From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Books (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Books. To participate in the project, please visit its page, where you can join the project and discuss matters related to book articles. To use this banner, please refer to the documentation. To improve this article, please refer to the relevant guideline for the type of work.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
WikiProject Typography (Rated C-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Typography, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of articles related to Typography on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the importance scale.

Really old stuff[edit]

About a third of the incunabula that are preserved today belong to the Vatican Library.

This statement is at best ambiguous. Surely the Vatican Library does not possess about a third of the preserved copies of books printed before 1500.

What is meant is perhaps that the Vatican has copies of about a third of the known incunabula.

Clarification by an expert is desirable.


The number of extant copies of incunabula is around 525,000 and 550,000.They belong to about 28,000 to 30,000 different editions. The Vatican has the world's 4th largest holding of incunabula, but has an exceptionally high percentage of multiple copies, often six or more. The number of editions they possess is at least 5,225, and the number of copies - which no-one seems even to have counted - is wildly stated as 8000, 8900, and 'about 10,000'. The most reliable figure is probably 'over 8,600'. (talk) 00:22, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

  1. of incunabula Institution

4600 Cambridge University Library 2000 Koninklijke Bibliotheek 12,500 British Library 3100 + 425 at Yale University (Beinecke + others) 4500 John Rylands University Library 280 McGill University Libraries 1800 Harvard University 8000 BIBLIOTECA APOSTOLICA VATICANA --seems hard to get exact figures but they don't seem like they are going to match that statement... -- Someone else 08:40 Apr 15, 2003 (UTC)


What about books printed on 1500? That's not clear from the article. -- Error

There's been a bit of disagreement about this. All the incunable catalogues I know go up to 1500 inclusive; however, Glaister's Encyclopedia of the book (1996 ed.) defines an incunable (wrongly in my view) as "a book printed before 1500". I've attempted to solve the problem by redefining it as "a book printed in the 15th century", which is undeniable — the only disagreement being precisely when the 15th century ends! This is also, incidentally, the solution adopted by the Encyclopedia Britannica (1997 CD-ROM). Wilus 11:35, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

The notion of centuries ending on 31 Dec X99 is a ridiculous modern error. The 16th century, like every other, ended 31 Dec (15)00. There was no year 0, since the year after 1BCE was 1AD. The millennium before last was celebrated on 31 Dec 1900 at midnight.There is no scholastic disagreement, Glaister was simply ignorant and wrong.An incunable, or 16th century painting, whatever, is one made before 1501. People just don't think straight.Radio stations and TV channels are starting to give us "the last decade" programmes a year early, in 2009 etc. As a result of the moronic ignorance of high-paid millennial celebration officials, the last millennium was celebrated a year early, by almost everyone, on 'big-apple day', the day the zeros came up.Hence their unofficial millennium contained 999 years.And babies born a year before millennium day were given names such as Millicent. If you count your fingers, of course you will make it nine - if you start at zero. By which standard, if I ask my butcher for ten sausages, I will get one free! (talk) 00:04, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

Improvement drive[edit]

The article on Johann Gutenberg has been nominated to be improved on WP:IDRIVE. Come and support it with your vote!--Fenice 21:11, 15 August 2005 (UTC)

Error: 17th century (as stated in article) or 15th century?[edit]

In the context of the origin of the term incunabula, the following is said:

"The term came to denote the printed books themselves from the late 17th century"

Should this say 15th century?

Thanks for the good work!

No, we're talking about the term, not the books. Wilus 13:02, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

There have been two more attempts in the past few days to re-instate the fifteenth century ("The term came to denote the printed books themselves from the late Fifteenth century"). The term "incunabula" does not occur for 15th-century printing until the 17th century -- unless someone can produce a reference to show otherwise. Vidoue (talk) 20:37, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

I substituted "in" for "from" which hopefully will clarify this. Ecphora (talk) 21:52, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
I think that will help -- I was going to have a try to do something similar. Vidoue (talk) 22:59, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

How Rare?[edit]

If the numbers for collections are correct, then there are more than 100,000 pages of incunabulum known; that doesn't strike me as "very rare" as the article states. Naznarreb 15:56, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

Counting books by the page is a tad perverse. Many editions don't survive at all. Johnbod 17:11, 29 April 2007 (UTC)
The plural is incunabula. The argument based on ignoramus— "we don't know"— is never a very conclusive one, though it is often offered at Wikipedia. --Wetman 23:24, 29 April 2007 (UTC)


Is there any reason why this is at "incunabulum"? The plural form is by far the more common one, in my experience... Shimgray | talk | 22:08, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

Just normal WP policy of singular article titles - see lemming. Johnbod 22:09, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

The singular form *incunabulum did not exist in Latin (see Lewis & Short's Dictionary). It is not listed as a headword in OED and is not used by specialists in early printing (e.g. John Carter, ABC for Book Collectors, 7th ed. 1994, p. 124-5). U.K. English usage is Incunabula for the phenomenon collectively, and incunable (plural incunables) for individual books. I think that the title of this article should revert to Incunabula. Vidoue (talk) 20:13, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

Carter calls "incunabulum" a "bogus noun." However, Wikipedia:Naming conventions#Article title format does state that the singular should ordinarily be used for article titles. How about "Incunable"? It is, as Carter states, it is the form that has undergone "Englishing", and as such seems to fit Wikipedia guidelines. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English) ("Use the most commonly used English version of the name of the subject as the title of the article, as you would find it in reliable sources ...") Ecphora (talk) 02:18, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
"Incunable" always has a 19th century ring to me, but it does seem to be gaining ground, as a singular and an adjective anyway. The BL seems, rather oddly, to use singular "incunable", plural "incunabula". The title here should remain singular in any case. Johnbod (talk) 03:12, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
'Incunable' is definitely a current 21st-century term in bibliographical circles. The singular "incunable", plural "incunabula" seems to be normal usage in e.g. the BL's recent (2003) publication of papersIncunabula and their readers. The need for the Englished singular is because of the peculiar absence of a singular for the Latin word. I don't think that the bogus singular *'incunabulum' is ever used by specialists and I would therefore vote for this page to be re-titled Incunable (but I would prefer it to be Incunabula functioning as a collective singular!). Vidoue (talk) 09:30, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
Why "incunabulum" should be more "bogus" in English than the French "incunable", is not at all obvious, & I doubt an English etymologist would view it in that light, but "incunable" may have a case under WP:COMMON. Johnbod (talk) 15:28, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
It's bogus because there is no such Latin word -- see any reputable Latin dictionary -- I had cited Lewis and Short, page 930, which is pretty authoritative. Vidoue (talk) 16:10, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
Entirely beside the point! It would be a bogus word in Latin, but that is hardly relevant in English. This POV argument does not help. One might as well say that incunable bogusly uses the English -able adjectival termination, when its origin is nothing to do with this. Johnbod (talk) 16:51, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
I simply don't follow your argument or examples here. Can you provide a documented reference to show that 'incunabulum' is the preferred term in English? I gave references to show that it is not. Make a link from 'incunabulum' by all means to a main page headed either 'incunable' or 'incunabula'. I'm going to exit from this debate, but reluctantly, as it seems a shame that WP should saddle itself with a heading term which is considered incorrect by people working in the specialist area. Vidoue (talk) 19:56, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
?? You mentioned one book; I introduced the BL. I am not sure I oppose the change (but not to the plural form as you suggest above) but more evidence is needed. Johnbod (talk) 20:35, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Others have walked this road. A search on Google turned this up:

The Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (Resource Description and Access), ALA, Minutes of April 2008 meeting, Chicago, page 39: "'Incunable' is now more common in English than 'incunabulum' (ALA) The JSC agreed to use 'incunable' for the singular and 'incunabula' for the plural to match the English usage. The Editor noted that this mixed English and Latin usage."

(I have not exhaustively searched this.) Ecphora (talk) 22:22, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

If there is no further discussion on this, I will move the article to "Incunable." Ecphora (talk) 14:32, 25 October 2009 (UTC)
Agreed - as I said above, there does seem to be a movement "Back to the Future" underway. Johnbod (talk) 14:56, 25 October 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. In UK early-printed books circles this is normal current usage. Vidoue (talk) 17:26, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

I came across the request to move this page via the CSD system. I'm not convinced there is a consensus yet. There has only been a few days between the request for agreement, and a decision being made. That's not really long enough, I would suggest about a week. I'm also not sure it's non-controversial, and would rather it was discussed at RfD, as there certainly seems to be some disagreement here. Thanks. GedUK  21:42, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

There is no disagreement here. All the editors discussing this agree "incunable" is preferred (given the fact that the singular is Wikipedia policy). I don't mind waiting a week, however, to see if anyone else has an objection. Ecphora (talk) 22:33, 25 October 2009 (UTC)
To clarify, I'm fine with the move. Johnbod (talk) 23:46, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

Move completed. Ecphora (talk) 04:38, 11 November 2009 (UTC)


Singular incunabulum, plural incunabula. Or anglicized, incunable/incunables. There is no doubt as to the cut-off date, 31 Dec. 1500. The end of the first century of printing. The total extant copies number around 550,000 but is very uncertain; one difficulty is defining whether a single volume of a set of anything up to ten constitutes an incunable. Even when they were printed years apart. Many incunables are broadsides or broadsheets of a single leaf or less. Up to 20 million copies may have been printed in the 15th century, again very much a guess. A high proportion has been destroyed not in ancient times, but warfare and disasters since 1900. The main problem is not determining the end of the century, so much as the date a book was printed; Hain wrongly included many items as incunables which are now known to be after 1501 and sometimes as late as 1520.The definitive authority is the British Library's ISTC (Incunable Short-title Catalogue) which aims to include a listing of every known copy. Colcestrian 21:43, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Equivocal language rephrased[edit]

The previous edit used some equivocal phrasing that gave me pause as I was reading the section. The portions I'm referring to said:

types modelled on humanistic hands. These humanistic typefaces are often used today, barely modified, in digital form.

First, I don't think the word "humanistic" is helpful here at all. It can sound as if the fonts are related to humanism as opposed to being derived from non-mechanized, manually drafted forms. And using the equivocal word "hand" as a synonym for "handwriting" can be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with that usage.

I have tried to use more straight forward language to describe the derivation of typefaces from their handwritten precursors. If I've misused terms of art, I'm sure someone else will correct them. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:46, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

The entry at the moment has "hand-written scripts" which is nonsensical as all script is hand-written. "Humanistic hands" refers to the handwriting of the Italian exponents of Renaissance humanism in 15th-century Italy. If this risks confusion with modern (and unrelated) meanings of "humanism", perhaps it should be re-phrased as "the handwriting of 15th-century Italian classical scholars" (which is much less precise, unfortunately). Vidoue (talk) 20:29, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

Dsitribution of incunabulum by (modern) country: why Balearic Islands and Sicily?[edit]

Since the list of incunabulum by country specifically claims that it is using modern-day boundaries, why are the Balearic Islands listed separately from Spain, and Sicily seperately from Italy? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:16, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

class=C now[edit]

I have made this class=C now, but it should be reviewed for upgrading. These books are an important and valuable witness to the progress of printing and civilization in Europe. --DThomsen8 (talk) 13:43, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on Incunable. Please take a moment to review my edit. If necessary, add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true to let others know.

Question? Archived sources still need to be checked

Cheers. —cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 10:02, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

=Move article[edit]

Incunable is just weird. Nobody used the word in speaking, nobody uses the word in writing. Article should be moved to Incunabula, the word in actual use, by scholars, by everybody, to describe early printed books.E.M.Gregory (talk) 01:12, 15 February 2016 (UTC)

  • This has been addressed extensively. See above under Title As noted there, the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (Resource Description and Access), ALA, Minutes of April 2008 meeting, Chicago, page 39: "'Incunable' is now more common in English than 'incunabulum' (ALA) The JSC agreed to use 'incunable' for the singular and 'incunabula' for the plural to match the English usage. The Editor noted that this mixed English and Latin usage." Ecphora (talk) 03:37, 21 September 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Incunable. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true or failed to let others know (documentation at {{Sourcecheck}}).

Question? Archived sources still need to be checked

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 07:43, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

Diagram is false[edit]

There is at least one incunable printed in occitan language, Lo Compendion de l'Abaco. The diagram doesn't reflect this. Matieu Sokolovic (talk) 10:20, 31 August 2016 (UTC)