Manuscript and Hand-Press Printed Book
Generally Useful Resources--
for Working in Archives: from hygiene to professional
manners, archival research requires a physician's concern for procedures and
protocols to protect the books from those who love and study them. Once you have adopted
these habits, you will wonder at the barbaric
obtuseness of other people's handling of old objects.
for Book Collectors. London 1952; 8th ed. by John Carter and
Nicolas Barker. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press; London: British
Library, 2004.: A dictionary of bibliographic terms you may
encounter in the MS and Print Text and Archives section of English 241.
The page contains Barker's short introduction to Carter's invaluable
resource, and a link that will open a PDF file containing the latest edition. If
you think about the value of a copyright-protected book being broadcast
for free on the Internet, then you will appreciate the inherent
importance of this text for the bibliographic and book collecting
community. The library also has a print copy if you wish to avoid
Looking Up Book Editions and Printers:
a product of OCLC and Research Library Goup's merger, the WorldCat
catalogue can be searched either from a
accessible interface, or from a
accessible on Goucher's network through the Julia Rogers Library web
site. In March 2007, when this web page was constructed, OCLC
reports that the combined database represents the catalogs of 12,000
member libraries around the world. Use this resource first to
check for other copies of your printed book's edition, especially if it
was published in England or America.
The English Short Title Catalog:
a specialized online catalog recording information on books
printed in the U.K. between 1450 and 1800, covering about 460,000
individual volumes. Use this
resource first to check for other copies of your printed book's edition,
especially if it was published in England 1450-1800.
University of Karlsruhe Virtual
a research tool directed at
collections of early books and manuscripts, especially strong in
collections located in Germany and the rest of Eastern and Western
Europe. Use this resource first
to check for other copies of your printed book's edition, especially if
it was published in Continental Europe.
a search engine that finds books listed for sale by independently owned
bookstores, including rare book dealers, in the United States, Canada,
and the United Kingdom. Hits on rare books often include
photographs, which can be invaluable in determining your copy's edition.
You can use this to find copies of books that are not held by public or
university libraries, though it will not find books held in libraries of
private collectors. Although ABEBooks was acquired by Amazon in
2008, they continue to operate as an honest broker between the
independent bookstores with which Amazon competes and the buyers who
might otherwise be tempted to buy Amazon's new or used copies.
When you see Amazon pitching a "Used and Collectible" copy, it is
drawing selectively from its link to ABEBooks. The company also
has subsidiaries that specifically search bookstore catalogs from the
United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. Click on the
"About" button on the home page for links.
Interpreting and Understanding Hand-Press Printers and Printing:
Early English Printers' Latin European City
early printers worked in a world of
Latin texts, printing vernacular languages like Italian, French, German, or
English only as the market supported it. Latin texts sold to clergy and
literate worshipers, to scholars, to lawyers and doctors, to government clerks,
and to the tiny fraction of the rest of the population that was litteratus
(i.e., Latin literate). For this reason, printers' colophons and title
pages listed the editions' place of origin by the city's Latinized name (e.g.,
London could be rendered "Londinum," "Londoni," or "Londoniae"). Some
vernacular city names do not easily take to Latin, hence the need for a
dictionary to translate them into their current, vernacular form.To aid your ability to read the city
names in C16-era printed books, which were typically the names used by
the Romans in the days of the Empire, compare what you see on your title
page with the names in this list from Professor Robert Hatch's
"Scientific Revolution" course Web site (U. Florida):
Place Names File: Another larger guide to Latin
place names i pre-1801 books. If you cannot find your place name
in Hatch's list, try this one. Europe is a big place!
Created and maintained by Robert L. Maxwell, Harold B. Lee Library,
Brigham Young University. Initially created 1997 with the assistance of
Plomer, A Short History of English Printing, 1475-1898 (London: Kegan
Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1900; reproduced in digital
surrogate by Project Gutenberg at
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20393/20393-h/20393-h.htm: How many
early English printers can you name other than William Caxton? How did
hand-press printing with moveable type evolve from a few independent
intrepreneurs (viz., the "Home Brew Computer Club" in the 1970s) to become a
national industry that changed the world? Plomer's book remains a highly
readable source of the basic narrative. For more recent, and more advanced
studies of individual English printers, see the essays in William Kuskin, ed.,
Caxton's Trace: Studies in the History of English Printing (Notre Dame,
Ind.: U Notre Dame P, 2006),
686.2 C38Sk 2006
The Atlas of Early
Printing (The University of Iowa Libraries):
a map-based display of data describing Europes
first half-century of printed books (1450-1500). By clicking on
the left menu buttons, uses can see cities which became major centers of
printing, the volume of titles printed in a given city, universities
whose teachers and students were early customers for economical printed
books, paper mills, trade routes, and military conflicts that punctuated
the era's government and social organization. While admirable in
many ways, especially in showing the relative concentration of the
printing industry in certain areas (Germany, the Netherlands, Paris,
Italy), the Web site mysteriously ignores
William Caxton, England's
first printer (fl. 1478-91), by far the most successful and influentia
printer in London, listing instead the relatively later and less
productive William Letou and the anonymous publishers known as the
Schoolmaster Printer of Saint Albans (1480) and the Printer of the
'Expositio in symbolum apostolorum' (tentatively identified as
Theodoricus Rood,1478). Data for the rest of Europe seems more
reliable. Also, do not be misled by its Eurocentric dataset.
Moveable type printing, like paper manufacture, was invented in China
centuries before the probably independent invention of the former by
Johannes Gutenburg and Johan Fust, Gutenberg's financial backer and
later owner of the press. Were we to map trade routes with the
Mediterranean Ocean or the Silk Road as their center, Europe's
relationship to Middle Eastern and Asian cultures would become clearer.
Want to do this? Talk to me.
"Fraktur" German Typography Guide: this guide, created by the Yale
University Library music cataloging department, will translate the
gnarly shapes of German Fraktur type into ordinary Roman type.
These folks are highly trained professionals and they need this guide,
so do not be ashamed to use it. Fraktur is not for the faint of
heart. For instance,
= S and more
by William Whitaker: An online Latin-English dictionary that is less cranky
than most and gives good results to searches which are careful about
transcribing manuscript hands.
Vulgate (Latin) Bible: An online parallel-text edition which presents the
Latin text (with every word glossed in hyperlinks) together with the Hebrew and
Greek source texts and a Modern English translation. If an early printed
or manuscript text is Latin, it very well may be biblical.
What Year Is It?:
Medieval and Early Modern cultures did not yet agree on a single calendar, and
even the time of day could be named differently from one monastery to another.
The major European Medieval calendar systems are here linked to a calculator
that converts modern dates into their corresponding Medieval equivalents.
Descriptive Bibliography Aids:
A Quick Guide to Arcane "Desbib" Vocabulary and Format Detection:
even more condensed summary of the page
below, concentrating on the watermark and chain-line clues to a book's format
plus definitions of the terms "edition," "impression," "issue," and "state,"
each of which can be used to describe the exact nature of an individual copy's
relationship to all other copies of a given press run.
Descriptive Bibliography Methods and Terms: a very condensed introduction to the art and science of
bibliography, with apologies and grateful thanks to the students whose questions
helped me develop it: Victoria Van Hyning (Goucher 2006); Jordana Frankel
(Goucher 2006), Geoffrey Adelsberg (Goucher 2009), Cassie Brand (Goucher 2009),
and Greg Bortnichak (Goucher 2009).
Classification Systems: Type fonts, like scribes' hands, can be used
to determine who printed a book, where, and when. This is a 1-page
description of English and German scholars' development of typography studies to
aid in the study of undated or un-"signed" editions by William Caxton and other
printers of incunables (The National Diet Library, Japan). The English
originators of the method are Henry Bradshaw, the Caxton scholar who originally
had the idea to date/place books by their type fonts compared with known
dated/placed books' type fonts, and Robert Proctor, of the British Museum, who
took over Bradshaw's project when HB died. In Germany, Ernst Haebler had
the brilliant idea to streamline our first guesses about what type font we're
looking at by collecting on a page the capital "M" types of all the printers'
fonts they had ("M" being unusually distinctive in most cases).
Haebler's "M" Type List for European Incunabula Printers: (The
National Diet Library, Japan).
The Gesellschaft für Typenkunde des 15. Jahrhunderts (AKA "GfT"):
A German typography project to identify all European fonts, producing tables and
lists of printers linked to images of their fonts (see tables below) and to
Haebler "M" types.
Identification Exercise: Click and drag sample type images over a half-page
sample of printed type to see which printer's type font matches the one on the
page. This demonstrates the pattern-matching skills bibliographers develop
with experience over time.
Images of a Large Collection of Bookplates:
Thomas Murray Collection online at the
University of British Columbia Library:
Bookplate images help you determine provenance if you
are in possession of a book that still retains its binding or "cover."
From the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, European, English, and
English Colonial (e.g., American) book collectors began commissioning specially
printed bookplates with which to identify their copies of rare books. Some
collectors pasted their plates over plates of previous owners, a sign of hostile
possession, and others simply scraped them off. Other collectors, our
friends, maintained the chain of ownership history by adding their bookplates to
successive or previous initial leaves or the front pastedown. (Do not
presume that a plate's numerical order in the book conforms to its sequence in
the ownership chain--owners will use any available space before or after
previous plates.) Modern plates almost always identify the owners by name.
Early modern plates often use aristocratic coded iconography. "Armorial"
bookplates may identify the owner by a family's heraldic arms and a motto.
The motto will offer the easiest way to search for evidence if this collection
does not contain your plate. Just Google the motto as an exact word string
(in quotes) and click on "Images" to search for your plate in another library or
Matt T. Roberts
and Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A
Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology: A comprehensive
list of terms, illustrated by Margaret R. Brown's drawings, maintained
by CoOL: Conservation
Rare Book School:
"Rare Book School (RBS)
is an independent non-profit educational institute supporting the study
of the history of books and printing and related subjects. Founded in
1983, it moved to its present home at the University of Virginia in
1992." After English 241 and the Goucher Book Studies Minor, RBS
is your next logical move to continue learning about almost any part of
book and manuscript studies. RBS trains librarians and scholars
to handle, analyze, and understand early books. Their course
offerings range from Medieval to Renaissance to machine-press era book
manufacture, and they teach using a collection of presses and printing
equipment, early books, and innumerable other artifacts relevant to the
field. "Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography" (G-10) is RBS's
"boot camp" of bibliographic analysis, recommended for upper-division
students planning on graduate study in library science or the study of
early literature (Medieval to 1800).
Preservation 101: Preservation Basics for Paper and Media
Collections. Northeast Document Conservation Center. Available
online at: https://www.nedcc.org/preservation101/welcome An online course teaching
conservation techniques, this site is mainly interested in paper, film, and
electronic media, but its overview of building, environment, and collection
factors provides valuable background on issues affecting the survival of all
Aids for Describing and Analyzing the Bindings of Printed Books--
Folger Bindings Image Collection:
The Folger Shakespeare Library
(Washington, D.C.) is an outstanding local resource for Renaissance books.
The collection focuses on Shakespeare editions, especially the First Folio, but
to support scholarly research they have acquired a vast trove of other books
from the era and the incunable century before it.
Incunables in American Library Collections: Scott Husby began this project
in 1999 at the Princeton University
Library, and since then he has gotten numerous other libraries to contribute
images of C15 and 16 book bindings. Note the distinguishing features of C15 and early C16 binding
practices, like book metal clasps and leather thongs, decorative stamping and
other tooling effects, and, on three of the Italian examples, protection in the
form of metal bosses, corner guards, and other devices derived from military
Online, 1815-1930: University of Alabama and University of
Wisconsin-Madison's imagebase of around 5,000 decorative bindings produced
during this prolific period of machine-press printing on (mostly) non-hand-laid
paper (i.e., no chainlines or watermarks unless made by the dandy roll).
Aids for Reading, Describing, and Interpreting Manuscript (hand-written) Books--
English Handwriting 1500-1700:
Andrew Zurcher's site is often recommended as the best online teach-yourself
program to learn to decipher Renaissance manuscript hands. Renaissance
hands tend to be tougher than Medieval hands because it became fashionable to
personalize your script, and the proliferation of literacy led to variants in
the construction of letter forms, so there were many ways to represent all the
letters of the alphabet. Each writer used her/his own, so once you learn
your author's hand, you can read it reliably, but until you become familiar with
the typical variants, it can seem pretty hard. As always, practice makes
good, if not perfect.
Dianne Tillotson's Medieval Writing Site: Tillotson is an independent
scholar working on her own to develop a site that teaches "paleography," the
reading of old manuscript hands from the Medieval period. In addition to her lucid explanations of manuscript
production practices, she has accumulated a nice set of Medieval manuscript
images whose scribal hands have been categorized chronologically with practice
examples so that you can test and develop your ability to read them. (The
are available directly at this page:
exercises using Flash.) Letter forms change more slowly than during
the Renaissance, but even Medieval scribes, over centuries, evolved new scripts.
Changes often occurred when attitudes toward the accessibility of the text changed. Remember that
there is nothing "natural" or "obvious" about the letter forms in which we code
language. To one familiar with the script, a (to us) gnarly Gothic Textura
hand would be far more legible than this web page's Times Roman, a descendant of
the C16 Continental Humanist manuscript hand that was turned into type fonts by
printers like Aldus Manutius. The illustrations of the scripts' alphabets
and sample transcriptions of scribal hands into modern type fonts especially
will help students working with the Manuscript Laboratory, Part 2.
Medieval English Scribes (University of York): A searchable
database of examples written by identified and unidentified scribes' in
manuscripts of five major medieval English authors: Geoffrey Chaucer, John
Gower, John Trevisa, William Langland, and Thomas Hoccleve.
Professor Linne R. Mooney, University of York, Dr Simon Horobin, University of
Oxford, and Dr Estelle Stubbs, University of York were the principle creators of
this enormous database. While creating it, Professor Mooney was able to
identify perhaps the most famous scribe ever named by an English author,
Chaucer's "Adam Scryven," as Adam Pinkhurst, who wrote both the
Hengwyrt Manuscript of Canterbury
tales, the oldest surviving version (MS Peniarth 392D, National Library of
Wales), and the later and far more gloriously produced
Ellesmere Manuscript, now at the Huntington Library (San Marino,
Virtual Hill Museum &
Manuscript Library: From the first major library to undertake
imaging of irreplaceable religious manuscripts from Eastern European and Middle
Eastern monasteries in the Cold War, when everyone expected those sites to be
incinerated during an early nuclear exchange, we are slowly getting acccess to
the fruits of their later, digital photography initiative. Especially see
the "School" with its lessons in
Latin paleography. If Zurcher and Tillotson are not working
for you, try Hill!
Spanish Typography and Paleography Sites: These four sites will give
basic handwriting recognition training to readers of late medieval and early
modern French or Spanish documents. The Sorbonne site also includes early
print typography, i.e., the type fonts from the C15-16 which were intentionally
constructed to imitate Gothic book hands.
Archives of England and Wales Palaeography Site and Two Early Modern
Palaeography Sites: The "TNA" site will
train you to read modern (1500-1800) manuscript hands. Oddly enough, this
is much harder than working with Medieval scribal hands, which were produced by
trained professionals who strove for regularity. Once every Tom, Dick, and
Harry, and every Elizabeth, Mary, and Jane, became literate, they learned
handwriting from writing masters who taught a variety of Modern hands. On
top of that variety of hands, there was a general increase in the individuality
of hands as writers used them to express their identities (see Gloucester on
Edmund's forgery of Edgar's "character" or hand in King Lear). Even
more obscurity was added when authors intentionally complicated their
handwriting so that it might not be read by any but their closest friends.
What you write can be used in evidence against you more certainly than what you
are alleged to have said. The most obscure writing is bureaucratic--the
tenth and hardest example is an Eighteenth-Century (1760) Act of Parliament
proclaiming that a road in Cornwall was now a turnpike where tolls would be
collected from travelers. For Early Modern hands, the Cambridge
University “English Handwriting 1500-1700” online course in Renaissance
handwriting will be useful for learning to read, and to date (approximately) the
earliest writing in the Bright Collection:
http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/index.html; “Early Modern
Palaeography” (David Postles, Leicester U.) covers roughly the same era with
different examples (http://paleo.anglo-norman.org/empfram.html).
CORSAIR: The Morgan Library (NYC) image bank of digital surrogates taken
from their collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. "Current
totals: 227 manuscripts, 9,609 page records, 20,285 images." Searching by
manuscript types may help you zero in on the identify of a manuscript leaf by
Dr. Otto Ege
Collection of Fifty Illustrative Manuscript Leaves, University of South Carolina
University Libraries Digital Collections: High quality images of fifty
manuscript leaves selected to illustrate the page layout of various types of
Medieval manuscript books, and especially the era and country-specific stylistic
traits by which an otherwise unknown manuscript leaf might be given a
hypothetical provenance of creation. Mise-en-page and script especially
will help students working with the Manuscript Laboratory Part 2. A
different web version of these same MSS is at Case University:
Otto Ege Collection of Original Leaves from Famous Books (MS and Print):
Another leaf collection at Case University, including incunabula and C16-20
printed materials, useful for establishing mise-en-page and typographical
hypotheses about provenance of origin.
Parchment Analysis and Conservation--
Christopher Clarkson, "Rediscovering Parchment: The Nature of
the Beast," The Paper Conservator 16 (1992), pp 5-26.:
you will have to see me to borrow my copy or buy a back issue from The Paper
Conservator. It does not photocopy well, and much of its value lies in
its half-tone close-up photographs of various types and conditions of parchment.
"Guidelines for the Conservation of Leather and Parchment
Bookbindings," Koninklijke Bibliothek [National Library of the
Netherlands]. Available online at:
http://www.kb.nl/cons/leather/index-en.html. Students of Early Modern
and Modern documents will encounter parchment in bindings, or (rarely)
indentures. Medieval documents are far more often constructed entirely of
various forms of prepared animal skin which, when they cannot identify its
source for certain, bibliographers call "parchment." Its physical
characteristics begin with the animal from which the skin was taken. Then
chemical and physical processes were used to turn it into a flat and flexible
sheet for writing. Finally, after binding and use, various other forces
begin to damage the skin: oxidation, heat, intentional chemical treatments and
pollution, mammalian or insect and mold damage, etc. (For forensic images
of damage, see "Preservation 101" below.)
Amy Baker, "Common Medieval Pigments,"
Cochineal: A Forum
for Student Work at the Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record
(U.Texas, Austin) November 2004, Available online at:
Baker summarizes recent research on the materials from which pigments were made
for the various colors used in the texts and illuminations of medieval
manuscripts. She also describes destructive and non-destructive techniques
for identifying them in a manuscript.
Iron- or Oak-Gall Ink Corrosion: The Web page linked to this topic will
explain the source of mysterious holes and brittleness which can attack
parchment or hand-laid papers made from linen rags. Both of those
substrates for ink would not ordinarily be unstable. Modern C19-20
wood-pulp papers often had high acid content left over from their production
process, and modern "brittle books" are a well-known problem as a result.
The corrosion and brittleness caused by iron gall ink is due to the ink's
chemistry, which produces sulphuric acid in contact with water vapor over
hundreds of years, literally dissolving the substrate beneath the ink.
Nearly all medieval and early modern manuscripts are written in this ink, but we
may be thankful that printers used a non-corrosive ink which does not damage
either parchment or paper.
Paper Analysis and Conservation--
Alan Stevenson, "Watermarks Are Twins,"
Studies in Bibliography 4 (1951-52)
57-91. Available online
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/bsuva/sb/ (Use the "Browse by Volume" menu in
the left frame and click on "4"--Stevenson's article is the fourth in the
column. Using the online version instead of a photocopy gives you access
to clearer reproductions of Stevenson's photoradiographic images of watermarks.)
The article is somewhat dauntingly technical, but if you return to it when you
have questions about watermarks in paper you are examining, his explanations
will become more and more helpful as you grow to understand the relationship
between the marks and the handmade paper processes that produced them.
Watermarks in Incunaula Printed in the Low Countries: Between 1450 and 1500,
the earliest printed books have become known as "cradle books" or incunables.
This image bank illustrates a wide range of watermarks common not just to books
printed in the Netherlands, but also books printed elsewhere on the Continent
and even later than 1500. The early paper market was based on exports from
countries like France and Italy which grew large flax crops, and their low costs
of production enabled them to capture the market in most places to which
printing had spread. Choose the "browse by main group" option to see
examples. For more information on and illustrations of watermarks, see the
English language index of
Le Musée du Papier
D'Angoumois--Le Moulin: A French paper mill site that illustrates, with
moving images, the stages in the production of hand-laid paper such as that used
in Medieval manuscripts and printed books until around 1800. If your
French is a bit rusty, the first stage (Le Délissage) cuts linen or cotton rags
into small pieces to ready it for the hammer mill ("La Pile à Maillets").
The hammer mill was driven by the water-wheel run by the nearby river, which
also supplied water in which the resulting cotton or linen paste was soaked to
prepare the "stuff" ("La pâte") from which the paper was made. (For early
papers, you can forget "La Pile Hollandaise," which was a later invention.
The two-man paper-making team consisted of the Drawer ("Le Puiseur "), who
dipped the mould into the vat of stuff and shook it lightly left-to-right to
strengthen the resulting leaves' structure, and the Coucher ("Le Coucheur " who
"puts it to bed"), who delivered an empty mould and received the full one,
turning it on to the stack of felts which would absorb its liquid and press out
its shape. They traded full and empty pairs of paper moulds all day long.
Dried paper had to be sized with gelatin to prevent the printing ink soaking
deeply into the paper, and it had to be rewetted before being printed so that it
would take the ink properly. Humidity control is one of the keys to
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing: Even for
non-members, the SHARP home page contains a massive set of hyperlinks to
resources for studying book history, history of readership, library collections,
Paper Conservator: A peer-reviewed journal published since 1976 by ICON, The
Institute of Conservation.