Collections of Distinction

Posts Tagged ‘incunabula’

Anton Koberger at the BPL

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by jmoschella in Collections of Distinction
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.


On the sphere of the world

Posted on December 29th, 2014 by jmoschella in Collections of Distinction

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.


A book of islands

Posted on December 15th, 2014 by jmoschella in Collections of Distinction

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.