Illumination from the Works of Julius Caesar printed by Sweynheym & Pannartz. Rome, 1469.

The finely illuminated title page of the first printed edition of Julius Caesar’s works, produced by the first printers to move outside of Germany. Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz had originally established themselves just outside of Rome at the monastery of Subiaco in 1465, but after printing just 4 books they moved to the much more lucrative market in the adjacent metropolis, to cater for the papal administration and more generally. Although Biblical texts were the first to roll off the presses, the humanism of the Renaissance dictated that classical texts would soon follow and so they did. Sweynheym and Pannartz produced an edition of Cicero’s De oratore in 1465, the same year that Gutenberg’s successors, Johannes Fust and Peter Schoeffer, printed another of Cicero’s works, De officiis in Mainz. The oldest printed book in St John’s Library is the 1466 reprint of this latter work, and whilst it is printed in the gothic typeface favoured by German printers, Sweynheym and Pannartz adopted a type more nearly approximating the 'round hand' of Renaissance scribes, as can be seen in the illustration.

From the Harleian Library, bequest of John Newcome.