When I first thought about what book I wanted to choose for this project I knew I wanted a book that was in some way related to religion. I specially wanted to choose a book that was not just a basic textual Bible because, however fascinating Bible’s are (and I think they are), I wanted something that could maybe play a slightly different role in how people relate to religion. I also wanted to choose a book that was pretty old as I have always been fascinated by history, especially European history. I had no idea how exciting it would be to find a book that combined both of these interests and was something I could personally relate to; as both a Religious Studies major and a European.
The book I have chosen to work with this semester has quite a long title! It is called Ghesneden figveren vvyten ouden testamente naer tleuene met huerlier bedietsele and it is either a Dutch or German text that dates from 1557. The author of the text is Willem Borlutt and on the title page it says “Gheprint tot Lions, By my Ian van Tournes” which I think means that it was printed in Lyon, France by a printer called By my Ian (or Jan) van Tournes (as you can see on the title page on the left).
The book is rather small and is not very long. It is also quite simply designed, the binding is likely cardboard and covered in a soft brown leather with a black, mottled pattern on it. There is no writing on the front or back cover but the spine has some decoration with gold lines and a red leather square which states the shortened title of Ghesneden Figveren, which I think translates to “carved figures”. The condition of the binding suggests that it may be old as the front cover has mostly fallen off and is tatty and worn, especially at the corners.
Each page of the book has an illustration on it and all are done solely in black ink and have a corresponding verse from the Old Testament which explains what is happening. There is a title at the top of each page which demonstrates what book of the Old Testament the illustration is depicting. According to the CBBcat listing the illustrations are woodcuts that were designed by Bernard Salomon.
In my opinion, the quality of the book suggests that it was intended for an audience that had the money to spend on a quality Bible but was not literate, due to the large amount of illustrations in this text. This makes the book a useful tool in understanding the Bible and is something that is explored further in the audience blog. Each page was designed with the intent of conveying a small message as most pages were filled primarily with the illustration and accompanied by only four or five lines of text, all of which are printed in italics. Each page has large borders and generous spacing which suggests that there was no need to conserve paper during the production of this book and that the printers/authors wanted to make sure the illustrations were the focal point of each page and could be appreciated fully. The pages are rather worn and some are stained, perhaps by water damage, one of the pages at the beginning is ripped and the interior of the book in general looks a little worn out as if the book has been well-loved and read many times during its lifetime.
There is a little marginalia on the inside of the front cover and on the title page, it is difficult to read but it mostly seems to be additional information about the book and includes the term “woodcut”. Colby acquired the book as part of the Capon Collection, donated by Charles R Capon in October of 1954 and there is a bookplate at the start of the book demonstrating this. The book does not seem to have an extensive organization process as there is no table of contents, no index, and no chapter titles. There is just an introduction page and the headers at the top of each page.
What I found most interesting about the book was that although it did not have a printers mark at the beginning or the end, and no colophon at the end, there was a printers mark in the middle of the book; which reads “SON EN EV ART DI” (spacing may be incorrect, see image below). This was very surprising but even more surprising is that the page following the printers mark is another title page (see image on right), the same as the one at the beginning of the book. The pages that follow have the same structure of illustrations and text but are formatted slightly differently on the page as they have smaller margins so the titles are higher up on the page. After each of the title pages there is an introduction page and although I don’t know what each say, I know that the two introduction pages are different. I believe this edition of the book is a combination of an Old Testament and a New Testament.