Incunabula, Cardiff University Library – Special Collections

by Angela

Incunabula Stack of Books

Through my job I was lucky enough to visit the Cardiff University Library, Special Collections this week.  The Library acquired a collection of 14,000 rare and antiquarian books (including incunabula) in May of last year.  I first heard of incunabula when I started studying bookbinding (around 2006). I was doing a search for ways to do a coptic binding when I found a link to on the website of the National Diet Library of Japan there are some beautiful pictures on there. I have been fascinated by them every since, but never dreamed I would actually see one in ‘real life’.  It is very hard to describe what it meant to me to see these books without sounding totally over the top or a complete geek (!) so I won’t even try. The tour was given by Peter Keelan, Head of Special Collections and Archives at Cardiff University.  I get the impression what he doesn’t know about the subject is not worth knowing.  Suffice it to say that those 2 hours were among the most enjoyable and fascinating of my life, and I still can’t believe I have seen a book from 1478!

Incunabula Stack of Books

The top book in the above photo is from 1478,
below is a picture of the book open.

Incunabulum Book Open


Abraham Ortell Atlas Frontispiece

The book above and below is from 1606 and is Abraham Ortelius’ World Atlas. It was absolutely stunning and my pictures here do not do it any justice.

Ortelius Map of Wales

Map of Wales


Sea Eagle - John Gould

This beautiful book was of special interest to me and is John Gould’s – The Birds of Great Britain circa 1870. This is a stunning picture of a sea eagle.


William Morris Hand Embroidered Book
The above needs no explanation and was beautifully hand embroidered. These pictures obviously only represent a very small part of the collection. There are also archives of letters, maps, diaries etc.  There is also one of the most comprehensive collections of Restoration Dramas and it is a small mystery why such a collection would be in Wales.


Incunabula at the National Diet Library of Japan


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ronnie 25th January 2011 - 12:29 am

mmmmm BOOKS!!!!!

lucky you!

Carol 25th January 2011 - 9:50 am

Be thankful for the small mysteries – you have those wonderful books in Wales, that's all that matters. And thank you for the really good description of Incunabula, I'll stash that away somewhere for later reading again.

Ida 25th January 2011 - 9:55 pm

very envious ..sounds like a wonderful experience…what beautiful books…thanks for sharing…off to read more about incunabula too.

ucas 20th June 2012 - 8:17 am

just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all…

Cardiff University


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