Introduction to the detailed description of incunabula in the Union Catalogue of Incunabula, or Gesamtkatalog

The description of an incunable is made up of the following five elements:
bibliographical notice,
text description proper,
bibliographical references,
location references.


The bibliographical notice

1.1 General remarks
1.1.1 The bibliographical notice includes, as far as is ascertainable, the following details: author’s name, short title, editor, translator, commentator, corrector, place of printing, printer, publisher, date of printing, and format.
1.1.2 If an incunable contains two or three independent writings, these are listed in the biblio­graphical notice; if there are more than three such writings, they are included in a special list of contents at the end of the description.
1.2 Author
1.2.1 Every incunable is catalogued under its author’s name even if this name is not men­tioned in the book itself. Rulers, legislators, or legislative authorities are regarded as the authors of the laws or decrees issued by them. If possible, anonymous writings are entered under a personal or geographical name, or when applicable are subsumed under a generic literary term (as ‘Contrasto’, ‘Débat’, ‘Historia’, ‘Lied’, ‘Rappresentazione’, ‘Schützenbrief’).
1.2.2 The names of authors writing mainly in Latin, as well as those of Roman and Greek classical writers or other persons of the ancient world, are given in their Latin forms. Oriental names are given in the forms used in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The names of dignitaries are given in the modern German form, and the name of all other persons in the modern form of their mother tongue. However, in cases of real family names, the old spelling and phonetics are retained.
1.3 Title
  The title is the generally accepted name of a work; selection is made in accordance with Hain’s ‘Repertorium bibliographicum’ as far as this is possible, with corrections made to Hain’s obvious mistakes. The short title is applied, unchanged, to all editions of the same work. In the case of Greek and Oriental works, the title is given both in its Latin and original language forms; in the case of Hebrew it appears in Hebrew with the addition of its Latin form or a German translation; the titles of works written in modern European languages are given in the contemporary form of that language.
1.4 Place of printing, Printer
1.4.1 The place of printing and other geographical particulars are stated in German.
1.4.2 The name of the printer is given in a uniform and, if possible, modern form; the basis for this is the name he used himself and its vernacular form.
1.4.3 If the book contains no reference to the place of printing and the printer these are given, where possible, in square brackets. Any degree of uncertainty is indicated with a question mark in round brackets — this marking only applies to information immediately preceding it. If ascertained from the printer’s device or address, the place of printing and the printer are deemed not to have been referred to in the text of the book itself.
1.5 Publisher
1.5.1 If printer and publisher cannot be regarded as one and the same, the latter’s name is also given. The ‘X for Y’ formula is employed for all further references, with ‘X’ referring to the printer, and ‘Y’ referring to the publisher.
1.5.2 If a book is not printed on the initiative of a professional publisher but by order of other individuals such as princes, relatives etc., this is indicated by the phrase ‘Auf Kosten und Veranlassung von …’ (at the expense and by order of …).
1.6 Printing date
1.6.1 The date of printing is given in its original form.
1.6.2 If the printing date is unclear in its original form, a modern calculation is made using Grotefend’s ‘Taschenbuch der Zeitrechnung des deutschen Mittelalters und der Neuzeit’ and added in square brackets.
1.6.3 If the precise printing date is not known, but can be restricted to a specific time period, it is stated in square brackets and preceded by the limitations ‘vor’ (before), ‘nicht vor’ (not before), ‘nach’ (after) and ‘nicht nach’ (not after). If the time period is unclear, the date is preceded by ‘um’ (about).
1.7 Format
1.7.1 The format is ascertained according to the fold in the printed sheet, and is either folio (2°), quarto (4°), octavo (8°), duodecimo (12°), or sextodecimo (16°).
1.7.2 If the individual sheets of an incunable are folded differently, each format is given, e.g. ‘4° und 2°’.
1.7.3 For broadsheets and incunabula available exclusively on vellum, the collation gives the height and width of the type area instead of the format, using average measurements if necessary.



2.1 General remarks
  The collation section details particulars such as the number of leaves in an incunable, its quires, signatures, foliation, catchwords, formatting and presentation.
2.2 Size
  In order to establish the exact size of an incunable its leaves are counted and the in­di­vidual quires checked for completeness. Blank leaves at the beginning and end of the work are included in the sum total. Leaves added at a later date (Kartons) are indicated separately. In the case of fragments, the hypothetical size of the complete work is indicated by ‘(?)’ after the given number of leaves. Should a reasonable estimation be impossible, this is indicated by ‘+ ? Bl.’ (+ ? leaves) after the given number of existing leaves.
2.3 Signatures
2.3.1 Signatures are given in their original forms. Deviations from alphabetical order are highlighted, although insignificant deviations are not taken into account. Stamped signatures or the use of a sheet signature, if any, are also indicated. The standard alphabet is considered to be the 23 letters from ‘a’ to ‘z’ (‘j’ = ‘i’) including ‘k’ but without ‘u’ and ‘w’.
2.3.2 If the original does not contain any signatures, the quires are indicated in alphabetical sequence with respective information in square brackets.
2.3.3 The number of leaves contained in each quire is added to the signature as an exponent.
2.4 Foliation
2.4.1 The foliation is given in the original form (e.g. in words; Roman or Arabic digits, the latter always in their modern forms; in capitals or lowercase script).
2.4.2 Leaves without printed foliation are indicated in square brackets either by Arabic digits (when excluded from the foliation), or in the numeration of the original (when included in the foliation). Any peculiarities with regard to foliation are also indicated.
2.5 Catchwords
  If there are catchwords, this section indicates whether they are used on every page or only occasionally, as well as the type of catchword — stamped, leaf, double-leaf, middle-leaf, quire or page.
2.6 Page Layout
  This section details the number of columns and lines to a page, the running heads and marginalia, and in the case of broadsheets, the height and width of the type area.
2.6.1 Columns
  A single-column setting is deemed to be the norm; multi-column settings are indicated, single-column settings only if they occur together with a multi-column setting. The lunar chart on a calendar is regarded as a separate column.
2.6.2 Lines
  If there is a differing number of lines each full page, the extent of this deviation is indicated.
  If an exact number of lines cannot be ascertained, this is indicated with the term ‘wechselnd’ (varying).
  Any peculiarities arising from the use of leading, the occurrence of interlinear glosses etc. are mentioned.
2.6.3 Marginalia
  Marginalia, including the numbering of chapters or sections in the margin, are mentioned.
2.6.4 Type Area
  In the case of broadsheets, the largest height and width measurements of the type area are given in addition to the number of lines.
2.7 Presentation
  This section details types, initials, paragraph marks, borders, printer’s and publisher’s devices, woodcuts, maps, musical notation and colour printing.
2.7.1 Types
  Printing types, initials, borders, paragraph marks and printer’s devices are defined as far as possible in accordance with Haebler’s ‘Typenrepertorium der Wiegendrucke’ (Directory of Types in Incunabula). In addition, the measurement (in millimetres) of 20 lines of lettering is given, as well as the style of the types itself (e.g. Gothic: G; Roman: R).
  Express mention is made of types used only as a signature or initial. The abbreviation ‘KL’, used in calendars, is not considered to be an initial.
  Guide-letters for initials are indicated by ‘Min. f. Init.’ or ‘Maj. f. Init.’
2.7.2 Woodcuts
  Title woodcuts are given a special mention. The number of woodcuts or copperplate engravings is also given, as far as this is possible and expedient. Any repeats are indicated.
  Maps are also singled out for special mention.
2.7.3 Musical Notation
  In the case of musical notation, it is indicated whether only the space for hand written additions has been left blank, or whether only the staves or notes are printed, in black or red, or if both staves and notes have been printed.
2.7.4 Colour Printing
  In general, red printing is indicated by the abbreviation ‘Rotdr.’ (red print); printings with other colours are described in more detail.


Text Description

3.1 Formal Description
3.1.1 Typeface
  In accordance with the style of the original, the text of an incunable is quoted either in German (Alte Schwabacher) or Roman type (with Haebler’s Typenrepertorium providing the standard). Greek, Hebrew or Old Slavonic texts are quoted in the corresponding script.
3.1.2 Punctuation, abbreviations, ligatures
  Latin punctuation and abbreviations are given as exactly as possible (but with assim­ilation to certain basic forms) in accordance with the original; likewise, a distinction is always made between ſ und s, r und , u und v. However, ligatures with the exception of æ and œ are not taken into account.
  Any abbreviations contained in Greek and Old Slavonic incunabula are fully expanded.
3.1.3 Initials
  Printed initials are indicated by round brackets, the space left vacant for initials by square brackets, and guide-letters in the form used in the original also by round brackets. The number of lines indented due to an initial is indicated by an exponent as follows: (L⁸), (q⁶), [⁴], counting only those lines actually indented.
3.1.4 Lines
  The end of a line is indicated by two vertical strokes.
  In numbering lines, any blank lines, interlinear glosses and running heads are disregarded.
3.1.5 Designation of Leaves
  The leaves are designated in accordance with the number ascertained by collating, as well as the signature, if any, and the foliation. Recto and verso of a leaf are named ‘a’ and ‘b’, and the columns on a page ‘α’ and ‘β’. When there are more than two columns on a page or on a broadsheet the following abbreviations ‘Sp. 1’, ‘Sp. 2’, ‘Sp. 3’ (column 1, 2, 3) etc. are used. If leaf la bears the title, the abbreviation ‘Tit.’ will suffice. If the verso of the title is blank, it is not necessary to mention this fact.
  Irrespective of the original form, the first leaf of the second quire is referred to as ‘Sign. b’ only, while books without quire designation shall be referred to as ‘Lage b’ (quire b).
3.1.6 Omissions
  The text is quoted as concisely as possible; omissions of words are always marked by three dots—even after the sign indicating the end of a line.
3.2 Description of Contents
3.2.1 The following details are always given:
  • the title; lengthy titles may be shortened,
  • the number and first line or lines of dedication verses,
  • dedications and prefaces with headings and first lines,
  • the beginning of the text proper,
  • the first line of the second quire; if quire ‘a’ contains the preliminaries and quire ‘b’ the text, the second quire is understood to be quire ‘c’,
  • the last words of the actual text; a standard complimentary close does not suffice,
  • the colophon; lengthy colophons may be shortened,
  • in case of supplementary matter: the heading, if any; the explicit only if it is dated; the beginning of supplementary matter with neither heading nor explicit; the first line of verses and their ending only if this also marks the end of the incunable as a whole; the heading of a table, and its ending only if this marks the end of the respective quire,
  • the beginning and the end of the description of works under commentary.
3.2.2 If an incunable comprises two or three independent writings, the beginning and the end of each of these writings, and if there are more than three, only the beginning of the first and the end of the last one is given; in this case the list of contents gives the number of the quires or leaves of each individual part within the incunable.
3.2.3 If several editions of the same text have been published, only the composition of the earliest edition is described in detail; as far as the subsequent editions are concerned, only the beginning of the text, signature b, the end of the text and the colophon is quoted. Any deviations in the composition of later editions are noted in as concise a form as possible.
3.3 Variants
  Variants are referred to in a separate note, with the following regarded as standard versions: in case of variants within a setting which remains otherwise uncorrected the corrected version; in case of substantial alteration to text the earlier version; in case of doubt the version that has been accepted as the literary standard.


Bibliographical references

4.1 At least one bibliographical reference is given where possible. The following are always cited: Hain; Copinger; Reichling; the ‘Nachträge zu Hains Repertorium bibliographicum und seinen Fortsetzungen’ (Supplement to Hain’s Repertorium bibliographicum or, Collections towards a new edition of that work); Proctor and the ‘Catalogue of books printed in the XVth century now in the British Museum’; as well as national union catalogues of in­cuna­bula, bibliographical works on the history of printing in individual countries, towns, and printing presses. Directories that record incunabula from a formal standpoint (e.g. broad­sheets) or according to subject (e.g. liturgical books), as well as reference works detailing book ornamentation (woodcutting) and music printing are cited where possible. Any source that has provided information for the text description in question is cited.
4.2 Facsimile editions are indicated.


Location references

  This section records the location references of all copies which have been brought to the attention of the editors; second and further copies of individual collections are indicated, particularly if they contain variants. In the absence of specific information about the state of a copy no conclusions as to its completeness should be drawn. Copies or sur­rog­ates that have been seen by a member of the editorial staff are marked with an asterisk. Location references derived from literature or other sources which remain unconfirmed before going to print are marked as follows: copies that have undoubtedly been des­troyed are marked with an obelus (); copies the whereabouts of which are unknown today are indicated by ‘ehem.’ (formerly); copies the existence of which is denied by the respective collection without any clarification of the cause of the dis­crep­ancy are followed by a question mark; a location reference is given in square brackets if the respective library could not be contacted and the information remains unconfirmed.