Oxford incunabula

8th November 2018

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Celebrating incunabula (books published between 1450 and 1500), eight of Wadham’s treasures went on display during a very special Oxford walking tour.

  • Incunabula trail map

‘Initial impressions: a trail of 15th century books in Oxford College libraries’ invited visitors to tour seven Oxford colleges and view books published in the first fifty years after the invention of the printing press in the 1450s.

The word incunabula is from the Latin for cradle - books out of the cradle after the birth of printing. 

The event was organised by the Oxford-based 15cBOOKTRADE project addressing questions relating to the introduction of printing in the West. 

Eight Wadham works were displayed and presented by the library staff with the help of Wadham General Assistant Gintas Venckevicius. 

The oldest item, Caesar’s Gallic Wars was published in 1471 and given to Wadham by Richard Warner. The volume has a hand illuminated first leaf, as in a manuscript, but no other illustrations. 

Frontinus’ Scriptores rei militaris (published 1495/6) shows a plan for the formation of troops in battle, as represented with great craftsmanship by the printer with individual pieces of type. This book was given to the College in 1720 by Charles Godolphin. 

More than 120 people attended the event at Wadham, following a trail map designed and drawn by Wadham Librarian Tim Kirtley. 

Following the success of the trail, Library staff are planning to re-exhibit this collection in 2019 – details to come.