Boston Public Library
Collections of Distinction

Anton Koberger at the BPL

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
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Die so nöthig als nützliche Buchdruckerkunst und Schriftgiessereij, mit ihren Schriften

An engraved portrait of Anton Koberger published in 1745.

Anton Koberger (ca. 1440-1513) was a printer, bookseller, and publisher from Nuremberg. A major figure in the history of book production, he played a central role in the dissemination of modern literary culture during the earliest decades of printing.

Like Gutenberg, Koberger had been a goldsmith before turning his attentions to the printing press. But whereas Gutenberg was an innovator of process in the world of printing, Koberger’s major contributions to the art came via his development of a highly sophisticated, vertically-integrated business model for book production and distribution.

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Heb Ddieu Heb Ddim: the False Folio Affair

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
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Jaggard’s Heb Ddiue device on a false folio title page

The corpus of surviving Shakespearean manuscript materials is comprised of just twelve words: “William Shakespeare,” or variant spellings thereof, signed six times across four different legal documents. There are no rough drafts of his plays or sonnets, no correspondence or diaries; nothing to help us understand the inner workings of Shakespeare’s creative process.

This vacuum of evidence has been filled by centuries of speculation over everything from which printed editions most accurately reflect Shakespeare’s original intent, to whether Shakespeare himself was anything more than an elaborate fraud — a boorish country actor at the center of a plot to pass off the writing of another man as his own.

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The universe in motion: Apian’s Cosmographia

Posted on January 30th, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
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nocturnal in use, from the the 1524 edition of Cosmographia

Cosmographia . . . is about the world, which consists of four elements: earth, water, air, and fire

Thus writes Petrus Apianus in the opening lines of Cosmographicus liber a Petro Apiano mathematico studiose collectus, more commonly known as Cosmographia. The nod to the four classical elements is a fitting introduction to a delightful, wide-ranging work that was partly a rehash of medieval scientific thought and partly a paean to Renaissance ingenuity and the burgeoning spirit of discovery.

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On the sphere of the world

Posted on December 29th, 2014 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
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sphaeraOne of the major astronomy treatises of the late middle ages was written by the 13th-century scholar Johannes de Sacro Bosco. His work, commonly known as De sphaera mundi (On the sphere of the world), was used as a textbook throughout Europe for several centuries. This particular edition – one of a great many in our collections — was printed in 1485 by Erhold Ratdolt, a German printer and bookseller working in Venice. The 1485 Ratdolt edition of De Sphaera Mundi is significant for a number reasons, not the least of which is an unassuming diagram on page 71 (pictured, in our copy, above). Modest though it may indeed be, this diagram, which shows the mechanism of a lunar eclipse in red, yellow, and black, is the first printed, multi-color book illustration.

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A book of islands

Posted on December 15th, 2014 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
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Isolario

The Greek islands of Paros and Antiparos

One of the many “firsts” in our collections is this unusual book of sea charts. Printed in Venice ca. 1485 by Guglielmo da Trino, the Isolario of Bartolomeo da li Sonetti is both the first printed book of nautical charts and the first printed version of an isolario, or “island book.” The so-called island book was a kind of precursor to the modern atlas: a curious work of cartography in which maps of the Aegean archipelago were accompanied by descriptive verses intended to help guide seafarers through the region.

Bartolomeo’s Isolario presents the modern reader with a series of recognizable, though, to our eyes, strangely crude outlines of familiar landforms. Each chart is set atop an eight-pointed compass rose, with orientation varying from chart to chart and page to page, the arrow always denoting north and the cross east, toward the Levant.

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