De Proprietatibus Rerum.

[Colophon:] Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1483

Folio ( 315 x 220 mm), 264 leaves (of 268, lacking leaves 7, 170, 171 and 243). Printed in double columns, unsigned and unpaginated, 53 lines plus headline, initial capital letters supplied in red or blue throughout, chapter headings rubricated, tabs on fore-edge at beginning of each Book. Part of initial and final blank leaves missing, some dampstaining (worse in first 30 leaves). Contemporary bindstamped calf over wooden boards (surface crazed, worn at head and tail of spine and over raised bands), 5 brass bosses on each cover, corners reinforced with brass, brass clasps (but missing pigskin straps), vellum endpapers (pastedowns from an earlier manuscript, missing rear free endpaper).

The first important encyclopedia of all the sciences of the Middle Ages, which by its wide dissemination over three centuries had a profound influence of medieval thought. It is “still important for its information on political geography and its accounts of natural history” (Stillwell). Divided into nineteen books, the contents are as follows: “(1) God; (2) angels and demons; (3) psychology; (4–5) physiology; (6) family life, domestic economy; (7) medicine; (8) cosmology, astrology; (9) time divisions; (10) form and matter, elements; (11) air, meteorology; (12) flying creatures; (13) waters and fishes, dolphins, whales; (14) physical geography; (15) political geography, (in 175 chapters; this contains a number of interesting remarks, notes on economic geography, etc.); (16) gems, minerals, metals; (17) trees and herbs; (18) animals; (19) color, odor, savor; food and drink, eggs; weights and measures; musical instruments” (Sarton, II, p. 586). “Book 16 contains 104 short chapters on as many mineral substances as earths, stone, ores, metals, salts, etc., as well as gemstones, the latter often given names that now defy identification of the materials concerned. Gemstones are alabaster, adamante, amethyst, agate, alabandina, beryl, carbuncle, chrysoprase, chalcedony, chrysolite, rock crystal, coral carnelian, hematite, heliotrope, jet, jasper, hyacinth, pearl, marble, onyx, opal, prase, sapphire, emerald, sard, sardonyx, topaz, turquoise; very brief descriptions with comments on curious or medicinal lore associated with each” (Sinkankas, Gemology, p. 70). Although lacking four leaves, this is a fine example of fifteenth-century book making, entirely contemporary and original. Klebs 149.8. Stillwell, The Awakening Interest in Science during the First Century of Printing 1450-1550, p. 186. DiLaura, Bibliotheca Opticoria, 3. Simon, Bibliotheca Bacchica, 19b. Simon, Bibliotheca Gastronomica, 173. Thorndike, II, pp. 401–435. Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, II, pp. 586–587.


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