Early Printing in Europe: examples and evidence in Bodleian collections
The Bodleian’s collections of early printed books contain over 6000 incunables (books printed before 1500). The stories these collections tell cross many centuries and continents. Technological and business innovation in 15th-century Germany launched a printing trade that supplanted manuscript copies of many scholarly and religious works, and made possible new forms of text and illustrative practices. Contemporaries and later collectors who appreciated the skill of the printers and valued the books as fine objects ensured their preservation in libraries, where they survive as witnesses of every stage in a profound transformation of communications technology.
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1) Woodcut and metalcut prints
3) Pre-1500 printed books
The earliest printers spread from Mainz in Germany where Gutenberg first had his printing house to Venice where learning and culture were matched by a business wealth that supported an active print trade and to Rome, Paris, and the Netherlands. Examples from all of these centres of 15th-century printing are found in Bodleian collections. Wealthy owners of fine printed incunables often had these decorated at great expense by hand, imitating the rich illumination of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.