Friday, May 8, 2020

Mini-Catalogue: Kalamazoo list

Five fragmentary bifolia.
This is the week where, in a normal year, I would be set up at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, where medieval scholars annually meet in a free-for-all of conference papers, book-room purchases, and dancing. Well--not all the attenders participate in all three, and one suspects that many others would add drinking to the list of must-do activities. The plastic glasses of boxed wine are legendary.

This year, of course, the conference has been cancelled, and so I've put together a little catalogue of the items I've gathered during the past year that I would have otherwise been delighted to show off at Kalamazoo. It includes books on medieval texts and medieval topics from 1596 to 1773; binding fragments from early printed books and from even earlier manuscripts, and a handful of manuscript leaves cut and dispersed fifty or more years ago. 

Here's a link to the catalogue, for those who might want to look at it.

One of my favorite items is shown in the illustrations here: a group of incunabula leaves that were all used in a binding (or, possibly, a set of related bindings). Although they derive from at least four or five separate incunabula, their use together seems clear, and they may thus indicate the contents (or part of the contents) of a long-lost incunabula-period sammelband. 

Part of the colophon on one of the leaves above.
Note the date in the last line: Mccccxcviii

The detective work to identify the incunabula books that these leaves derive from was, as always, a lot of fun.  

Well, the results were fun, but like all detective work, those results came after a certain amount of tedious and repetitive labor. They all date from 1497 to about 1500, and they are all quite scarce, with only about 20 or so copies recorded in the online bibliographies of incunabula. To me, since they are before 1500, they are every bit as much "medieval" as manuscript fragments.

I got interested in binding fragments because of my interest in medieval manuscripts, but I've come to understand that these early printed binding fragments can be just as interesting, just as important, and they are--if anything--more fragile and at-risk than manuscript fragments. But as far as I know, the big projects of fragmentology that are ongoing pay little or no attention to such printed fragments. 

Medievalists, I hope, can learn to care as much about printed medieval books and fragments as they do about manuscript ones.