The Third Book History Conference will be taking place in St Andrews, between the 7-9th of July. The conference will discuss book inventories and catalogues in manuscript and print, between the 15th to the 18th century (see description below) with confirmed papers on printers’ and booksellers’ lists, private collectors, discussions of the fate of specific items, the collections of religious institutions. It will cover areas from the Baltic to Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, and the British Isles.
It has become customary in documenting the world of early printed books to rely primarily on surveys of survivors: that is, books that have weathered the buffeting of history to reach the comparative safety of modern library collections. Most national bibliographical catalogues are aggregates of the holdings of library catalogues; faute de mieux these are taken to offer a reasonable account of the original output.
But the urge to list, catalogue and advertise the wealth of the new printed book culture was just as strong in the first age of books. Printers made lists of their available stock; owners proudly catalogued their libraries; assessors inventoried collections and stock as part of the settlement of estates, or legal proceedings. In an age of religious discord, censorship required the publication of lists of forbidden books (though at the risk of advertising their contents); book-sellers’ shelves, private and public libraries were examined for forbidden material.
These various classes of lists contain indispensable material on various aspects of the 16th century book trade: on cost, retail pricing, second hand values, binding and library practice. They allow the reconstruction of lost or dispersed libraries. They also document many thousands of titles and editions that have now disappeared altogether.
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