Renaissance and Early Modern Imprints

image of a detail from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), showing tapered text on the left page and on the right page text and a woodcut illustration of three figures examining doors representing religious devotion, romantic love, and worldly glory.
Detail of an opening from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice in 1499. Call Number: Summerfield E53

Spencer Research Library's holdings for renaissance and early modern imprints include several named collections. They are:

  • Summerfield Collection of Renaissance and Early Modern Books, consisting of volumes printed in Continental Europe from 1455 through 1700
  • Robert T. Aitchison Collection of Vergil
  • Cervantes Collection, based on the collection of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell
  • Clubb Collection of Books in Anglo-Saxon Type, containing volumes printed in Great Britain using Old English characters, from 1566 through the early nineteenth century

Summerfield Collection of Renaissance and Early Modern Books

A collection of approximately 10,000 books printed in Continental Europe from Gutenberg (1455) through 1700, including titles in history, literature, law, science, theology, and the arts.

The Summerfield Collection of Renaissance and Early Modern Books was begun in 1957, its funding one of the many benefactions of the late Solon E. Summerfield, a graduate of the University of Kansas. No restriction of subject is placed upon the collection beyond the common-sense avoidance of duplication with other collections in the neighborhood, but only the restrictions of place and time: the books must have been printed on the continent of Europe before 1701. Preference is given to those works which have not been competently reedited within the past hundred and fifty years or so and which must therefore be read in their original editions.

The years of collecting have brought us well over seven thousand titles in history, literature, law, science, theology, and the arts. We have not sought out great rarities, although we have acquired some; the main strength is in large quantities and great varieties of the books used over the centuries by scholars, students, and readers. Although we collect primarily for text, we have gathered along the way rich sources for the history of printing, for bibliographical studies of many kinds, for the knowledge of provenance, for the study of bindings and illustration. As the collection grows and the general University Libraries simultaneously develop their holdings in modern scholarly literature of the period involved we are building a significant source for the study of the centuries during which the bases of our culture were laid.

Most of the purchasing of the Summerfield books is done title by title, thus preserving the intentional variety and breadth of subject which is desired in this collection, but a few large purchases made in the early years of the grant provided particular strength and influenced the shape the collection was to take. The first of these was the acquisition in 1957 of a thousand volumes from the library of the French scholar and librarian Leon Dorez. Dorez's great interest was in the Italian humanists and his library included both the famous and the obscure: Boccaccio, Petrarch, Tasso, Alamanni, Andreini, many editions of the writings of Cardinal Bembo, the most complete edition of Poliziano's Latin writings (Basel, 1553), Palingenius's Zodiacus Vitae, as well as numbers of sixteenth-century Italian plays, the first Italian translation of Alberti's book of architecture (Venice, 1546), the 1619 edition of the works of Serlio, such historians as Sabellicus, Guicciardini, and Sleidanus, and a few Greek and Roman authors. This basic collection of the Italian humanists had its Spanish equivalent in a somewhat larger purchase of the following year. Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, noted for his The Cloister Life of the Emperor Charles V, was a great nineteenth century British Hispanist and book collector, whose library included a magnificent emblem collection (now at the University of Glasgow), a collection of books on art and design, and a working library of historical sources of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was this last section of over two thousand volumes which the University acquired in 1958. They are Spanish, French, and Italian imprints for the most part, with a small but significant number of Dutch books. The rich accumulation of 16th and 17th century Spanish chronicles, many of which have not been republished in critical editions, is rivaled by the large number of contemporary tracts about Charles V, with the relevant histories and biographies. Beyond these and other smaller collections of Spanish city and town histories, there is a rich conspectus of Spanish literature, including early editions of such authors as Juan de Mena and Jorge Manrique and a fine copy of the Cancionero General, Antwerp, 1573. Yet the solid value lies not so much in these high spots as in the hundreds of contemporary editions of the poets, travelers, theologians, historians, and bibliographers of the time. As one would expect, there are extensive materials on the Austrian and Dutch parts of the Spanish empire, including some important legal material. In general the French and Italian books in this group are perhaps less rare as well as less numerous than the Spanish, but nevertheless still of note.

Another large purchase was nearly a thousand volumes of legal history acquired in 1963. Two-thirds of these are now part of the Summerfield collection, continuing a trend begun some years ago with the purchase of the 1475 Schoeffer Codex Justinianus -- the collecting of editions of Roman and canon law and their commentators.

The collection has 132 incunabula, a relatively small number, and a study collection of separate leaves from 78 more. 15th-century books especially worthy of mention are the Sweynheym and Pannartz Caesar of 1469, three Jensons (the Macrobrius of 1472, the first edition of Landini's translation of Pliny, 1476, and the 1478 Plutarch), Aldus' Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of 1499, Amerbach's 1494 printing of Trithemius' Liber de Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis (the first modern biobibliography), Vincent of Beauvais' Speculum Historiale, Strassburg, Mentelin, 1473, Ulrich Richental's Concilium zu Constencz, Augsburg, Sorg, 1483, the 1477 Legenda aurea of Johannes Baemler, and Marciletti's Doctrinale florum artis notarie, Lyon, circa 1490 (one of three known copies).

The Summerfield collection is strong in early bibliography (Gesner, Doni, Bale, Ziletti, Eysengrein, La Croix du Maine, Du Verdier and many others), Polish history, the great French Byzantinists (a nearly complete set of the Regia Byzantinorum Scriptorum Editio, including Du Cange's Historia Byzantina, Paris, 1680, with its clear statement of France's claim to the throne of Byzantium and of Rome itself), and such French humanists and political theorists as Guillaume Bude, most of whose works remain available only in 16th-century editions, and Jean Bodin, whose Les Six Livres de la Republique, of which we have the first edition (1576) and eight subsequent sixteenth-century editions, is another essential work not existing in a modern critical edition. Significant additions have been made over the years to most of the subjects begun by the early major purchases, increasing our strength in French and Italian history and literature, Dutch politics, Protestantism, geography and the history of art. The scientific strengths of the Summerfield Collection are described along with our other history of science holdings.

Robert T. Aitchison Collection of Vergil

A small but representative collection of forty-three editions of Vergil, several illustrated and half published prior to 1700.

In 1964 the Department received as a gift the Vergil Collection of Robert Aitchison of Wichita. The collection, although relatively small, includes a representative selection of editions of Vergil, both text and illustrated. Particularly interesting are the only known Western hemisphere copy of the Pachel and Scinzenzeler Opera of 1487, the fine illustrated Strasburg edition of 1502, the Baskerville edition of 1757 (the first book printed on wove paper), and the commentaries of Julius Pomponius, Basel, 1544.

When searching the KU Libraries' online catalog for volumes in this collection, please use the standardized spelling "Virgil."

Cervantes Collection

A collection of editions of works by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), based upon the collection of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell.

Based upon the collection of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, the Cervantes Collection is notable particularly for the number of editions of Don Quixote which it contains. Although Spanish editions are by no means absent (we have, among others, the second Juan de la Cuesta edition, 1605, the first Valencia edition, 1605, and the great Ibarra edition of 1780) pride of place must be given to the foreign printings: the 1605 Lisbon piracy, the Roger Velpius edition of 1607 (Brussels), the first complete Italian edition (Venice, 1625), the first English edition (Shelton's 1612-1620 translation), and a host of others, including chapbook versions, versifications, scholarly editions, and dramatizations. Illustrators represented in the collection include Johannot, Cruickshank, Vierge, Dore and Dali.

The Novelas Ejemplares and Cervantes' other less known works are almost equally well represented by both Spanish and foreign editions, including the first French and the first English editions of the Novelas.

Clubb Collection of Books in Anglo-Saxon Type

A collection of books dating from 1566 through the early nineteenth century containing text printed in Anglo-Saxon type (i.e. typefaces that use Old English characters). It is not only a typographic collection but a rich source for research in the growth of English history and language as a serious field of study.

The Clubb Collection of Books in Anglo-Saxon Type, named for Merrel Clubb, late KU professor of English, and his son, Roger, was established in 1963. Based upon the Bryson (John Bryson, Librarian of Balliol College, Oxford) copy of the great Caedmon (Amsterdam, 1655) edited by the Dutch scholar Franciscus Junius, the collection already includes nearly 300 volumes of the works of the great septentrional antiquaries and provides not only the best known--if not the only--collection of books printed in Anglo-Saxon typefaces but also an excellent source for the beginnings of English historical and textual scholarship.

The intensive study of Anglo-Saxon texts and the printing of them began with Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575). Parker, moved not only by the motives of disinterested scholarship but by a desire to prove the antiquity of the English church and to disprove the necessity of priestly celibacy (he had a wife), collected manuscripts assiduously and in 1566 hired John Day to provide the first Anglo-Saxon type. This font is represented in the Clubb collection in a number of examples, most notably Ælfric's A Testimonie of Antiquitie, London, 1566 (probably the first book printed in this type and quite possibly the first book printed in England in a font designed in England by an Englishman), William Lambarde's Archaionomia, London, 1568, and Parker's edition of Asser's Aelfredi Regis Res Gestae, London, 1574 (a curious production, being a Latin text set in Day's Anglo-Saxon type). The interest in English antiquities aroused by Parker became a consuming one for the next two centuries and the printing of texts continued rapidly. It is somewhat surprising to find that the first printing of Bede in England did not come until 1644 when Abraham Wheloc edited Bede in Latin and in Anglo-Saxon, along with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (first printing) and a number of Saxon laws (Cambridge, Roger Daniel, 1644). In 1659 William Somner produced the first dictionary of Old English to be printed, Dictionarium Saxonico-Latino-Anglicum (Oxford, W. Hart), and in 1689 Hickes' Institutiones Grammaticae Anglo-Saxonicae et Moeso-Gothicae was printed by the Oxford University press in the Junius type. In 1705, also from the Press at the Sheldonian Theatre, one of the greatest products of the Saxonists appeared: Humphrey Wanley's Librorum VettSeptentrionalium, qui in Angliae Bibliothecis Extant, ... Catalogus, published as the second volume of Hickes' Thesaurus. The last great monument of Anglo-Saxon printing in this period was Wilkins' Concilia (London, 1737).

Although texts continued to appear, the number diminished and in the early 19th century when interest rose again the use of Anglo-Saxon fonts was largely abandoned. One of the old fonts has been used in living memory: the Elstob type. This type, designed by Humphrey Wanley for Elizabeth Elstob's The Rudiments of Grammar for the English-Saxon Tongue, London, W. Bowyer, 1715, to replace Bowyer's earlier type (destroyed by fire) in which Miss Elstob had printed her edition of one of Ælfric's homilies in 1709, was acquired by the Oxford University Press before 1764. In 1900 it was used by Horace Hart in some notes on typography, and in 1910 (after some modification) for Robert Bridges' "On the Present State of English Pronunciation" (Essays and Studies, Oxford, 1910).

Special Collections Contact

Elspeth Healey

Special Collections Curator for post-1700 materials (except the areas listed below)


Eve Wolynes

Special Collections Curator for pre-1700 materials, Asian collections, history of science, maps/cartography