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Rare Discovery

The Library holds many rare and precious volumes but has recently identified what may be its rarest, a previously unrecorded copy of an incunable* Lunarium ab anno 1490 ad annum 1550. Only two other copies are known, both in Italy.

It is a little book of lunar tables, that is phases of the moon, collected and edited by Bernardus de Granollachs. The book was printed in Venice, c.1489-90 by Guilelmus Anima Mia, has a charming full-page woodcut at the front, and is written in Italian, in the Venetian dialect. It has a fine 19th century binding of stiff vellum, decorated with gilt.

Astronomical tables were very popular in the medieval period; they were used to predict the phases of the sun, moon and planets. This volume calculates the phases of the moon in several Italian and Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Milan, and Venice.

The book is part of the library of John Thomas Graves who had been Professor of Jurisprudence but whose main interests were in arithmetic and astronomy. He built up a magnificent library and bequeathed the scientific part, amounting to some 14,000 volumes, including manuscripts, periodicals and 76 incunabula, to UCL in 1870.

Part of the woodcut from Lunarium ab anno 1490 ad annum 1550
Part of the woodcut from Lunarium ab anno 1490 ad annum 1550 - image cleaned and coloured.
Lunarium ab anno 1490 ad annum 1550
  Lunarium ab anno 1490 ad annum 1550

*Incunable: (meaning for books) an item published before 1501

Content by Susan Stead

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