It has proved impossible in the Netherlands to eradicate the legend that Laurens Janszoon Coster has invented the art of printing. Even though he was not entered as the inventor of typography in Verhaal van een taal, published in 1993, yet - portrait and all - he was again presented as the printer of block books.
Books had already been printed in the Netherlands before 1473, the year when the first Dutch printed work bearing a date was published in Utrecht, but certainly some time after 1455, the year in which Johannes Gutenberg printed his first Bible in Mainz. This may be deduced from a set of fifteenth-century printed works that are related by their typeface. Although all of them are without place-names or printers' names, they must have been printed in the Netherlands, since they include works in Dutch. They must have been printed before 1473, because some first owners had added dates to their ownership inscriptions. Thus they are the earliest Dutch printed books. Previously they were mostly considered to have been printed by Coster, but scholarly literature has long since called them prototypography and abandoned the term ‘Costeriana’.
Besides four illustrated editions - two in Dutch and two in Latin - of the Speculum humanae salvationis, two other sets of texts are considered prototypographical. The first consists of the numerous short textbooks for schools by Aelius Donatus and Alexander de Villa Dei, of which on the whole only fragments have been preserved. The second consists of a number of separate texts written for a learned readership, comprehensively listed by Bonaventura Kruitwagen. One of them is this first edition of a Latin adaptation of Homer's Iliad, together with a few other short texts.
This copy was part of the collection of the English art historian William Young Ottley, who died in 1836. His posthumous work, *An inquiry concerning the invention of printing, *published in 1863, also deals with the earliest Dutch printed books.
Iliados epitome [Ilias latina, toegeschreven aan Pindarus Thebanus, i.e. Baebius Italicus]. Homerus. [Nederland, prototypografie, vóór 1473]. 2º, 10 (-1) folia. - 168 E 4, fol. 8r