Texts in Transit

Manuscript to Proof and Print in the Fifteenth Century


After Gutenberg’s Bible had appeared in print in 1455, other early printers found different ways to solve problems set by the new technique. Survival of printer’s copy or proofs permits rare views of compositors and printers manipulating a text before it emerged in its new form. Versions were corrected to be fit for purpose, and might be adapted for a much enlarged readership, especially if the language was vernacular. The printing press itself required careful measuring and fitting of texts. In twelve case-studies Lotte Hellinga explores what is revealed in printer’s copy and proofs used in diverse printing houses, covering the period from 1459 to the 1490s, and ranging from Rome and Venice to Mainz and Westminster.

See also the companion volume by the same author, Incunabula in Transit (Brill, 2017).

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Lotte Hellinga, Litt. D. (1974) University of Amsterdam, was Curator (later Deputy Keeper) at the British Library, 1976-1995. Recent publications include The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. III (co-editor and author, 1999), the catalogue of English incunabula in the BL (‘BMC xi’, 2007) and William Caxton and early printing in England (2010).
“Anyone studying the least detail of books printed or written in the second half of the fifteenth century, their texts, layout, decoration, rubrication, format, substrates, inks for writing or printing, pigments, secondary features, from cadels to apparently casual or incidental marks, now has a handbook packed with information on all these topics, to be read, marked, learned and inwardly digested, before attempting analysis or explanation of any of them.”
Nicolas Barker, in: The Book Collector (Winter 2015), pp. 511-518.

“The fifteen essays in this volume together constitute a coherent statement of our most advanced knowledge in the field of incunabula studies … Hellinga’s view is Europe-wide and touches on cases in Italy, Germany, the Low Countries and England, and occasionally also in France and even Poland … the volume may be consulted as though it was a reference work on the technique of incunabula printing.”
Koen Goudriaan, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In: Quaerendo, Vol. 45, Nos. 3-4 (2015), pp. 332-336.

“Lotte Hellinga’s collection of studies Texts in Transit … offers a picture that is often rather more complicated than was imagined even when she began her systematic study of fifteenth-century printing.”
David McKitterick, Trinity College, Cambridge. In: Times Literary Supplement, 1 May 2015, p. 29.

“The book as a whole will constitute an important reference point in bibliographical methodology, and its use in this respect is supported by a detailed subject index.”
Brian Richardson, University of Leeds. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 68, No 3 (Fall 2015), pp. 1096-1097.

Lotte Hellinga “might justifiably be called the mother of the ISTC ( Incunabula short title catalogue) and is without doubt one of the most respected and influential writers on incunabula of this or any other age. The present collection of essays is welcome for its gathering together of a group of papers (some not easy to find), for the revisions to and newly-forged links between those papers, and for the new material published here for the first time.”
Paul W. Nash, in: Journal of the Printing Historical Society, New Series 24 (summer 2016), pp. 92-94.

“In der Welt der Wiegendrucke führt kein Weg an Lotte Hellinga vorbei. […] Angesichts von Hellingas vielfältigen Arbeitsgebieten und wegweisenden Veröffentlichungen ist es außerordentlich zu begrüßen, daß 2014 ein Sammelband mit 15 Aufsätzen erschien, die sie seit 1974 vorgelegt und an verstreuten und teils schwer zugänglichen Stellen in Zeitschriften und Festschriften publiziert hatte. […] Aus Bausteinen unterschiedlichen Alters und Materials zusammengesetzt, bildet [dieser Band] doch ein methodisch stabiles und homogenes Fundament, auf das sich alle weiteren Konstruktionen stützen können. Der Autorin gebührt dafür unser dauerhafter Dank.”
Bettina Wagner, Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. In: Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken, Bd. 25, Heft 1 (2017).

“Die hier versammelten Beiträge verschaffen dem Leser in ihrer Dichte nicht nur einen vorzüglichen Einblick in die Produktionsprozesse des frühen gedruckten Buches, sondern legen auch ein beredtes Zeugnis der über Jahrzehnte erworbenen Erfahrung der Autorin auf diesem Gebiet ab.”
Martin Wagendorfer, Universität Innsbruck. In: Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Bd. 124, Heft 1 (2016), S. 250.

“Il volume della Hellinga ... si pone come pietra miliare negli studi di incunabolistica sia per la lucidità del metodo che pervade ognuno dei saggi in esso contenuti, sia per la chiarezza con cui l’autrice dispiega le sue conoscenze al lettore aprendo agli studiosi nuove strade di indagine. Si tratta, in breve, di una raccolta fondamentale che non può mancare tra gli scaffali di qualsiasi studioso del libro a stampa quattrocentesco e che sicuramente farà scuola per moltissimi anni a venire.”
Natale Vacalebre, University of Pennsylvania. In: Bibliothecae.it, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2016), pp. 435-438.

List of Illustrations

1 Press and Text in the First Decades of Printing
2 The Text in the Printing House: Printer’s Copy
3 List of Printer’s Copy Used in the Fifteenth Century
4 Proofreading and Printing in Mainz in 1459
5 Augustinus, De civitate Dei, Printed at Subiaco in 1467
6 Poggio’s Facetiae in Print
7 Poggio Bracciolini’s Historia fiorentina in Manuscript and Print
8 The First Book Printed in Oxford
9 Two Editors, Three Printers: M.T. Cicero, Orationes Printed in Venice, 1471–1480
10 From Poggio to Caxton: Early Translations of Some of Poggio’s Latin Facetiae
11 The Travels of Marco Polo and Gheraert Leeu
12 The History of Jason: From Manuscripts for the Burgundian Court to Printed Books for Readers in the Towns of Holland
13 Nicholas Love’s Mirror in Print
14 Wynkyn de Worde and The book of St Albans
15 William Caxton and the Malory Manuscript

Subject Index: Text in Printing Houses
Index of Manuscripts
Index of Books Printed before 1501
Alphabetical Index
All interested in the history of the book and of printing, in textual transmission in the early modern period in English, Italian, French, German, Dutch and Latin.