The Fifteeners: The Earliest Printed Books. Incunabula or incunables are the very first examples of books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed with moveable type in Western Europe. They range from the very first examples of the two-column Latin Bible produced by Johann Gutenberg in the 1450s to works printed through the end of the year 1500. The term "incunable" derives from the Latin word cunabula for "cradle" or "origin", hinting at their status as the earliest of all books. Incunabula are also sometimes referred to as "fifteeners" from their appearance in the fifteenth century. In 2002, the Countway Library embarked on an ambitious and long-needed project to describe and catalog fully its holdings of incunabula and make online descriptions of these items accessible to scholars and researchers for the first time. All of the books and woodcuts in this exhibit have been drawn from the collections of the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library and have one common element—each is at least five hundred years old. The Fifteeners highlights some of the extraordinary treasures in the Countway's incunabula collection and allows the public a glimpse of these rarest of printed medical works. [Previously]
Illuminated manuscripts are truly a joy to behold. And there are a remarkable number of them available on the web for your viewing pleasure. The most famous illuminated MS is the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. For galleries with multiple images, try the resources at DScriptorium, Web Gallery of Art, and the Leaves of Gold exhibition. Elyse Boucher's page is a work-in-progress detailing the history and methods of illuminating books, with both images and secondary sources; see also Sue Wood's Art and Books page.