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Rolewinck, Werner. Fasciculus temporum.

Strassburg : Johann Pruss, 1490.

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A famous illustrated book of the 15th century and the most popular concise world chronicle of its time, this work is one of the most commonly found of all German incunabula. It is also the earliest chronological world history to be printed. Werner Rolewinck (1425-1502), was a Carthusian monk and prolific author, and this book was the most popular of his numerous writings. The demand for this book was so great that it was translated into German, French and Dutch and appeared in at least 33 editions, in five languages, between 1474 and 1500, making it one of the first "best sellers". These various editions would be amended in various localities to bring them up to date or to add items of local interest or history. The 1474 edition by Arnold Ther Hoernen of Cologne was the first printed book to use pagination, an innovation which was not to generally catch on until much later.

The layout of the book is extrordinarily complex. Some of the typeset pages have up to fourteen different line lengths and the text in parts can be set vertically, or in circles, or even upside down. Woodcuts are interspersed throughout the text with some text being set inside the woodcuts on occasion. These depict genealogical tables, maps of the world and the Holy land and biblical themes such as Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel, and Ninevah, views of Rome, Athens, Cologne and Treves, the Adoration of the Magi, Christ the Redeemer etc.

Dante. La Commedia. [With commentary and Life of Dante by] Christophorus Landinus.

Venice : Petrus de Quarengius, 1497.

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In 1481, in Florence, there was an attempt to print an edition of Dante by Nicholas Laurentius with copperplate engravings by Baccio Baldini based on drawings by Botticelli. This is one of the earliest attempts at using a medium which was not to become really common until the very late sixteenth century. This work was commissioned by Lorenzo d'Medici, and one hundred engravings were planned - one for each canto. The first nineteen engravings were made, but the difficulty of printing them in position - a process which required two separate impressions through the press - was apparently too great. Only the first two or three plates were printed on the text page; sixteen or seventeen others were printed separately and pasted in. The results were poorly executed and grey and the rest were never engraved.

Botticelli evidently completed 92 of the drawings however over a number of years; these were published in full in 1887. Nevertheless, the work had great influence on other editions of Dante in that the style of the illustrations were widely copied. A notable example is this 1497 edition. The woodcuts in this work being based on the engravings for the 1481 edition. The text includes a commentary by Landinus, but also included here is a life of Dante by the same writer which is the origin of much of our knowledge of the poet. The book was edited by Piero Figino.

Book of Hours. Ces presentes heures a l'uisage de Romme.

Paris: Imprimees par Cardin Hamillon pour Magdaleine Boursette, 1547.

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A heavily worn example of a printed Book of Hours, or Horae. The tradition of the laity using Books of Hours continued long after the introduction of printing and many fine examples were hand coloured so as to closely resemble their manuscript predecessors. This example, while not coloured, does contain a total of fifty five woodcuts, including that of the Anatomical man and a striking series of calendar illustrations showing the activities for each month.

Apianus, Petrus. Cosmographia....

Antwerp : Gregorio Borlio, 1550.

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Apianus' Cosmographia is a modification of his earlier work Astronomicum caesarium, one of the finest astronomical works ever produced. Its scientific importance is considerable. It contains information on comets, with the first illustration of the discovery that their tails always point away from the sun as well as a broad treatment of Ptolemaic astronomy. Of particular importance to note is the size of the work. It is a truly portable book, far removed from the stately folios of the 15th century and clearly designed for personal, individual use.

It is of interest also because of its illustrations with their accompanying volvelles. These are composite woodcut diagrams with moveable parts, usually superimposed circles or segments of a circle, bearing printed information. Volvelles were often used to provide astrological as well as scientific information. They could be used for a wide range of calculations, such as charting the critical days in the course of an illness, or determining the longitude of a planet. Very few books of this type survive with the volvelles intact but they provide a good example of the ways in which scientific thought was applied to the solving of problems.

Sprenger, Jakob & Institoris, Heinrich. Malleus maleficarum ....

Cologne : excudebat Iohannes Gymnicus, 1520.

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In 1481, in Florence, there was an attempt to print an edition of Dante by Nicholas Laurentius with copperplate engravings by Baccio Baldini based on drawings by Botticelli. This is one of the earliest attempts at using a medium which was not to become really common until the very late sixteenth century. This work was commissioned by Lorenzo d'Medici, and one hundred engravings were planned - one for each canto. The first nineteen engravings were made, but the difficulty of printing them in position - a process which required two separate impressions through the press - was apparently too great. Only the first two or three plates were printed on the text page; sixteen or seventeen others were printed separately and pasted in. The results were poorly executed and grey and the rest were never engraved.

The Malleus owed its authority and pride of place over other contemporary works to several features, one of which was the scholastic reputation of its authors. The second was the inclusion of the Papal Bull, Summis desiderantes affectibus, of 1484, which effectively silenced all opposition to the witch hunts, and the third was the sheer amount of detail which it provided.

The influence of the Malleus Maleficarum was widespread outside of the Catholic church as well. The Protestant clergy, who otherwise strongly opposed the Inquisition, accepted the Malleus as their authority and code against witches

Scot, Reginald (1538-1599). Discovery of Witchcraft.

London : printed by Richard Cotes, 1651.

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This is a copy of the second edition of 1651 of Scot's Discovery of witchcraft. First published in 1584, almost no copies of the first edition are known to survive. It has the honour of being not only the first book in English devoted to witchcraft but also the first major work to deny its reality. King James I found the work damnable, and on his accession to the throne in 1603 ordered all copies to be burnt, a circumstance that led to many owners removing the title pages. It was not to reappear until 1651. Both historically, and as a literary curiosity, it is a book of the greatest value. It was from Scot that Shakespeare got hints for his witches in Macbeth, and Thomas Middleton for his play The Witch.

Born of a Kentish country family, Scot attended Oxford, but left without a degree to live the life of a country gentleman. He briefly held government posts and was at one stage a member of Parliament. His only other published work deals with the growing of hops. Scot probably wrote the Discovery as a reaction to the trial and execution of the St Osyth witches, a trial notable for its suspension of the rules of evidence, and published the book on his own responsibility - it was not entered in the Stationers Register and no publishers name appears, only a printers name at the end. Scot thought the whole delusion the invention of the Inquisition.

Scot based his work upon that of Johann Weyer. Writing to ridicule the idea of witchcraft in the eyes of the general public, and to prevent the persecution of the poor, aged and simple persons who were popularly believed to be witches, Scot's book is easier reading than the works of the standard demonologists. It is this perhaps which enabled detractors such as Meric Casaubon to say about Scot whose "book, I must confess I never had, nor ever read" that he was an "illiterate wretch... a very inconsiderable man".

Prynne, William. Histrio-mastix. The player's scourge, or, actors tragedie, wherein it is largely evidenced ... that popular stage-playes (the very pompes of the divell ...) are sinfull, heathenish, lewde, ungodly spectacles, and most pernicious corruptions... to the manners, mindes and soules of men .

printed by E.A. and W.I. for Michael Sparke ... to be sold at the Blue Bible in Green Arbour, in little Old Bayly, 1633.

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William Prynne (1600-1699) was educated at Bath Grammar School and Oriel College, Oxford, and was admitted as a barrister to Lincoln's Inn in 1621, but it is impossible to briefly sum up his career as Prynne seems to have gone through his entire life alienating people in authority.

This book for example was brought to the attention of the King and Queen by Archbishop Laud. In his violent denunciation of the theatre, Prynne was accused of an attack on the King, Charles I, and the Queen, Henrietta Maria, who was fond of drama and often acted in plays at the Court. As a result, Prynne was brought before the Star Chamber on the 17 February 1634. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life, heavily fined the sum of 5000 pounds, expelled from Lincoln's Inn, the loss of his University degree, and to be pilloried where he was to lose both his ears. The whole of the sentence except for the permanence of the imprisonment and the size of the fine, was carried out. This work has the distinction of being the first book to be burnt in England by the common hangman.

Prynne continued his paper warfare, attacking Laud, then the independents, surprisingly defending the role of the House of Lords, and when he became a member of Parliament opposing the execution of Charles. In consequence of this he was imprisoned again without trial. He continued his attacks on the Government and Cromwell until his release in 1653 when he switched his attention to attacking the Papists and Quakers. In 1660 he supported the return of Charles II who made him keeper of the records in the Tower of London. Despite a long series of further vitriolic pamphlets he managed to stay out of jail until his death in 1669.