Oldies But Goodies
July 10, 2006 7:20 AM   Subscribe

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]
posted by sluglicker (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First link takes me to a lovely page full of gobbledygook. Think you were looking for this link

And if we're gonna talk about Fifteeners, let's talk about the Hypnerotomachia. A seriously interesting book, which itself inspired a so-so, wannabe Da Vinci Code novel called The Rule of Four. (Which I quite enjoyed, but I can understand how many would not)
posted by antifuse at 7:45 AM on July 10, 2006

First link takes me to a lovely page full of gobbledygook.

hmmm...I tried mine with Mozilla, Firefox and Opera and had no trouble without the /index.htm. Are you using IE by any chance? And what exactly is "gobbledygook"?
posted by sluglicker at 8:24 AM on July 10, 2006

No problems viewing first link in IE6.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:39 AM on July 10, 2006

Up until today, I thought "incunabula" was a word Autechre made up.
posted by davebush at 8:56 AM on July 10, 2006

Cool. Didn't think so. When one makes a request to a directory on a server, the default is "index.htm". If it exists, it will open in your browser. I would have thought that antifuse knew that, seeing as how he is a code monkey, but maybe he's just being an asshole.
posted by sluglicker at 9:00 AM on July 10, 2006

sluglicker: seriously, it comes up with random junk characters... I wasn't trying to be an asshole. Here's a screen capture of what shows up for me in FFox, WinXP.
posted by antifuse at 9:08 AM on July 10, 2006

(I note that it also works fine in IE6 on this machine as well, and on FFox [same version] on my home PC... so, link correction retracted. Methinks it's some weirdness with either adblock or greasemonkey)
posted by antifuse at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2006

antifuse: ok, well stranger things have happened. We've derailed my post long enough. Let's get back on-topic.
posted by sluglicker at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2006

On topic, I'm afraid I found this a disappointing post. Not a bad post, I hasten to add, but overwritten and underpowered. When I saw a whole paragraph about incunabula, I thought "Cool, there must be a new site where you can view 15th-century books, turn the pages, that sort of thing." Like, say, thomas j wise's broadside ballad post. But as far as I can tell, the main link is to a five-year-old catalog with a few pages of descriptions of old medical books, with some photos that don't do anything when you click on them. Again, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but to my mind a post like this would have been more appropriate:
A catalog of medical incunabula from the collections of the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library.
Also, um, what does the second link have to do with anything? It's about manuscripts, not printed books. (Which brings up another point: incunabula are not "the earliest of all books," just the earliest printed books in Europe. China had printed books centuries earlier, and manuscript books are obviously much, much older.)
posted by languagehat at 9:59 AM on July 10, 2006

Also previously, as intimated by languagehat, - the Diamond Sutra - the earliest known printed book, printed using intricately carved wooden blocks. Which I saw at the amazing Silk Routes exhibition at the British Library a couple of years ago: probably the most amazing exhibition I've ever seen. Not just for the exhibits themselves, which were extraordinary (for example, the 780AD Tibetan shopping list found perfectly preserved in the sole of a shoe, and a letter of apology for getting drunk) but for the photographs of the Victorian thieving gits explorers, all in their plus-fours and military finery, while their sherpa guides, lying prone around them, look on, unimpressed. Virtual exhibition here.
posted by bokeh at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2006

Moveable Type was one printing technology but there was also Block Printing which had been around a while (carve it into a wood block, early as 9th C in China) so "printing" was not new, just a new method.
posted by stbalbach at 5:11 PM on July 10, 2006

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