Bartholomaeus Anglicus, c. 1472
(c. 1200–1272). De proprietatibus rerum.
[Cologne: Johann Schilling, for William Caxton, c. 1471–72]. (06102)
William Caxton’s earliest publishing venture, the first edition of this encyclopedic Latin treatise “on the properties of things,” was printed anonymously, without location or date of publication. The longstanding uncertainty surrounding its origins is reflected by an eighteenth-century inscription at the end of Bridwell Library’s copy. Citing Michael Maittaire’s Annales Typographici (1719), it misidentified the printer as Petrus Ungarus (at Lyon) in 1482. Although a later English note on the front flyleaf suggested that the printer was Ulrich Zel, the book’s types were those used by another printer in Cologne, Johann Schilling. Caxton’s forgotten roll as the entrepreneur behind Schilling’s labors had been documented centuries earlier in the postscript to Wynkyn de Worde’s first English edition of this work (c. 1496), which mentioned “William Caxton first pry[n]ter of this boke / In laten tonge at Coleyn [Cologne].”
Bridwell Library’s copy of the Cologne edition formerly belonged to Richard Heber (1773–1833), a passionate collector of early English printing who owned at least nine rare Caxton editions. Ironically, the limitations of bibliographical knowledge in Heber’s time prevented him from realizing that he owned a copy of what should have been one of his most prized possessions: Caxton’s first book.