Trinity College Library was honoured to host the launch of the exciting new book Emprynted in thys manere: Early printed treasures from Cambridge University Library on 23rd October in the Wren Library. The book was edited by Ed Potten and Emily Dourish, with contributions from various authors who, according to the Special Collections blog, “Each wrote on an item that fascinated them, with art historians alongside scientists, library curators alongside typographers, and notable celebrity authors,” including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Mary Beard, Sir Quentin Blake, Bamber Gascoigne and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Trinity’s own Librarian, Professor David McKitterick, contributed a chapter on a Dutch Book of Hours (Inc.5.E.3.10 ) entitled, “The Start of a Project”. The event in the Wren included brief talks by the editors and a number of the contributors followed by a reception.
The book ties in with an exhibition now at Cambridge University Library (UL) in the Milstein Exhibition Centre, entitled Private lives of print: the use and abuse of books 1450-1550. A virtual version of the exhibition, including a number of interesting films, is available online.
Items on display include a unique copy of the Gutenberg Bible – Europe’s first printed book using moveable type – and over fifty other items. These range from beautifully bound, designed or illuminated texts to those that bear the marginal illustrations, accidental ink-spills and other signs of how they were handled by their owners. Ed Potten says:
“We tend to assume that books of this age and importance have always been treasured items treated with the utmost respect and care – but we forget that books were constantly being read, handed down, sold and scribbled upon. Many of the early printed books owned by the Library have every spare space covered with notes and scribbles.
“There is a temptation to view these marginalia and doodles as diminishing and devaluing the books, but it’s precisely these features that make them a joy to study. They offer rare and fascinating insights into the private lives of books – glimpses of the many ways in which books were received and subsequently used by the first generations of printed book owners.”
The exhibition marks the conclusion of a cataloguing project involving the UL’s collection of over 4,600 incunabula. They are now searchable through an online catalogue, including all known details of provenance, annotations and condition. According to the Special Collections blog,
“Instead of a straightforward exhibition showing the most beautiful books, this display is intended to give an insight into the ways in which users interacted with their books over the first hundred years of the printing press.”
The exhibition will run through 11 April, 2015.
Readers may also be interested to look at The Guardian‘s coverage of the exhibition. For information about the early printed books in Trinity’s collection, visit our webpages. Images of the book launch are copyright the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, while the images from the books belong to the University Library.