Three early printed books were recently added to the Villanova Digital Library.The first is a 1499 Latin edition of Flavius Josephus’ De antiquitate Judaica, or The Antiquities of the Jews. This history book, originally written around AD 93-94 in koine Greek under the tile Ἰουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία (Ioudaikē archaiologia), chronicles the history of the Jewish people, from the events of the Hebrew Bible to the First Jewish–Roman War, AD 66-73. Villanova’s copy was printed in Venice by Albertinus Vercellensis for Octavianus Scotus. Its printing date of 1499 makes this copy an incunable (or incunabulum), a book printed during the first 50 or so years after Johannes Gutenberg introduced the movable-type printing press to Europe. Interestingly, Villanova’s copy includes extensive inscriptions on the margins (or marginalia), made by a reader deeply engaged with the text.
The second is another history book, Supplementum: supplementi de le chroniche vulcare. This Latin and Italian book was written by medieval historian and Augustinian monk Jacomo Filippo Foresti and first published in 1483 by Bernardino Benali. Villanova’s copy was printed in Venice in 1520 by Georgio di Rusconi. Interestingly, this book is illustrative of several book conservation practices, as is evident in the repaired page [i]. Another notable feature of the book is the list of year numbers that are included on the side of the text block closest to the “gutter” (the middle part where the two facing pages meet when the book rests open). The year numbers correspond to the events chronicled on the nearby text block and are divided into two categories: “Anno del Mondo” (years of the world) and “Anno de Xpo” (years according to Christian history). These year numbers not only allow us to compare two different conceptions of time; they are also indicative of the practical challenges in scanning such a book. Because of how the book was printed and bound, the year numbers are sometimes nearly lost inside the gutter; several times, we had to reposition the book on the scanner and experiment with various angles in order to capture the full contents of each page, including the year numbers.
The third and final book is the 1630 Respublica: sive statvs regni Scotiæ et Hiberniæ. A part of our Joseph McGarrity Collection of Irish and Irish-American books and other materials, the Respublica is significant not only for its historical content, but also for its size. Measuring at only 12 x 7 cm., the book is among the smallest hardcovers in our collection. The book’s size, combined with its somewhat uneven binding, posed a different kind of scanning challenge than the 1520 Supplementum. However, centering the text block rather than the binding, and using bone folders to ensure the book remained open at an appropriate angle, resulted in a comfortably readable digitized edition.
The Villanova Digital Library is regularly updated with newly digitized materials from our Distinctive Collections.