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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

H-25. 15th-Century Books in Print and Manuscript

Paul Needham and William Noel

The use of a wide variety of evidence – paper, parchment, type, script, rubrication and illumination, bindings, ownership marks, and annotations – can shed light both on questions of analytical bibliography and on wider questions of book distribution, provenance, and use. There will be a fairly detailed discussion and analysis of both good and bad features in existing reference works on manuscripts and early printing.

This course is intended to serve as a general introduction to bibliographical analysis. Its examples and methods are primarily derived from c15 manuscripts and printed books at the Walters Art Museum, as this is a period commonly overlooked or only summarily treated by the standard guides. Note that this course is not a general historical introduction to manuscripts or incunabula; the primary purpose of the course is to encourage a way of bibliographical thinking that should prove useful in the analysis of all books, early or modern.

Students should have already taken Rare Book School's Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography or its equivalent. Because many of the books studied will be in Latin, some familiarity with the language will be an advantage. In their personal statement, applicants should indicate the extent of their proficiency with descriptive bibliography and with Latin.

Course Resources

Course History


Paul Needham and William Noel teach this course for the first time.