Highlights from the collections

The following is a list of on-line images of some of the more interesting early printed books in the collections organized chronologically. This is by no means an exhaustive list and is subject to ammendment and expansion. Digital images of provenance evidence and notable bindings associated with early printed books are also available via the Provenance and Binding Index. If you would like further information on any of the books pictured here, please contact the Special Collections Librarian (tel. 01223-339393).

15th Century


Cicero's De Officiis, Mainz : Fust & Schoeffer, 1466. The earliest printed text in the Library. (Colophon & binding).


Caesar's Works, Rome : Sweynheym & Pannartz, 1469. Editio princeps. (Illuminated first leaf).


Ovid's Works, Venice : Rubeus, 1474. Early edition belonging to Lorenzo de Medici? (Illuminated first leaf with Medici arms, initial incorporating portrait of Ovid & other provenance markings).


Bible. Vulgate, Venice : Franz Renner & Nicolaus de Frankfordia, 1475. Earliest Venetian Bible. (Illuminated first leaf with initial incorporating portrait of St Jerome & binding).


Euclid's Elements, Venice : Ratdolt, 1482. Editio princeps, with the first printed mathematical diagrams. (Opening to text).


Bartholomaeus Anglicus's De proprietatibus rerum, Nurnburg : Koberger, 1483. (Illuminated initial & blind-stamped binding).


Hyginus's Astronomicon poeticon, Venice : Blavis, 1488. Early, if inaccurate, astrological diagrams. (Woodcuts of Sagittarius & Capricorn).


The dictes and sayings of the philosophers, Westminster : William Caxton, 1489. A reprint of the first dated book printed in England. (Opening leaf with Caxton's device).


Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Venice : Aldo Manuzio, 1499. Illustrated dream fantasy. (Illustrations & binding).

16th Century


Bible. Polyglot. Complutensian, Alcala da Henares : Brocar, 1514-17. First polyglot Bible. (Title-page & Opening to Genesis).


Polyglot Psalter, Genoa : Porro, 1516. Heptaglot Psalter including footnotes containing the first printed description of Columbus' journeys. (Double-page spread & detail of footnote regarding Columbus).


Thomas More's Utopia, Louvain : Martens, 1516. First edition. (Map of Utopia).


Stromer's Algorithmus linealis, Leipzig : Thanner, 1517. Early treatise on the abacus. (Text & illustrations).


Hermoniakos' paraphrase of The Iliad, Venice : De Sabio, 1526. First text printed in modern Greek. (Title-page).


Purstinger's Onus ecclesiae, Cologne : Quentel, 1531. Catholic controversial work on state of the Church. (Title page with woodcut of the Antichrist).


Tacuinum sanitatis, Strassburg : Schott, 1531. Tabular work on health, with woodcuts, based on Arabic original. (Double-page spread & illustrations).


Cortes' De insulis nuper inuentis Ferdinandi Cortesii ad Carolum V. Rom. Imperatorem narrationes, Cologne : Neuss, 1532. Contemporary edition of Cortes' 2nd & 3rd letters to Charles V. (Hand-coloured title page).


Bible. English. Coverdale, [Cologne or Antwerp?], 1535. First complete translation into English. (Opening to Genesis, with woodcuts of the six days of the creation).


Ptolemy's Geography, Lyon : Trechsel, 1535. Servetus' edition of Ptolemy, with maps, including the first to bear the legend 'America'. (Details from maps of Ethiopia, South America & Britain).


Bible. English. Matthew's, Antwerp : Crom, 1537. Second complete translation into English. (Opening to Genesis, with woodcut of the Garden of Eden).


Great Bible, London : Grafton & Whitchurch, 1539. Special printing on vellum, with hand-colouring, possibly for Thomas Cromwell. (Title page to the New Testament & Hagiographia & binding).


Boece's Hystory and croniklis of Scotland, [Edinburgh : Davidson, 1540?]. Printing in Scots of an early history of Scotland. (Title page & detail of text).


Lykosthenes' Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon, Basel : Petri, 1557. (Woodcuts of seamonsters & rhinoceros).


Gemini's Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio, aere exarata, London, 1559. Illustrated anatomical work. (Illustration & hand-coloured title-page).


Foxe's Book of martyrs, London : John Day, 1563. First edition. (Woodcut of the burning of Latimer & Ridley).


Luther's Works, Jena : Richtzenhan & Rebart, 1564-70. 16th-century edition with contemporary pigskin binding bearing portraits of Luther & Melanchthon. (Details from the chronology of the papacy & binding).


Testimonie of Antiquitie, London : John Day, 1566. The first printing of Anglo-Saxon. A work by Aelfric of Eynsham in parallel English & Anglo-Saxon versions (pp. 10-11).


In the Parliament haldin at Striviling the XXV. day of Julii, the zeir of God, ane thousand, fyve hundreth, thre scoir and auchtene zeiris, Edinburgh : John Ross, 1579. Laws from James VI's first Parliament in Scotland (Title page).


Bible. Icelandic, Holar : Jonsson, 1584. First Icelandic Bible. (Title page, opening to Genesis & binding).


Digby's De arte natandi, London : Dawson, 1587. Pioneering work on swimming, with illustrations. (Illustration of swimmers).


Bible. Welsh. Morgan, London : Christopher Barker, 1588. First Welsh Bible. (Title page).


Adams's Expeditionis Hispanorum in Angliam vera descriptio, Anno D. MDLXXXVIII, London, 1590. Sequence of charts of the progress of the Spanish Armada. (Hand-coloured title-page & detail from chart)


Nadal's Adnotationes et meditationes in Evangelia, Antwerp : Nuyts, 1595. Lavishly illustrated work for proselytizing produced by the Jesuits. (Engraving of Christ's descent into Hell)


Tagliacozzi's Cheirurgia nova, Frankfurt : Saur & Kopf, 1598. Early work on cosmetic surgery. (Illustration of a prosthetic nose)

17th Century


Gilbert's De magnete, London : Short, 1600. Earliest substantial scientific work produced in England, & first to contain the term electricity. (Illustrations).


Pontanus' Rerum et urbis Amstelodamensium historia, Amsterdam : Hondius, 1611. (Illustrations of the Bourse, and the voyages of Dutch travellers).


Lauro's Antiquae urbis splendor, Rome, 1612-28. Pictorial work on Roman antiquities. (Illustration of the vision of the prophet Daniel, from the opening to the work).


De Caus' Raisons des forces mouvantes auec diverses machines tant utilles que plaisantes, Frankfurt : Norton, 1615. Illustrated work on hydraulics. (Engravings of a hydraulically powered fire-engine & garden feature).


Cluver's Germaniae antiquae, Leiden : Elzevir, 1616. (Illustrations of ancient Germans).


Van Meur's Icones, elogia ac vitæ professorum Lugdunensium apud Batavos, Leiden : Clouck, 1617. Early promotional text for Leiden University. (Illustrations of the library & anatomical theatre).


Theatre d'honneur de plusieurs princes anciens et moderne, Paris, 1621. Album of engraved portraits cut out and stuck in. (Hand-coloured title page & portraits of Henri III & IV of France).


Drayton's Poly-Olbion, London : Lownes & Mathewse, 1622. Topographical poem, with decorative maps. (Hand-coloured title-page & map of Cambridge).


Strada's De Bello Belgico, Rome : Corbelletti, 1632. (Engraved title page, with map in the form of the Belgic Lion).


Book of common prayer, Edinburgh : Robert Young, 1637. Archbishop Laud's controversial edition which caused rioting when introduced in Scotland. (Title page).


De Laet's Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien. French, Leiden : Elzevir, 1640. (Woodcut of a sloth?).


Colom's L'ardante ou flamboyante colom de la mer, Amsterdam : Colom, 1644. Ship's pilot's guide & charts. (Engraved title page with French title pasted over the Dutch & navigational chart).


Hobbes' Leviathan, London : Crooke, 1651. First edition. (Engraved title-page).


Benlowes' Theophila, London : R.N., 1652. Lavishly illustrated poetical work. (Engravings).


Inigo Jones' Most notable antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Stone-Heng on Salisbury plain, London : Pakeman & Chapman, 1655. (Title-page, frontispiece portrait & engraving of Stonehenge).


Dee's Conversations with spirits, London : Garthwait, 1659. First, posthumously published, edition of Dee's account of his spiritualistic encounters. (Frontispiece & title page).


Hooke's Micrographia, London : Martyn & Allestry, 1665. Pioneering work on microscopy. (Engravings of a flea and other microscopical views).


Bible. Armenian, Amsterdam, 1666. First printed Armenian Bible. (Title-page & opening to Genesis with woodcuts of the Creation  & gauffering to textblock).


Diophantus' Arithmetica, Toulouse : Bernard Bosc, 1670. Contains the first statement of Fermat's 'Last Theorem'. (Detail showing Fermat's 'Last Theorem').


Sammes' Britannia antiqua illustrata, London : Thomas Roycroft, 1676. Early antiquarian work on ancient Britain. (Engraving of a sacrificial idol).


Seller's Atlas caelestis, [London : John Seller, 1676]. Astronomical charts. (Hand-coloured charts of the sun, moon & comets).


Ludolf's Historia Aethiopica, Frankfurt : Zunner, 1681. Major work on Ethiopian history and culture. (Illustration of hippopotamus, & one of the frontispiece portraits).


Exquemelin's History of the Bucaniers, London : Malthus, 1684. One of the first English editions, for which Henry Morgan sued the publishers. (Frontispiece portraits).


Algonquin Bible, Cambridge, Mass. : Samuel Green, 1685. 2nd edition of John Eliot's translation of scripture into Algonquin. (Title page).


Sandford's Coronation of James II, London : Newcomb, 1687. Sumptuously illustrated celebration of the event. (Engravings of the coronation feast & procession).


Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, London : Streater, 1687. Seminal scientific work on gravitation. (Title page & text with illustration).


Milton's Paradise Lost, 4th ed., London : Bentley & Tonson, 1688. First illustrated edition. (Engraving of Satan tormenting souls).


Loggan's Cantabrigia illustrata, Cambridge, 1690. Sumptuously illustrated overview of Cambridge Colleges. (Plan view of St John's).

18th Century


Psalmanazar's Historical and geographical description of Formosa, London, 1704. Pseudographic account of the customs and culture of Taiwan. (Engraving of a funeral procession).


Taylor's Methodus incrementorum directa & inversa, London : Pearson, 1715. Seminal work in the development of calculus, containing the first statement of Taylor's Theorem. (Title page).


Reelant's De religione Mohammedica, Utrecht : Broedelet, 1717. (Engraving of the precinct at Mecca).


Lamy's De tabernaculo foederis, de sancta civitate Jerusalem, et de templo ejus, libri septem, Paris : Delespine, 1720. (Illustrations of the Temple of Solomon & Noah's Ark).


Captain Cook's Voyage towards the South Pole, and round the world, London : Strahan & Cadell, 1777. (Engravings).


Wordsworth & Coleridge's Lyrical ballads, 1st ed., London : Arch, 1798. (Title page).

19th Century


Repton's Observations on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, London : Taylor, 1805. (Coloured illustrations with folding scenes).


Clarkson's History of the rise, progress and accomplishment of the abolition of the slave trade by the British Parliament, London : Longman ... [et al.], 1808. (Illustration of conditions on a slave ship).


Shelley's Necessity of atheism, Worthing : Phillips, [1811]. Anonymous controversial tract which got Shelley sent down from Oxford. (Title page and conclusion).