Incunabula in Transit

People and Trade


Author: Lotte Hellinga
Almost half a million books printed in the fifteenth century survive in collections worldwide. In Incunabula in Transit Lotte Hellinga explores how and where they were first disseminated. Propelled by the novel need to market hundreds of books, early printers formed networks with colleagues, engaged agents and traded Latin books over long distances. They adapted presentation to suit the taste of distinct readerships, local and remote. Publishing in vernacular languages required typographical innovations, as the chapter on William Caxton’s Flanders enterprise demonstrates. Eighteenth-century collectors dislodged books from institutions where they had rested since the sales drives of early printers. Erudite and entertaining, Hellinga’s evidence-based approach, linked to historical context, deepens understanding of the trade in early printed books.

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Lotte Hellinga, Litt.D. (1974, University of Amsterdam) was, until 1995, Deputy Keeper at the British Library, where she initiated the ISTC database and completed the BMC incunabula catalogue. She published extensively on book history, early typography, the book trade and textual transmission in incunabula. Her most recent book is Texts in Transit (Brill, 2014).
“An intellectual tour de force in the oeuvre of one of our most renowned book historians and incunabulists.”
Carol M. Meale, in: The Book Collector, Vol. 67. No. 3 (Autumn 2018), pp. 600–603.

“For the amount and quality of information provided, this book will be read by anyone who works with early printing. Yet all early modern historians will find it of interest, especially those involved with European cultural history. Young scholars might also use it as a handbook for the field’s methodology, reflected in the author’s works as well as those of the many scholars mentioned in this book.”
Maria Alessandra Panzanelli Fratoni, University of Turin. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 1 (Spring 2020), pp. 274–276.

“Lotte Hellinga hoort tot de “top in het veld“. In deze bundel geeft Lotte Hellinga […] een helder beeld van de werkwijze van de incunabulistiek, de hogeschool onder de disciplines die de boekwetenschap uitmaken.” (Lotte Hellinga is among the “top in the field“. In this volume, Lotte Hellinga provides [...] a clear picture of the working method of incunabulistics, the honors college among the disciplines that make up book history.)
Frans A. Janssen, in: De Boekenwereld, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2018), pp. 88–89.

List of Figures


1 Book Auctions in the Fifteenth Century

2 Advertising and Selling Books in the Fifteenth Century

3 Nicolas Jenson, Peter Schoeffer and the Development of Printing Types

4 Peter Schoeffer: Publisher and Bookseller

5 The Mainz Catholicon 1460–1470: An Experiment in Book Production and the Book Trade

6 Fragments Found in Bindings: The Complexity of Evidence for the Earliest Dutch Typography

7 Prelates in Print

8 William Caxton, Colard Mansion and the Printer in Type 1

9 Wynkyn de Worde’s Native Land

10 Aesopus Moralisatus, Antwerp, 1488 in England

11 An Early Eighteenth-century Sale of Mainz Incunabula by the Frankfurt Dominicans
in co-authorship with Margaret Nickson

12 A Caxton Tract-volume from Thomas Rawlinson’s Library
in co-authorship with Margaret Nickson

13 Buying Incunabula in Venice and Milan: The Bibliotheca Smithiana


Colour Illustrations
All interested in the history of the book and printing, in textual transmission in the early modern period, and in the history of typography. Also art historians focusing on book illumination.