2012 Seminar on History of the Book: Susanna Berger, “Early modern French and Italian illustrated philosophical thesis prints and broadsides”

from Martha Repp

The eighth and last in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book, convened by Professor I.W.F. Maclean, was held at All Souls College, Oxford on 9 March, 2012.

Ms. Susanna Berger, Kathleen Bourne Junior Research Fellow in History of Art and French at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, spoke on “Early modern French and Italian illustrated philosophical thesis prints and broadsides”. Ms. Berger’s paper focused on the philosophical broadsides and thesis prints produced in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. These prints are single-sheet publications, combining text and images to illustrate a particular aspect of philosophy, and they provide a fascinating insight, both from a theoretical and from a practical point of view, into how philosophy was taught in universities at this time.

In general terms, the philosophical ideas presented in these prints follow fairly closely the scholastic/Aristotelian approach to philosophy adopted by the vast majority of educational institutions during this period. The view of education and its purpose reflected in them is similarly conservative, and represents the fundamental purpose of education not as the discovery of new knowledge, but as the successful and accurate transmission of an already established body of knowledge, chiefly taken from classical authors, and beyond which students were firmly discouraged from venturing.

The most striking visual representation of this occurs in a print by the French author Chéron, in which the student eventually finds his way barred by a forbidding image of the columns of Hercules bearing the words “Non plus ultra”. This was seen as a direct contrast to the engraved title page of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, which represents a ship sailing through the columns of Hercules. If the content of these thesis prints was conventional, however, their format, and the way in which they integrate text and image was anything but.

Single sheet publications summarizing a particular subject had existed from the early sixteenth century, but were initially not illustrated at all. When, around the middle of the sixteenth century, such publications did begin to be illustrated, these illustrations would generally be fairly simple, consisting perhaps of the coat of arms of the dedicatee, or a single emblem, and there would be a clear demarcation between text and image, generally with the image in the top half of the sheet, and the text in the bottom. It was only in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that an attempt to integrate text and image began to be made.

These thesis prints were a conscious attempt both to entertain and to instruct and depended critically on an awareness of the capacity of visual information to interact with text as an efficient means of transmitting complex information. The prints were designed to be used in disputations, academic events in which students were required to defend or attack a series of given propositions in front of an invited audience. These disputations could be very lavish affairs, particularly when the students involved came from especially wealthy, noble or influential backgrounds.

The thesis prints would have been distributed to the audience, either in advance as a form of invitation, or during the event itself as a kind of programme to enable the audience to keep track of the propositions being debated. Public disputations were held to attract the attention of wealthy patrons and to enhance the prestige of the particular educational establishment. Thesis prints would have also been used by the students themselves as a form of mnemonic or crib-sheet to remind them of the material they needed to cover. Here, the integration of text and image in these publications can perhaps be related to the way in which, during this period, students were encouraged to memorize individual concepts by visualizing them as a specific physical location, and to relate concepts by seeing them as a journey from one location to another. Many thesis prints include a specific physical pathway that the reader is expected to follow.

Ms. Berger then went on to look at two specific examples of broadsides covering natural philosophy. The first of these was an illustrated thesis print designed in 1615 by the French Franciscan friar Martin Meurisse, and the second was an illustrated broadside designed in 1611 by Philander Colutius. Although Colutius’s broadside was most probably not a thesis print, he employed it as a teaching aid, likely referring to it during lectures to help students follow every step of natural philosophy. Both prints make use of the metaphor of the “theatre of nature”, a fairly conventional idea, suggesting man as the spectator of God’s creation and being both delighted and instructed by the experience. Although both publications are therefore using the same basic concept, they do so in very different ways. The print by Colutius depicts an actual classical theatre, broadly along the lines of the Colisseum in Rome, with the busts of various classical philosophers on the stage, accompanied by quotations from each philosopher. Above them, the theatre is on three separate levels, made up of arches, with the keystone of each arch representing a basic concept, accompanied by an appropriate image. The print by Meurisse, on the other hand, presents us with images of a series of figures, which appear to be acting out or representing the concepts Meurisse intends to convey through theatrical gestures, poses and props. The print also includes a depiction of Meurisse and his students, as well as of the Franciscan philosopher Duns Scotus.

Although some writers expressed reservations about the seriousness of these thesis prints as philosophical works, they were hugely influential, and continued to be valued and admired throughout the seventeenth century, both for their aesthetic and for their paedagogical value. Meurisse’s print on natural philosophy went through at least four editions, and was also translated into English (with a few adaptations to render it more suitable for a Protestant audience). The print by Colutius was also translated into English, as was another similar work by the sixteenth century Italian philosopher Andrea Bacci. The fact that these works were translated into English, and are known to have been used in universities in the Netherlands, tends to suggest that they managed to transcend the otherwise fairly strict division between Catholic and Protestant teaching of philosophy.

The final discussion explored all of these issues in more detail, as well as exploring other questions, such as the size of classes in universities during this period and especially the numbers of prints produced.

Bodleian Library Ashm. 1820b(18)

How to reconstruct dispersed libraries…

from Marie-Eugénie Lecouffe (ENSSIB and CSB intern)

The conference “How the secularization of religious houses transformed the libraries of Europe, 16th-19th centuries” took place in Oxford from the 22nd to the 24th of March 2012 . During these three days, speakers from thirteen different countries worldwide painted a picture of the impact of religious houses’ closure all over Europe from 16th to 19th century on the fate of monastic libraries and their collections.

Some of these manuscript and printed books have been lost, some others preserved. Some of them have been kept in public libraries  – which have sometimes been founded at that point  –, some others sold to private collectors.  The result is: these collections are dispersed today…

But more and more attention is now paid to studying provenance evidence, and tools have been developed to allow the reconstruction of former libraries. A few of them were presented during the conference: Ricerca sull’Inchiesta della Congregazione dell’Indice dei libri proibiti (RICI); Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI); Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI); CERL Thesaurus (CT); Early Book Owners in Britain (EBOB); Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (MLGB3). We’ll focus here on the ones which anybody can actually use on the Internet. Indeed EBOB and MLGB3 – which is an electronic updated version of  Neil Ker’s Medieval libraries of Great Britain – are still works in progress and will only be available later.

RICI’s resource:

Le biblioteche degli ordini regulari alla fine del secolo XVI

This databank contains the transcription of  lists of books owned by member of Italian convents and monastery and acquired by the S. Congregazione dell’Indice dei libri proibiti from the publication of the Index librorum prohibitorum by pope Clement VIII in 1596 until 1603. These lists are today preserved in the codici Vaticani latini 11266-11326 and concern libraries of 31 male religious orders or books used by some of their individual members.

It allowes search into libraries (by Vatican manuscript, list, location or person) as well as bibliographical research (by author, title, publication date or edition). It’s also possible to combine both approaches. The access to the databank is free, although it requires a registration.

CERL’s resources:

The Consortium or European Research Libraries shares several resources to help searching into provenance information – which often are in catalogues entries as membra disjecta – and reconstructing former libraries.

CERL Thesaurus

The varying names of places and persons depending on countries are an important issue for anyone interested in the period of hand press printing (1450-c. 1830). CERL provides a thesaurus of  printing places, 700,000 personal names  and 10,000 institutional names.

Each record gives besides the various names in different languages some biographical information, if it’s a personal name,  pictures of the devices, if it’s a printer’s name, links to catalogues of the library where books are held today, if it’s previous owner name, georeferences, if it’s a place’s name. .

CERL member libraries as well as other libraries or projects are contributing to these authority files which enable to know which authority forms are used by which library. The CERL Thesaurus links together informations which otherwise would be dispersed.

Material Evidence in Incunabula

Created two years ago, this resource aims to trace the circulation and use of incunables across Europe. Through MEI, which is linked to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), one can search not only bibliographical records but also copy-specific notes. As far as possible, provenance evidences are geographically and chronologically identified and the previous owners are socially characterized.  Of course links to CERL Thesaurus allow further biobibliographical research.

Index Possessorum Incunabulorum

This index contains all the entries extracted by Paul Needham (Librarian of the Scheide Library, Princeton University Library) from 200 published catalogues of incunables and up-dated through his own research. It’s the best way to start a resarch for reconstructing a collection. For example the five case studies about evidence and provenance histories of monastic books now in the Bodleian Library,  published on this blog before the conference, base their lists of place where incunabula with the same provenance can be found today mostly on Paul Needham’s IPI.

What’s on the Bodleian Library?

All these initiatives must stimulate libraries more than ever to record and deliver the results of provenance research: they are now able to link different information together and to supply pictures… and pictures are often the easiest way to provide a “description” of provenance evidence and to make the connection between two unidentified monograms or coats of arms for example… Making provenance information available for users  is the topic I’m now dealing with  in the Bodleian Library.

Besides the provenance index of the Bodleian Incunable Catalogue which gives access to extended provenance information for Bodleian incunables, the card index created by the former antiquarian books librarian David M. Rogers (1917- 1995) is the main resource for provenance of the early printed books in Bodleian collections, that still remains outside the rare books catalogue records in the online catalogue.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The cards provide name of the previous owner, institutional or individual, some brief information about this one, the shelfmarks of the Bodleian books from this provenance and the description of the evidence.   Sometimes a picture is supplied, as in the example shown here.

Inspired by the pictures on these cards, and by the example of other libraries,  I’ve been taking pictures  of provenance evidence in early printed books. The pictures which I’ve taken until now are shown, as an experiment, on flickr. It allows, among other things, the grouping together in sets of all the unidentified monograms or coat of arms, for example.  I’m also thinking about the right way of  supplying a short description with the picture (what information is essential?) and I’m trying to adopt some “standards” in these descriptions (from that point of view CERL’s resources are really helpful).

To conclude, I would just write: to be continued…

Monastic provenances of early printed books in Bodleian collections: case 5

Aristoteles’ Opera from the Premonstratensians of Weissenau


Fol. A1r
Fol. 3A1r



Aristoteles, Opera
Venice: A. Torresanus and B. de Blavis (in part for Johannes de Colonia), 1483.
Folio (ISTC ia00962000; Bod-inc A-387(1)).
Bodleian Library Auct. P inf. 1.3






Weissenau, Württemberg, dioc. of Konstanz, Premonstratensians, SS.Petrus et Paulus

Founded in 1145, dissolved in 1802. On a1r «Coenobii Minoraugiensis»; on 3A1r «Bibliothecae Weissenaviensis».

Fol. 3A1r: inscription

Samuel Butler (1774-1839), Bishop of Lichfield

Bodleian Library

Purchased in 1840 at the Butler sale for £18. 0. 0; not found in Books purchased for the Bodleian (1840).


South-German decoration. On 3A1r a circular portion which presumably bore a coat of arms has been cut out and replaced by blank paper. A different artist has supplied a new coat of arms, unidentified.


Contemporary blind-tooled pigskin over wooden boards, made in/for Weissenau.

Medieval manuscripts surviving from the Premonstratensians of Weissenau are today in:

Amiens, Berlin, Bloomington Indiana, Brussels, Cambridge, Cambridge MA, Cologny, Freiburg i. Br., Karlsruhe, Kremsmünster, St Petersburg, Liebenau, London BL, Manchester, Munich SBS, Nantes, New Haven, Nuremberg, Paris BnF, Prague (the largest number), Princeton, St Gallen, St Paul im Lavanttal, Sigmaringen, Stuttgart, Washington DC, Williamstown MA, Wolfenbüttel, Zeil.

Bibliography: Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters, ed. S. Krämer, 2 vols, Munich 1989, p. II 818.

Other incunables surviving from the Premonstratensians of Weissenau are today in:

Oxford, Bodleian Library (22); Cambridge UL (1); Copenhagen (1); Frankfurt/M (1); Freiburg UB (6); Hannover (2); Harvard (1); Leipzig (1); London, BL (1); New York, P. Morgan Lib. (1); Paris, BnF; Diocese Rottenburg-Stuttgart (20); Sigmaringen Hofbibliothek (1); Stockholm (1); Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek (106); Tübingen UB (9); Ulm (1); Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibl. (1) and further research may trace more in…?


[Source: Paul Needham’s IPI, Bod-inc., BSB-Ink, INKA]

Monastic provenances of early printed books in Bodleian collections: case 4

An Augustinus from the Augustinian Canons regular of the Lateran congregation of Padua 

Augustinus, De civitate Dei
Venice: Johannes and Vindelinus de Spira, 1470.
Folio (ISTC ia01233000; Bod-inc A-520).
Bodleian Library: Broxb. 18.10


  • Petrus de Montagnana (d. 1478), grammarian and bibliophile
  • Padua, Augustinian Canons Regular of the Lateran Congregation, S. Johannes Baptista in Viridario, 1478

A gift from Petrus de Montagnana as stated in the inscription on E9r: «Librum hunc Canonicis Regularibus Lateranensibus in monasterio diui Ioannis Baptiste de uiridaria Padue agentibus uir uenerabilis ac deuotus Christi sacerdos & bonarum artium cultor Grece Latine Hebraice eque peritissimus D. Petrus Montagnana optima fide pietatis studio proque salute adscripsit atque donauit quem quisque legens proficiat primum deinde sit gratus | M.CCCCLXXVIII». The collection was moved in the late 18th century to the Marciana Library of Venice.

Fol. 9r: inscription
  • Sir John Hayford Thorold (1773-1831)
  • Quaritch, London antiquarian booksellers, 1897

The book features in Monumenta typographica (1897), no. 233 for £28. 0. 0.

  • Charles Stephen Ascherson (d. 1945)

Bookplate dated 1902.

  • Quaritch, London antiquarian booksellers, c. 1954
  • Albert Ehrman (1890-1969)

Purchased from Quaritch in 1954 for £210

  • Oxford, Bodleian Library

Presented by John Ehrman in 1978.

Bibliography: P. Sambin, ‘La formazione quattrocentesca della Biblioteca di S. Giovanni di Verdara in Padova’, Atti dell’Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti, Classe di Scienze Morali, Lettere ed Arti, 114 (1956), 263-80; R. W. Hunt, ‘Pietro da Montagnana: a Donor of Books to san Giovanni di Verdara in Padua’, The Bodleian Library Record, 9 (1973), pp. 17-22.

History of the Collection:

The monastery housed not only a valuable library which contained the collections of scholars such Pietro da Montagnana, Giovanni Marcanova, and Marco Mantova Benavides, but also portraits, sculptures, coins, archeological and natural history specimens. When in 1783 the Senate of Venice decreed the closure of the institution, it also arranged for the tranfer of the collection in approriate locations: manuscripts and early printed books were assigned to the Marciana Library, the rest of the book collection to the public library of Padua.

Other books surviving from the Augustinian canons regular of Padua are today in:

Paul Needham’s IPI refers that Thomas Coke (1697-1759) 1st Earl of Leicester, on Grand Tour bought 40 manuscripts from S. Johannes in Viridario in 1717.

Other incunabula are today in Venice, Oxford, Bodleian Library (2); Harvard Houghton Lib., New York, P. Morgan Library, in private collections, and further research may trace more in…?

[Source: Paul Needham’s IPI, Bod-inc.]

Monastic provenances of early printed books in Bodleian collections: case 3

An incunable from the Benedictines of Fiecht (Tyrol)

Fol. a1r

Hugo de Sancto Victore, Didascalicon
[Strasbourg: Printer of Henricus Ariminensis (Georg Reyser?), not after 1474]
(ISTC ih00532000; Bod-inc H-242(1)).
Bodleian Library: Auct. 6Q 5.7


Caspar Augsburger, Abbot of St Georgenberg (1469-91)

Fol. a1r: Within the South-German decorated border the arms of Caspar Augsburger and of the monastery: argent, cross of St George, gules, with escutcheon en surtont, argent, a watering can, gules.

Fol. a1r: Arms of Caspar Augsburger

St Georgenberg, Tyrol, Benedictines

Founded in 1138 and moved to Fiecht in 1708
Fol. a1r: Later inscription: «In usum Fratrum Montis S: Georgii |1652»

Fol. a1r: Later inscription

Fiecht, Tyrol, Benedictines

St Gergenberg, then S. Josephus, suppressed by the Bavarian government in 1807.

Bodleian Library

Purchased in 1851 for £1. 1. 0, as published in List of Books Purchased for the Bodleian for 1851, p.64.


Contemporary German blind-tooled leather over wooden boards, with a title-label on the upper cover.

Bibliography: 805 Jahre Benediktinerabtei Sankt Georgenberg, Fiecht: 1138-1988, Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktiner-Ordens und seiner Zweige, Ergänzungsband 31 (St Ottilien, 1988).

Other books surviving from the Benedictines of Fiecht are today in:

Oxford, Bodleian Library (12); Augsburg, Uppsala, Stockholm, Dublin Trinity College, Cambridge UL, Cambridge Fitzwilliam Museum Lib., London Library, Paris BnF, New York, P. Morgan Library, Harvard Univ Houghton Lib., in private collections, and further research may trace more in…?

[Source: Paul Needham’s IPI, Bod.-inc.]

Case studies: evidence and provenance histories of monastic books now in the Bodleian Library

In anticipation of the conference “How the secularisation of religious houses transformed the libraries of Europe, 16th-19th centuries”  (22-24th March 2012, Oxford), some monastic books now in Bodleian collections are shown here.

Clicking on each picture below will lead to more extended articles about the Bodleian’s incunable, its monastic provenance and further indication of where else in the world incunabula with the same provenance can be found today.

Benedictines of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Benedictines of Tegernsee
Benedictines of Fiecht
Augustinian Canons regular of the Lateran congregation of Padua
Premonstratensians of Weissenau

The slideshow below gathers all the pictures shown in this series of five articles:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monastic provenances of early printed books in Bodleian collections: case 2

An incunable from the Benedictines of Tegernsee

Fol. b2r: page border
Fol. b2r: page border

Gualtherus Burlaeus, De vita et moribus philosophorum [short edition]
[Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, not after 1473].
Folio (ISTC ib01319000; Bod-inc B-610(1))
Bodleian Library: Auct. 2Q 3.46(1)


Andreas Hindermair (fl. 1479-93) chaplain of Passau

Inscription on front pastedown: “Istum librum comparauit dominus Andreas Hindermair capellanus capelle omnium sanctorum Patavie pro i aur[o] hung[arico] anno incarnationis 79. Et obtulit deo et santo Quirino Regi et martiri patrono nostro in Tegernsee pro salute anime sue et usu fratrum ibid. Anno domini etc. 1493. Deus sit sibi semper propicius hic et in eternum. Amen”.

Purchasing note on front pastedown

Tegernsee, Bavaria, Benedictines, S. Quirinus

Received in 1493 from A. Hidermair; inscription on rear pastedown: “Attinet monasterio Tegernsee liber iste 1493 obtulit nobis Andreas Hindermayr capellanus in Patauia in altari omnium sanctorum”; printed shelfmark on front cover: “M 53. 2o”..  The institution was dissolved in 1803.

Ownership note on rear pastedown

Munich, Royal Library,

Duplicate: original shelfmark on the spine and inside front pastedown: “Inc. s.a. 255”.

Bodleian Library

Purchased from Munich via Thomas Rodd for Fl. 18, that is £1. 10. 0, as published in List of Books Purchased for the Bodleian for 1837, p. 7.


Contemporary German binding from the Nuremberg workshop of Johann Sulzcpach (Kyriss no. 66): blind-tooled calf over wooden boards; with contemporary manuscript label with title, and a printed shelfmark label (Tegernsee) on the upper cover; yellow-edges; 325 x 220 x 50 mm.

History of the Collection:

Founded in the 8th century, it housed a scriptorium and large library. When the monastery was dissolved in 1803, 1,478 manuscripts and 2,317 incunabula were transferred to Munich. The monastery had an in-house bindery and the ownership inscriptions often included purchasing details, the only reliable source for the development of Tegernee’s collection: about 75% of the books now in Munich contain year of purchase and means of acquisition. By 1500 about 500 incunabula were acquired, a fifth donated, the rest by purchase. A catalogue of incunabula, from the end of the 18th century, is now in Munich, BSB, Cbm Cat. 768.

Bibliography: Bettina Wagner, Venetian incunabula in Bavaria. Early evidence for monastic book purchases, in The Books of Venice / Il libro veneziano, ed. Lisa Pon and Craig Kallendorf, Miscellanea Marciana, 20 (2008 for 2005-2007), pp. 153-177.

Medieval manuscripts surviving from the Benedictines of Tegernsee are today in:

Augsburg UB, Austin Texas, Berlin, Pressburg, Wrocław, Cambridge, Cologny, Darmstadt, Evreux. Freising, London BL, Mainz, Melk, Munich BSB (the largest number), Munich UB, New Haven, Nuremberg, Oxford Bodley (3), Paris BnF, Prague, Stuttgart, Vatican Library, Vienna.

BibliographyHandschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters, ed. S. Krämer, 2 vols, Munich 1989, p. II 753.

Other incunables surviving from the Benedictines of Tegernsee are today in:

Munich, Staatsbibliothek

Over 1,034 incunabula, the largest collection from an individual monastery to survive in BSB. As a result of 19th-century duplicate sales books from Tegernsee can be found today in:

Frankfurt/Main, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Nuremberg, Speyer, Stuttgart, The Hague, Copenhagen (2), Bodley (31 copies), Oxford Colleges (2), Harvard (4), Cambridge UL (3), Paris, BnF, Yale, Washington, Library of Congress, and further research may trace more in…?

[Source: Paul Needham’s IPI, Bod-inc., BSB-Ink, INKA]

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book: Gaye Morgan, ‘Bookbinding in Oxford in the long sixteenth century’

Example of an Oxford binding from the Codrington Library, All Souls College


from Martha Repp

The seventh in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book was held at All Souls College, Oxford, on 2 March, 2012. Ms. Gaye Morgan, Assistant Librarian in the Codrington Library, spoke on “Bookbinding in Oxford in the long sixteenth century”. Ms. Morgan is currently working on a doctoral thesis on bookbinding in Oxford in the sixteenth century, and, while her research is still in progress, her paper provided a fascinating overview of the avenues she hoped to pursue and the questions that had so far been raised.

Much of the existing work on Oxford bindings and bookbinders has tended to focus on very specific areas, such as the decorative tools or pastedowns. Equally, bookbinders have generally tended to be seen in relation to the University, rather than considered as tradesmen, and in their relationship to the town and to other related trades. In fact, bookbinders occupied a kind of hinterland between “town” and “gown”. Comparatively little is known about how or where bookbinders worked. Did they work on their own, or did they collaborate? Did they work in individual or shared workshops, or even in the colleges they were working for? Where did they acquire the raw materials they needed, and from whom? These are the kinds of questions that Ms. Morgan hopes to address in her research, but which are necessarily difficult to investigate because of the patchy nature of the remaining evidence.

The question of where and how raw materials were acquired was addressed first. The leather used in bookbinding has to be strong enough to take the weight of the boards, the sewing, and the joints, and also needs to be supple enough to mould around the corners of the boards and over the raised bands. Obtaining a suitable piece of leather for use in bookbinding was therefore not as straightforward as it might at first seem. The leather trade was very tightly controlled; legislation passed in the reign of Henry VIII specified the standards to which skins had to be prepared, and all hides offered for sale had to be inspected by representatives of two different branches of the leather trade, and would then be stamped to indicate that they had been approved.  Universities, however, were given carte blanche to overrule this legislation when it interfered with the way in which the university wished to control the trade. In spite of this prerogative given to the universities, there is evidence of the town authorities having inspected and approved skins in Oxford; leather off-cuts marked with the town stamp have been found at the Castle site. These inspections appear to have been carried out by four cordwainers; does this mean that there were no skinners or tanners active in the city at the time? Nevertheless,  there is evidence of a disagreement in 1620 between the town and the university over whether the town had the right to carry out these inspections, or whether this interfered with the prerogatives of the Chancellor of the University as superintendent of the market. The town authorities, anxious to keep the peace with the University, eventually surrendered their licence to inspect and approve leathers to the University authorities. Despite the evidence of cordwainers having been active in Oxford during this period, there is little evidence as to where Oxford bookbinders acquired their leather from. Slaughtering and tanning were not allowed within the city limits, but plans of the market indicate space set aside for tanners, and prepared skins may also have been brought in from the country. It is unlikely that the skins would have been sold ready for bookbinders to use, so there is also the question of whether the binders would have dressed the skins themselves.

Ms. Morgan then went on to consider the existing evidence on how Oxford bookbinders would have worked.  Firstly, based on the sheer numbers of surviving Oxford bindings, apparently produced by a relatively small number of named individuals, these individuals must have been turning out vast numbers of bindings.  It is also reasonable to assume that, given the number of bindings involved, most of the binders would have had their own set way of doing things. It is, however, much more difficult to link a specific binding to a specific individual binder, and there are only a very few cases in which such an attribution can be definitively made. One such case is that of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible in the Codrington Library, where the All Souls College accounts record a payment made to the binder Dominic Pinart for binding that particular book. This is, however, the exception rather than the rule, and most entries in college accounts will simply record payments “for binding”, without mentioning the specific books. In trying to identify particular bindings with specific binders, most scholarly attention has focussed on the decorative tools used, such as centrepieces, rolls, and stamps, but it is very difficult to make a definitive connection between a particular tool and a particular binder, as tools are known to have changed hands and to have been used by more than one individual. Another potential way of associating particular bindings with a particular binder is to look at manuscript or printed waste. Here, Ms. Morgan provided two very interesting examples. The first is of two printed books originally in Corpus Christi College library, which were disbound and used as printed waste for bindings. So many of the books in which this printed waste was used remained in Corpus library that when the pastedowns were removed and the leaves reunited, it was discovered that the College still had very nearly complete copies of the two original books. Unfortunately, as the shelfmarks of the books from which the leaves were removed are no longer current, it is almost impossible to associate this printed waste with specific bindings. Another example is of a number of bindings in All Souls College in which eight leaves from a manuscript have been used as manuscript waste, with the rest of the manuscript remaining in the College library.

The final discussion  explored a number of other issues, such as whether there is sufficient evidence to determine whether the Oxford binders acted as a kind of cartel to keep prices artificially high or whether the colleges acted to keep prices down, and, related to this, the more general question  of how price conscious the colleges were.

Monastic provenances of early printed books in Bodleian collections: case 1

A Bible from the Benedictines of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Fol. a1r: initial

Biblia Latina
Venice: Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn, 1480.
Folio and 4o (ISTC ib00566000; Bod-inc B-275)
Bodleian Library: Auct. M 2.12


Venice, Benedictines, S. Georgius maior [San Giorgio Maggiore], from 1429 a member of the Congregation of Sta Justina of Padua. The institution was dissolved in 1782.

Maffeo Pinelli (Venice 1735-1785) hereditary director of the official Venetian Press; the catalogue of his library was prepared by Jacopo Morelli, Marciana librarian in 1787 (listed there in vol. I no. 132); all the books were purchased by the London bookseller James Edwards for £600, and auctioned by him in 1789. The Pinelli collection was made of books from aristocratic collections and from religious institutions, mostly from the Veneto.

The Bodleian purchased some 79 incunabula at the Pinelli sale through Peter Elmsley; this volume, lot 5041, cost £1.10.0 as listed in the annotated sale catalogue and in the published List of Books Purchased for the Bodleian for 1789, p. 1.

D11v: "Iste liber est monachorum congregationis S. Justine de Padua deputatus in S. Georgii maioris Venetiarum | .773."

Binding: 18th-century English calf, c.1790, bound for the Bodleian Library; yellow edges; 255 x 185 x 60 mm.

Bibliography: Antonella Barzazi, «Un tempo assai ricche e piene di libri di merito». Le biblioteche dei regolari tra sviluppo e dispersione, in “Alli 10 agosto 1806 soppressione del monastero di S. Giorgio”: Atti del convegno di studi nel bicentenario, Venezia S. Giorgio Maggiore, 10-11 novembre 2006 / a cura di Giovanni Vian, Cesena, Badia di Santa Maria del Monte, 2011, pp. 71-92.

History of the Collection:

The first nucleus of the library at San Giorgio Maggiore dated to at least the early 15th century, though a new building, by Baldassarre Longhena, was ready in 1671 and filled with new books purchased by the Abbot Alvise Squadron, mostly from the booksellers at the Mercerie, the commercial heart of the city.

In 1782 the Venetian Republic began the dissolutions; in 1789 Jacopo Morelli, librarian of the Marciana Library, was charged by the Council of Ten to investigate the state of Venetian religious libraries; in San Giorgio he noted 19 manuscripts and 62 rare books (BMV Archivio, busta: biblioteche delle corporazioni religiose 1789-1812, fasc. 1 ‘Nota dei migliori codici manoscritti e dei piu’ rari libri stampati della Libreria di S. Giorgio Maggiore’).

In 1797 the French entered the city and started taking away to Paris the best books according to a selection prepared by the commissaries Berthollet and Monge: the 470 volumes included 4 manuscripts and 24 printed books from San Giorgio Maggiore. In the same year other books were taken away, without receipt, by a citizen Brunet, described by a local historian as a pedlar turned general (‘venditore di chincaglierie divenuto poi generale’), who removed several books from the libraries of the monasteries of the city. Moreover, the library of the monastery was also runsacked by the population, and rare books taken away, during a short spell when the monks had to leave the monastery. Other volumes were probably taken away by the monks themselves in an attempt to save them. So, ironically, the books that survived are those who had been taken away to Paris or stayed in the Marciana.

In 1806 a new inventory of the library of San Giorgio Maggiore recorded 213 manuscripts and 78 incunabula.  With the annexation of Venice to the French ‘Regno Italico’ in 1806, books from the religious houses of the city were sent to Padua, where volumes from some 40 monasteries were gathered in the ex-monastery of St Anna. They were left there for years, almost forgotten, with plenty of opportunities to remove them. With the fall of Regno Italico in 1815, valuable manuscripts and rare books ended up in the University Library of Padua. However, the books of San Giorgio Maggiore which can be found today in various European and American libraries are witness of different, more complex, events.

Other books surviving from San Giorgio Maggiore are today in:

Oxford, Bodleian Library:

Johannes Crastonus, Lexicon Graeco-latinum, [Milan]: Bonus Accursius, [not after 28 Mar. 1478].
“Iste liber est monasterii sancti Georgii maioris … numero 708”; purchased in 1824 for £10. 10. 0. (Bod-inc C-470).

Franciscus de Platea, Opus restitutionum, usurarum, excommunicationum, [Venice]: Bartholomaeus Cremonensis, 1472.
“Iste liber est … deputatus monasterio sancti Georgii maioris … no. 619”; purchased in 1831 from Thomas Thorpe for £0. 10. 0. (Bod-inc P-334(1))

Plautus, Comoediae, Venice: Simon Bevilaqua, 17 Sept. 1499.
“Reuerendus dominus Andreas Mocenicus prothonotarius apostolicus pro anime sue salute diui Georgii maioris cenobio dicauit signatus C.115”
. Purchased in 1956 from McLeish. (Bod-inc P-356(2))

Cambridge, University Library:

Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae, Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 8 June 1495.
“Est S. Georgii Maioris Venetiarum”. (Oates 1037)

Clifford C. Rattey, Torquay:

Plato, Opera, Venice: B. de Choris and Simon de Luere, for A. Torresanus, 13 Aug. 1491.
With a ms note on the final leaf [exactly like the Bodleian copy] recording the transfer from the Benedictine monastery of St Justina, Padua, to the monastery of St George the Great Venice; later Robert Finch (1783-1830); Taylor Institute Oxford. (Catalogue of the library at Corbyns, Torquay, formed by Clifford C. Rattey, Leamington Spa, 1965, no. B112)

Copenhagen, Royal Library:

Marsilius Ficinus, De religione christiana. Venice: Otinus de Luna 1500.
“Est sancti Georgij maioris de Venetiis…N. Wandstad Venetiis emit 20 s. 1658”. Georgius Francus de Frankenau (1644-1704). Hafniae 1698. Count Otto Thott (1703-1785), part of a donation which included 6,159 books printed before 1530 and 4,154 manuscripts; nothing known specifically on how he acquired them. (Madsen no. 1591)

Edinburgh, University Library:

Geraldus Odonis, Expositio in Aristotelis Ethicam, Venice: Simon de Luere, for A. Torresanus, 14 July 1500 (ISTC:  io00029000).
With the inscription: “Est Bibliotecae S. Georgij Maioris Venetiarum”. (Papers of Edinburgh Bibl. Society, IX, 1913, no. 150)

Harvard Univ., Houghton Library:

Plinius Secundus, Gaius, Historia naturalis, Parma: Stephanus Corallus, 1476.
On [a]2r “Est Bibl.ae  S. Georgij M.is Venet.rum”; on the lower margin of [P]3r “Iste liber e(st) monachorum congregationis s. Justine de Padua deputatus in s. Georgio Venetiarum signatus numero 545”. In Cambridge Mass, by 1841: Ms note in upper margin of [o]2r “King’s Chapel, Boston, to the library of Harvard University, Cambridge. 1841”. Gift of the Minister, Wardens, and Vestry of King’s Chapel, Boston. (Walsh 3350)

London, Valmadonna Collection:

Johannes Picus de Mirandula, Opera, Venice: Bernardinus de Vitalibus 1498 (ISTC: ip00634000).
On f.1r: “R[everen]dus dns Andreas Mocenicus protonotarius pro anime sue salutis diui Georgii maioris cenobio dicauit signatus numero 114”. Andreas Mocenigo (Venice 1473-1542) was a historian, scholar, Proctor of St Mark and ambassador to Pope Julius II. The book was later in the library of Gotha, and eventually disposed as a duplicate: on f. 1r: black oval stamp: “DUPLUM | BIB | GOTH”.

Lucca, Biblioteca Statale:

Biblia, Venice: J. Herbort, 30 Apr. 1484.
On c. 408r: “Congregationis s. Justine de padua deputatus monachis in monasterio s. Georgij maioris […] habitantibus ac signatus numero 281”. (M. Paoli, Le edizioni del 400 in una raccolta toscana, Lucca, 1990-92, no. 140)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France:

Antoninus Florentinus, Summa moralis, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1477-1480.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 15th c.; Count Sebastiano d’Ayala (1744-1811); purchased at his sale in 1802. (CIBN A-453*).

Augustinus, De Civitate Dei, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 2 Oct. 1475.
Prov. Benedictines of  S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1484; ex-libris of Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, circa 1780 [ ?]. (CIBN A-682)

[Biblia.] – Interpretationes Hebraicorum nominum, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1476.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 15th c., evidence from illumination (representation of St George on a5) and erased ex-libris; Vienna, Imperial Library, removed in 1809. (CIBN B-382*)

Cicero, Pseudo-, Rhetorica ad C. Herennium, Milan: Antonio Zarotto [for Marco Roma], 12 Aug. 1474.
Prov. Benedictines of  Sta Justina of Padua (annotation of Van Praet), or possibly Benedictines of  S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (from Van Praet 1813). (CIBN C-465*)

Dante Alighieri, La Commedia, Florence: Nicolò di Lorenzo, 30 Aug. 1481.
Prov. Orlando di Francesco Franceschi, 1728; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 18th c.; ex-libris of  Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, circa 1780. (CIBN D-13*)

Franchinus Gafurius, Practica musicae, Milan: Guillaume Le Signerre for Giovanni Pietro da Lomazzo, 30 Sept. 1496.
. Benedictines of S. Sisto of Piacenza, used by Johannes Maria, Piacenza, 16-17th c.; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 17th c. (CIBN G-000)

Guillelmus Duranti, Rationale divinorum officiorum, [Mainz]: Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 6 Oct. 1459.
On the last leaf: Iste liber est congregationis monachorum sancte Justine deputatus monasterio sancti Georgii maioris Venetiarum ac signatus numero 315″ “Constitit ducatorum decem octo emptus anno 1461”. (CIBN D-278; DeRicci, Mayence, 65).

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, Brescia: Bonino de’ Bonini, 3 Mar. 1485.
Prov. Benedictines of  Sta Justina of Padua, 16th c.; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice [ ?]; removed in 1796. (CIBN G-000)

Lactantius, Opera,  Venice: Wendelinus de Spira, 1472.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. (CIBN L-5*)

Nicolaus Perottus, Rudimenta grammatices, Venice: [Jacopo da Fivizzano for] Marco de’ Conti and Gerardo Alessandrino, 17 Jan. 1476/77.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. (CIBN P-124)

Bartholomæus Platina, Vitæ pontificum, [Venice:] Johannes de Colonia et Johannes Manthen, 11 June 1479.
Prov. Benedictines of Sta Justine of Padua; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice; ex-libris of Venice, Biblioteca Marciana. (CIBN P-443*)

Priscianus, Opera, [Milan: Domenico da Vespolate for Bonino Mombrizio, after 24 Feb. 1476.]
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice; ex-libris of Venice, Biblioteca Marciana. (CIBN P-595*)

Strabo, Geographia, Venice: Wendelinus de Spira, 1472.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 16th c.; Cardinal Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794); purchased at his sale in 1792. (CIBN S-471*)

Johannes Tortellius, Orthographia, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1471.
Prov. Benedictines of  S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. (CIBN T-290*)

Laurentius Valla, Elegantiæ linguæ latinæ, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1471.
Prov. Unidentified coat of arms; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 16th c.; Cardinal Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794); purchased at his sale in 1792. (CIBN V-37*)

Subiaco, Biblioteca Statale del Monumento di Santa Scolastica:

Bartolomeo Facio, De rebus gestis Alphonsi Aragonij regis libri 7, Mantuam Feb. 1563.
On the titlepage: “Est Bibliothecae S. Georgii Maioris Venetiarum”. (ANT.500 XXIII B 22)

Uppsala, University Library:

Nicolaus Perottus, Cornucopiae linguae latinae, Venice: P. de Paganinis, 14 May 1489 (ISTC ip00288000).
Inscription: “Iste liber est Congregationis monachorum s. Justine de Padua ordinis s. Benedicti deputatus in monasterio s. Georgij maioris Venetiarum signatus 947”. (Sallander 1907 no. 1885).


Even if nothing has been published more in detail, some books are very probably still in Venice.

[Source:  Paul Needham’s IPI, Bod-inc., and Nicolas Petit, BnF]

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book: Mario Infelise, “Masters of books: ecclesiastic and state censorship in Venice during the Counter-Reformation”

from Martha Repp

The sixth in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book, convened by Professor I.W.F. Maclean, was held at All Souls College, Oxford, on 24 February, 2012. Professor Mario Infelise of the Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice, spoke on “Masters of books: ecclesiastic and state censorship in Venice during the Counter-Reformation”.

Professor Infelise’s paper focused on state and ecclesiastical censorship of the printed word, and the not infrequent tensions between the two, during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and particularly on the situation in Venice. The question of censorship, and who should be primarily responsible for it, can be seen as part of a much wider debate during this period about the nature and role of secular princes, and the balance of power between church and state.

Some scholars from within the Church, notably Robert Bellarmine, asserted the theory of the Church’s “potestas indirecta”, the idea that the ecclesiastical authorities had the right to intervene in the affairs of individual states when they judged it opportune to do so. This was justified on the basis that the Church had a wider responsibility to protect society as a whole from error, and therefore had a duty to keep watch over sovereigns, both in spiritual and political matters, in order to safeguard orthodoxy and morality.

During the sixteenth century, however, this position increasingly came into conflict with the emerging concept of the secular prince as absolute and divinely-ordained ruler within his own domain. If, however, the secular prince was to be absolute, it was essential to develop some form of control over the written word, in order to control the opinions of his subjects, and therefore the need for a coherent cultural policy that advanced the secular authorities’ wider political aims came decisively to the fore. Secular rulers were well aware that the Church’s assertion of its “potestas indirecta” was a potential threat to their own authority, but were equally conscious of the Church’s importance as a force for maintaining social order and encouraging obedience to the secular authorities.

It was this general debate that formed the background to the disagreement in 1596 between the Republic of Venice and the Papacy over the publication of Clement VIII’s new version of the Index of Forbidden Books. A Papal decree of May 1596 rendered the new version of the Index definitively enforceable; however, the Venetian authorities refused to accept it as it stood. The Papacy was determined to get the new version of the Index published as quickly as possible, and was well aware that a refusal to publish it on the part of one state could only have the effect of encouraging other potentially recalcitrant states. A summer of intense negotiations ensued, during which the Papal Nuncio attempted to present the new version of the Index as a useful tool for civil as well as religious control. Eventually, a compromise was reached, by which the Venetian authorities agreed to publish the Index, with an additional page setting out the limitations of its applicability to Venice. Although this Concordat resolved the specific issue of the publication of the Index, the whole affair left a legacy of strained relations between Venice and the Papacy, which would eventually culminate in the whole of Venice being place under a Papal interdict in 1606.

If this disagreement can be seen as an attempt on the part of the Venetian authorities to assert the primacy of their own state censorship over any external ecclesiastical censorship, what form did this state censorship take? From the very beginning of printing in Venice, in 1469, Venetian patricians had taken an interest in books, sometimes for political and sometimes for financial reasons, and by 1527 the Council of Ten had established an early form of state censorship. Another significant event was the establishment, in 1517, of the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova, a committee of three prestigious Venetian patricians with responsibility not only for university appointments, but for vetting and approving printed books. By 1603, the mechanisms of censorship were in place. Every manuscript had to be read and approved by two censors, the Inquisitor of the Holy Office (for religious questions) and the Ducal Secretary (for political questions), both of whom had to produce a written opinion. If both opinions were favourable, the book would then be granted the Licence of the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova, and finally it would be registered by the Council of Ten.

It might be assumed that the events of 1596 led to a relaxation of state censorship in Venice, but in fact this was not the case. The Venetian authorities were extremely wary of Venice being seen as a potential safe haven for heretical books. The view taken by some scholars, that Venice during this period was a centre of resistance to censorship, is therefore perhaps a little simplistic. Nor was the day to day practice of censorship always and entirely informed by opposition between secular and ecclesiastical authorities; in fact, compromise and collaboration were much more common.

Professor Infelise concluded by looking at two case studies from the early seventeenth century. The first of these was the publication of the Italian edition of Francis Bacon’s Essays. The Venetian patrician Fulgenzio Micanzio had taken a very early interest in Bacon’s writings, which he had translated into Italian. In 1617, he came up with the idea of publishing an Italian edition of the Essays, but, despite the support of important Venetian figures, the idea of publishing this edition in Venice failed because of the opposition of the ecclesiastical authorities. Micanzio then wanted to get round this by having an Italian edition of the Essays printed in London, and importing it back to Venice. However, before this could be done, the Italian translation of the Essays by the English Catholic Sir Tobie Matthews was published in Florence. This Florentine edition suppressed two of the more inflammatory essays, as well as an approving reference to Machiavelli, and omitted all reference to Bacon on the title page. Despite Micanzio’s avowed intention to restore both the attribution to Bacon and the two suppressed essays when his edition did eventually appear in 1619, it did mention Bacon on the title page, but did not include the two essays suppressed from the Florentine edition. The second case considered was that of Andrea Morosini’s Historia Veneta, a political history of Venice from 1521 to 1615, published in Venice in 1615. Despite Morosini’s impeccable academic credentials and close links to powerful Venetian figures, and the book’s stressing of the need for a complete accord between Venice and the Papacy, the ecclesiastical authorities opposed its publication because of the way it narrated the events of the period of the interdict. The Venetian authorities decided to have it published anyway, without ecclesiastical approval, by special decree of the Senate. The ecclesiastical authorities responded by placing the book on the Index until it had been corrected; the Venetian authorities refused to publish the ban.

The final discussion explored a number of other issues, such as whether the Church’s ready access to a pool of educated men, already trained in this kind of work, made it easier for them to establish mechanisms for censorship than it was for the secular authorities, where censorship would inevitably end up in the hands of a literate and educated elite, who might have their own agenda and be more concerned to promote than to prevent publication. Another issue considered was whether the availability of books printed in other countries meant that secular censorship tended to be more concerned with production rather than circulation.