I am pleased to report that the first 100 incunabula (books printed before 1501) from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection have now been now been added to Cardiff University’s online library catalogue as part of the ongoing rare books project. We are lucky to hold nearly 200 of these books dating from the first 50 years of printing and each one is being fully catalogued, recording all the copy-specific details which turn each of these earliest books into a unique historical artefact.
Cataloguing the incunabula is a long and meticulous task, but one which is already revealing new information about these fascinating items. Out of the books catalogued so far, we have found that eight are the only recorded copies in the UK and another 30 are only held by one or two more libraries. Through studying the bookplates, stamps and inscriptions, we are also able to uncover who donated the books to the library and occasionally even identify the original owner.
Unusually for books as old as these, many of the incunabula in the Cardiff collection are still in their contemporary vellum, calf or pigskin bindings and, even in poor condition, the structure and style of these bindings can tell us much about the early history of each book.
Highlights recently added to the library catalogue include:
- Boccaccio, Giovanni. Filocolo [Venice: Philipo di Petri, 1481].
- Macer, Floridus. De viribus herbarum [Geneva: Jean Belot, between 1495-1500]. (A rare herbal with hand-coloured woodcuts)
- Petrarca, Francesco. Trionfi [Venice: Peregrinus de Pasqualibus Bononiensis, 1486].
- Rolevinck, Werner. Fasciculus temporum [Cologne: Arnold ter Hoernen, 1474] (A beautifully coloured and annotated copy of this famous history of the world)
- Watton, Johannes. Speculum christianorum [Paris: Pierre Le Dru and Etienne Jehannot, 1495]