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University of Groningen Library

Exhibition: Material evidence in the incunabula of the University of Groningen Library

18 June 2021
Owner Wilhelmus Frederici had his coat of arms inserted in his copy of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum naturale
Owner Wilhelmus Frederici had his coat of arms inserted in his copy of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum naturale

Among the oldest books in the University of Groningen Library are the incunabula, the ‘first generation’ of printed books (printed before 1501). These imposing Bibles, carefully printed classical texts and humble devotional works have a long history of use. For centuries, they have been owned, read, cherished or neglected by different individuals. They changed hands, and were restored and adapted to various needs.

Nowadays, we may still catch a glimpse of this fleeting history of use through the traces that individuals left in their books, such as ownership inscriptions, decorations and notes written in the margins. This ‘material evidence’ reveals what happened to these books after they were printed. Who owned them? How where they used? And how did the extant copies end up in the library where we can read and study them today?

Anna de Bruyn is a PhD at the UG Research Centre for Historical Studies; her research focuses on fifteenth century book illustrations in the transition period from manuscripts to printed books.

In the past study year, Anna did extensive research into the incunabula in the University of Groningen Library. She created a beautiful online exhibition form what she discovered.

Last modified:05 January 2022 1.00 p.m.
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