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Medieval Studies: A Resource Guide

Incunabula

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division has an impressive array of late medieval texts. Notable among their medieval holdings is their incunabula collection, which number approximately 8,000. Incunabula (incunabulum in the singular), is Latin for cradle or swaddling cloth and in this context means the "infancy of printing." Incunabula refers to those early books which were printed between 1450 and 1501. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division houses the largest collection of incunabula in the western hemisphere. Many of the incunabula at the Library of Congress have yet to be cataloged. To find incunabula in the Library of Congress, use the following sources in the tabbed box below or contact the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room. All original incunabula must be requested in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room. This does not apply to reproductions of incunabula.

Image 88 of Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis. [Germany, ca. 1470]. Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection contains rare books from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries and a handful of medieval and renaissance manuscripts. The collection contains 2,653 items of which many date from the late medieval period.

To browse the items in the Rosenwald Collection, consult the collection's catalog available in PDF format online:

Some of the items in the collection have been digitized and are available online. The digitization of the Rosenwald Collection is ongoing and these selections represent only a fraction of the collection. New material will be added as it becomes available.

Gutenberg Bible (Biblia Latina). Between 1454 and 1455. Otto Vollbehr Collection. Library of Congress Rare Book Division.

The Otto Vollbehr Collection is a large collection comprising 3,114 individual volumes printed in 635 different presses. The items range from 1490-1820. When the Library of Congress purchased the collection in 1930, it quadrupled the number of incunabula the Library had at that time.

Hundreds of incunabula from the 15th century have been digitized and are available online through the Library of Congress digital collections:

Microform Reader Services, part of the Research and Reference Services Division, has a microfiche collection containing thousands of incunabula. The following items ink to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.