inverted woodcut of the crucifixion and Spear of Longinus used on lower pastedown.

Read to Death: The Sole Surviving Copy of an Early Modern Bestseller

By Nora Epstein | For regular readers of the PWRB blog, it will come as no surprise that some of the rarest early modern books were not necessarily specialty items printed in small runs. Rather, some the most ubiquitous bestsellers of the Renaissance print market survive with only a single copy to attest to what […]

Title page from Theses theologicae de septimo capite ad Romanos

Fools Rush In: A Rare Franeker Thesis and the Preservation of Orthodoxy

By Forrest Strickland | It is often the case that many printed items from the early modern world that are now especially rare were some of the most ubiquitous in their day. Newspapers, academic disputations, ordinances, devotional books—the kinds of works that kept printers afloat—were intended to be read, shared, and eventually discarded. Seldom were […]

Amsterdam edition of Biblia, dat is, de gantsche H Schrifture

To the Victor the Spoils

By Andrew Pettegree | Throughout the history of print, the Bible was a perennial favourite of the industry.  This was the text with which Gutenberg chose to announce his great invention, and for centuries thereafter Bibles, New Testaments and psalm books formed the cornerstone of the collections of those who could afford books; and if […]

Wenceslaus Hollar and the Great Fire of London

By Graeme Kemp | Over the last few months, the Universal Short Title Catalogue welcomed a number of new libraries to our heritage program – Preserving the World’s Rarest Books. One of our recent partners is Armagh Robinson Library, the oldest public library in Northern Ireland. The library was founded in 1771 by Archbishop Richard […]

Preserving the World's Oldest Illustrated Newspaper, detail

Preserving the world’s first illustrated newspaper

By Arthur der Weduwen | The Heritage Library in Antwerp (Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience), one of our PWRB library partners, holds a distinguished collection of early printed news pamphlets and newspapers. The jewel in this collection is a series of some 400 publications by Abraham Verhoeven (1575-1652), an Antwerp printer, publisher and woodcut artist, which have […]

Plantin's Printer's Device

A Prohibited Pocket-Book: Christophe Plantin’s 1564 Genevan Psalter

By Elise Watson | In 1564, famed Antwerp printer Christophe Plantin published a small-format edition of a popular metrical psalter, a book of Biblical psalms intended for liturgical use. The National Library of the Netherlands in the Hague contains a copy of this psalter, entitled Les Pseaumes de David, mis en rime françois (The Psalms […]

Ephemeron, Johns Hopkins

Preserving the World’s Rarest Ephemera?

By Earle Havens | This week’s post is by Dr Earle Havens, the Nancy H. Hall Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts at the Johns Hopkins University. The Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins is one of our Preserving the World’s Rarest Books partners. Featured image: Ferdinand I, King of the Romans, Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia, Holy Roman Empire. […]

Melchior Hoffman, printed in Kiel

Printing in Kiel: Only Surviving Books Found

By Drew Thomas | Most of the major printing centres across sixteenth-century Europe were in cities that were also major centres of culture, commerce and trade. However, despite being an important port on the Baltic sea, the German city of Kiel never had a vibrant printing industry. According to Christoph Reske’s authoritative reference on early […]

Don Sebastian, title page

Follow the bookworm: a French copy of John Dryden’s Don Sebastian

By Chloé Favriou| The Université Rennes 2 special collection library holds a large number of books written in English. However, not all would necessarily be referred to as rare, as some books exist in many copies throughout the English-speaking world. But, it is unusual to come across such a large collection—about 2,000 books—in a French provincial […]

Greek text - featured

It’s All Greek to Me: Learning Greek Without Latin

By Abby-Eleonore Thouvenin | In 1915, the library of eminent classics scholar, Sir James Donaldson, was bequeathed to the University of St Andrews, where he had served as Senior Principal of the University. One of the thousands of books gifted to the University was written by Chrysoloras (1355 – 1415), a Byzantine teacher who taught […]