The digitization of the incunabula of monastic libraries in Italy: the Polonsky Foundation's project with BNCR and CERL​

The digitization and enhanced cataloguing of the 206 incunabula held at the Monastery of Santa Scolastica in Subiaco have been conceived as part of a pilot module-based project focused mainly on the small collections found in public or ecclesiastical institutions or belonging to private individuals, which frequently contain rare material and are often difficult to access. In terms of issues of security, conservation and use, such collections often require special attention.

The project is coordinated and directed by the National Central Library in Rome (‘Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma’ or BNCR), in partnership with the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), and with the Benedictine monastery of Santa Scolastica in Subiaco. It is generously funded by the Polonsky Foundation, as part of their programme to support the preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage and free access to knowledge.

The project took as its starting point the eleven libraries which belong to the so-called category of ‘Monumenti Nazionali which comprises the suppressed abbeys and monasteries taken over by the Italian State at the end of the 19th century following the laws of expropriation and now overseen by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MiBACT).

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15/04/2020

Fifteenth-century illustrated editions in the library of Santa Scolastica in Subiaco - Part II, 1

There are several illustrated incunable editions of devotional texts in the library of the monastery of Santa Scolastica, now a national monument. They include one edition of the Bible, printed in Venice in 1498 by Simone Bevilacqua, the Sermones of Bernard of Clairvaux and of St Vincent Ferrer, an edition of the Meditazioni di Cristo and one of the Rivelazioni of St Bridget.

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15/04/2020

Fifteenth-century illustrated books in the library of Santa Scolastica in Subiaco - Part I

At the outset printed books, just like manuscripts, continued to be decorated manually by illuminators and other artists.  Indeed, often the same illuminators and artists and the same workshops worked on both printed books and manuscripts.

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27/03/2020

Detectives with a Wood’s lamp: hunting for early users

It’s often the case with early books that the marks and other notes left by their previous owners have been cancelled by their successors – scored out heavily or lightly in ink, rubbed away or even removed completely by cutting them out – in the desire to take away all visible traces of the volumes’ previous provenance.

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25/03/2020

The sacred book: close reading and lazy readers

It’s a fact that more grammars than Bibles were printed in the early modern period but during this period and throughout western Europe the Bible nevertheless was regarded as the supreme book, the book by definition.

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25/03/2020

Reading, learning and teaching: best practices 500 years ago

The margins and other blank spaces found in books are often full of traces of past readings, sometimes packed into the space available and at others more sporadic. The marks left by readers who needed to consult the book, to underline a passage or add a comment can tell us a lot about the people who have handed down their books to us.

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25/03/2020

The importance of endpapers: investigating endleaves in incunabula in Santa Scolastica

The endleaves found at the front and the back of bound editions were blank leaves inserted by the binder at the moment of binding in order to protect the text block.

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