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Incunabula (literally, ‘cradles’) refers to books made in the 15th century, during the earliest period of book-printing in Europe. As a result of 400 years of purchases and donations, the Bodleian now has 5,600 incunable editions in its holdings, some in multiple copies, with the total number of incunabula in excess of 7,000.

Scholarly information about the Bodleian Library’s collection has benefited from the vision of Dr Kristian Jensen, who initiated and led a project, from 1991, to fully describe all the editions and copies of 15th-century books in the library to the same standards as medieval manuscripts. The attention to both textual and physical description, in the standards set by Dr Jensen, resulted in bibliographic records which name all of the texts contained in each edition and copy records describing the decoration, other copy-specific features, and provenance of each item. Following the work of L.H. Sheppard in cataloguing the Bodleian’s incunabula between 1955 and 1971, the Incunable Cataloguing Project, which was concluded in 2005 under the leadership of Dr Alan Coates, completed a six-volume printed edition which was published by the Oxford University Press in 2005.

This project was supported by several generous donors. (see acknowledgements page.)

A large number of the library’s incunabula were acquired in the 19th century. Every effort has been made in this catalogue to preserve and record provenance information through the records of the library and from evidence in the books themselves.

This electronic version of the catalogue has been prepared by the Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services, University of Oxford.

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