Early printed copies of classical texts

Constantine Lascaris, Erotemata
Constantine Lascaris, Erotemata, with the Latin translation of Johannes Crastonus Placentinus. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1495

Our collection of incunabula (15th-century printed books) is the largest in the world. Many of these books contain early printed editions of classical texts.

About the collection

The printing revolution of the 15th century enabled the reproduction of classical texts on a much larger scale than had previously been possible. The printing house of Aldus Manutius in Venice was noteworthy for its production of editions of the Greek classics. The British Library’s collection of incunabula (15th-century books produced with moveable type) is unrivalled in size and scope: some 12,500 incunabula representing about 10,390 editions, out of an estimated total of surviving 28,000 editions.

What is available online?

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue, a database of 15th-century European printing which records nearly every separate 15th-century item printed from moveable type, is housed and maintained at the British Library.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Incunabula can be ordered to the Rare Books and Music Reading Room. Special permission may be required to view some items.