a study of the past
via the documents that seek to preserve it
and an exploration
the new medium of the digital age
which by the process of reproduction alters
our interpretation of history further
A breviary (from Latin brevis, ‘short’ or ‘concise’) is a liturgical book of the Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church containing the public or canonical prayers, hymns, the Psalms, readings, and notations for everyday use, especially by bishops, priests, and deacons in the Divine Office (i.e., at the canonical hours or Liturgy of the Hours, the Christians’ daily prayer).
info via wikipedia
Produced in 1423, this handwritten (i.e. manuscript) Breviary is the oldest book I found in the Internet Archive’s records. It was made about a decade before Gutenberg was to introduce his printing process and kickstart a technological revolution in Europe.
William Bruges’s Garter Book (c. 1430- c. 1440 (before 1450))
The Bruges Garter Book is a 15th-century illuminated manuscript containing portraits of the founder knights of the Order of the Garter. It was made to the order of William Bruges (c. 1375-1450), Garter King of Arms, and constitutes the first armorial covering members of the Order. It has been held since 1883 by the British Library (formerly the British Museum Library) in London under catalogue reference Stowe 594, indicating its former existence within the Library of the Dukes of Buckingham at Stowe House.
Info via wikipedia
While for the most part we will be travelling in 5 year jumps, not enough books have been uploaded to the archive from the 15-16th century for that to be possible.
Ars Minor (1446)
With how neat the lettering is you might be tempted to assume that this is printed, but it’s described as a Romanian Manuscript, i.e., all of that text is handwritten. It may look a little run down, but at around 550 years old, I’d say it’s looking good.
By this time Gutenberg has invented his press, but the technology hasn’t yet become ubiquitous.
Le livre des trois vertus (1450)
Discusses the qualities that the progressive-thinking aristocratic author recommends as useful to women of all estates in counteracting the growth of misogyny.
The wrinkling of the surface is a good hint that you’re dealing with vellum rather than paper, since vellum is a temperamental material.
A depiction of the Passion, with over 300 illustrations, including a menagerie of mythical animals and the colorful angels seen above. The script in this manuscript is quite different than the one that came before it. As we travel through it will become clear that different regions have distinctive scripts and typefaces, even if they are all using essentially the same alphabet.
Our first printed book! Every page looks something like this, with textblocks within textblocks. I’m not sure what the layout is like this. If I had to make a wild guess it might be a source text surrounded by commentary.
Vitae illustrium virorum (1470)
If you squint I think you can see the initial P hidden in that illuminated border. Even though printing has caught on, illustrations are often still done by hand.