Thomas Izbicki, Johns Hopkins University

title.none: Walsh, Catalogue of the Fifteenth-Century Printed Books

identifier.other: baj9928.9607.004 96.07.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Thomas Izbicki, Johns Hopkins University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Walsh, James E. A Catalogue of the Fifteenth-Century Printed Books in the Harvard University Library, Vol. III: Books Printed in Italy with the exception of Rome and Venice. Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies State University of New York at Binghamton, 1994. Pp. xii, 397. $. ISBN: ISBN Hardback- 0-86698-174-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.07.04

Walsh, James E. A Catalogue of the Fifteenth-Century Printed Books in the Harvard University Library, Vol. III: Books Printed in Italy with the exception of Rome and Venice. Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies State University of New York at Binghamton, 1994. Pp. xii, 397. $. ISBN: ISBN Hardback- 0-86698-174-8.

Reviewed by:

Thomas Izbicki, Johns Hopkins University

This volume must be understood within the larger context of James Walsh's projected four volume catalogue. When the entire project is complete, scholars will be able to locate all volumes from the earliest years of printing held by Harvard University's many libraries. The first volume, Books Printed in Germany, German-Speaking Switzerland and Austria Hungary includes the explanatory Preface to the larger work. Among the important information found in that Preface is Walsh's over-all plan, loosely based on the work of Robert Proctor, for a work reflecting the geography and chronology of the first decades of printing. (Readers desiring to find the works of individual authors will be compelled to identify them through the indices.) Individual printers -- some of them anonymous -- are listed under the cities in which they set up shop. A standardized format gives author, title and date for each work on the same line with the number in Walsh's inventory. The second line gives collation and measurements. The next line -- or two -- is devoted to descriptive notes, including information on bindings, decoration, annotation and bookplates. Next come references to other inventories of incunabula, permitting comparison of Harvard's copies with those held by other libraries. Last, Walsh gives information on how the individual incunabula entered the particular collection at Harvard. Room is made in the catalogue for known volumes which could not be found and for volumes once thought to be incunabula which later were assigned to the sixteenth century.

The quantity of Italian editions in the Harvard collections compelled Walsh to divide the descriptions into two volumes. Rome, in whose region printing first took root in Italy, and Venice, where the greatest quantity of Italian incunabula was produced, are covered by Volume II. Volume III is devoted to various other cities, including important centers like Florence and Milan. Other towns, including Cividale and Pojano, where fewer volumes were printed, also are represented. Foligno, with its 1470 edition of Procopius, leads all the rest. Forli comes last with its 1495 edition of Antonio Manilio, Prognosticon dialogale usque ad annum 1500 et ultra. Unfortunately, the principles followed in deciding the order in which entries for cities and printers were arranged are not explained very well, although the scheme seems to reflect the chronology of printing employed in Proctor's work. (Walsh may have presumed that readers will know the older catalogues well enough not to need further explanation of this arrangement.)

The author provides this volume with a brief Preface. Among the significant observations made is that the smaller presses, especially from the cities which never became centers of printing, are not very well represented in Harvard's collections. This does not mean that Harvard's holdings are undistinguished. Many of these printers produced few editions, whether of pamphlets or of substantial books. Moreover, their print runs often were quite small. Also significant is Walsh's brief note on the chances of filling these gaps. Harvard, like any other institution in the Western hemisphere, has had to build up its collections of early printed works by a combination of gift and purchase. Even zealous collectors and vigilant librarians will not always find a desired book at an acceptable price. As Walsh notes, even were volumes which fill gaps in these collections to go on the market today, their sale prices might be prohibitive. Nonetheless, Harvard's collections are among the most significant in the Americas; and many important titles are represented in this volume.

The Florentine portion of the catalog, even aside from its being the largest, deserves especial note. First, Walsh provides a Preliminary Note, describing the conservative practices of Florentine printers. Their continued use of older types and even of woodblocks make Florentine incunabula hard to distinguish from somewhat later productions. Walsh makes a point of describing many of these because of their rarity and the ease with which they might be taken for incunabula. (A group of common imprints of Savonarolan tracts, however, is dismissed with a brief note of their places in the inventories of Hain, Proctor and Goff placed at the end of the section on Florence.) One of the printers best represented is Bartolommeo di Libri. The Harvard collections include many works of Savonarola from his press, as well as practical works like the Formularium diversorum contractuum (1488) and erudite texts like Poggio's Historia Florentina (1492) and the first Italian translation of Josephus, De bello Judaico (1493).

Walsh's volume has several Indices: Author / Title Index; Index of Editors and Translators and of Secondary Works, Identified and Anonymous; Printers and Places; Provenance Index; Index of Incunabula Containing Manuscripts; Index of Incunabula with Identified Bindings. Each index is keyed to the item numbers in the catalogue. There also are concordances of the numbers in the Harvard inventory with those in Hain, Proctor, the Gesamtkatalog and Goff. The volume concludes with a group of sixteen plates -- described by Walsh as "representative" -- and a note promising that the indices will be cumulated in a fifth volume.

The production of this catalogue deserves special mention. The press has given the entries adequate space and a clear typeface. The eye is not assailed by too much information packed too tightly. Running headers provide the names of the cities at the tops of the pages, and the illustrations are well reproduced. Scholars making use of this volume should take note that the table of References -- including those assigned abbreviations -- following the Preface is supplementary to those listed in the previous volumes. Anyone interested in the history of printing will find Walsh's catalogue eminently useful, and it will serve as a reliable source for scholars seeking copies of individual texts. (Students of Savonarola and his movement will be particularly grateful to be able to employ Walsh's work.)