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Resources for Rare Books: An Annotated Bibliography: Incunabula

Resources Specific to Princeton University Library

  • Guide to Incunabula Holdings A brief introduction to the three principal groupings of incunabula at Princeton: the General Collection, the Kane Collection, and the Scheide Library Collection.

General Reference

  • RBMS Latin Place Names Latin place names found in the imprints of books printed before 1801 and their vernacular equivalents.

Orbis Latinus Online The standard print equivalent: J.G.T. Graesse, F. Benedict, and H. Plechl. Orbis Latinus: Lexikon lateinischer geographischer Namen des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, (1972).
Also of note is R. A. Peddie's Place Names in Imprints: An Index to the Latin and Other Forms Used on Title Pages (1986). Searchable via Google Books.


  • Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI) A database specifically designed to record and search the material evidence (or copy specific, post-production evidence and provenance information) of 15th-century printed books: ownership, decoration, binding, manuscript annotations, stamps, prices, etc. MEI is linked to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), provided by the British Library, from which it derives the bibliographical records, and it allows the user at last to combine searches of bibliographical records (extracted from ISTC) with copyspecific records.
  • Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI) This database contains 32,000 enteries of personal and institutional names, monograms, and arms of ownership extracted by Paul Needham, Scheide Librarian, from some 200 published catalogues of incunabula with provenance notations.  The extracts are augmented with Dr. Needham's personal research notes.

Online Catalogues and Census Databases

  • Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) The primary resource for locating fifteenth-century printings. ISTC is an international register of nearly every item printed from movable type before 1501 (including some sixteenth-century items previously assigned incorrectly to the fifteenth century), but not material printed entirely from woodblocks or engraved plates. Includes cross-reference links to GW and BSB catalogues.
  • Gesamatkatalog der Wiegendruke (GW) This database appears in conjunction with the print edition of the ‘Union Catalogue of Incunabula’ (GW) which lists all 15th century prints in alphabetical order. The print edition of the catalogue has been published since 1925 by the Hiersemann publishing house. There are currently eleven volumes, detailing all incunabula from ‘Abbey of the Holy Ghost’ to ‘Hord, Jobst.’
  • Catalogue of Incunabula of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB-Ink) The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek houses one of the largest collections of incunabula (the largest collection in Germany), with 9,756 print editions.

Print Resources


  • Corsten, Severin and Reimar Walter Fuchs.  Der Buchdruck im 15. Jahrhundert: eine Bibliographie. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1988-1993. Supercedes Berkowitz and Stillwell. Though first published in 1988 and supplemented in 1993, this title remains a standard bibliographic resource for fifteenth-century printings.
  • Stillwell, Margaret Bingham.  Incunabula and Americana, 1450-1800: A Key to Bibliographical Study.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1931. Reprint: 2nd ed.  New York : Cooper Square Publishers, 1961. Compiled by Margaret Stillwell, Librarian at Brown University.  A slightly dated work illustrating the spread of printing and provides a survey of Americana and incunabula and its development.  Also includes a list of the most relevant reference works, "Foreign bibliographical terms" (p. 203-214), "Latin contractions and abbreviations" (p. 215-225), and "Place-names of fifteenth century printing towns" (p. 227-248). Searchable via Google Books: 2nd ed

Bibliographies and Catalogues:

Copinger, Walter A.  Supplement to Hain's Repertorium Bibliographicum. Or, Collections Toward a New Edition of that Work. In two parts.  London, H. Sotheran and co., 1895-1902.  2 vols. Contents:  pt. 1. Nearly 7000 corrections of and additions to the collations of works described by Hain. 1895--pt. 2. Nearly 6000 volumes not referred to by Hain: v. 1. Abano-Ovidius. 1898. v. 2. Pablo-Zutphania. With addenda to parts I. and II. and Index by Konrad Burger. 1902.

Reichling, Dietrich.  Appendices ad Hainii-Copingeri Repertorivm Bibliographicvm: Additiones et Emendations.  Monachii: svmptibvs I. Rosenthal, 1905-11.  7 vols.

  • British Museum.  Department of Printed Books.  Catalogue of Books Printed in the XVth Century Now in the British Museum.  London: British Museum, 1908-. An attempt at an equivalent GWK for fifteenth century books in the British Library only.  This work aims to provide as much information as possible for each work and is a good introduction to printing history of specific countries.  Arranged according to Robert Proctor’s principles: Country, Town, Printing Shop, Chronological output of shop.