A virtual tour of Dante 1481 in multiple copies

See recording of the online multi-library event on 4 May 2021

See the film demonstrating printing an intaglio plate on a letterpress sheet

A follow-up seminar will take place on 6 July 2021; Registration at this link.

View of intaglio illustration of the 1481 edition of Dante, from Bodleian Auct. 2Q 1.11. The illustration is upside down.
Bodleian Auct. 2Q 1.11, Canto Tertio, detail

[re-blogged from Teaching the Book]

Examining several copies of the same book, especially one printed before 1500, is an enlightening experience. The copy-census is a valuable method for the study of early printing and one which requires personal inspection of copies which may be widely distributed around the world. To do this in person is a long and expensive process. A glimpse of the knowledge gained, though, could be had in a virtual visit to eight libraries, coordinated on 4 May 2021 to look at copies of one particular publication, the 1481 edition of Dante’s Comedia with a commentary by 15th-century Florentine scholar Christoforo Landino.

Although the invention of printing seemed to promise a stream of identical copies from the press, scholars of early printing are well aware that this was not always the result. Stop-press changes and accidents in the press account for minor or sometimes major differences between copies of the same edition. The marks of ownership over several hundred years have added further copy-specific elements to the objects held in libraries today.

Springing happily from a suggestion by Tabitha Tuckett, Rare-Books Librarian at University College London, this international tour co-hosted by UCL and the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book, with support from the Italian Cultural Institute in London and the Bibliographical Society of America, expanded on a growing practice of librarians showing books online using a visualiser. In pre-pandemic times the visualiser or document camera could be used for teaching in a lecture theatre or at a distance; in times of limited international travel it is a way to communicate across institutions, and librarians have grasped the possibility of ‘face-to-face’ comparisons on camera, as at the January, 2021 seminar on Myles Coverdale’s Goostley Psalmes between the Queen’s College Oxford, Beinecke, and Bodleian Libraries.

For a description of the ambitious – perhaps too ambitious – 1481 edition and the drawings by Botticelli which seem to be the source of the illustrations, see this blogpost by Gervase Rosser, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford, The first printed and illustrated edition of Dante’s Comedy

The edition is now the subject of a collaborative copy-census research project co-ordinated by Cristina Dondi, Professor of Early European Book Heritage, University of Oxford, via the Printing Revolution project

The event included short talks on Dante (Professor John Took, UCL and Dr. Alessandro Scafi, Warburg Institute), Botticelli’s illustrations (Professor Gervase Rosser, University of Oxford), on surviving copies (Professor Cristina Dondi, University of Oxford and Secretary of CERL) and on the context of the book’s production (Dr. Tabitha Tuckett, UCL).

Library curators from several institutions gave their time and expertise to this exciting tour which revealed the complexity of the original printing project and the rich history of collecting this edition over the succeeding centuries. A recording of the online event is hoped for. Libraries taking part in the 4 May virtual tour:

·      Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, UK (co-organiser)

·      Library Services, University College London, UK (co-organiser)

·      Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Italy

·      Biblioteca Vallicelliana di Roma, Italy

·      The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, USA

·      The British Library, UK

·      John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, UK

·      Trinity College, Cambridge, UK

The Bodleian’s copy, which is available in digital facsimile online, includes three printed illustrations; the illustrations to Canto 2 and Canto 3 are each printed from the same intaglio plate, but in Canto 3 this has been printed upside down. A film made at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press workshop demonstrates how the printing of an intaglio illustration on a letterpress page might have been done by fifteenth-century printers.

Re-blog: Papermaking at home

From the History of the Book blog, Here is an inspiring blogpost by DPhil student Luise Morawetz about making paper, starting with making the paper mould itself, and the wonderful sounds of the vat … History of the Book blogpost by Luise Morawetz

Tracing global connections in a 1730 festival book (from the History of the Book blog, Oxford Medieval and Modern Languages)

A cross-posting from the History of the Book blog, from the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford

Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs from 1730 compiled by Johann Michael Roth, Ashmolean
Detail of Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs from 1730 compiled by Johann Michael Roth — Ashmolean Museum Library

By Isabelle Riepe

This term‘s focus is the research and writing of a project related to our course Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities. Having previously studied nineteenth-century carnival illustrations, I wanted to continue with the theme of festivals to trace identity formation through visual dialogue. Through SOLO’s, the Search Oxford Libraries Online Catalogue, tag listing eighteenth-century festival books in Germany, I came across a map of India and script in the Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs from 1730 compiled by Johann Michael Roth, a city-musician of Augsburg (Shelfmark: Hope Collection XXVIII.H.6a) – a digitised version can be found at SLUB Dresden.     …

My main interest in this festival book … was a comment in the catalogue on an engraving ‘concerning the propagation of the faith in India‘. I am working on tracing global connections in pretty much everything I find, so this was a phenomenal find, which did not disappoint. As can be seen in the video, a written extract states Danish missionaries in India had commissioned an illustration in Augsburg, which was turned into the biggest illustration of the book. Among the many religious insignia, landscape and groups aimed to represent indigenous people, a map of India and Devanagari script feature at the centre of the illustration titled ‘Vorstellung der Evangelisch-Ost-Indischen Kirche’ (Presentation of the protestant-East-Indian Church). The latter two are exciting finds as they link the German imperial city of Augsburg with global developments and imperial practice of Protestant missionaries in the early eighteenth century. …