Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/218

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

individual features of interest, not being mere matter-of-fact announcements or repetitions from former productions of the same press.

There are two main sources of interest in the colophon—the biographical and the personal. Taking the former first, it may be remarked that for a long time the colophon supplied the place of the title-page. It would be impossible to give a catalogue of very early title-pages, for very early books had no title-pages. In his charming and beautifully illustrated papers on the "History of the Title-Page," recently published in the Universal Review—which I strongly recommend to your perusal—Mr. Alfred Pollard, of the British Museum, tells us that the first English title-page is assigned to the year 1491. It had come into use sooner on the Continent, but the first example, which still requires to be definitely ascertained, was probably not earlier than 1476, or more than twenty years subsequent to the invention of printing. It was not until 1490 that title-pages became the rule, or until 1493 that the printer's or publisher's name began to be given upon the title. Up to this date, then, even when the book has a title-page, the printer or publisher can only be ascertained from the colophon, and before 1490 you must generally go to the colophon even for the description of the book. The reason is, no doubt, the extent to which the printer was influenced by the example of his predecessor, the copyist. It was more natural for the scribe to record the completion of his labours at the end of his manuscript than