Category: Printer

Aldus Manutius (1452? – 6 February 1515) : A humanist printer for humanist readers. Aldine editions at Cambridge University Library

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By , 6 February 2015 8:19 am

Tuesday 6 February 1515 was a sad day for the Venetian literati. Aldus Manutius, the ‘Prince’ of Renaissance printers, had died.

His death was not unexpected though. He had in fact complained of having been unwell for sometime in the letter dedicated to his former pupil Alberto Pio in his last book, the Lucretius of January 1515. The loss of such remarkable a printer and editor was nevertheless mourned by Venetian scholars, humanists and “bibliophiles”. On Thursday 8 February it was mentioned in his diary by Marin Sanudo, the Venetian politician and chronicler: “Two days ago don Aldus Manutius the Roman died here in Venice; he was an excellent humanist and Greek scholar and was the son-in-law of the printer Andrea [Torresani] of Asolo. He produced very accurate editions of many Latin and Greek works with prefatory letters addressed to many, dedicating a number of little works to me, Marin Sanudo. He also wrote an excellent grammar … This morning, the body having been placed in the church of San Patrinian with books surrounding it, the funeral rites were held. An oration praising him was recited by Raphael Regio, public lecturer in humanita in this city”.[1] Continue reading 'Aldus Manutius (1452? – 6 February 1515) : A humanist printer for humanist readers. Aldine editions at Cambridge University Library'»

A Sammelband of rare editions or A cataloguer’s puzzle

By , 12 June 2011 2:31 pm

This is a cry for help ! Recent additions and amendments to the online library catalogue Newton by the incunable project include the descriptions of seven small books printed between circa 1495 and 1515 and bound together in a small Sammelband that came to the library from an unknow source before 1700, now Dd*.5.60(G). The seven booklets are preceded in the volume by three later editions, whose list is as follows: Petrus Cudsemius, De desperata Calvini causa tractatus brevis. Mainz: Johannes Albinus, 1609 [lacking title page] – Martin Luther, De usura taxanda ad pastores ecclesiarum commonefactio, in the Latin translation by Johannes Freder. Frankfurt am Main : [Petrus Brubachium], 1554 – Gabriel Valliculus, De liberali Dei gratia & seruo hominis arbitrio. Nurimberg: Johannes Guldenmundt, 1536. Almost all the books in the volume had already been catalogued in Newton: the three later editions had been correctly identified, but the descriptions of late 15th- or early 16th-century editions, many of which with woodcut illustrations, were either incomplete, incorrect, or missing altogether, as it was the case of an edition of Brigitta’s Orationes and a copy of the Divisione decem nationum. As I set to put things in order I realised that their identification was in fact proving rather challenging. Hence my appeal for help !

Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 6:

The sixth booklet in the volume, Orationes sanctae Brigittae cum oratione sancti Augustini, was the only one described by Oates in his catalogue of the 15th-century books in the University Library (Oates 1571; for all publications mentioned in the post, see bibliography below). Oates identified it with an edition that is generally assigned to Eucharius Silber in Rome around 1495 (but 1498 by Vera Sack in the Freiburg catalogue, no. 695): see ISTC ib00679200. Images of a copy held in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, provided by the online version of GW 4370, confirmed the identification, and therefore I had no problem in creating a new record for this edition in Newton, Dd.5.60.G, item no. 6. [Images: leaves [a1] recto, [a1] verso, [a5] verso, [a6] recto and [a7] verso.  For better resolution, please click on each image].

The other early editions proved more difficult, though, as I found unconvincing some of the attributions that Oates provided for them within his description of Brigitta’s Orationes.

Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 4:

The first early edition to be found in the volume, i.e. its fourth item, is a copy of Andreas de Escobar, Modus confitendi. The book had been previously identified by Oates with one of the editions printed in Rome by Johann Besicken after 1500 [Images: leaves [a1] recto, [a1] verso and [b4] recto].

Indeed, our booklet shows the same number of leaves and lines, i.e. 12 leaves with 23 lines to the page, as the editions of this text assigned to Besicken in ISTC. It also shows the same impronta or fingerprint (ieui oset abe* pcco) given for an edition attributed to Besicken around 1504 in the online version of the Censimento nazionale delle edizioni italiane del XVI secolo (EDIT16), the Italian national census of 16th-century printed books [EDIT 16 (2. ed.): CNCE 18284]. This and the other Besicken editions, however, seem to differ from our booklet in the leaf signatures [with the only exception of the edition described in GW 1803 (ISTC ia00682000)], the typesettings of the initial captions, incipits, and explicits. Moreover, the Gothic type used in our edition, measuring 86 mm. per 20 lines, and with characteristic capital letters A, F, M and Q, among other features, can be identified with Eusebius Salber’s 92 G [P. 6] rather than Johann Besicken’s 87 G.a [P. 1], which is close but not identical (see BM 15th cent., IV, 103 and 138, and pls X* and XII*). This type was also used in an edition of the Translatio miraculosa ecclesiae Beatae Virginis Mariae de Loreto, a copy of which is Cambridge University Library (or CUL) Inc.7.B.2.27[3651], which has been attributed to Silber in most catalogues, including Oates’s, and dated to around 1500 in Sander 4292, and to after 1500 in Oates 1566, ISTC it00426500, GW M17565, and EDIT 16 (2. ed.), and CNCE 64630. Finally, the iconography of the initial woodcut in the Modus confitendi booklet seems to matches only that in the edition described in GW 1800 (ISTC ia00680000; Sander 363). After careful comparison of our text and woodcut with the descriptions of early 16th-century editions of Escobar’s work in GW and Sander, I tentatively identified our booklet (see Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 4) with an edition attributed to Eucharius Silber and dated to around 1498 by Sander but after 1500 in GW (GW 179510N), of which only one other exemplar seemingly survives. This other copy was described by Giuseppe Martini of Lugano in one of his catalogues [Cat. 28 (1938), no. 35] and afterwards by H. P. Kraus of New York [Cat. 83 (1957), no. 6]. I was however unable to find the present whereabouts of the Martini/Krauss copy and could not therefore confirm the identification.

Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 5:

The fifth item in our Sammelband is an edition of [Andreas de Escobar], Interrogationes et doctrinae, also attributed by Oates (Oates 1571) to Besicken after 1500 [Images: leaves [a1] recto and [a10] recto]. Comparing our copy with editions of the work in ISTC and GW and with the annals of the Roman press of Eucharius and Marcellus Silber published by Alberto Tinto in 1968, I came to the conclusion that the booklet should perhaps be assigned to the Sibler press rather than Johann Besicken and could possibly be identified with the edition printed by Marcellus Silber around 1515 ( see Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 5). A second copy of the edition held in the library, F150.e.2.7, had previously been identified with [Rome : Eucharius Silber, ca. 1495].

Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 7:

Item no. 7 is a copy of the Divisiones decem nationum totius Christianitatis and had not been catalogued in Newton before. The brief Oates’s note assigned it to Besicken and dated to after 1500 [Images: leaves [a1] recto and [a4] recto]. Indeed its textual features and impronta agree with those found in an edition attributed to Johann Besicken around 1505 in the online version of EDIT16 [EDIT 16 (2. ed.): CNCE 17304]. However, the type used, which measures 86 mm. per 20 lines, is once again closer to Eucharius Silber’s 92 G [P. 6] rather than to any of the different states of Johann Besicken’s 87 G.a [P. 1] as represented in CUL and British Library copies of the editions discussed by Paolo Veneziani and Martin Davies in their articles on Besicken and his successor Etienne Guillery. Moreover, the setting of the text seems to match an edition attributed to Eucharius Silber around 1491-1495 in GW 857010N and ISTC id00288200, of which only one copy is known to survive in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. GW gives the type of the edition as 86 G [P. 6*], matching the measures of the type in our book. I would therefore be inclined to follow GW and ISTC and identify our booklet as another copy of this rare edition (see Dd.5.60.G, item no 7).

Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 8:

It seems to me that the same type was also used for the printing of the book that follows as item 8, a copy of [Petrus Georgii Tolomei], Translatio miraculosa ecclesiae Beatae Virginis Mariae de Loreto [Images: leaves [a1] recto, [a1] verso, and [a4] recto].

The edition was assigned by Oates to Besicken after 1500 and indeed the text setting and the woodcut of the Virgin and Child (surrounded by sun rays, the Virgin standing on the crescent, all within a decorated border made of eight blocks, at the four corners the Virgin, the Archangel Gabriel, and two prophets, with the “B” of Besicken’s and Martinus de Amsterdam’s device at centre of the lower border) are recorded by Sander 4296 in an edition attributed by him to Besicken and Martinus de Amsterdam and dated to after 1500. Indeed the impronta in our booklet (ura- eruo nao- tane) corresponds to that recorded in the online EDIT 16 (CNCE 36420) for an edition assigned to Besicken to around 1504. Moreover, the woodcut is identical to one used by Besicken and Martinus in an edition of the German translation of the (Mirabilia Romae vel potius) Historia et descriptio urbis Romae dated 1500 in ISTC and more precisely to not before 11 August 1500 in GW (see ISTC im00609700, with link to BSB-Ink I-160 as well, and GW M23630). The edition of the Translatio recorded by Sander has been variously assigned in the other repertories as follows: to [Rome: Eucharius Silber, ca. 1500?] in Goff T426 followed by ISTC it00426000, to [Johann Besicken, after 1500] in IGI V p. 208, and to [Johann Besicken, ca. 1504] in Floriano Grimaldi (ed.), Il libro lauretano : secoli XV-XVIII, Loreto, 1994, p. 75, no. 18, followed by the online EDIT 16 (CNCE 36420), whereas GW M17557 only vaguely assigned it to Rome. In the face of such uncertainty and on the basis of the use of the 86 G type, generally assigned to Silber, I decided, for the time being, to follow Goff and ISTC and assign the edition to Eucharius Silber and to around 1500 while I continue to assess the matter, see Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 8.

Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 9:

The ninth item, a copy of the Tabula christianae religionis, including at the end a short text entitled Decem praecepta legis, is the only booklet in the volume that was assigned to Eucharius Silber by Oates. Indeed the Roman type used for this edition is very close to Silber’s 84 R (P. 8), which was in use perhaps in 1493 and certainly in 1495-1500 (see BMC, IV, p. 103), and measures 85 mm. per 20 lines. This is the type recorded in GW M44694 for an edition assigned to Silber, which also shows the same text setting, number of leaves, leaf signatures, and number of lines to the page of our booklet. I would therefore be inclined to identify our edition with this rare Silber edition, of which GW records only one copy in the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin. The German catalogue, however, does not provide any indication or suggestion for the date of printing, and I would therefore be most grateful for any suggestion or further information (see Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 9). [Images: leaves A1 recto, B7 verso, B8 recto and B10 recto].



Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 10:

The last booklet in the volume, a copy of Bernardus de Granollachs’s Lunarium from 1504 to 1550, is apparently even rarer [Images: leaves [a1] recto, [a1] verso, [a2] recto, [a2] verso, and c8 verso]

It was attributed to [Rome : Johannes Besicken, 1504] in Adams, vol. I, p. 499, no.  G 1000, and simply to [Rome : 1504] by Oates.  Being an early 16th-century book, this edition is ignored by both ISTC and GW.  The woodcut on leaf [a1] recto is identical to the one that first appeared in an edition of the Lunarium for the years 1494-1550 attributed to [Rome: Johann Besicken, 1493-94] by ISTC ig00343500, to [Rome: Johann Sigismund Besicken, ca. 1494] by Sander 3228, and to [Rome: Johann Sigismund Besicken and Mayr, 1494] by BSB-Ink G-242 (with electronic facsimile). The same woodcut was also used to illustrate four editions of the Lunarium for the years 1497-1550, most of which were attributed to Plannk by Sander (see Sander 3232-3235). Searching the web, as one does now-a-days, I found an edition of the Lunarium from 1504 to 1550 listed as no. 249 in a Bernard Quaritch’s catalogue, A Catalogue of Early Printed Books Illustrated with Woodcuts …, London, no. 353, May 1919, p. 54, no. 249, pl. 79 (offered for sale at £ 6.10.0).  The two booklets were printed with similar types but with a slightly different setting, as clearly shown by the reproductions of their title pages (in the Quaritch edition, the conjunction “et” is spelled out and the word “Littera” begins with a capital). The two books are therefore either two different issues of the same edition or two different editions altogether. The Quaritch catalogue suggested a Venetian origin for its Granollachs edition. The Gothic type used in our book measures 64 mm. per 20 lines and is similar but not identical to type 60 G [P. 2] used by Johann Besicken (cfr. BM 15th cent., IV, 138). It does not match the Gothic type G 66 used by Eucharius Silber in the edition of [Alfonso de Soto. Glossa in Regulas Cancellarie Innocentii VIII, cum textu] dated 6 June 1504 and reproduced in Tinto, p. II, either. In fact, it does not resemble any of the types recorded in BM 15th century for Besicken, Silber, or Plannk (the latter published at least 8 editions of Granollach’s Lunarium between 1487 and 1500). In addition, the impronta in our book (i.n- .Gis Iuxx, if I am not mistaken), differs from that registered for an edition of the Lunarium attributed to Besicken in 1504 in online EDIT 16 (CNCE 21579, for which the impronta is given as: Iuma): this edition survives in two copies, respectively in the Biblioteca comunale Ariostea at Ferrara and the Biblioteca universitaria at Pisa.  It should be noted that the only reference provided by EDIT 16 is Adams, no. G1000, i.e. our booklet, which makes me wonder whether the compiler of EDIT 16 ever bothered to compare their copies with ours!  All these conflicting factors leave me with many unanswered questions and I have therefore provisionally attributed this last small booklet to [Rome ? : ca. 1504] (see Dd*.5.60(G), item no. 10), following, in fact, what Oates said in the first instance !

Working on this volume faced me with some difficult questions of attribution. It also brought to my mind many other questions regarding how to convey bibliographical information in the most effective way in our catalogue despite the constraints of the international rules for cataloguing rare books. The rules, for instance, discourage “diplomatic” transcription of texts; it was only through the comparison of the diplomatic transcriptions of the initial captions in other repertories, however, that I could separate and identify the different editions of the texts gathered in our sammelbound. The natural conclusion is that any online cataloguing project relating to rare books should aim to include the digitisation of the material when not already digitised elsewhere or unique, and link the bibliographical descriptions to a few relevant images (incipits, explicits, woodcut decoration, hand decoration and binding).  As Paul Needham put it, “Lengthy … narratives rarely provide usable information … good reproductions always do” !


H. M. Adams, Catalogue of books printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501-1600 in Cambridge Libraries, 2 vols, London, 1967.

Catalogue of books printed in the XVth century now in the British Museum [British Library], 13 parts, London, 1963-2007.

Martin C. Davies, “Besicken and Guillery”, in The Italian book 1465-1800, Studies presented to Dennis E. Rhodes on his 70th birthday, edited by Denis V. Reidy, London, 1993, 35-54.

Paul Needham, “Copy Description in Incunable Catalogues”, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 95 (2001), 173-239.

Paul Needham, “The Bodleian Library Incunables”, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 101.3 (2007), 345-395.

J.C.T. Oates, A catalogue of the fifteenth-century printed books in the University Library Cambridge, Cambridge, 1954.

Vera Sack, Die Inkunabeln der Universitätsbibliothek und anderer öffentlicher Sammlungen in Freiburg im Breisgau und Umgebung, 3 vols, Wiesbaden, 1985.

Max Sander, Le Livre a Figures Italien depuis 1467 jusqu’a 1530, 6 vols, Milan, [1942-43]; with Supplement by Carlo Enrico Rava, Milano, 1969.

Alberto Tinto, Gli annali tipografici di Eucario e Marcello Silber (1501-1527), Firenze, 1968 (Bibli.oteca di bibliografia italiana, 55).

Paolo Veneziani, “Besicken e il metodo degli incunabolisti”, Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 2005, 77-99.

Three Unique Caxton/Maynyal Leaves? – A post by Ed Potten

By , 9 February 2011 11:50 am

Sig. r4, one of the leaves wanting from the only surviving substantially-complete copy

Between 1487 and 1488 Caxton commissioned the production of two liturgical books from the Parisian printer Guillaume Maynyal, both of which are rare survivals. ISTC records only one substantially-complete copy and two fragments of the 1487 Sarum Missal [ISTC im00719200 – National Trust (wanting 23ff.), Durham (3 ff.), Oxford (2 ff.)] and one substantially-complete copy and four fragments of the 1488 Sarum Legenda [ISTC il00118200 – British Library (imperfect), Cambridge UL (29 ff.,  Inc.2.D.1.18[2544]), Cambridge Clare (fragments), Cambridge Corpus (fragments), Paris BN (fragments)].

To reproduce liturgical books successfully, incunable printers needed to overcome significant typographical complications, not least the need to print in more than one colour. At the press he established in Bruges in 1473, Caxton, under the tutelage of Colard Mansion, experimented somewhat unsuccessfully with ‘one-pull’ two-colour printing. The eventual adoption of a ‘two-pull’ process overcame this problem, but liturgical printing on a large scale required a higher degree of technical proficiency than was available in the late 1480s at Caxton’s Westminster press. As a consequence the printer sought to ‘out-source’ the work. By 1487 the printing of liturgical books, some coloured, some specifically for English use, was already well established on the Continent – ISTC currently records 118 missal books and 196 breviaries printed on the Continent prior to 1488, with two breviaries specifically for Sarum use. Specialising in the production of these typographically-complex works, the printers of Venice, Basel, Louvain, Rouen and Paris cornered the market in liturgical printing and were the logical choice for the printing of English liturgical books. Caxton’s chosen partner was Guillaume Maynyal, a Parisian with proven experience of liturgical printing in red and black.

ISTC records only nine issues associated with Maynyal, surviving cumulatively in only 76 copies. These are grouped into two periods. Between March 1479/80 and September 1480 his name appears in five colophons alongside that of Ulrich Gering in books including a Psalterium Romanum and a copy of Guido de Monte Rochen’s guide for priests, Manipulus curatorum. In 1487 and 1488 he worked for Caxton, then in 1489 he issued alone two further liturgical books, a Latin Psalterium and a Manuale Carnotense. The fragments of the 1488 Legenda are the only example of Maynyal’s work in the CUL collection.

The decision to out-source to Maynyal is significant. Printing in England before 1534 was dominated by, and dependent upon, foreign tradesmen. In 1484 Richard III had introduced legislation exempting “merchant strangers” from any restrictions on either printing in England or bringing in books from abroad. The contracting-out of complex work to foreign presses and the immigration of skilled Continental printers and tradesmen became the lifeblood of the English print trade. Caxton’s employment of Maynyal is the first known example of this trend.

Set in two sizes of type, the Sarum Missal and Legenda may be seen as marking the beginnings of a transition in the typographical appearance of English books, away from styles characteristic of Flanders and Cologne, and towards type-styles imported from Paris and Rouen. Following the partnership between the two printers, Caxton purchased type from Paris, probably from Maynyal himself.

The study of any type of printed output of the fifteenth century is hampered by the quantity of material lost to researchers. Certain classes of books, however, have suffered more significant losses than others; printed liturgies are one such class. Their poor survival rate is at least partially explicable by their practical nature and the type of daily use to which they were exposed. With the exception of the most lavish, printed liturgies were working books. Often associated with chapels and chantries they saw heavy use by multiple priests on every day of the liturgical year. Not considered ‘collectable’ for their antiquity until well into the eighteenth century, these hard-used books were superseded and discarded. In England, the 1549 Act of Uniformity and its successors further explain the paucity of surviving pre-Edwardian liturgies, whilst in Catholic Europe the imposition of the Missale Romanum after 1570 had a similar effect.

The provenance of at least some of the Cambridge fragments is traceable. One leaf bears a clearly recognisable shelfmark, Pp.1.167, indicating it was once part of the binding of a copy of the Opera of Jacques Cujas (Frankfurt: 1595) belonging to John Colbatch (1664-1748).

The bookplate of John Colbatch (1664-1748)

The leaves of the Sarum Legenda utilized by the original binder were removed and preserved when the book was rebound in 1937. There are other occasional tantalizing hints about the earlier use of the Legenda. References to Pope Gregory have been crossed through on sig. y3v and references to the translation of St. Thomas excised on sig L7r, suggesting it was in English hands in the first half of the sixteenth century. In addition, there is an intriguing Hebrew inscription on sig. y6v, which is currently being researched.

References to the translation of St. Thomas excised on sig L7r

The 29 leaves which survive at Cambridge are:

Sigs. r4, v1, v8, y1, y2, y3 and y6 (conjugate), y7, y8, z1, L1 (2 copies), L2, L3, L7, L8 (2 copies), M6, N1, P4, P5, Q2, Q5, Q7, T4 (final line of both columns cropped on verso), T5 (first two lines of both columns cropped recto and verso), V3, V4 (cropped), (2)b1. There is one additional fragment, which is too small to identify.

Sigs. r4, Q2 and Q7 are almost certainly unique – they are wanting from the only surviving substantially-complete copy, that at the British Library (IB.40010), and in the absence of a definite identification of the fragments in Clare, Corpus and the BN they are at present the only known surviving examples of these three leaves.                       Ed Potten


W. Blades The biography and typography of William Caxton (London: 1882) p. 52.

P. Gaskell A new introduction to bibliography (Delaware: 1995) pp. 137-8.

L. Hellinga (ed.) Catalogue of books printed in the XVth century now in the British Library – Part XI England, (The Netherlands: 2007) p. 342, 346.

L. Hellinga ‘Fragments found in bindings and their role as evidence’ in ‘For the love of the binding’ Studies in bookbinding history presented to Mirjam Foot (London: 2000) pp. 13-33.

P. Needham ‘Caxton, William (c.1422-1491)’ in Europe 1450 to 1789 Encyclopedia of the early modern world volume 1 (New York: 2004) p.430.

Laurentius Canozius, Padua = Printer of Mesue: Ridolfi Revindicated, a post by Paul Needham

By , 19 July 2010 12:36 pm

In June I made a visit to Cambridge University Library, where I spoke to Laura Nuvoloni about the Library’s project of upgrading and publishing online the cataloguing of its incunables. Almost by chance, Laura mentioned a problem or puzzle that had just arisen with regard to three Alberti editions in Italian, his Ecatomfila, Deifira, and an anonymous prose version of his Storia de Ippolito Buondelmonti e Leonora de’ Bardi.


All are quartos, and the first two are explicitly dated to 1471. In Oates, they are entered as 2327-2329 respectively, under the heading “Florence: Printer of the 1471 Mesue.” The “title” work of this press is the folio edition of Johannes Mesue, Opera medicinalia, explicitly dated 9 June 1471 (Goff M-509, HC 11107, BMC VI 615: IB.29848). In 1898 Proctor grouped these four editions plus a quarto edition of pseudo-Phalaris Epistolae in Italian, 1471 (Goff P-566, H 12903*), all printed with the same type, under the heading “Without place or printer”, with a remark on the type: “resembling in many ways Venezia, clij., A § 1 [that is, the Printer of Basilius, De Vita solitaria]; but all the connections of this type point to Firenze” (Proctor 7344-7348). The type was shortly after reproduced by the Type Facsimile Society, pl. 1900z, from the British Museum copy of Phalaris, and the plate is captioned “Unknown press in Italy, perhaps at Firenze, 1471.” In 1905, in the catalogue of Pierpont Morgan’s early printed books edited by A. W. Pollard, the suggestion of Florence became positive, and so also in BMC VI, 1930, edited by Victor Scholderer.

But it is hardly unknown to incunabulists that Roberto Ridolfi’s La stampa in Firenze nel Secolo XV (1958) has a chapter “Lo Stampatore del Mesue e l’introduzione della stampa in Firenze”, in which he argued decisively against the “British Museum” position (this chapter being a revision of an article he published in La Bibliofilía, 1954). By Ridolfi’s evidence, the Printer of the 1471 Mesue was certainly not in Florence, and almost certainly was to be identified with the Padua printer, Laurentius Canozius, whose first explicitly signed and dated edition is an Aristotle text, printed with a rotunda type, completed 22 November 1472. That is, if Ridolfi is correct, Canozius precedes Bartholomaeus de Valdezocchi (first dated work Boccaccio, Fiammetta, 24 March 1472) as the prototypographer of Padua.  A powerful clue to the reassignment is a 1472-dated purchase inscription by one Eusebius de Chochis found in a copy of the Ippolito e Leonora: “… In patauia emi eum [or eundem?]. opus Magistri laurentii de lendenaria” — I purchased this in Padua: the work of Master Laurentius [Canozius] de Lendenaria.” (cf. Ridolfi, La stampa in Firenze…, cit., p. 39, fig. 8).

Among those who agreed with Ridolfi’s new evidence and interpretation was Victor Scholderer, who in the office copy of BMC used for the 1963 photolithographic reprint, wrote marginally, vol. vi, p. 615, “This printer was probably Canozius at Padua, q.v.,” — and then struck through the word “probably”. In fact, the Mesue-type editions would appear to be a long-settled problem.

The reassignment of the group to Canozius in Padua has been accepted by such major incunable catalogues as CIBN, BSB-Ink , and Bod-inc (many more catalogues could be cited, were there any purpose to doing so), and no evidence opposing it has ever been published.

And yet the settled problem seems to be no longer settled. The most up-to-date incunable resource, the online Incunable Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), currently assigns the two 1471-dated Alberti editions, Deifira and Ecatomfila, to [Milan: Antonius Zarotus], with a note “Also recorded as [Padua: Laurentius Canozius, de Lendenaria], and [Florence?: Printer of Mesue, ‘Opera’(H 11107)].”  (ISTC ia00212000, ISTC ia00213000) As for the undated Ippolito e Leonora, ISTC keeps it under [Padua: Laurentius Canozius, de Lendenaria, about 1471], with a note “Also recorded as [Florence: Printer of Mesue, ‘Opera’ (H 11107)].” (ISTC ii00173900)

For Laura, this created an unavoidable conundrum. All three editions sat together on her desk. They had arrived at the Library as the gift of Charles Fairfax Murray in 1916, and although each is now bound in uniform twentieth-century blue morocco, they had originally formed a Sammelband, with uniform decoration and consecutive foliation.

Nor does it take an unusually keen eye to see that all were printed with a single type, whoever and wherever the type’s owner may have been.  How could two of them possibly be Milanese productions, and the third Paduan?



Ippolito e Leonora

I had the pleasure of examining the three editions, and noticed that they were printed on a single paper stock, watermarked with a Crown in a circle. As was quickly discovered upon consulting Ridolfi, this was the chief among five paper stocks found in the Mesue, and Ridolfi had already recorded that this stock was used also in the three Alberti editions (cf. Ridolfi, La stampa in Firenze…, cit., p. 33, fig. 2).   A small addendum can be made to Ridolfi’s elegant, one could even say classic, study. The Mesue is a folio on Median (Mezzana) paper. The three Alberti editions and the pseudo-Phalaris are Median quartos, printed on divided half-sheets of paper.

In Studi offerti a Roberto Ridolfi (1973) Dennis Rhodes, “Ancora per lo Stampatore del Mesue,” added a sixth edition to the Mesue group, the Oratio ad Nicolaum Tronum of Jacobus Aragazonius, whose text is dated 23 November 1471. This rare quarto, printed on Chancery and not Median paper, had been lurking unnoticed in volume II of the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke since 1926 (GW 2308), and as Rhodes observed, the GW editors, long before Ridolfi brought full clarity to the problem, had noticed difficulties with the localization of the Mesue Press to Florence (cf. Rhodes, “Ancora per lo Stampatore del Mesue”, cit., p. 407-412, with reproduction of f. [a1] recto).

In the first volume of GW, 1925, Alberti’s Deifira and Ecatomfila (GW 576, 577) had been assigned: “[Florenz(?): Drucker von Mesue, Opera (Hain 11107)]”. But in the second volume, GW 2308 assigned the Aragazonius Oratio: “Oberitalien. Drucker des Mesue …”. No explanation was given, but the cause of the change of location is clear: Aragazonius was a professor of philosophy at Padua, and his Oratio congratulated Niccolò Tron on election as Doge of Venice, 23 November 1471. How could Florence plausibly be the place where this “local” writing was sent to press? In 1943, the first volume of IGI listed the Aragazonius edition as item 777, taking over GW’s localization: “Italia settentrionale”. IGI’s four Italian copies, not known to GW, strengthened the evidence for a north Italian printing place: one copy each in Milan, Brescia, Padua, and Venice. But IGI’s handling of the Mesue Press was not entirely sure-footed, for the same volume, items 150 and 151 (Alberti), located the same press to “[Firenze?]”, again following GW. Literally interpreted, both GW and IGI were asserting that the “Printer of Mesue” was probably a wanderer. It is more likely however that neither set of editors noticed their own inconsistencies. GW, at least, did not attempt to reconcile the differing attributions of place in the “Ergänzungen und Verbesserungen” to volume I that was issued with volume II.

In any case, ISTC’s press assignment of the two Alberti editions to Zarotus in Milan is incorrect, and needs rectification. The source of the error is obvious. Within its program of expanding bibliographical citations, ISTC has recently been incorporating references to Arnaldo Ganda’s 1984 Primordi della tipografia milanese: Antonio Zarotto da Parma (1471-1507). Ganda’s “Annali” of Zarotus’s editions includes the Deifira and Ecatomfila as items 4 and 3 respectively. They are placed in the group of items — the first six numbers of the list — assigned to the shop of Pamfilo Castaldi 1471 to early 1472, for whom Zarotus at this time worked. The inclusion of the Alberti editions in the Castaldi list is entirely mistaken. Specifically, Ganda claims that these six items are all printed with the same type, 115R, whose first dated use was in the edition of Festus, De verborum significatione, Milan, 3 August 1471 (Goff F-141, H 7038*, GW 9864; Inc.3.B.7.1[1873]).


And indeed items 1, 2, 5 and 6 of Ganda’s list are printed with this type, and may all be seen as printed in Castaldi’s shop. However, the two Alberti editions items 3 and 4 are printed not with this type, but with the 119R type of the Mesue Press, a type conspicuously different in appearance from Castaldi’s, character by character. The two Alberti editions are cuckoo’s eggs in the Castaldi nest.



The three editions can instead be securely assigned to the Printer of Mesue, i.e. Laurentius Canozius at Padua and have been accordingly catalogued by Laura for the online catalogue of Cambridge University Library (Inc.4.B.74.B.1[2263]; Inc.4.B.74.B.1[2264]Inc.4.B.74.B.1[2265]).

How did the Alberti editions come to be assigned to Castaldi-Zarotus? Courtesy of Ludwig Hain in 1828, it seems. For the Ecatomfila, Ganda gives the bibliographical citations as: “H 420 (A. Zarotto); BMC VI, 616 e IGI 151 (Padova, Lorenzo Canozio); GW 577 (Firenze, tip. del Mesue).” Thus, Hain was seen as a superior authority to GW, BMC, and IGI. In view of the massive reservoir of typographic classification and reproduction available to these twentieth-century catalogues (Proctor, Haebler, Type Facsimile Society, Gesellschaft für Typenkunde), this seemingly ultra-conservative preference was in fact extremely bold. If the type used to print the 1471 Alberti editions truly was Castaldi type 1, how probable is it that GW, BMC, and IGI would all, successively, have failed to notice this? And it may be worth noting that Ganda’s monograph does not include a reproduction of Castaldi type 1.

In fact, the attribution of the Albertis to Zarotus originated not with Hain, who was no typographic expert, but rather with F. X. Laire in his 1791 catalogue of the incunables of Cardinal Loménie de Brienne, Index librorum ab inventa typographia ad annum 1500 (vol. I, pp. 248-9). To summarize very briefly a complex situation: G. W. Panzer described the two 1471 Alberti editions both in vol. III (1795) and IV (1796) of his Annales typographici. In vol. III, he located the editions, and also the Mesue of 9 June 1471, to Venice, specifically to the shop of Clemens Patavinus, but he took note of Laire’s attribution of the same three editions to Zarotus in Milan. Hain had no independent opinion on the matter, but simply compressed these earlier opinions into a characteristically terse statement “(Venetiis vel Mediol. Ant. Zarotus.)”. The formulation needs to be interpreted: Hain did not mean “Zarotus, whether in Venice or Milan”, but rather “either in Venice, or by Zarotus in Milan.”

Ganda’s reference to BMC VI 616 as assigning the editions to Canozius in Padua shows that he consulted the reprint edition, with Scholderer’s revised opinion moving the editions from Florence to Padua. Scholderer’s two notes in BMC VI (pp. xii and 615) do not specifically refer to Ridolfi’s study; for that reference one must turn to Scholderer’s associated note in BMC VII, p. xxxix, where Canozius’s press is reviewed. This suggests that Ganda knew from BMC VI that an attribution to Canozius had been made, yet was unaware, because of not consulting BMC VII, that the attribution rested on evidence and analysis provided by one of Italy’s greatest bibliographical scholars. And so it is that in 2010 a press attribution made by Franciscus Xavier Laire in 1791 is, in the guise of updating, silently brought in to override an exemplary bibliographical analysis made in 1954, revised in 1958, and concurred in by a long series of incunabulists of the last two generations. In recompense we have an answer to a hitherto unasked question: where did the assignment of the Alberti editions to Zarotus come from?

When changes of press assignment are made by ISTC they run the risk of going lost and unnoticed within its immense pool of entries, and such might easily have happened with the “Zarotus” 1471 editions of Alberti’s Deifira and Ecatomfila, divorced from the other Mesue Press editions with which they inextricably belong on strongest typographic and paper-stock evidence. It is fortunate that because of Cambridge University Library’s incunable cataloguing project, and because of its possession of all three Alberti editions, two mistakenly reassigned and one not, ISTC’s error came to light so quickly. The shade of Henry Bradshaw must be nodding in approval, for he more than anyone realized how easily press assignments go astray when made in the absence of an accurate grasp of the typographic situation. Ridolfi’s shade must also, perhaps with a sardonic shake of the head, be pleased.         Paul Needham