University of Virginia Library


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Verdict on GW 2182 and 2183
Dennis E. Rhodes

The Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke under its nos. 2182 and 2183 describes two editions of the Sermones quadragesimales et de sanctis, commonly called Flos florum, which at the time of printing was attributed to the pen of St. Antoninus Archbishop of Florence (1389-1459), but which is really the work of the Dominican Gabriel of Barletta (died 1470). There was evidently no other edition in the early period. The first (GW 2182 = Hain 1241) has 380 leaves, with two columns and 36 lines to a column, and is printed in types 1 and 2 according to the GW's classification. The second (GW 2183 = Hain 1240) has 332 leaves, with two columns and 40 lines to a column, and is in types 2 and 3 of the same press, which the GW thinks may have been located in Milan, possibly after 1500. Although only the first of these editions is in the British Library and I have not yet seen a copy of the second, it is obvious that both editions were printed by the same press, since they share in common one of their types. (Thanks to the courtesy of Mr. G. A. Dart, County Librarian, I have obtained xerox copies of a few pages of GW. 2183, the only example of which recorded in the British Isles being that in Cardiff Public Library. From these it is quite clear that the two editions are indeed products of the same press. Not only do the types agree, but the same woodcut capital R appears in both editions.) B.M.C. (pt. vii, p. 1126), in describing the British Museum's copy of the first edition (IA. 36991) under paragraph 8 of 'books printed in Italy in types not assignable to any town', remarks that 'the place of printing may be Milan or Venice', but that Proctor had catalogued the book 'among the Venetian adespota (no. 5719) with the note 'after 1500?''. The two types of GW 2182 are 100G., large text and heading type 'of Veneto-Milanese pattern', and 73G., text-type; and it is further noted that these types both resemble those of Pachel at Milan, although 73G. is 'closely akin to De Luere (Venice) 74G. (1500) but not the same'.

The time has now come to identify this press once and for all; and in fact it is not difficult to do so. The answer is, not surprisingly, that the two books were both printed at Venice in the sixteenth century, and, as I shall endeavour to prove, between about 1507 and 1515. When once we know the identity of the printer, we may surmise that his own Milanese origin (which he proclaims in almost every colophon of his that I have seen) may well have something to do with any resemblance to Milanese patterns there may be in his type-faces; but of the fact that these two books were printed at Venice


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there can be no doubt, since the printer worked there and nowhere else between 1500 and 1521. We must now prove who he was.

The text-type, 73G., is exactly the same, with its characteristically small capitals A and P, its double-barred H and N, and strange G, as the 73G. used in Girolamo di Manfredi, Il perchè, printed 'ad instantia de Zorzi di Rusconi Milanese' (but certainly in his own office) in Venice on 16 June 1507.[1] This Manfredi also employs type 100G., the only book in the British Library collections to do so. The two books (that is, the Manfredi and the Sermones Flos florum, GW 2182) also contain copious examples of a set of florid and ornate lombard capitals, many of which also appear in La vita de Merlino, printed by Giorgio Rusconi on 20 April 1507 (Isaac 13083). GW 2182 contains five woodcut capital letters (E, F, I, Q and R) belonging to at least three different alphabets. The capital E on sig. SS2v of the Antoninus appears, with the same cracks in much the same state, on leaf 2v of Le cose volgari by Giovanni Bruni, signed by Rusconi on 18 October 1506 (Isaac 13031). Thereafter, as far as I have been able to check in the British Library's collection of Rusconi books, it is not used again until we find it, in a much more worn and battered state, on sig. b1r of Montalboddo Fracan, Paesi nouamente ritrouati per nauigatione di Spagna in Calicut, etc., printed by Rusconi on 18 August 1517 (Isaac 13065); and then again on sigs. a5r and P1r of the Cicero, Epistolae familiares, of 20 March 1519 (Isaac 13076). A capital F, 29 x 26 mm., with the figure of a cat (or is it a lion?), is on sig. z2v of GW 2182, and we find it again no less than seven times in the same Cicero of 20 March 1519. The base of the letter is cunningly made by the woodcutter to serve as the cat's tail, and so it is amusing to observe that the printer can use the same letter either as an E (six times in the Cicero) or as an F (once in the Cicero, as in the Antoninus). The edition of Fracan mentioned above has on sig. i3r a capital I of a smaller alphabet, much broken in the lower left-hand side of the frameline; and it occurs twice in the Ovid, Metamorphoses, of 20 April 1517 (Isaac 13062). This I is first found, unbroken, on sig T1r and on GG1r of the Antoninus. A small and rather undistinguished Q, 22 mm. square, on sig. HH8v of the Antoninus, is used again on A2r (where it is much more worn) of Vocabularium iuris, printed on 14 August 1517 (Isaac 13064). It is also found frequently in the Italian Bible of 2 March 1517 (Isaac 13059). Only one capital, a letter R measuring 23 mm. square, with flowers, which we find on sig. A3r of the Antoninus, and which apparently belongs to the same alphabet as the I, has not yet been traced in any other book in the British Library. But now we have overwhelming evidence to show that the woodcut capitals all belonged to Giorgio Rusconi, who used them over a fairly long period (from about 1506 to about 1520), and that he must have printed GW 2182 towards the beginning of this period, that is about 1506 or 1507. GW 2183 probably came a few years later, about 1510-12. As the second edition has 48 leaves fewer than the first, and as a printer's aim in producing


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a new edition was often to save paper and space, perhaps the correct order really is: GW 2182 first and GW 2183 second.

Georgius de Rusconibus, like all other major Venetian printers of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, printed a certain number of works anonymously. I have already in these pages showed that he must be the printer of the Exempla of Marcus Antonius Coccius (Sabellicus) in September 1507.[2] There seems to be no good reason why some harmless texts were printed without imprint or colophon. It was no doubt partly through sheer thoughtlessness that a printer could often omit such information.

GW 2182 has now been removed from the British Library's collection of incunabula, and consequently paragraph 8 at the end of B.M.C. Italy, 'Books printed in types not assignable to any town', is to be abolished, since we know that Giorgio Rusconi printed this book in Venice about 1507.[3]



Frank Isaac. An index to the early printed books in the British Museum. Part II.-MDI-MDXX. Section II. Italy. London, 1938, no. 13032.


Studies in Bibliography, 26 (1973), 230-231.


The Indice Generale degli Incunaboli delle Biblioteche d'Italia, (nos. 687 and 688) adds several more locations in Italy, but strangely enough none in Venice; and no copy of either edition has hitherto been recorded in North America. It is, of course, possible that some copies have been correctly catalogued in American libraries as sixteenth-century editions, and for that reason have not been reported to Mr. F. R. Goff.