1 million images

The project has reached a significant milestone: 1 million pages have been digitized. To celebrate this achievement, we have chosen two particularly interesting incunabula to go online today. The volumes we have chosen represent key moments in printing history: the Bodleian's Auct. L 3.33, printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz, was the first edition to include words printed entirely in Greek, while the Vatican Library's Stamp.Barb.BBB.II.41De honesta voluptate et valetudine, was a best-selling cookbook that would define a genre for centuries to come.



De honesta voluptate et valetudine, printed in Rome by Uldericus Han c. 1475, was the work of Bartolomeo Sacchi (known as "il Platina"), although the first edition did not bear his name. The text, which includes recipes as well as a larger discussion of food and nutrition, offers a strikingly modern argument for food's social and hygienic importance. For those who do not read Latin, the registrum (ff. 2r-6v), with its lists of ingredients and spices, offers a sense of the comprehensive nature of the work. Of particular interest in the Vatican Library's copy is the verso of the final leaf, where a reader has written two additional recipes, one for civerium (a meat seasoning) and one for torta sperduta (a white cake).


If you would like to learn more about this book, Vatican Library prefect Cesare Pasini has written an in-depth history and description of this volume for L'Osservatore Romano.


Auct. L 3.33

This volume of the works of Lactantius, printed by Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz at Subiaco in 1465, is a handsomely decorated artefact of a key moment in printing history. Sweynheym and Pannartz were pioneers in the printing of roman and Greek alphabets, in contrast to the German blackletter of the earliest printed books. The Bodleian's Assistant Librarian of Rare Books, Alan Coates, has this to say about the volume: 


Lactantius (c.240–320 AD) was a Christian writer from North Africa, and tutor to the son of the Emperor Constantine I. During the Renaissance he came to be known as ‘the Christian Cicero’. This volume of his works was the second edition printed in the monastery at Subiaco in Lazio, by the German émigrés, Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz, who had brought printing to Italy from Germany. The edition is of significance because it is the earliest to contain complete words printed in Greek (the edition of Cicero’s De officiis printed by Johannes Fust and Peter Schoeffer in Mainz in 1465 also contained Greek words, but, as Fust and Schoeffer did not have a full Greek fount, they had to substitute some Latin characters instead). Given its contemporary hand-finished decoration in the Roman style, the book clearly remained in Italy after it was printed. It was still there in the late eighteenth century, in the library of Prince Vincenzo Maria Carafa in Messina, but then seems to have found its way to England, and was acquired by the Bodleian Library in 1817. 


As with Stamp.Barb.BBB.II.41, the last leaves of Auct. L 3.33 provide fascinating evidence of the book's history. Here, the final gathering, [**], is missing and has been replaced at some point with an extraordinarily precise pen-and-ink facsimile. It is the quality of the paper and ink, rather than the shape of the letters, that betrays the substitution. A side-by-side comparison of the original font and the script copy may facilitate insight into the ways in which Sweynheym and Pannartz imitated, and departed from, the tendencies and limitations of contemporary humanist script.