Thursday, September 16, 2010

Medium Rare

From an interview with Andrew Pettegree, author of The Book in the Renaissance (Yale, 2010) (The Boston Globe):
PETTIGREE: The most astonishing single fact that’s emerged from the work we’ve done: We’ve documented I think now about 350,000 editions published throughout Europe before 1600. Of those, around 40 percent of those items survive in only one copy.

Many of the books that are best known are actually not at all rare. Because they were collected near the time, they survived in a great number of copies. The famous Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the great 15th-century books — I think something like 500 copies of that survive.

But these little books, they weren’t collectible. They were pragmatic announcements by the town council that bread prices would go up, or they were indulgence certificates, or they were almanacs for the following year, which would lose currency, or they were little schoolbooks which the school kid would be only too pleased to throw away when they got out of the class.
Image: Whitman College’s copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle.