MY BOOKS ARE.... from 1500 or Prior


Books printed before 1500 are referred to as "Incunabula."  Essentially, these printed books (not manuscripts) were among the earliest.  They will all be of value, often significant value, assuming they are complete.


Due to the nature of these books, considerable expertise is required, and it is always recommended that you should contact us with details about the book.

When submitting pre-1500 books (or manuscripts, for that matter), photos will be absolutely essential for us to make an assessment.  We will need to see the binding, the first page, and the page containing printers information and dating (this can be tricky, so read the information below.)

Tips for Identifying pre-1500 Printed Books


For those with little experience with books, or for those inexperienced with early printed books, simply identifying a pre-1500 book can be a bit tricky.  The information found below provides some general information to help you in locating the information we will need about the book:

1: Finding the date:  How do you know if your book was printed before 1500 if you can't even find the date?  What we would consider a traditional title-page is typically not present in incunabula, so dates are rarely found at the front.  Keep in mind that most early printed books will be dated in Roman numerals.  With incunabula, the dates are most typically found at the end of the book.  Typically, the book will be in Latin, Italian, or another language with which you may not be familiar.  Go to the back of the book and look for a small paragraph containing Roman numerals (see example, right.)  This line or paragraph will typically contain the place of printing, the printer, and the date.  Sometimes, you may encounter a book where the date does not appear on the last page.  The first thing to look at is whether the last page present is an index page or a text page.  If it appears to be an index, flip back to find the last page of the text, just before the index pages begin.  Often, the date will appear there.  Also, look for signs that the last page is lacking.  If it isn't present, then you may be out of luck.  Lacking leaves are not an uncommon problem.  When you locate the date, take a photo of this to send to us.

2:  Where's the title-page?  Often, incunabula will not have a typical title-page.  The first page often appears as simply a normal text page.  Often, there is a short paragraph at the top of that page which serves as the title (see photo, right.)  Sometimes, there will be a simple title page, but typically the date and printing information must be located elsewhere as indicated above.

3:  Identifying pre-1500 books at a glance:  Incunabula often contain similar characteristics.  One example appears to the right. Notice the large initials which are actually painted by hand.  This is a common characteristic that could indicate the book is pre-1500.  You may also notice that the paper is thicker, more rigid, than paper from later periods.  Often, the appearance of the type used in the printing provides a recognizable clue.  Another thing to note is that the paper used will typically be of a high-quality.  Unless it is stained, then the paper typically isn't going to be very toned (or tan) in appearance.  The paper of books printed from this period holds up to time much better than much of the paper used in the 1800s and upward.  The factors above enable the experienced book specialist to identify most incunabula within a matter of seconds. 



Remember, for our purposes here, you only need to identify the book as pre-1500.  Beyond finding and photographing the date of printing, the first page  (or "title"), and the binding, it will be difficult for most to learn much more without some expertise.  By emailing those photos to us, this will (in most cases) provide us with the information we need to evaluate the book.  Email: