At our incunabula workshop last November we examined a striking two-leaf account in German of St Patrick’s Purgatory (shelfmark: Press B.6.3). As a follow-up to the workshop, and with St Patrick’s Day in mind, we have taken a closer look at this intriguing fragment which relates to what has remained one of the most well-known pilgrimages in Ireland, the pilgrimage to Lough Derg in Donegal.1 Continue reading
This month marks the 550th anniversary of the death of Johannes Gutenberg (1397?-1468), blacksmith, goldsmith, inventor and printer. To celebrate this, we have digitised our fragment from the Gutenberg Bible.
The 42-line Bible in Latin was Europe’s first substantial book printed in ink on a printing press using moveable type, a technique of printing which Gutenberg invented. The ambitious work was completed by Gutenberg and his associates in Mainz, Germany, in around 1455. It is widely cited that about 180 copies were printed, comprising around a quarter on vellum with the rest of the edition on paper. Only 48 reasonably intact copies now survive (12 on vellum and 36 on paper) in addition to a number of fragments.1 Continue reading
Ten months of Arctic winter, ice-bound on the island of Novaya Zemlya (Nova Zemla) “…with the cruell beares, and other monsters of the sea, and the unsupportable and extreme cold that is to be found in those places”. This was the ordeal undergone by the crew of a Dutch expedition which set out on the 10 May, 1596 from the port of Amsterdam to find a passage to Asia by a northern route. Two ships sailed out, one under Jan Cornelisz Rijp, the other under Jacob van Heemskerck with navigator and cartographer Willem Barentsz as expedition leader. Van Heemskerck’s ship became trapped in the ice off the island of Novaya Zemlya, when Rijp had already turned back, and the crew of seventeen were forced to overwinter on the island. Thanks to the journal of crew member Gerrit de Veer we have a detailed description of the experience, along with a series of contemporary engravings by an anonymous artist. De Veer was an officer on Van Heemskerck’s ship, and he published a rich description of three adventurous voyages (1594, 1595, 1596), to find the Northeast Passage. Continue reading
On Tuesday 12th December 2017 the Department of Early Printed Books & Special Collections had the pleasure of facilitating an afternoon workshop on incunabula led by Dr Falk Eisermann.
Dr Eisermann is head of the Incunabula Division at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and is considered a world-leading expert in the field. The workshop was arranged by Dr Immo Warntjes, Ussher Assistant Professor in Early Medieval Irish History, and was attended by Trinity postgraduate students and staff.
Miniature books, which typically measure less than 3 inches (76mm) in height, have been around since the written word was developed: first with cuneiform clay tablets, then hand-written manuscripts. The introduction of the printing press and moveable type printing in Europe, in middle of the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, set the stage for the first early printed books known as incunabula. Surviving editions of miniature incunabules are very rare treasures with only a dozen still in existence today. The new printing process made the production of miniature volumes a challenge to all involved – not just the printers themselves, but also the paper makers and book binders. Readers were also confronted with issues in the reading and handling of these tiny tomes as the size of type and pages kept getting smaller. So why print them? Continue reading
Arthur Rackham, the fourth of twelve children, was born in Lewisham on 19th September 1867. His father wanted him to have a career in business and he began as an insurance clerk, but attended Lambeth School of Art in the evenings, having won prizes for drawing at school. In 1892, after having illustrations published in the The Pall Mall Budget over the course of the previous year, he took a job there, moving to the new Westminster Budget the following year. After just a few years he was able to become a self-supporting book illustrator, also contributing to The Westminster Gazette and magazines such as Little Folks and Cassell’s Magazine, a career which continued until his death from cancer on 6th September 1939.
Exotic shells from the Dutch Colonies inspired many painters during the era of European exploration and discovery. The perfection and beauty of their forms and colours could be seen in shell cabinets and in wonderfully illustrated books on natural history such as those in the Fagel Collection. This library belonged to the Fagel family of the Netherlands and is now part of Research Collections in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. Continue reading
One of my favourite aspects of work in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections is the opportunity to hold and examine so many wonderful and diverse books. When I was returning a book to the Quin Case a few days ago, I picked one out to look at because of its beautifully decorated spine – many of the books bequeathed to the College library by the wealthy graduate Henry Quin (1760-1805) have fine bindings. The boards, endpapers, fore-edge and text turned out to be equally attractive. The book in question was Quin 43, a 1786 printing of the story of Daphnis and Chloe, bound by Christian Samuel Kalthoeber of London. A German by birth, Kalthoeber emigrated to England where he became apprentice to his compatriot Johann Ernst Baumgarten, taking over his business in 1782. Continue reading
The Chinese court official Ts’ai Lun (often written Cai Lun) is credited with the invention of paper in 105 A.D., although he and his countrymen were almost certainly experimenting for some time before his announcement of their success to the emperor. The manufacturing process did not change much for hundreds of years, until the invention of suitable machinery in the nineteenth century, and is still used to some extent to produce hand-made paper today. Continue reading