Books printed between 1450 (the year of Gutenberg’s invention of modern printing) and 1500 (conventional cut-off date in scholarship) are known as incunabula. Some 30,000 editions are known today, in some 450,000 surviving copies, located in about 4,000 different public libraries, mostly in Europe and North America.
A period of leave spent as Visiting Fellow at the Fondazione Cini (Venice) in 2013 suggested to me that there was an excellent opportunity for Oxford Humanities to collaborate with the Cini. The John Fell OUP Research Fund is now funding for a three-year period (2014-17), via TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities), a variety of individual and collective collaborations involving the dissemination of academic research and artistic performance related to that research.
This project proposes for the first time to use the traded objects themselves, 15th-century books which still survive in their thousands, as essential and unquestionable evidence of the booktrade, to substantially complement current research on the booktrade based almost solely on scattered documentary evidence (printers contracts, litigations, booksellers stock lists, wills etc.).