Books Printed before Dec 31, 1500

In the early decades of printing, books mimicked the features and fonts of manuscripts, as that was the familiar style of the prior centuries. Some early books were printed on vellum (animal skin) and had illuminations (hand-painted illustrations) or initials (opening letter of chapters) to retain the familiar look and feel of manuscript books. Over the coming century, page numbers, chapters, paragraphs, headers, indexes, and title pages would appear, as would mass-produced images (sometimes still hand-colored) from woodcut blocks, engraving, or etching. Modern uniform spelling would not be widespread until the mid-1700s and early 1800s, particularly due to dictionaries (e.g. Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster) and best-selling printed texts such as the King James Bible (1611).

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Johann Gutenberg (1397?-1468, printer), Alfred Edward Newton (1864-1940, editor / compiler)

Bible. Latin. Vulgate. ca. 1450-1455. [contains I. Chronicles, chap. XII, verse 20-chap. XV, verse 7]

A noble fragment : being a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, 1450-1455 / with a bibliographical essay by A. Edward Newton.

New York : G. Wells, 1921.

Note: while books had been printed before Gutenberg (block-printing of an entire page), he is significant for technical efficiency in experimenting to eventually produce a quality metal type to use in movable-type printing press for mass-production of a text that could be first edited for correctness. He also was able to invent an ink that would adhere to metal type rather than the inks used for woodblock printing. This Bible is the only surviving work we have that was a product of his workshop. [S. H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (2005), 4-9]

Adoption Price: $750

Author: Platina (1421-1481)

Vitae pontificum

Other Title: Prohemium Platine in vitas ponficu[m] ad Sixtum iiij pontificem maximu[m]

[Nuremberg]: Accurate castigatu[m] ac impe[n]sa Antonij Koburger Nurenberge impressu[m], iij idus augusti consummatum. Anno salutis [Christ]iane Mcccclxxxj [1481]

Note: Initials supplied in red and the text rubricated throughout; some manuscript notes in red ink in margins

Note: Anton Koberger was the biggest European printer of the 15th and 16th centuries, running 24 printing presses with over 100 workers, creating over 200 titles. His work included this one, his most sumptuous folio-sized title printed as it included 1,800 woodcuts designed by Michael Wolgemut who trained Albrecht Durer (who may have helped with some of the woodcuts seen in the book). This title is "a mine of iconographic, geographic and cartographic information." [S. H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (2005), 25]

Adoption Price: $500

Author: Matthias Farinator (active 1477)

Lumen animae: liber moralitatum

Strassburg: Printer of the 1481 Legenda Aurea, 1482

Description: Farinator has no known date of birth. This makes placing him in locations difficult prior to his becoming a monk as part of the Order of Carmelites of Vienna, Austria. Farinator is said to have studied in Vienna and Erfurt, as well as worked as an editor. He supposedly appears in several different order houses throughout Austria before the Lumen Animae as an editor. His most famous edited book is the Lumen Animae, which roughly translates as the Light of the Soul. He is known to have died sometime between 1505 and 1508 in Vienna.

The book is printed in roughly standardized Latin. This shows the advancement of the period of printing in the German lands at the time. Because it is roughly standard Latin, it makes it more easily decipherable for translation. Furthermore, all the words are consistently inked in a large font, with red and blue hand-written flourishes (initials and foliation) approximately one per page. The book is done in to substantial parts: a long tabled listed of natural curiosities, and then the sermons and explanations on them.

The rebinding of the book has been done with heavy cord and wood blocks, making the work very sturdy and well protected. Despite having to be rebound at some point in its life, there is very little damage to the work itself. It has aged well, shows little wear, and has very marginal amounts of moisture damage. The 544-page folio has very few curiosities in it showing to the ownership of it over the years. The few that can be found are seen in a few red splatters, like the one seen on XXXVII, or inked fingerprints found at many different points throughout the work. The quality of the copy found at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, when compared by the various versions of the text found online through major digital research institutions, is of, potentially, better quality. -- Andrew Singleton

Adoption Price: $500

Author: Jacobus de Voragine (ca. 1229-1298)

Legenda aurea. Caxton's Golden legend

Westminster: Wyunkyn de Worde, 1483

Note: Has one sample leaf from the copy which originally belonged to the Duke of Sussex

Note: This book was the first illustrated book printed on a large scale, in 2 volumes with 131 woodcuts by Gunther Zainer in 1471-72 in Augsburg. This was a translation by William Caxton, the first English printer, but printed by his assistant, Wykyn de Worde, who inherited Caxton's business.

Description: This book is an incunabula, or an early printed book printed before 1501, that represents a sample leaf from a copy of William Caxton’s translation and printing of the “Golden Legend,” or Jacobus de Voraigine’s “Legenda Aurea,” originally belong to the Duke of Sussex. Jacobus de Voragine, who originally wrote this work, was born at Viraggion near Genoa around 1230. He became the Archbishop of Genoa and was most known for his work at a hagiologist. The “Golden Legend” is his best known work, compiled in 1275. It is called to “Legenda Aurea,” or the Golden Legend, by its contemporaries because it was considered to be worth its weight in gold. It is a collection of accounts of the lives of legendary saints. It has also been known as “Lombardica Historia.” The first printed edition of this work was in Latin. This is an excerpt from its first printed edition in England by the prolific late medieval English printer, William Caxton, in London 1483. Caxton’s Golden Legend was inscribed with the words: “The Golden Legend. Fynysshed at Westmere the twenty day of Novembre/the yeare of our Lord M/CCCC/LXXXIII/. By me Wyllyam Caxton.”

William Caxton was a printer, merchant, and diplomat that is most notable for printing the printing press to England in 1475 and publishing the first book in English, The History of Troy. Caxton was not only the printer, he was also the publisher that controlled the press that produced his books, and remains a highly influential figure in early English book publication. In 1457 Caxton brought his printing press to England from Cologne, where he had been previously printing his English translations, and settled in Westminster instead of London. This was likely because he would have been able to circulate his books more effectively at Westminster, where the court and administration was held, and acquire patrons. One of his powerful patrons was Anthony, Lord Rivers, the brother of Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. The first book that Caxton published and issued in England was The Canterbury Tales, which was then followed by hundreds of other works of literature and poetry, including the “Golden Legend,” forever changing the literary world of England. -- Danielle Alesi

Adoption Price: $500

Author: William of Ockham (ca. 1285-ca. 1349); editor Josse Badius (1462-1535)

Dialogus magistri Guillermi de Ockam, doctoris famosissimi

Lyons: J. Trechsel, 1494

Note: Initial letters colored by hand. Printed in double columns. [Fol. clxv] Sec~uda pars principalis dialogor~u est de dogmatibus pape Jo xxij, etc. [Fol. clxxxi] Tertia pars dialogo tractat de gestis diuerso xpiano, etc.

Adoption Price: $500


Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514); Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519); Wilhem Playdenwurff (d.1494)

Liber chronicarum

Other title: Registrum huius operis Libri cronicarum cum figuris et ymagibus ab inicio mundi

[Nuremberg]: Dominus Anthonius Koberger Nuremberge impressit, consummatu[m] autem duodecima mensis Julij, anno salutis n[ost]re 1493.

Note: modern white pigskin binding; some pages have colored capitals, flourishes, underscoring, and/or illustrations; colored capitals in index

Adoption Price: $500