask you who are in charge of judicial administration to have all of Luther's books and writings burned and destroyed in public, whether these writings are in German, Flemish, Latin, or in any other written language and whether they are written by himself, his disciples, or the imitators of his false and heretical doctrines, which are the source of all perversity and iniquity. Moreover, we ask you to help and assist the messengers of our Holy Pope. In their absence you will have all those books publicly burned and execute all the things mentioned above.  

"To that effect, we ask and require all our subjects of your jurisdiction to consider the penalties herein mentioned, and we also ask them to assist and obey you as they would obey us.  

"We also have to be careful that the books or the doctrines of the said Martin Luther not be written and published under other authors' names. Daily, several books full of evil doctrine and bad examples are being written and published. There are also many pictures and illustrations circulated so that the enemy of human nature, through various tricks, might capture the souls of Christians. Because of these books and unreasonable pictures, Christians fall into transgression and start doubting their own faith and customs, thus causing scandals and hatreds. From day to day, and more and more, rebellions, divisions, and dissensions are taking place in this kingdom and in all the provinces and cities of Christendom. This is much to be feared.

"For this reason, and to kill this mortal pestilence, we ask and require that no one dare to compose, write, print, paint, sell, buy, or have printed, written, sold, or painted, from now on in whatever manner such pernicious articles so much against the holy orthodox faith and against that which the Catholic Apostolic Church has kept and observed to this day. We likewise condemn anything that speaks against the Holy Father, against the prelates of the church, and against the secular princes, the general schools and their faculties, and all other honest people, whether in positions of authority or not. And in the same manner we condemn everything that is contrary to the good moral character of the people, to the Holy Roman Church, and to the Christian public good.  

"And finally, after this edict has been published, we want all the books, writings, and pictures mentioned above to be publicly burned, including those under the name of any author that might be printed, written, or compiled in any language, wherever they may be found in our countries.  

We ask you to be diligent in apprehending and confiscating all the belongings of those who seem rebellious to the ordinances herein mentioned and to punish them according to the penalties set out by law-Divine, canon, and civil.  

"And so as to prevent poisonous false doctrines and bad examples from being spread all over Christendom, and so that the art of printing books might be used only toward good ends, we, after mature and long deliberation, order and command you by this edict that henceforth, under penalty of confiscation of goods and property, no book dealer, printer, or anybody else mention the Holy Scriptures or their interpretation without having first received the consent of the clerk of the city and the advice and consent of the faculty of theology of the university, which will approve those books and writings with their seal. As for books that do not even mention faith or the Holy Scriptures, we also want this decree applied to them, except that our consent or that of our lieutenants will be sufficient. All this will apply for the first printing of the books hereabove mentioned.  

"Item. Furthermore, we declare in this ordinance that if anyone, whatever his social status may be, dares directly or indirectly to oppose this decree--whether concerning Luther's matter, his defamatory books or their printings, or whatever has been ordered by us--these transgressors in so doing will be guilty of the crime of lèse majesté and will incur our grave indignation as well as each of the punishments mentioned above.  

"We desire that evidence be added to the copy of this decree, signed by one of our secretaries or by an apostolic notary as would be done for this original.  

"As a witness to this, and for all these things to be firm and forever established, we have put our seal on this document and have signed by our hand.  

"Given in our city of Worms on the eighth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred twenty-one.

"Signed Charles of Germany" (http://www.crivoice.org/creededictworms.html, accessed 12-27-2009).

In this comprehensive edict Charles V took a position identical to the pope, without any attempt to compromise with Luther or his followers. It has been suggested that the proclamation was part of a bargain by which Charles V attempted to enlist the cooperation of the pope against Francis I of France.

Depending on the influence which Charles V could exert on a specific region, and the attitude of sovereigns toward Luther and other reformers, this imperial decree was enforced with varying degrees of vigor, or not at all.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 91.

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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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Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi Issues the First Manual on Humanistic Cursive 1522 – 1524

A pamphlet of 32 pages entitled La Operina, issued in Rome in 1522 by a bookseller and scribe employed by the Apostolic Chancery, Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, was the first book devoted to Humanistic Cursive (Littera Humanistica Cursiva, Cancellaresca, Cancellaresca all'antica). Each page was printed from a woodcut by Ugo da Carpi rather than from type.

Osley, Luminario: An Introduction to the Italian Writing-Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1972) 27-34, suggesting that the work may have been first published in 1524.

• In 1524 Arrighi turned to printing and designed his own italic typefaces for his works.

(This entry was last revised on 03-03-2015.)

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Giovanni Nevizzano Issues the First Legal Bibliography 1522

In 1522 Italian jurist Giovanni Nevizzano issued Inventarium librorum in utroque iure hactenus impressorum in Lyon. This small work of 38 pages was the first bibliography specifically restricted to works on the law. "It was also intended to aid lawyers in obtaining these books from the bookseller" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] No. 11).

(This entry was last revised on 02-22-2015.)

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Cuthbert Tunstall Issues the First Book Published in England Devoted Exclusively to Mathematics October 14, 1522

English Scholastic, church leader, diplomat, administrator and royal adviser, then Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall (Tonstall, Tonstal) published De arte supputandi libri quattuor in London at the press of Richard Pynson. Based on the Summa de arithmetica of Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, this was the first printed work published in England that was devoted exclusively to mathematics. Its woodcut title was engraved by Hans Holbein the Younger.

"In the dedicatory epistle Tonstall states that in his dealing with certain goldsmiths he suspected that their accounts were incorrect, and he therefore renewed his study of arithmetic so as to check their figures. On his appointment to the See of London he bade farewell to the sciences by printing this book in order that others might have the benefit of work which he had prepared for his own use. The treatise is in Latin, and, although it was written for the purpose of supplying a practical handbook, is very prolix and was not suited to the needs of the mercantile class. It is confessedly based upon Italian models, and it is apparent that Tonstall must have known, from his reidence in Padua and his various visits to Italy, the works of the leading Italian writers. The book includes many business applications of the day, such as partnership, profit and loss, and exchange. It also includes the rule of false, the rule of three, and numerous applications of these and other rules. It is, however, the work of a scholar and a classicist rather than a business man.

"The word 'supputandi,' in the title, was not uncommon at that time. Indeed there was some tendency to use the 'supputation' for arithmetic and to speak of calculations as 'supputations.'

"Tonstall dedicates the work to his friend Sir Thomas More, whose talented daughter Erasmus addressed as 'Margareta Ropera Britanniae tuae decus,' —ornament of thine England. More speaks of Tonstall in the opening lines of his Utopia: 'I was colleague and companion to that incomparable man Cuthbert Tonstal, whom the king with such universal applause latelly made Master of the Rolls; but of whom I will say nothing; not because I fear that the testimony of a friend will be suspected, but rather because his learning and virtues are too great forme to do them justice, and so well known, that they need not by commendation unless I would, according to the prover, 'Show the sun with a lanthorn.' . . . ." (Smith, Rara Arithmetica I [1908] 132-34).

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The Venetian Arsenal Develops the First Large-Scale Production-Line Circa 1525

About 1525 the Venetian Arsenal developed methods of mass-producing warships. These included the frame-first system to replace the Roman hull-first practice. The new system was much faster and required less wood. At the peak of its efficiency the Arsenal employed about 16,000 people who could produce nearly one ship each day, and could fit out, arm, and provision a newly-built galley with standardized parts on a production-line basis not seen again until the Industrial Revolution.

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Marco Fabio Calvo Revives Hippocrates as the Precursor of Galen 1525

 The manuscript of Marco Fabio Calvo's Hippocratic Collection, transcribed in his own had, was used in the preparation of his 1525 Latin printing of the work.  (View Larger)

In 1525 the first collected edition of the Hippocratic collection was published in Latin translation in Rome dedicated to Pope Clement VII: Hippocratis Coi medicorum omnium longe principis, octoginta volumnia quibus maxima ex parte, annorum circiter duo millia Latina caruit lingua. . . . translated by Marco Fabio Calvo of Ravenna.

"This volume, which preceded the first, Aldine, edition of the Greek text by a year, 'changed what was known of Hippocrates almost beyond recognition.' In the sixteenth century the influence of Galen remained greater than that of Hippocrates, and many aspects of Renaissance Hippocratism remained to be investigated. Nonetheless, it is clear that the name of Hippocrates was invoked by physicians seeking an alternative to aspects of academic Galenism—so that an appeal to an authority even more venerable than Galen on occasion served to justify criticism of current beliefs and practices, if not innovation. Moreover medieval Hippocratic spuria began to be weeded out and the Epidemics are likely to have had some influence upon descriptions of patients and diseases.

"Fabio Calvo's original plan was apparently to publish a printed edition both of the Greek text and of his own Latin translation of the Hippocratic corpus, although as it turned out, only the translation was printed. A scholar of ascetic and frugal character—of which his vegetarianism was considered especially impressive evidence—he embarked on his work on Hippocrates when he was already an old man. As a friend of Raphael, for whom he translated Vitruvius into Italian, and an enthusiast for Roman antiquities, he also undertook the production of an illustrated volume on the urban geography of ancient Rome. Fabio Calvo finished collating and writing out his own copy of the Greek text of the Hippocratic corpus in 1512. His main source was fourteenth-century manuscript—then believed to be of considerably greater antiquity—in his own possession. But he also consulted one of the oldest and most important Hippocratic manuscripts, a twelfth-century codex that has been among the papal books since Charles of Anjou gave it to Clement IV in 1266" (Nancy G. Siraisi, "Life Sciences and Medicine in the Renaissance World," Grafton (ed) Rome Reborn. The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture [1993] 181-83).

♦ Calvo's autograph transcription of his 14th century Greek manuscript, the 14th century manuscript itself, the autograph manuscript of his Latin translation, as well as the twelfth century codex presented to Clement IV, are preserved in the Vatican library. The 14th century manuscript and both of Calvo's autograph manuscripts are illustrated in Rome Reborn, of which there is also an abbreviated online version.

What is called the "Hippocratic collection" is a conglomeration of works traditionally attributed to the medical school of the Greek Island of Cos, but now thought to include writings that may have come also from Cnidus, and perhaps also from Italy. The majority of these works date from the last decades of the fifth and the first half of the fourth centuries BCE.  Among the Hippocratic collection are five writings that may be characterized as anatomical:  (one page), On the Heart, On the Nature of Bones, On Flesh, and On Glands. These are among the earliest anatomical writings preserved from ancient Greece. However, no Greek physician before Herophilus of Alexandria practiced human dissection in a systematic way. The remainder of the Hippocratic collection falls under the folowing general categories: Theoretical Writings, Clinical Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Deontology (including the Hippocratic Oath). Although none of the seventy-odd works in this collection can be attributed with certainty to Hippocrates, the writings retain their historical significance as the earliest extant sources of Western medical thought and practice. The school, or schools, identified with Hippocrates established an empirical system of medicine based upon observation and clinical experience, advancing medicine beyond the influences of magic and priestcraft.

Prioreschi, A History of Medicine, II: Greek Medicine (1996) 222-229. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1076.

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Andrea Torresani di Asolo Issues the Editio Princeps of Galen in Greek 1525

In 1525 printer Andrea Torresani di Asolo (Andreas Asulanus) of Venice, father-in-law and partner of Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manuzio, Aldus Pius Manutius) issued the editio princeps of the collected writings of Galen in the original Greek, Galeni librorum pars prima-quinta. The five-volume set represented the largest single body of text issued by the Aldine press, which had by then passed into the hands of Torresani (Asulanus), Aldus having died in 1515 before he could fulfil his long-held desire to issue a new edition of Galen. The challenge of producing the new edition was immense, as the writings of Galen represent twenty-five percent of all surviving Greek literature, and issuing the entire set in one year had to amplify the challenge.

Torresani, with the help of his sons Francisco and Frederico, continued Aldus’s scholarly tradition, bringing out a number of Greek literary and historical editiones principes; “but whereas the family’s not unlimited linguistic expertise might have sufficed to produce creditable editions of geographers and poets, it was clearly not up to the challenge the works of Galen presented. . . . To meet this challenge, the Pavian professor of medicine G. B. Opizzoni (ca. 1485-ca. 1532) was placed in charge of a large group of assistants recruited mainly from northern medical scholars then studying in Italy: John Clement , Edward Wotton, William Rose (ca. 1490-1525), and Thomas Lupset, all Brittani and followers of Thomas Linacre, and the Saxon Georg Agricola of De re metallica fame. . . . The significance of the first printing of a classical author cannot be overestimated, especially a prolific one like Aristotle or Galen, whose works were not to be found in a single or even very few manuscripts, but had to be pieced together from as many manuscripts as the printer could lay his hands on. Not only did the texts of these authors go from being the private reserve of a few fortunate manuscript-owners and their friends to being available throughout the scholarly world—and that in a standard, corrected form—but their survival from the naufragium of the middle ages was once and for all assured” (Paul Potter, in Norman, 100 Books Famous in Medicine, no. 5). The Aldine Greek Galen was quickly adopted as authoritative, and was relied on heavily by subsequent translators of Galen’s works.

It was the custom of early printers to print directly from early manuscripts, and after the edition was completed many printers discarded the manuscript(s) from which they worked, at great loss to philologists. Nevertheless, one of the manuscripts used for printing of a portion of the Aldine Galen, the 15th century codex Reginensis Vaticanus Graec. 173, survived in the Vatican Library. In his A Companion to Classical Texts (1913) plate V, p. 105, F. W. Hall reproduced a page from that manuscript showing how the editors marked up the manuscript for the printer. As Hall wrote in his footnote 2,

"The codex was used as the copy for Galen's commentary on Hippocrates Περι Φμξεως ανθρωπον. The initial words of proper names have been indicated in captial letters in the margin; the Lemmata (or text of Hippocrates) upon which Galen is commenting have been written in full in the margin, since the writer of the codex had only given the beginning and ending; spellings are altered in the text; and the printer's signature of sheet 13Aa is written in the margin and marked by a bracket in the text."

Renouard, p. 101. Ahmanson-Murphy 202-203. Stillwell III-374. 

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Half of All Books Published in Europe are Printed in Venice 1526 – 1550

". . . in the early sixteenth century half of all the books published in Europe were printed in Venice" (Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 16).

"The boom peaks between 1526 and 1550, when Venice publishes almost three-fourths of the editions printed in Italy and half of all those produced on the continent. In the ensuing twenty-five years this percentage would decline to a still-respectable 61 percent" (Magno, op. cit., 38). 

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Troups Loyal to Charles V Sack Rome, Marking the End of the High Renaissance May 6, 1527 – February 1528

On May 6, 1527 an army of Spanish Catholics and Lutherans beholden to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and led by Charles III, [Duke of Bourbon] marched into Rome. For eight days these unpaid troops looted and pillaged the city, inflicting especially harsh treatment on priests, monks and nuns, forcing the Pope to flee the Vatican, and destroying art and smashing statuary. During the occupation of the city more than 2000 bodies were disposed of in the Tiber River, and another 10,000 were buried in Rome and its environs.

"In the meantime, [Pope] Clement remained a prisoner in Castel Sant'Angelo. Francesco Maria della Rovere and Michele Antonio of Saluzzo arrived with troops on 1 June in Monterosi, north of the city. Their cautious behaviour prevented them from obtaining an easy victory against the now totally undisciplined Imperial troops. On 6 June, Clement VII surrendered, and agreed to pay a ransom of 400,000 ducati in exchange for his life; conditions included the cession of Parma, Piacenza, Civitavecchia and Modena to the Holy Roman Empire (however, only the latter could be occupied in fact). At the same time Venice took advantage of his situation to capture Cervia and Ravenna, while Sigismondo Malatesta returned in Rimini.

"Emperor Charles V was greatly embarrassed and powerless to stop his troops, by the fact that they had struck decisively against Pope Clement VII and imprisoned him. Some may argue that Charles was partially responsible for the sack of Rome, because he expressed his desire for a private audience with Pope Clement VII and his men took action into their own hands. Clement VII was to spend the rest of his life trying to steer clear of conflict with Charles V, avoiding decisions that could displease him" (Wikipedia article on Sack of Rome (1527), accessed 02-03-2013).

Eventually, many of the invaders succumbed to the plague that swept through Rome in the summer of 1527; however, the occupation continued until February 1528.

More significantly, Charles V's invasion challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and marked a considerable advance for Protestantism. As Martin Luther wrote, "Christ reigns in such a way that the Emperor who persecutes Luther for the Pope is forced to destroy the Pope for Luther" (LW 49:169). In 1533, Clement had to make the delicate decision about whether to grant King Henry VIII of England an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in a manner the Church could sanction. His decision was as significant for of Protestant advancement as was the sack of Rome.  

Keenly aware that Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, who had a decided interest in Henry's petition, Clement denied the request, which caused Henry to withdraw from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church soon excommunicated him, leading to the formation of the Protestant Church of England. Without the sack of Rome, and without Clement finding it necessary to consider how Charles V would react to his decision about the annulment, the pope might well have acceded to Henry's request, which would have had a profound effect on the course of European history

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Albrecht Dürer Expounds the Aesthetic Anatomy of Human Proportion 1528

A few months after his death, Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion by German artist Albrecht Dürer was published in Nuremberg in 1528. This work, written, illustrated and designed by Dürer, with woodcuts on virtually every page, was the first book to discuss the problems of comparative and differential anthropometry. In his study of the subject Dürer was influenced by the classic aesthetic treatises of Villard de Honnecourt, Vitruvius, Alberti and da Vinci; however, Dürer’s study of the different human physiques—fat, thin, tall, short, baby, child and adult —was entirely original.

Unlike his Italian contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, who published nothing and obscured his manuscripts through mirror-writing, Dürer lived and worked in the world of printing and engraving. The son of a goldsmith, Durer’s godfather was Anton Koberger, who left goldsmithing to become the leading printer and publisher in Nuremberg. At the age of 15 Dürer was apprenticed to the leading artist in Nuremberg, Michael Wolgemut, whose workshop produced a large quantity of woodcuts. Throughout his career Dürer embraced the latest and best reproduction techniques, and may have derived more income from the sale of engravings and woodcuts than from painting.

Toward the end of his life Dürer wrote and illustrated three treatises which he also designed for the press. These included a treatise on fortification, a treatise on mensuration which introduced to Northern Europe techniques of perspective and mathematical proportion in drawing, painting, architecture and letter forms, which Dürer learned in Italy, and a work on the proportion of the human body. The last work, issued shortly after Dürer’s death, was the first work to discuss the problems of comparative and differential anthropometry. Because Dürer copied one of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings of the upper limb into his Dresden Sketchbook we know that on one of his visits to Italy Dürer must have viewed at least some of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings. However, unlike Leonardo who explored both the surface and the interior of the human body, Dürer appears to have limited his interest in the human figure to the surface.

Dürer held that the essence of true form was the primary mathematical figure (e.g., straight line, circle, curve, conic section) constructed arithmetically or geometrically, and made beautiful by the application of a canon of proportion. However, he was also convinced that beauty of form was a relative and not an absolute quality; thus the purpose of his system of anthropometry was to provide the artist with the means to delineate, on the basis of sheer measurement, all possible types of human figures. The first two books of Dürer's work deal with the proper proportions of fat, medium and thin adult figures, as well as those of infants. The third book discusses the changing of proportions according to mathematical rules, applying these rules to both figures and faces. The fourth book treats of the movement of bodies in space, and is of the greatest mathematical interest, as it presents, for the first time, many new, intricate and difficult considerations of descriptive spatial geometry. The whole work is profusely illustrated with Dürer's woodcut diagrams of figures. Choulant states that these include "the first attempts to represent shades and shadows in wood engraving by means of cross-hatching" (p. 145).

Like the Underweysung der Messung (1525), Dürer dedicated his book on human proportion to his friend, the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer. Pirckheimer provided a preface describing Dürer's debt to the Italians, alluding to Dürer’s visits to Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, and explaining Dürer’s influence on Italian and European art.

Remarkably about 1500 pages of manuscripts by Dürer survive in Dresden, London, Nuremberg and Berlin. These include the manuscript for Book One of the Four Books on Human Proportion. Its pages number 1-89 and on the first page is written:

"1523 at Nuremberg, this is Albrecht Dürer's first book, written by himself. This book I improved and handed to the printer in 1528. Albrecht Dürer."

The so-called Dresden Sketchbook, with 170 pages of drawings, also includes a large  number of preparatory drawings for the treatise on human proportion. Dürer's Sketchbook was published as The Human Figure by Albrecht Dürer. The Complete Dresden Sketchbook. Edited, with an Introduction, Translations and Commentary by Walter L. Strauss (1972). Panofsky, Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (1943), chapter on "Durer as a Theorist of Art."

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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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Johannes Herwagen Issues the First Printed Edition of the Greek Text of Euclid September 1533

In September 1533 Printer Johannes Herwagen (Hervagius) of Basel published Eukleidou Stoicheion biblon . . . , the first printed edition of the Greek text of Euclid's Elements. Herwagen's edition was an international project. The Greek text was edited by the German theologian and philologist Simon Grynaeus (Grynäus), using the first Latin translation made directly from the Greek by Bartolomeo Zamberti published in print in 1505, and two Greek manuscripts supplied by Lazarus Bayfius and Joannes Ruellius  (Jean Ruel). To this volume Grynaeus appended the first publication of the four books of Proclus's Commentary on the first book of Euclid's Elements, taken from a manuscript provided by John Claymond, the first President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In a long introduction Grynaeus dedicated his translation to Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, England, and author of the first arithmetic book printed in English (London, 1522).

In the history of the very numerous editions of Euclid, the most widely-used of all textbooks for 500 years, Herwagen's edition stands out in the history of graphic design as the first edition to print the geometrical diagrams within the text.

The commentary on Euclid's first book of the Elements by the fifth century Greek neoplatonist philosopher Proclus is one of the most valuable sources for the history of Greek mathematics, and is considered the earliest contribution to the philosophy of mathematics.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 730.

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Bronzino Paints a Portrait of an Elegant Young Man Mishandling a Book Circa 1535

Portrait of a Young Man by Bronzino, preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is considered one of the artist's "most arresting" paintings. It is also notable for the sitter's mishandling a book by wedging his finger in the volume while holding it tightly closed. Of course, this simply adds realism to the portrait. 

"The sitter is not known, but he must have belonged to Bronzino's close circle of literary friends, which included the historian Benedetto Varchi and the poet Laura Battiferri, both of whom sat for the artist. Bronzino himself composed verses in the style of Petrarch, and some of the fanciful and witty conceits in this picture—the grotesque heads on the table and chair and the masklike face formed by the youth's breeches—would have been much appreciated in literary circles. The book is doubtless a collection of poems" (http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/110000235?img=0, accessed 10-25-2011).

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Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries Brings Destruction and Dispersal of Libraries 1536 – 1541

 In 1536, King Henry VIII formally disbands all monasteries in his realm and seizes their property, including thousands of books and manuscripts, most of which were subsequently lost or destroyed.  (View Larger)

In a formal process called Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII disbanded monastic communities in England, Wales and Ireland and confiscated their property. Henry was given the authority to do this by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church in England, and by the First Suppression Act (1536) and the Second Suppression Act (1539).

"Along with the destruction of the monasteries, some of them many hundreds of years old, the related destruction of the monastic libraries was perhaps the greatest cultural loss caused by the English Reformation. Worcester Priory (now Worcester Cathedral) had 600 books at the time of the dissolution. Only six of them are known to have survived intact to the present day. At the abbey of the Augustinian Friars at York, a library of 646 volumes was destroyed, leaving only three known survivors. Some books were destroyed for their precious bindings, others were sold off by the cartload. The antiquarian John Leland was commissioned by the King to rescue items of particular interest (especially manuscript sources of Old English history), and other collections were made by private individuals; notably Matthew Parker. Nevertheless much was lost, especially manuscript books of English church music, none of which had then been printed.

A great nombre of them whych purchased those supertycyous mansyons, resrved of those lybrarye bokes, some to serve theyr jakes, some to scoure candelstyckes, and some to rubbe their bootes. Some they solde to the grossers and soapsellers.                   — John Bale, 1549"

(Wikipedia article on Dissolution of the Monasteries, accessed 11-25-2008)

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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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Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza Establishes the First European School of Higher Learning in the Americas January 6, 1536

On January 6, 1536 the Real Colegio de Santa Cruz, the first European school of higher learning in the Americas, was founded in Tlatelolco, Mexico. The school was built by the Franciscan order on the initiative of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza and Bishop Juan de Zumárraga on the site of an Aztec school for the children of nobles (in Nahuatl: Calmecac). The school also included the first academic library in the Americas.

"The original purpose of the colegio was to educate an indigenous priesthood, and so pupils were selected from the most prestigious families of the Aztec ruling class. They were taught in Nahuatl, Spanish and Latin and also learned the basics of Greek as well as crafts such as illumination, bookbinding and European art. Among the teachers were notable scholars and grammarians such as Andrés de OlmosAlonso de Molina and Bernardino de Sahagún, all of whom made important contributions to the study of both the Classical Nahuatl language and the ethnography and anthropology of Mesoamerica. Also Fray Juan de Torquemada served as a teacher and administrator at the Colegio. When recollecting historical and ethnographical information for the elaboration of the Florentine Codex, Sahagún used his trilingual students to elicit information from the Aztec elders and to transcribe it in Spanish and Nahuatl and to illuminate the manuscripts. The Nahua botanist Martín de la Cruz who wrote the Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis was also educated at the Colegio" (Wikipedia article on Colegio de Sata Cruz de Tlatelolco, accessed 10-18-2013).

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Paganino & Alessandro Paganini Issue the First Printed Edition of the Qur'an in Arabic, of Which One Copy Survived August 9, 1537 – August 9, 1538

Between August 9, 1537 and August 9, 1538 Venetian printers Paganino and Alessandro Paganini produced the first printed edition of the Qur'an (Koran) in Arabic. The edition was probably intended for export to the Ottoman Empire. For centuries this entire edition was thought to be lost, and the rumor was that the Pope had the complete print run burned.

Possibly the most daring and pioneering enterprise in sixteenth-century Venetian printing, this edition was mentioned by a handful of contemporary witnesses, and was reported as wholly destroyed as early as 1620. The reasons suggested for its destruction ranged from its suppression by the Pope ("Pontifex Romanus exemplaria ad unum omnia impressa suppressit") to the ridiculous (divine intervention would prevent its printing), but without any copies to study, and without any reference in a bibliography or library catalogue, the mysterious edition was regarded as a ghost.  

In 1987 professor Angela Nuovo found a single copy in the library of the Franciscan Friars of Isola di San Michele, in Venice. The copy contains a note of ownership of Teseo Ambrogio degli Albonesi, who died soon after 1540, and the stamp of Arcangelo Mancasula, Vicar of the Holy Office (Holy Inquisition) of Cremona, applied a few years later. Albonesi, an orientalist from Pavia, is the only person known to have handled the first printed edition of the Qu'ran in Arabic, and he referred to it in his Introductio in Chaldaicam linguam, Syriacam atque Armenicam (Pavia, 1539). Nuovo, "A Lost Arabic Koran Rediscovered," The Library (1990) Sixth Series XII, No. 4, 273-292.

Later study of the single copy by experts in Arabic showed that the edition contains a remarkably large number of errors, which would have made it totally unacceptable to Muslims:

"The other factor that makes the Koran printed by Paganini intolerable is the huge number of errors. We have seen that a single imprecision could cost the scribe his head, yet here we have a volume with scarcely a single page printed correctly. 'There is not a word without errors,' Elsheikh emphasizes, 'the disctinction between the similar forms of the Arbaic language is completely ignored. The compositor does not recognize the letters of the alphabet.' A compositor who must have copied the words from an unknown original, which must necessarily have been error-free.

"Angela Nuovo points ou that the elevated technical investment [to create an Arabic type font] was not matched by a careful checking of the text, and she reports the opinions of some Arabists, that the text is riddled with errors typically made by Jews who speak Arabic. The Paganinis. therefore, evidently looked for compositors and proofreaders among the flourishing world of Hebrew publishing at the time rather than in the long-established Muslim community in Venice. Elsheik does not agree.' That hypothesis just doesn't hold up. In Venice there were all the Arabs you could want. The city is full of beautiful mansucript versions of the Koran. And so?  The 1538 Koran doesn't only contain errors that we might call orthographical (for example, a letter that should be written with three dots is written with two),— there are errors that amount to outright blasphemy, such as the omission of the name of God. 'Certainly, there was a lack of copyists and writers,' Angela Nuovo declares, 'unlike what happened for the Greeks close to Aldus Manutius; in this case they had to make do with what they had" (Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 99-100).

(This entry was last revised on 09-25-2015.) 

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Henry VIII Establishes Pre-Publication Censorship in England November 16, 1538

On November 16, 1538 Henry VIII decreed that all new books printed in England must be approved by the Privy Council before publication. This requirement remained in effect in some form until 1694.

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Juan Pablos Issues the First Book Printed in the Western Hemisphere June 12, 1539

 The 'Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América,' where printer Juan Pablos printed what is likely the first book in the Western Hemisphere, still stands today in Mexico City.  (View Larger)

In 1539, in exchange for a monopoly on printing and the book trade in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, Seville Printer Juan Cromberger founded the first printing press in America. To undertake this project Giovanni Paoli, a native of Lombardy, and better-known as Juan Pablos, a printer from the "casa de Juan Cromberger," set up in Mexico City the first documented printing press in the Western Hemisphere. The first book Juan Pablos published was Breve y más compendiosa doctrina Christiana en lengua Mexicana y Castellana, printing of which was completed on June 12, 1539.

Contemporary authorities refer to a book possibly published in Mexico entitled Escala Espiritual par Illegar al cielo, which conceivably could have been printed in 1537, but no copy survived.

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Vannoccio Biringuccio Describes the "Fire-Using Arts, Including the First Description of Typecasting 1540

In 1540 Italian metallurgist Vannoccio Biringuccio published De re pirotechnia at Venice. De re pirotechnia was the first comprehensive treatise on the pyrotechnic or "fire-using" arts, including mining, metallurgy, applied chemistry, gunpowder, military arts and fireworks. Significantly for the history of printing, it contained the first description of type-casting.

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The Codex Mendoza, Perhaps Commissioned by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza Circa 1540

Created about 1540, about twenty years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico (August 13,1521) with the intent that it be seen by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, the Codex Mendoza is an Aztec codex containing a history of the Aztec rulers and their conquests, a list of the tribute paid by the conquered, and a description of daily Aztec life, in traditional Aztec pictograms with Spanish explanations and commentary. 

The codex is named after Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of New Spain, who may have commissioned it. It is also known as the Codex Mendocino and La coleccion Mendoza. It is one of a group of ten or more Aztec codices that were created in the first few decades of Spanish rule, and which provide some of the best primary sources for Aztec culture. 

Although there are very few surviving pre-conquest codices, the Aztec tlacuilo (codex painter) tradition endured the transition to colonial culture. As a result, scholars have access to a body of around 500 colonial-era codices. These later Colonial-era Nahuatl language documents are the foundational texts of the New Philology, which utilizes these texts to create scholarly works from the indigenous viewpoint.

The Codex Mendoza has an unusually eventful history.

" . . .[It] was hurriedly created in Mexico City, to be sent by ship to Spain. However, the fleet was attacked by French privateers, and codex along with the rest of the booty taken to France. There it came into the possession of André Thévet, French king Henry II's cosmographer, who wrote his name in five places on the codex, twice with the date 1553. It was later bought by the Englishman Richard Hakluyt for 20 French crowns. Sometime after 1616 it was passed to Samuel Purchas, then to his son, and then to John Selden. The codex was finally deposited into the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in 1659, 5 years after Selden's death, where it remained in obscurity until 1831, when it was rediscovered by Viscount Kingsborough and brought to the attention of scholars." (Wikipedia article on Codex Mendoza, accessed 10-22-2014).

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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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John Dee Collects Perhaps the Largest Library in Elizabethan England Circa 1540 – 1609

John Dee, the English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher, imperialist, and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, Hermetic philosophy, and medicine, though he was not a trained physician. One of Tudor England's most extraordinary and enigmatic figures, Dee claimed to own 3000 printed books and 1000 manuscripts, which he kept at his home in Mortlake, London. These were recorded in his library catalogue, a document which surivived and was edited for publication by Julian Roberts and Andrew Watson as John Dee's Library Catalogue (London: Bibliographical Society, 1990). Dee was a persistent annotator of his books, many of which contain extensive, elegantly written legible notes very worthy of study. 

In May 2016 it was my pleasure to visit the Royal College of Physicians in London with members of The Grolier Club to see an exhibition of the more than 100 books from John Dee's library preserved in the library of the RCP. That group, which remains the largest collection of volumes from Dee's library, remarkably, appears to have been stolen, or otherwise parted, from Dee's library when Dee traveled to the Continent in the 1580s, leaving his extremely valuable library and laboratories in the care of his brother-in-law Nicolas Fromond. Instead of caring for the books and scientific instruments Fromond appears to have sold them without Dee's permission, causing most of them to be widely dispersed, to such extent that Dee was never able to recover most of them.

Either by purchase or possibly by theft, the books from Dee's library at the College of Physicians came into the possession of Dee's pupil Nicholas Saunder the Younger who attempted in many cases to conceal Dee's signature or other mark of ownership by overwriting with his own. Saunder's books passed to Henry Pierrepont, Marquis of Dorchester, who was a devoted book collector. Pierrepont's family later donated his library to the Royal College of Physicians. 

John Dee's books in the Royal College of Physicians' library: A handlist. (London: RCP, 2016).

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The Library of the Painter El Greco and its Influence upon his Art 1541 – 1614

In April 2014 the Museo del Prado, the Biblioteca Nacional de España, and Fundación El Greco 2014 presented an exhibition entitled El Greco’s Library. The painter El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) was born in Crete. When he died in Toledo on April 7, 1614, he had among his belongings 130 books recorded in two inventories written by his son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos, one of which was compiled a few weeks after the death of the painter, and the other developed in 1621 as evidence of the goods Jorge Manuel brought to his second marriage.

The aim of the exhibit, and the accompanying book published by the Prado entitled, Biblioteca del Greco (2014), was to reconstruct the theoretical and literary roots of El Greco’s art through his library. Notable among his books was a copy of Vitruvius’s treatise on architecture from the Biblioteca Nacional de España, and a copy Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. Both were copiously annotated by El Greco with comments that revealed his ideas on architecture and on painting. Also on display was a copy of Xenophon’s Works and one of Appian’s Civil Wars, both of which were represented in his library, and one of Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural treatise with annotations that have on occasions been attributed to the artist. The exhibition was completed by three manuscripts, nine prints that probably inspired compositions by El Greco, and five paintings which showed the relationship between his pictorial output and the books in his library. Also on display were the original inventories of 1614 and 1621, and a letter from the artist to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The exhibition also included nine prints, mostly by Cornelis Cort and Dürer, which were key reference points for the painter, and five paintings, including Boy Blowing on an Ember and The Annunciation, which reveal the relationships between the artist’s pictorial creations and his books.

In total, the exhibition included 56 works that introduced visitors to what El Greco read and wrote, his knowledge and thinking, with the aim of understanding the ideas on the art of painting that underpinned his creative activities. The five sections of the exhibition reconstructed the artist’s career and analysed the way he saw painting as a speculative science. The first section emphasized the importance of El Greco’s Greek heritage throughout his life, while the second and third sections showed the key role that Italian culture played in his artistic transformation. The largest section focused on books on architecture, which highlighted El Greco’s interest in the universal nature of this discipline, and its influence on the status of painting as a liberal art. The exhibition closed with a small section on religious imagery, including a copy of Alonso de Villegas’s Flos sanctorum [Flowers of the Saints], which includes the first reference to the painter in print. 

"Based on the original documents of these two inventories, the exhibition is organised into five sections which together present its theoretical argument.

Greek forefathers and the classical heritage 

This section reveals the importance of Greek culture on El Greco, who was always manifestly proud of his origins. This is evident in the copies he owned of classical texts by Homer, Appian and Xenophon and others on the life of Alexander the Great, a hero of Greek history and the paradigm of artistic patronage due to his support for Apelles, of whom El Greco may have considered himself a modern personification. Also notable in this section is the absence of books by Plato in the artist’s library and the contrasting presence of works by Aristotle.

Metamorphosis in Italy 

The second section analyses the definitive transformation of El Greco’s painting following his time in Rome, Venice and other Italian cities. It was at this point and through an intensive process of self-education based on his knowledge of other artists’ work, his contacts with intellectuals and his own reading that he assimilated the prevailing practice and theory of art. At this point El Greco began to see painting as an autonomous discourse that went beyond the moralising depiction of subjects inspired by mythology, history and religion.

Painting as a speculative science

This section provides the exhibition’s central focus, given that El Greco believed that painting could imitate the invisible but also the impossible: in other words, he conceived of it as a means to explore the wonders of the real and to represent mythological subjects or sacred mysteries.

Vitruvius and the terms of architecture

While El Greco championed the hegemony of painting in relation to sculpture and architecture, at this period it was habitual to consider the latter the preeminent art form due to its traditional association with the liberal arts and because a knowledge of it was essential for becoming a 'universal man'. This is how the artist must have seen himself: he designed the architectural settings for some of the altarpieces into which his paintings were set and also wrote an architectural treatise, the contents and whereabouts of which are now unknown. These issues explain why his library included several copies of Vitruvius’s treatise as well as copies of the most important architectural treatises published in his own day, such as those by Sebastiano Serlio, Vignola and Andrea Palladio.

The problem of religious imagery

The final section emphasises the fact that although much of El Greco’s output consists of religious paintings, he did not devote a single one of his reflections to this subject and only owned around eleven books on religion. Aside from his own religious practice, he must have used these books to ensure that his works were doctrinally correct and conformed to contemporary precepts of decorum" (http://artdaily.com/news/69256/Three-Spanish-cultural-institutions-join-forces-to-present--El-Greco-s-Library--exhibition#.U0KgN61dUmQ,  accessed 04-07-2014).

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Robert Estienne Issues the First Surviving Publisher's Catalogue in Book Form 1542

 Robert Estienne, 16th Century Parisian scholar and printer, issued the first book-form publisher's catalog of which any copies survive in 1542.

In 1542 printer and publisher Robert Estienne issued from Paris Libri in officina Rob. Stephani partim nati, parti restituti & excusi. This was the first publisher's catalogue issued in book form, of which any copies survived.

"Estienne's publications are listed in alphabetical order, some under their authors, others under their titles; prices are added, but no dates given. The Paris printers, such as Estienne, Colines, Wechel, Chaudière, and Janot, pioneered this form of publisher's lists, and, between 1542 and 1550 issued more than a dozen of them, each surviving in only or or two copies" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] No. 13).

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Jean Fernel Issues the First "Modern" Treatise on Physiology 1542

 In 1542, Jean Fernel published the first treatise on human physiology in thirteen-hundred years, originally titled 'De naturali parte medicinae libri septem,' which remained the defining work on the subject for more than a century.  (View Larger)

In 1542 French physician Jean Fernel published De naturali parte medicinae libri septem in Paris at the press of Simon de Colines.

"I suppose that, for our purpose, Galen “On the Use of the Parts” (περι χρεας μορίων) may be taken to be the earliest separate treatise dealing with human physiology. For more than thirteen centuries it found no successor. The attempt to fill such a gap must have required both a conviction and a certain courage. The man who ventured was Jean Fernel. He called his book 'The Natural Part of Medicine', and issued it in Paris in the year 1542. He was already eminent as a physician, and greatly occupied in practice and in teaching. The book was, as was Galen’s, a physiology contributory to medicine. It had an immediate vogue. It met a need. Fernel had judged rightly in thinking there was room for it. His treatise was issued again and again, in Venice and Lyons as well as in Paris. He changed its name to 'Physiology'. For more than a century it remained the treatise on its subject. Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood in the following century, on becoming generally accepted, at last put Fernel’s treatise out of date. But the compendious name, 'physiology', which he had given to the subject, has continued in use ever since" (Sherrington, The Endeavour of Jean Fernel [1946] 1).

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man No. 68.  Norman, Morton's Medical Bibliography (1991) No. 572. Sherrington, The Endeavour of Jean Fernel (1946) 60-97, 189. Renouard, Bibliographie des editions de Simon de Colines, 357. 

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Filed under: Medicine

Theodore Bibliander & Johannes Oporinus Issue the First Printed Edition of the Latin Translation of the Qur'an 1542 – 1543

In 1542 Swiss orientalist, publisher and linguist Theodore Bibliander (born Theodor Buchmann) contracted with Johannes Oporinus, a classical philologist and scholar printer of Basel, Switzerland, to publish the first Latin translation of the Toledan Collection of works on Islamic doctrines and traditions, including the first Latin translation of the Qur'an (Koran).

The publication was instigated by Martin Luther who found a complete manuscript copy of the 12th century Latin translation of the Qur'an by Robert of Ketton in Wittenberg, and turned it over to Bibliander for publication.

"Printing was carried out speedily and under pressure, without the knowledge of the authorities, but news got out before work was completed. The edition was seized and the printer arrested. After lengthy negotiations involving reformers (Luther and Melanchthon included) and authorities in Zurich and Strasbourg, the city council of Basel released the work on condition that neither Basel nor Oporinus were mentioned on the title page, and that the edition should be sold from Wittenberg and provided with a preface by Luther" (Detlev Auvermann, Guillaume Postel (1510-1581), London: Bernard Quaritch, Catalogue 1343 [2006] no. 9).

Only some of the copies were issued from Wittenberg with Luther's two-page preface stating that the purpose of the work was to make Islamic texts available for study and refutation. Later issues without the preface were sold in Basel.  The work was issued by Oporinus in 1543 with the verbose title of:  

Machumetis Saracenorum principis eiusque successorum vitae ac doctrina ipseque Alcoran quo. . . .D. Petrus abbas Clunicacensis per viros eruditos, ad fidei Christianae ac sanctae patris Ecclesiae propugnatio curavit. His adiunctae sunt Confutationes multorum, & quidem probati [ss]imorum authorum, Arabum, Graecorum,  & Latinorum, una cum excellenti[ssimi] Theologi Martin Lutheri praemonitione. (The Lives and Teachings of Muhammed, prince of the Saracens, and his sucessors, as well as the Koran. . . .which the Lord Abbot Peter of Cluny had translated into Latin from the Arabic language by learned faith and of Holy Mother Church. To these have been added the Refutations by many of the most worthy Arabic, Greek, and Latin authors, together with a foreword by the most excellent theologian, Martin Luther.)

In February 2014 there were several digital facsimiles of the first printed edition available. That at Vivarium, Online Digital Collections of Saint John's University and the College of Saint Benedict, containing Martin Luther's foreword, was available at this link. A digital facsimile of the variant without Luther's forward was available from Universitätsbibliothek Basel at this link.

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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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Andrew Boorde Issues the First Printed Book to Set Out Rules for a Healthy Diet 1542

In 1542 English physician, traveller, and writer, Andrew Boorde, published in London at the press of Robert Wyer Hereafter foloweth a compendyous regyment or a dyetary of helth: made in Mou[n]tpyllier, compyled by Andrew Boorde of physiycke doctour, dedycated to the armypotent prynce, and valyaunt Lorde Thomas Duke of Northfolche. This was the first printed book to set out rules for a healthy diet, for those who could afford to follow such a regimen.

Formerly a Carthusian monk, but by this time known as "Merry Andrew" to his friends, Boorde was "making an enviable living as a physician and purveyer of health foods in Fleet Street, London; although he had more than once been accused on scandalous behavior and loose living. He is alleged to have attributed his extreme virility and undoubted success with the ladies to a balanced diet in which oysters and figs played a prominent part. . . .

"His Dyetary of helth passed through at least four editions before the end of the sixteenth century, much of its popularity stemming from the many ingenious dietary methods he revealed by which male virility could be improved and erections prolonged. The common artichoke was his favorite recommended aphrodisiac, and must have led to a considerable run on this scarce vegetable for several seasons. Mixed with rocket seed, the effect was alleged to be dramatic. 'Eat them at dyner,' he advised his readers, 'they doth increase nature, and provoke a man to veneryous actes.'

"Unfortunately, there were an unlucky few on which this sovereign remedy for keeping one's end up did not immediately work, and Boorde devoted a whole chapter to those he designated with a compassionate eye as melancholy men,' For them the diet was strict:

'Melancholy is colde and drye; wherefore melancholy men must refrayne from fryde meate, and meate whych is ower salte. And from meate this sowre and harde of dygestyon, and from all meate whych is burnt and drye. They must abstayn from immoderate thurste, and from drynking of hot wines and grosse wine, as red wyne. And use these thyngs; cowe mylke, almond mylke, yokes of rere eggs. Boyled meate is better for melancholy men that rosted meates whych do engender good blode, and meates that whyche be temperately hote, be goode for melancholy men. And so be all herbes whyche be hotte and moyste. These thyngs followyng do purge melancoly; quycke-beam, senna sticados, harts-tongue, mayden-hair borage, oraganum [majoram] suger and whyte wyne.'

"Once having thoroughly purged melancholy, a generous helping of rocket seed and artichoke would have its usual dramatic and uplifting effect, with the one-time enforced celebate made 'merrry wyth much venery.' This was Dr. Boorde's specific for nearly all masculine ills, and one he seems to have constantly restorted to himself, to an extent that caused so much scandal in his home town of Winchester that the 'three loose women' he kept in his rooms there were 'openly punished in the greate churche and stretes of that city.'

"His Breviary of Healthe appeared in 1547; but within a month or two of its appearance Boorde was arrested and thrown unceremoniously into the Fleet Prison on charge of permitted 'boggery' in Winchester, together with an assorted array of sexual malpractices that would make headline news in the Sunday newspapers even today. Merry Andrew indignantly denied the charges, but there was no escape. He resigned himself to death and made his will on April 1, 1549. He died in Fleet soon after, probably of the 'syckness of the Prysons,' so at least he cheated the executioner. As Merry Andrew, his effigy was erected as an Aunt Sally or cock-shy by fairground stallholders for several centuries after his death, the name giving a new phrase to the English language" (Quayle, Old Cookery Books. An Illustrated History [1978] 29-31).

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Nicolaus Copernicus Begins the Copernican Revolution 1543

Just before his death, in 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was published in Nuremberg. De revolutionibus set out Copernicus's revolutionary theory of the heliocentric universe—that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun. The Copernican Revolution, however, was not completed until about one hundred years after the publication of De revolutionibus.

"Copernicus initially outlined his system in a short, untitled, anonymous manuscript that he distributed to several friends, referred to as the Commentariolus. A physician's library list dating to 1514 includes a manuscript whose description matches the Commentariolus, so Copernicus must have begun work on his new system by that time. Most historians believe that he wrote the Commentariolus after his return from Italy, possibly only after 1510. At this time, Copernicus anticipated that he could reconcile the motion of the Earth with the perceived motions of the planets easily, with fewer motions than were necessary in the Alfonsine Tables, the version of the Ptolemaic system current at the time.

"Observations of Mercury by Bernhard Walther (1430–1504) of Nuremberg, a pupil of Regiomontanus, were made available to Copernicus by Johannes Schöner, 45 observations in total, 14 of them withlongitude and latitude. Copernicus used three of them in De revolutionibus, giving only longitudes, and erroneously attributing them to Schöner. Copernicus' values differed slightly from the ones published by Schöner in 1544 in Observationes XXX annorum a I. Regiomontano et B. Walthero Norimbergae habitae, [4°, Norimb. 1544].

"Remarkably, a manuscript of De revolutionibus in Copernicus' own hand has survived. After his death, it was given to his pupil, Rheticus, who for publication had only been given a copy without annotations. Via Heidelberg, it ended up in Prague, where it was rediscovered and studied in the 19th century. Close examination of the manuscript, including the different types of paper used, helped scholars construct an approximate timetable for its composition. Apparently Copernicus began by making a few astronomical observations to provide new data to perfect his models. He may have begun writing the book while still engaged in observations. By the 1530s a substantial part of the book was complete, but Copernicus hesitated to publish.

"In 1539 Georg Joachim Rheticus, a young mathematician from Wittenberg, arrived in Frauenburg (Frombork) to study with him. Rheticus read Copernicus' manuscript and immediately wrote a non-technical summary of its main theories in the form of an open letter addressed to Schöner, his astrology teacher in Nürnberg; he published this letter as the Narratio Prima in Danzig in 1540. Rheticus' friend and mentor Achilles Gasser published a second edition of the Narratio in Basel in 1541. Due to its friendly reception, Copernicus finally agreed to publication of more of his main work—in 1542, a treatise on trigonometry, which was taken from the second book of the still unpublished De revolutionibus. Rheticus published it in Copernicus' name.

"Under strong pressure from Rheticus, and having seen that the first general reception of his work had not been unfavorable, Copernicus finally agreed to give the book to his close friend, Bishop Tiedemann Giese, to be delivered to Rheticus in Wittenbergfor printing by Johannes Petreius at Nürnberg (Nuremberg). It was published just before Copernicus' death, in 1543(Wikipedia article on De revolutionibus, accessed 11-11-2013).

Because of the unusually extended delay between the publication of the Copernican theory and its acceptance by the scientific community, for many years historians believed that the book was not widely read at the time of its first publication. However, "Owen Gingerich, a widely recognized authority on both Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, disproved that belief after a 35-year project to examine every surviving copy of the first two editions. Gingerich showed that nearly all the leading mathematicians and astronomers of the time owned and read De revolutionibus; however, his analysis of the marginalia shows that they almost all ignored the cosmology at the beginning of the book and were only interested in Copernicus' new equant-free models of planetary motion in the later chapters" (Wikipedia article on De revolutionibus accessed 11-20-2008).

Up until the second decade of the seventeenth century the Church ignored the revolutionary implications of Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the solar system, partly because his system was useful for calendrical purposes, partly because of Andreas Osiander's anonymous and unauthorized preface "Ad lectorem" (long thought to be by Copernicus himself) presenting the heliocentric system as no more than a convenient calculating device, and partly because Copernicus himself "was annoyingly vague concerning whether or not he believed in the reality of his system" (Gingerich, p. 49).  However, Kepler's insistence in his Astronomia nova (1609) on the possible physical reality of Copernicus's system and his revelation of Osiander as the true author of "Ad lectorem," coupled with Galileo's public support of Copernicanism and his attacks on the Aristotelian-Catholic view of the heavens (beginning with his Letter on sunspots [1613]), alerted the ecclesiastical establishment to the dangers to its own authority inherent in the new system.  In 1616 the Church placed De revolutionibus on the Index librorum prohibitorum "until suitably corrected," and, for the only time in its history, spelled out the expected alterations to be made in the text.  This belated attempt at censorship was a failure, however: the census of copies published by Owen Gingerich shows that only one copy in twelve contains the prescribed changes, and that copies in France, Spain and Protestant Europe largely escaped correction.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1543 first edition of De revolutionibus was available from the Rare Book Room at this link.

Gingerich, "The Censorship of Copernicus's De revolutionibus," Annali dell'Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze, Fasicolo2 (1981).

Gingerich, An Annotated Census of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus (Nuremberg, 1543 and Basel, 1566). (2002). This 400-page work will remain a landmark in the history of bibliography. Its Preface begins as follows on p. [vii]:

"You have before you something almost unique in the annals of bibliography: an attempt to described the provenance, annotations, and condition of all surviving sixteenth-century copeis of a major Renaissance text. This census lists 277 copies of the first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus' pioneering masterpiece, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri sex (Nuremberg, 1543), and 324 copies of the second edition (Basel, 1566). Its compilation has taken three decades, the worldwide cooperation of librarians, dealers, and collectors, and literally hundreds of thousands of miles of travel."

[Incidentally, for those interested in the most esoteric bibliographical minutiae, there are two issues of Gingerich's bibliography. The first, printed on thicker paper, contains a typographical error on the upper cover, substituting the word "en" for "and" in "(Nuremberg, 1543 and Basel, 1566)". In the second issue printed on thinner paper this rather prominent but small error was corrected.]

 Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 516.

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Martin Luther Issues the First Work of Modern Antisemitism 1543

 In 1543, Martin Luther publishes the first modern antisemitic work, going so far as to condone the enslavement and murder of Jews, writing that the public is 'at fault in not slaying them.' (View Larger)

In Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther published a 65,000 word treatise Von den Jüden und iren Lügen (On the Jews and their Lies).

"In the treatise, Luther writes that the Jews are a 'base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.' Luther wrote that they are 'full of the devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine,' and the synagogue is an 'incorrigible whore and an evil slut . . .' He argues that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection, and these 'poisonous envenomed worms' should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He also seems to advocate their murder, writing '[w]e are at fault in not slaying them.'

"The prevailing scholarly view since the Second World War is that the treatise exercised a major and persistent influence on Germany's attitude toward its Jewish citizens in the centuries between the Reformation and the Holocaust. Four hundred years after it was written, the National Socialists displayed On the Jews and Their Lies during Nuremberg rallies, and the city of Nuremberg presented a first edition to Julius Streicher, editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer, the newspaper describing it as the most radically antisemitic tract ever published. Against this view, theologian Johannes Wallmann writes that the treatise had no continuity of influence in Germany, and was in fact largely ignored during the 18th and 19th centuries. Hans Hillerbrand argues that to focus on Luther's role in the development of German antisemitism is to underestimate the 'larger peculiarities of German history.'

"Since the 1980s, some Lutheran church bodies have formally denounced and dissociated themselves from Luther's writings on the Jews. In November 1998, on the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Lutheran Church of Bavaria issued a statement: 'It is imperative for the Lutheran Church, which knows itself to be indebted to the work and tradition of Martin Luther, to take seriously also his anti-Jewish utterances, to acknowledge their theological function, and to reflect on their consequences. It has to distance itself from every [expression of] anti-Judaism in Lutheran theology.' (Wikipedia article On the Jews and their Lies, accessed 12-08-2008; see also the larger Wikipedia article on Luther and Antisemitism).

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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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The Oldest Surviving Articulated Human Skeleton in Europe, Articulated by Andreas Vesalius May 1543

On May 12, 1543 Jacob Karrer von Geweiler of Basel, a bigamist and attempted murderer, was beheaded. When confronted by his wife for bigamy, Geweiler had attacked her with a knife and left her for dead. At the time of the execution Andreas Vesalius was in Basel, supervising the publication of his De humani corporis fabrica at the press of Johannes Oporinus, and the body of this executed criminal reached Vesalius, who peformed a dissection and articulated the bones using the method he described in the Fabrica. Remarkably this articulated skeleton, with some parts missing, is preserved in the Anatomical Museum of the University of Basel. It is the oldest surviving articulated human skeleton in Europe. It is also possible that this is the oldest anatomical specimen preserved in Europe, but this has not been confirmed.

Vesalius's exposition of his method of bone articulation appears in Book 1, Chapter 39 of the Fabrica. According to Vesalius, his method was new. The traditional method involved maceration in lime followed by cleansing in a fast-flowing river. This method, Vesalius wrote, was "dirty and difficult," and did not show features of bones such as processes, epiphyses, or depressions, because the process left them covered by blackened ligaments. Instead Vesalius wrote that bones and cartilages should be obtained from a cadaver by boiling. Then the bones should be articulated with wire.

Vesalius, On the Fabric of the Human Body. Book I: The Bones and Cartilages, Translated by Richardson & Carman, Chapter XXXIX "How the Bones and Cartilages of the Human Body are Prepared for Study" (Novato: Norman Publishing, 1998) 370-384. 

Kusukawa, "Vesalius, the Book and the Bones." In: The Alchemy of Medicine and Print: The Edward Worth Library, Dublin, ed. by Danielle Westerhoff (2010).

Wolf-Heidegger  "Vesals Basler Skelettpräparat aus dem Jahre 1543." Verhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Basel 55 (1944) 211–234.

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

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Henry VIII Restricts the Reading of the Bible May 12, 1543

Under Henry VIII the Parliament of England passed (34 & 35 Henry VIII, c. 1) The Act for the Advancement of True Religion, which restricted the reading of the Bible to clerics, noblemen, the gentry and richer merchants. Women of the gentry and nobility were only allowed to read the Bible in private. 

The Act  forbid the reading of the Bible in English by "women, artificers, apprentices, journeymen, serving-men of the rank of yeoman and under, husbandmen and laborers".

"The Act allowed moral plays to be performed if they promoted virtue and condemned vice but such plays were forbidden to contradict the interpretation of Scripture as set forth by the King.

"The Act claims that 'malicious minds have, intending to subvert the true exposition of Scripture, have taken upon them, by printed ballads, rhymes, etc., subtilly and craftily to instruct His Highness' people, and specially the youth of this his realm, untruly. For reformation whereof, His Majesty considereth it most requisite to purge his realm of all such books, ballads, rhymes, and songs, as be pestiferous and noisome'. However, the Act also commanded that 'all books printed before the year 1540, entituled Statutes, Chronicles, Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's books, Gower's books, and stories of men's lives, shall not be comprehended in the prohibition of this Act' (Wikipedia article on Act for the Advancement of True Religion, accessed 12-27-2009).

That there was need for such an act indicates that reading was relatively widespread in England at the time.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 94.

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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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William Turner Issues the First Ornithological Treatise to Contain Descriptions of Individual Species Based upon the Author's own Observations 1544

English physician, ornithologist and botanist William Turner published in Cologne, Germany Avium praecipuarum, quarum apud Plinium et Aristotelem mentio est, brevis & succincta historia. Turner was the first scientific student of zoology and botany in England. Because of his extreme nonconformist religious views he spent a good deal of time in exile on the Continent, where he observed European fauna and flora, studied the most recent work of contemporary naturalists and made the acquaintance of Conrad Gessner (Gesner). It was during one of these European exiles that Turner prepared the Avium praecipuarum, printed, as were parts of his Herball, in Cologne. An account of the principal bird species mentioned by Aristotle and Pliny, the book was the first ornithological treatise to contain clear descriptions of the appearance of individual species based upon the author's own experience and observations. Compiling this work was by no means easy, as virtually nothing had been written on the subject since Pliny's Historia naturalis and sorting out the names and actual species referred to in the classical texts demanded great philological as well as ornithological expertise. Yet Turner succeeded admirably in his task: Most of his identifications are accurate, with good descriptions of characteristics and habits, and the few anomalies (the phoenix, barnacle goose, etc.) are either strict quotations from classical authors or are based on evidence that Turner tried to verify. His identification of northern European species, especially British ones, provides valuable evidence about their distribution during the sixteenth century.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2117. Raven, English naturalists from Neckham to Ray (1947) 48-137.

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Filed under: Natural History, Science

Conrad Gessner Issues the First Universal Bibliography Since the Invention of Printing 1545 – 1555

 In 1545, Swiss zoologist and naturalist Conrad Gessner publishes the first 'universal bibliography,' cataloging about 12,000 titles in an attempt to control the 'labyrinth' of books and information which had arrisen since the invention of printing.  (View Larger)

At the age of 29, apparently after only three years of concentrated work, Swiss physician, bibliographer, naturalist and alpinist Conrad Gessner (Gesner) issued the first volume of his Bibliotheca universalis, sive catalogus omnium scriptorum locupletissimus, in tribus linguis, Latin, Graeca, & Hebraica: extantium & non extantium veterum & recentiorum. . . (1545) at the press of Christopher Froschauer in Zurich. Three years later Gessner issued an a subject index to the work, Pandectarum sive partitionum universalium libri XXI, in 1548-49. Froschauer published Gessner's Appendix: Bibliothecae supplementing the work in 1555. Coincidentally, two years before the Bibliotheca universalis, Andreas Vesalius had issued De humani corporis fabrica (1543), another massive work of scholarship and science, also at the age of 29.

The first "universal" bibliography published since the invention of printing, Gessner's Bibliotheca universalis was an international bibliography of authors who wrote in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, alphabetically arranged by their first names in accordance with medieval usage. Short biographical data preceded the lists of works, with indications of printing places and dates, printers and editors, where applicable. Gessner listed about 12,000 titles in the Bibliotheca universalis, expanded to about 15,000 in his Appendix. Though it was called "universal," Gessner intended his bibliography to be selective.

Escaping the Labyrinth

"The technique of book production had changed radically as a result of print, but problems of information had not been simplified. This moved publishers and scholars to develop tools equal to the new situation. But such tools did not prove completely adequate to the task of helping the reader faced with the problem of selection, a problem which had now become more complicated. The predicament suggested to Gesner an encompassing labyrinth made up of a multitude of books. He confessed the profound sense of freedom he experienced when he finished his massive work in 1545: 'In truth I rejoice and thank God because I have finally gotten out of the labyrinth in which I was trapped for almost three years' " (Balsamo, Bibliography: History of a Tradition [1990] 32).

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development  (1984) No. 14.

♦ Ironically Gessner, a physician, did not complete the intended medical section of his Bibliotheca universalis (liber xxi) and it was never published.

Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1940) 15-18.

Technically, in this project Gessner was preceded by Muhammad ib Ishaq (Abu al Faraj) called Ibn Abi Al-Nadim who in 988 CE published the Fihrist, an index of the books of all nations which were extant in the Arabic language and script. Chronologically, Al-Nadim's work was the earliest attempt at a universal bibliography, but it did not appear in a printed edition until 1871-72, and had no influence on the development of bibliography in Europe.

(This entry was last revised on 05-21-2014).

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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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Joos Lambrechit Publishes the First Illustration of an Adjustable Type-Mould 1545

The first illustration of a typefounder's mould adjustable for width of opening was published in Cornelis van der Heyden, Corte instruccye ende onderwys printed by Joos Lambrecht at Ghent, Belgium.

Carter, A View of Early Typography up to about 1600, Reprinted with an Introduction by James Mosley (2002) 9.

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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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Guilio Clovio Completes a Masterpiece of High Renaissance Manuscript Illumination 1546

In 1546 Guilio Clovio (Croatian: Juraj Julije Klović), a renaissance illuminator, miniaturist, and painter mostly active in Italy, completed the illumination of the Farnese Hours for Cardinal Alessandro II Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III. Creation of the 28 miniature paintings (2 double-page) in this manuscript occupied Clovio for nine years. The manuscript was a collaboration between Clovio and the scribe, Francesco Monterchi, secretary to Cardinal Farnese's father, Pier Luigi Farnese. It is widely considered the masterpiece of the greatest manuscript illuminator of the Italian High Renaissance
"Clovio was a friend of the much younger El Greco, the celebrated Greek artist from Crete, who later worked in Spain, during El Greco's early years in Rome. Greco painted two portraits of Clovio; one shows the four painters whom he considered as his masters; in this Clovio is side by side with Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael. Clovio was also known as Michelangelo of the miniature. Books with his miniatures became famous primarily due to his skilled illustrations. He was persuasive in transferring the style of Italian high Renaissance painting into the miniature format" (Wikipedia article on Giulio Clovio, accessed 03-27-2010).
One portrait of Clovio painted by El Greco shows him pointing to the Farnese Hours.
The Farnese Hours was acquired from J. & S. Goldschmidt by J. P. Morgan, and is preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum (MS M. 69)
"The dependence of Clovio on Michel Angelo and his lifting of certain scenes from the Grimani Breviary, are apparent. The Grimani Breviary was owned from 1528, by Clovio's patron Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1460-1523) for whom Clovio executed the Grimani Commentary MS (no. 11) in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. . . ." (http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/msdescr/BBM0069a.pdf, accessed 03-27-2010).
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Johannes Werner Issues a Pioneering Work on Environmental Science and Meteorology 1546

Canones sicut brevissimi, ita etiam doctissimi, complectentes praecepta & observationes de mutatione aurae by the German parish priest, mathematician, astronomer, and instrument maker Johann(es) Werner was published posthumously in Nuremberg by J. Montanus and U. Neuber.

Werner was the first to make regular observations of weather conditions in Germany; together with Tycho Brahe, he pioneered the practice of collecting meteorological data for scientific purposes.

“In meteorology Werner paved the way for a scientific interpretation. Meteorology and astrology were connected, but he nevertheless attempted to explain this science rationally. . . . The ‘guidelines that explain the principles and observations of the changes in the atmosphere,’ published [posthumously] in 1546 by Johann Schöner, contain meteorological notes for 1513-1520. The weather observations are based mainly on stellar constellations, and hence the course of the moon is of less importance. Although Werner did not collect the data systematically, as Tycho Brahe did, he attempted to incorporate meteorology into physics and to take into consideration the geographical situation of the observational site. Thus he can be regarded as a pioneer of modern meteorology and weather forecasting” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography)

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Andreas Vesalius Publishes the First Attempt to Formulate Methods of Identification of an Exotic Drug and Methods of Detecting its Adulteration October 1546

Andreas Vesalius published Rationem modumq[ue] propinandi radicis Chynae decocti. . . . in Basel at the press of Johannes Oporinus. In this work on the discovery and therapeutic use of the china root (Smilax chinae) in the treatment of syphilis, Vesalius described the first attempt to formulate methods of identification of an exotic drug. He also offered physicians means of detecting adulteration of the china root, which was coming into common use.

Vesalius devoted most of the China-Root Epistle to a defense of his anatomical methods and doctrines as described in the Fabrica (1543). The work also contains important autobiographical data, including Vesalius's remarks about his teaching experiences at Pisa, his destruction of some of his early manuscripts (a disgusted reaction to the Fabrica's reception), and information concerning his medical forebears.

Cushing, Bio-Bibliography of Vesalius (1943) vii.-1. 1. O'Malley, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels (1965) 187-224. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2141.

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Filed under: Medicine, Science

Conrad Gessner Issues the First General Subject Index 1548 – 1549

In 1548 Conrad Gessner (Gesner) issued from Zurich Pandectarum sive Partitionum universalium libri XXI. Pandectarum was the first general subject index, which Gessner intended as a key to his Bibliotheca Universalis (1545).

According to Ruth French Strout's "The Development of the Catalog and Cataloging Codes," Library Quarterly 26 (1956) 263 Gessner included in the Pandectarum

"instructions for the arrangement of books in a library, and he conceived of his system of classification for library as well as for bibliographical purposes. He even suggested that libraries use copies of his bibliogrpahies as their catalogues by inserting call numbers beside entries which represented their holdings, thus providing themselves with both an author and a subject catalogue."

This assertion I was unable to verify in June 2014, as no text of the Pandectarum was available online.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 16).

Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1940) no. XVII.

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Ignacio López de Loyola Issues Exercitia Spiritualia 1548

Ignacio López de Loyola (Ignatius of Loyola), Superior-General of the Society of Jesus, which he had founded in 1540, published Exercitia spiritualia in Rome.

"St. Ignatius of Loyola was born Inigo Lopez de Recalde [sic], a member of a noble Basque family in the province of Guipuzcoa in Spain. In his youth he led the normal life of his class, but during his convalescence after having been wounded fighting the French at Pamplona in 1521, he decided to do penance for his sins. In 1522 to went first to Monserrat and then to the neighbouring Manresa where during a retreat lasting from March 1522 to Febuary 1523 he first sketched out his 'Exercises'. After a pilgirmage to Jerusalem, he returned in 1523 to study for the priesthood, mainly in Paris and Rome, but also visiting England in 1530. His ideas were disappproved by the several religious orders with whom he studied, but eventually he was ordained in 1537. During this period disciples had gathered round him, and were formed by Ignatius into an informal association, which he called the 'Company of Jesus'. They moved to Rome, and after some difficulties Pope Paul II in 1540 approved this new community. The Society of Jesus was formally established with Ignatius as its first General. . . ." (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] no. 74).

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John Bale Issues the First National Bibliography, of Writers in England, Wales, and Scotland 1548

While in religious exile in Germany in 1548 John Bale, English churchman, historian, and controversialist, published Illustrium maioris Britanniae scriptorum hoc est, Angliae, Cambriae, ac Scotiae Summarium... ("A Summary of the Famous Writers of Great Britain, that is, of England, Wales and Scotland"). This was the first national bibliography, the first bibliography of British authors, and the first British literary biographical work.

"This chronological catalogue of British authors and their works was partly founded on the Collectanea and Commentarii of John Leland. Bale was an indefatigable collector and worker, and personally examined many of the valuable libraries of the Augustinian and Carmelite houses before their dissolution. His work contains much information that would otherwise have been hopelessly lost. His autograph note-book is preserved in the Selden Collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It contains the materials collected for his two published catalogues arranged alphabetically, without enlargement on them nor the personal remarks which colour the completed work. He includes the sources for his information. He noted:

'I have bene also at Norwyche, our second citye of name, and there all the library monuments are turned to the use of their grossers, candelmakers, sopesellers, and other worldly occupyers... As much have I saved there and in certen other places in Northfolke and Southfolke concerning the authors names and titles of their workes, as I could, and as much wold I have done through out the whole realm, yf I had been able to have borne the charges, as I am not' " (Wikipedia article on John Bale, accessed 01-04-2009).

Probably intended to outwit restrictions on the importation of foreign books into England, the imprint of Bale's book reads "Ipswich: John Overton" even though the book was printed in Wesel, Germany, by Derick van der Straten.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 15.

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