(Rare Books & Manuscripts)

Books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed with moveable type in Europe before December 31, 1500 are generally referred to as incunabula. This term is borrowed from the Latin word for "cradle," or "swaddling clothes." Books dating from this period thus represent the infancy of modern printing in Europe.

Primarily acquired via purchase, but substantially fortified by donations of individual books and complete libraries, BPL's incunabula collection closely documents the inception and spread of printing throughout Europe and the West. As of November, 2020, the collection is comprised of​​​ 560 discrete 15th-century editions. Within this group, there are a small number of duplicates, as well as a number of multi-volume sets. The total number of physical items in the collection printed during the 15th century -- counting duplicates and individual volumes -- is 587.

Information and online access

Visit the BPL research guide, opens a new window for more information, including a history of the collection, links to digitized BPL incunabula, new acquisitions, and a guide to finding incunabula in the BPL online catalogs.

Images: (above left): a woodcut from Koberger's 9th German Bible; (above right) a passage of text in the BPL Gutenberg Bible leaf.

(Rare Books & Manuscripts)