REBLOGGED from the Hurd Library blog of our HLF Funded Trainee, Sarah Stretton.
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What better way to start our Book of the Month series than with our oldest book and only incunabulum! Incunabula is the name given to books printed before 1501 ( the Latin word “incunabula” means “things in the cradle”). The book originally came from the library of William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester. This provenance is confirmed by a note from Warburton on the first page.
Look inside this massive volume and you’ll find the text is printed like a medieval manuscript (see Photo 1) and doesn’t look like the books we are familiar with today. But as our Hurd Librarian, Chris Penney says, when they first built motorcars they based the design on horse- drawn carriages – that was the only model they had to go on! The early printers similarly used the only model available to them – manuscripts.
Printed page from Legenda Aurea
The Legenda Aurea (or Golden Legend in English) is a collection of lives of saints and other holy people, originally written in Latin by Jacobus de Voragine. This copy has been translated from Latin into French by Jean de Vignay, revised by Jean Batallier. It was printed in 1476 in Lyons by B. Buyer. There is one beautiful illuminated initial in the book (see Photo 2); these were a common feature of medieval manuscripts and often appear in printed books too, alhough sadly this is the only one present in this volume.
But the Legend Aurea is special for many reasons. It’s one of only 6 copies left in the world, and also happened to be something of a medieval bestseller. Eat your heart out Jackie Collins – this giant book of hagiography was incredibly popular in its day!
The only illuminated initial from Legenda Aurea