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‘The margins filled with curious particulars, not to be found in any edition'

Private lives of print

The printed page has always inspired all manner of interactions between rubricators, illuminators, owners and their books. Professional scribes found numerous innovative and imaginative ways to personalize mass- produced objects. Titles, notes and captions were supplied in colour in elaborate hands by professional scribes and rubricators, or were less proficiently added by institutional and private owners. Rubricators often signed and dated books left unsigned by printers, providing valuable evidence for when and where these books were produced.

Whole cycles of illustrations were occasionally added by hand to elucidate the meaning of the printed word, but amongst the most intriguing illustrations are the drawings in pen and ink playfully supplied in the margins by individual owners. Ranging from images of plants, flowers and animals to skilful sketches of classical architecture, from surgical tools and scientific instruments to crude representations of monstrous figures or human bodies, these images provide striking visual insights into the use of books in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.