Favourite early book and why?

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Favourite early book and why?

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Ago 18, 2010, 5:34 pm

Not sure how many people on Library thing love genuinely early books, I certainly do and I find myself wondering what early books might be out there and what might be your current favourite.

At the moment I am really enjoying an early book on hunting, bought recently - The noble arte of venerie or hunting. Written and published in Elizabethan England in 1575, stunning woodcuts including a coloured title page and portraits of the Queen. Altogether evocative of the period, it captures the spirit of both the authors desire to impress the Queen and it describes what was normal and fashionable as a 'noble' past time. A very interesting read that is somewhat at odds with most peoples attitudes to cute furry animals...Although the section on training the hunting dogs would strike a chord with modern dog lovers (i.e give them lost of treats and be nice to them if you want to train them well). Why is this book more interesting and enjoyable because it was actually printed in and has survived from 1575 ? Because it is! No good reason at all. So why dont I just read the recent reprint...

Any thoughts? Ken.

Ago 19, 2010, 1:19 am

Antiquarian books are rare finds, and beyond the reach of an average reader to buy and read, or even make a book loan from a private or public library. Is there a publisher or publishers specialised in the reprints or fascimile of some antiquarian and rare books ?

Ago 19, 2010, 4:40 pm

There are several companies who seem to specialise in reprinting rare books on demand, they are not that cheap, about £50 a time, but otherwise unobtainable books can now be bought, as never before. (Ebay has a lot of wonderful early books available as ebooks, not sure they count...). The 1960's Scholar Press and De Capo Press facsimilies of most interesting early books can be bought but they are increasingly hard to find. Just doing a search on Addall or Abe can reveal how many books are available instantly. These massive book retailers are revealing just how common some supposedly 'rare' books actually are and how truly scarce (but not always expensive) most genuine Elizabethan or earlier books have become.

Editado: Ago 22, 2010, 12:43 pm

That is an exquisite library you have!
I love early antiquarian books too, but the ones I love are from the late 1700s, around the time of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. I have several editions of some of their works, but I enjoy holding and reading the editions which were published during or shortly after their lifetime.

Continuing kend's advice on reprints, there was an Englishman by the name of Edward Arber (1836-1912) who reprinted a series of early English works in the late 1800s: An English Garner. Ingatherings From Our History and Literature. I have seven of the eight volumes, whose covers are a delight. The works included in this series were rearranged and reprinted in twelve volumes 1903 and 1904 by a different publisher, but with ordinary-looking covers. The John Rylands Library at Manchester published a catalogue of both editions, viewable on google books. Some of the volumes of An English Garner are viewable on googlebooks as well.

Out 1, 2010, 7:49 pm

I've recently been restoring a book of hours printed in Antwerp 1531. It is written in English and in Latin. It has the "dayes of the weke moralysed and The Manner to Lyve well". The book has several references to the Pope, all of which have been crossed out by a reader of the period. The reformation had started 3 years earlier. I guess the printer wasn't aware of the intensity of the feelings of his readers, or perhaps he didn't care enough to change his type.

Out 2, 2010, 6:22 am

I am curious. I assume as a book restorer you are not "fixing" the crossings out?

Out 4, 2010, 10:51 am

The crossing outs are the best part of the book. They provide an important historical record of the book and of course out civilization. My fascination with early books is knowing that I am the present user in a list of past readers and hopefully a list of future users. In my restoration work, I save as much of the history of the book as possible.

Out 5, 2010, 3:19 am

Yes, I don't have anything very old but I am often fascinated by what people have underlined or the comments that have been written. It is amazing that you have that book with references to the the Pope crossed out. It makes the book almost alive.

Out 6, 2010, 6:37 pm

You put it nicely by saying it makes the book come alive. I have an early manuscript bible, in the margin at the end, the scribe wrote "Explicit opus mangum lavour" When I look at the book, I picture a young man stoop-shouldered, glad to come to the end of a long job. So here I am using a computer to talk to another man half a world away about another man writing by candlelight eight hundred years ago.

Out 14, 2010, 12:54 pm

cbellia, that book of hours printed in Antwerp 1531 sounds truly wonderful, I think that such books really are living history, above ground archaeology, a direct link to those past events and we are lucky to have them. It tickles me that someone should edit out the Pope - from a book of hours! I guess religious controversy was awfully complicated at that point. Does that book have its original binding and is it English? Ken

Out 14, 2010, 9:04 pm

Ken; I was able to get the book because it was completely disbound with no covers or end sheets. I collated it and found that it is missing 14 pages but has all 13 miniatures called for. ESTC locates 3 copies in Great Britain, none in Europe or the United States. I was able to locate a microfilm of the Bodleian copy in the University of Michigan. After your comment , I looked at the microfilm of the Bodleian Copy and found that it also has references to the pope crossed out. I noted that the reader of the Bodleian book missed a reference to Pope John in Sig. L1V but the reader of my book got it! It seems that scholars have been making errors as long as they've been reading.
The book has many sections in English with most of the copy in Latin. In the sixteenth century prayers were memorized in latin, while the stories of the miniatures both large and small were well known to the readers. Some of the French books of hours were so well illustrated that you didn't have to read the prayers