Incunables (printed works, until 1501)

Collection: Books printed in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe in the fifteenth century.
Size: C. 2,200 incunables, including 900 printed in the Netherlands.
Access: The incunables can be found in the KB Catalogue. They can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room.
More information: Marieke van Delft - 070 3140329.

Incunables are books printed in Europe with movable type before 1 January, 1501.

Printers mark (in red) of Gerard Leeu. Jacobus de Voragine. Passionael, Winterstuc. Gouda, Gerard Leeu, 31 July 1478. IDL 2581. Shelfnumber 170 E 17(I), f. aa7v.  

Printer's mark (in red) of Gerard Leeu. Jacobus de Voragine. Passionael, Winterstuc. Gouda, Gerard Leeu, 31 July 1478. IDL 2581. Shelfnumber 170 E 17(I), f. aa7v.

Chronike of Historie van Hollant, Zeelant ende Vrieslant ende van den sticht van Utrecht. Leiden, (Heynricus Heynrici), 9 juli 1483. IDL 3310. Shelfnumber 150 C 28(1), f. a2r.  

Chronike of Historie van Hollant, Zeelant ende Vrieslant ende van den sticht van Utrecht. Leiden, (Heynricus Heynrici), 9 juli 1483. IDL 3310. Shelfnumber 150 C 28(1), f. a2r.

Guillaume de Digulleville. Boek van de pelgrim. Delft, Hendrik Eckert van Homberch, 5 april 1498. IDL 2167. Shelfnumber 169 G 92, f. a1r, title page.  

Guillaume de Digulleville. Boek van de pelgrim. Delft, Hendrik Eckert van Homberch, 5 april 1498. IDL 2167. Shelfnumber 169 G 92, f. a1r, title page.

Collection profile

The collection’s strength lies in the number of editions from the present Netherlands and Belgium (the Low Countries). Of the c. 2,200 editions printed there during the fifteenth century, some 900 can be found in the KB. Worldwide, it is the largest collection of incunables from the Low Countries.

The collection includes some 1,300 incunables which were printed abroad. The most important places of origin are Cologne (360 editions), Venice (181), Strasbourg (114), Paris (88), Basel (65) and Neuremberg (56). With regard to foreign editions, the collection is middle-sized.

Collection history

When the KB was founded in 1798, a limited number of incunables was available from the Orange-Nassau Library. In 1807 the collection of Joost Romswickel (1745-1824) was added, mostly consisting of foreign editions, and in 1809 some 400 editions were acquired from the collection of Jacob Vissser (1724-1804). The latter’s collection had served to compile the first bibliography of Dutch incunables.

Another important addition was the collection of printed works from Tongerlo Abbey in 1828, including seventy incunables and the Biblia pauperum block book. Also, 125 incunables found in a Maastricht attic in 1840 were given to the library, as were fifty books found in a case in the rectory in Weesp. Since then, the collection has continued to grow. Incunables are still being added to the collection.

The first (handwritten) catalogue of the collection was produced in 1829. In 1856, librarian Johan Willem Holtrop published a printed catalogue, which is regarded as the first scholarly incunable catalogue. The 569 editions available in the KB at the time were catalogued extensively. The collection of c. 100 Dutch incunables in the Museum Meermanno was described as well.

Modern incunable catalogues

The incunables have been catalogued in the online catalogue, including data on the acquisition and former owners and with references to the most important incunable bibliographies: Incunabula in Dutch libraries (IDL) and Campbells Annales (Camp). Records can also be found in:

In 1999* Incunabula printed in the Low Countries, a census* (ILC) appeared, listing more than 14,300 copies of the more than 2,200 editions printed in the Low Countries.

All 2,800 different woodcuts of the Dutch incunables in the KB and Museum Meermanno can be consulted on microfilm in the Micro Reader Room. The woodcuts in all Dutch incunables are listed with images in Woodcuts in incunabula printed in the Low Countries (2013) by Ina Kok.

Photos, microfilms and microfiches of Dutch incunable editions in other libraries are available in the KB Micro Reader Room.

Watermark: letter gothic p with four leaf clover, to the left, mark right. Not in Briquet and Piccard. Hieronymus (pseudo-), Van den leven der heiliger vaderen. Gouda, Gerard Leeu, 3 december 1480. IDL 2321. Shelfnumber 170 E 26(I), f. q4.

Watermark: letter gothic p with four leaf clover, to the left, mark right. Not in Briquet and Piccard. Hieronymus (pseudo-), Van den leven der heiliger vaderen. Gouda, Gerard Leeu, 3 december 1480. IDL 2321. Shelfnumber 170 E 26(I), f. q4.

Literature

  • J.W. Holtrop, Catalogus librorum saeculo XV impressorum, quotquot in Bibliotheca Regia Hagana asservantur. Hagae-Comitum, 1856.
  • M.F.A.G. Campbell, Annales de la typographie Neerlandaise au XVe siecle. La Haye, 1874. [with supplement I-IV, 1878-1890, and additions by M.E. Kronenberg (1956) and Lotte Hellinga (1965)].
  • W & L Hellinga, The fifteenth-century printing types of the Low Countries. Amsterdam, 1966.
  • Incunabula in Dutch libraries. Editor-in-chief Gerard van Thienen. Nieuwkoop, 1983.
  • Ina Kok, Woodcuts in incunabula printed in the Low Countries. Houten, 2013.
  • Incunabula printed in the Low Countries, a census. Edited by G. van Thienen & J. Goldfinch. Nieuwkoop, 1999.
  • Bull's head and Mermaid. The History of Paper and Watermarks from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period. Eds. Peter Rückert, Sandra Hodocek, Emanuel Wenger. Stuttgart and Vienna, 2009.