The Atlas of Early Printing

The Fifteenth Century Book

Image of Fifteenth Century Book

1480s: The Printer

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The timeline of the book now jumps ahead to the fifteenth century, when printing from movable type was well established and printers were operating shops that produced a variety of titles, many of them drawn from ancient manuscript sources. While the printer of the book is known by several different variations of his name, Joannes Vercellencis appears to be the most common. His surname was actually De Vianis, but this name is not found in any book.  The Colophon of our book lists the printer as “Ioannem Rubeú de Vercellis.” He is also referred to as Johannes Rubeus. He was called Rubeus or Rosso, with ‘Rubeus’, a sort of nickname, unique to him and not to his brother Albertinus, who never used it in the colophons of books he printed.  He was from Lexona or Lessona, which is north-west of Vercelli, in Italy.

Vercellensis started printing in Treviso, where he produced about ten editions between 1480 and 1485. He then moved to Venice, and his first book there was a Guarinus, Regulae grammaticales, completed on March 26, 1482. He had a period of steady, though not abundant, printing from October 1486 through the end of 1488. After July 1490 when the Scriptores was printed, he produced no books until the Vita della Vergine of March 30, 1492. He ceased production again in 1498, and when he resumed in April, 1499, his brother, Albertinus Vercellensis, was his partner. After June 1499, only Albertinus appears in the colophons of the books. Rubeus, however, continued to work as late as 1519.

A large portion of the books Rubeus printed were commissions for publishers, most often for Lucantonio Giunta. Other publishers he worked with include Madius, Tommaso Trevisano (1487), Fontana (1494), Giovanni di Lorenzo of Bergamo (1495), Hier, J. B. Blondus (1496), Calcedonius (1497), Rasina and Moretus. Many of these books had illustrations and were in the vernacular, rather than Latin. He used woodcut capitals only for his commissioned work. The Catalogue of Books Printed in the XVth Century Now in the British Museum (BMC) suggests that the “close affinity” of his material with the printer Capcasa suggests that Giunta was a “regular employer of both.”

Rubeus also worked on a previous edition of the Scriptores, which was published in 1489. He printed the first 13 quires or sections, and a printer named Rizus printed the others. The thirteen sections Vercellencis printed formed the body of our book, completed in 1490. This edition was begun by Rubeus before October, 1489 and interrupted at the end of quire C, some copies being completed by Rizus; see note to IB. 22631, p. 401. The first words of D 1a run: mentiis & de animis.

Rubeus seems to have sometimes listed the year according to the Venetian calendar, and sometimes in the ordinary style. The Venetians had their own calendar, and it appears they were not hesitant to change it when it was desired.

Next - 1490: Printing the Scriptores Historiae Augustae