Incunabula collections

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Incunabula collection

VOLUME:  510 book units and numerous fragments. The collection is being supplemented.
ACCESS: Material can be searched for by using KatNUK and the card catalogue of the Manuscript Collection.
INFORMATION: dr. Sonja Svoljšak, T: 01 2001 142; Matjaž Lulik, T: 01 2001 202


Collection description:

Since the 17th century, the word incunabula is professional term for the first printed books. The word originates from Latin and figuratively means the first, initial period of printing until the end of the calendar year of 1500. The technological invention of reproducing texts in the post-medieval period contributed significantly to the spreading of European humanism and the Renaissance.

The original depositories of incunabula in Slovenia were mainly medieval monasteries, later also other monasteries, in the diocesan library of Gornji Grad and the collections of some scholars and bibliophiles, notably J. K. Seebach, Zois and Jernej Kopitar. These holdings were transferred to the collections of the Lyceum Library, the immediate predecessor of the National and University Library, mostly during the extensive reforms of the pragmatic Emperor Joseph II. He dissolved the monasteries of the contemplative orders as part of his extensive economic and religious reforms.

In any case, it can be said that the present number of incunabula is only a fraction of the former, much more extensive collection of incunabula in the territory of today's Slovenia, thus the collection of incunabula in NUK is only a representation of the literary production of its time as well as of the spiritual climate in Europe of the period.

Unikatni fragment skrivnostnega nizozemskega tiskarja Laurensa Janszoona Costerja, ki naj bi tiskal žže pred Gutenbergom. Verjetno najstarejšši primerek tiska v NUK.

In terms of the content structure, the collection is dominated by the humanities in the broad sense of the word. The majority of the incunabula are theological works, mainly Bibles, biblical commentaries, works on the history and philosophy of religion, and liturgical works. The legal sciences are strongly represented. Among the many works of secular philosophy, the most important are the writings of Plato and Aristotle, in addition to the Scholastic discourses. Works of fiction are most strongly represented by the Latin classics, in addition to works on literary theory and philology. Historical works should be mentioned as well, while works of the secular and exact sciences, which are often mixed with speculative sciences and dilettantism (astrology, fortune-telling), are represented by only a few rare examples in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, economics and medicine.

Oresme, Nikolaus. De latitudinibus formarum. Padue, Mattheus Cerdonis, 1486.

Even though NUK holds a relatively small number of incunabula, compared to the largest European national libraries, there are some outstanding particularities and rarities, in particular, the unique editions - two different editions of the Regulae, ordinationes et constitutiones Cancellariae apostolicae of Pope Sixtus IV, printed by the printer Adam Rot in Rome in 1471, and the work Protokoll des Friedens zu Basel, printed in Strassburg by the printer Mathis Hupfuff at the end of the 15th century. Among the few unique fragments, the so-called "costerianum", a fragment of a Latin grammar entitled Ars minor, written by Aelius Donatus, is particularly valuable; it is supposed to be printed in by the Dutch Laurens Janszoon Coster who, allegedly invented a primitive printing before Gutenberg. This fragment is probably the example of the earliest print kept at NUK.


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