Catholicon

BALBUS, Johannes (d. 1298).
Catholicon.
Mainz: [Johannes Gutenberg?], 1460. (06906)


Johannes Gutenberg remained at work in Mainz and nearby Eltville until his death in 1468. As the types of the 42-Line Bible likely become the property of Fust and Schoeffer in 1455, he appears to have continued printing small works with his old D-K types until c. 1458. Soon thereafter, an anonymous printer in Mainz developed the smaller “humanistic” type that was used in the Mainz Catholicon, dated 1460. Although most scholars attribute this vast Latin dictionary to Gutenberg, a few have argued that it was not printed until a decade later, most likely by Peter Schoeffer, and that it had no connection with the deceased Gutenberg.

This controversy centers on the fact that the Catholicon was issued in three virtually identical type impressions, each on one of three distinct paper stocks: (1) Bull’s Head watermarks, datable c. 1460; (2) Galliziani watermarks, datable c. 1469; and (3) Tower and Crown watermarks, datable c. 1472. Since a book could not have been printed in 1460 on paper that did not exist until a decade later, some scholars have dated all three impressions to c. 1470, despite the “1460” date. However, in 1982, Paul Needham argued convincingly that some copies of the Catholicon were printed on Bull’s Head paper in 1460 with solid two-line slugs of cast type, and that these slugs were used again to print more copies on the later paper stocks c. 1469 and 1472–74.

Bridwell Library’s Catholicon is from the first issue on Bull’s Head paper, datable to 1460. Rubricated in the Netherlands, it was later in the library of Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke (d. 1733), at Wilton House, Salisbury, Wiltshire. It was purchased in 1975.

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=06096">06096</a>