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F. W. Olin Library

Special Collections

Early Printed Books

This collection consists of over 1,000 books printed from the mid-fifteenth century until about 1800. There are over twenty incunables (books printed during the first fifty years of printing), including a leaf from the 42 line Bible probably printed by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany. This is considered to be the first book length work printed by means of movable metal type in the western world. Other early printers represented in the collection are Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, Wendelin and Johann de Spira (the first printers to work in Venice), Erhard Ratdolt, Anton Koberger, and Aldus Manutius. Other important works include a Florentine edition of Dante’s La divina commedia  with commentary by Landino, hand-colored engravings after Botticelli, and illumination (1481); the corrected 2nd issue of the King James Bible, the “she” Bible (1611); John Gerard’s The herball, or, Generall historie of plantes (1633 edition); Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible (1539); the first folio of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, histories, & tragedies (1623); Pierre Simon Fournier’s Manuel typographique (1664–1766); the Geneva quarto edition of Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopedie.... (1778–1779); and several eighteenth century works printed by John Baskerville, the Didot family, and Giambattista Bodoni.

This collection is used to support research and teaching activities, including Letters 130, “The History of the Book” taught in the fall semester by the Special Collections Curator.

Search Minerva the F.W. Olin online catalog for early printed books.

For an online edition of the complete works of Shakespeare click here.

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Last Updated: 4/27/07