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Understanding Incunabula

Nicolas d'Orbelles, Expositio logicae. Parma, Damianus de Moyllis and Johannes Antonius de Montalli, Apr. 30 (die ultimo Mensis Aprilis), 1482. Shoults Collection, University of Otago.

Nicolas d’Orbelles, Expositio logicae. Parma, Damianus de Moyllis and Johannes Antonius de Montalli, Apr. 30 (die ultimo Mensis Aprilis), 1482. Shoults Collection, University of Otago.

UNDERSTANDING INCUNABULA

This course offers a practical approach to understanding books printed before 1501. Co-taught with Dr. John Holmes, a very experienced and talented printer, the class combines lectures, access to rare books, internet resources for incunables, and practical letterpress printing.

Although printing with moveable type was the media revolution of the Renaissance, we know very little about how the first books were printed. Without printers’ manuals, we must turn to the books themselves for insights. From them we can learn about the early history of printing, papermaking, type casting, size and design, page layout and format, and early bindings.

Students will learn to use catalogues and digital resources for information about early printed books, examine incunabula at the University of Otago Library as well as online, and learn about the importance of the material evidence an individual copy can preserve.  The practical nature of this course will also involve students in setting type to jointly produce a small leaflet on a hand press.

About the Instructors
Dr. Claire Bolton has worked as a letterpress printer for over forty years and has taught at the London Rare Book School. Her scholarship has appeared in Gutenberg Jahrbuch and other important print history journals. Her major study on The Fifteenth-Century Printing Practices of Johann Zainer, Ulm, 1473–1478 has just been published jointly by the Oxford Bibliographical Society and the Printing Historical Society.

Dr. John Holmes is a retired public health physician with extensive experience in letterpress printing.  An active member of the Association of Handcraft Printers and the British Printing Society, John regularly produces work at his own Frayed Frisket Press and the Otakou Press, and offers classes in letterpress printing.

Advance Readings
Books
Claire Bolton, The Fifteenth-Century Printing Practices of Johann Zainer, Ulm, 1473-1478Oxford and London: Oxford Bibliographical Society and Printing Historical Society, 2016.

Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography. New Castle and Winchester: Oak Knoll and St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1995. First part.

L. Febvre and H.-J. Martin, The Coming of the Book; The Impact of Printing. London: New Left Books, 1976.

Stephan Füssel, Gutenberg and the Impact of Printing, trans. Douglas Martin. Aldershot: Scolar, 2003.

Articles
F. A. Janssen, “Reconstructions of the Common Press, Aims and Results,” Technique and Design in the History of Printing. Amsterdam: Hes & De Graf, 2004, 273–85, also in Quaerendo, 32 (2002), 175–98.

Lotte Hellinga, “Analytical Bibliography and the Study of Early Printed Books with a Case Study of the Mainz Catholicon,” Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1989, 47–96.

Alan May, “The One-Pull Press,” Journal of the Printing Historical Society, new series 11 (2008), 65–89.

Paul Needham, “Res Papirea: Sizes and Formats of the Late Medieval Book,” in Peter Ruck, ed., Die Rationalisierung der Bucherstellung in Mittelalter in der Frühen Neuzeit. Marburg an der Lahn: Institut für Historische Hilfswissenschaften, 1994, 123–45.

A. W. Pollard, “Introduction,” in Catalogue of Printed Books Printed in the XVth Century and Now in the British Museum. London, 1908–1962, vol. 1, ix–xxviii.