160 volumes comprising 180 individual works
An important collection of books printed before 1501. Subjects include mathematics, astronomy, medicine, theology, literature and astrology. Most were presented to the library by generous benefactors over the years, though some were purchased.
Among the most splendid in the Library's possession are the 1477 Vendelin de Spira of Venice edition of Dante's Divina Commedia,the first illustrated edition of the same work printed by Nicholas de Lorenzo in Florence, 1481, a 1493 edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle (given by Jeremy Bentham), the editio princeps of Euclid published by Ratdolt in Venice in 1482, and a handpainted herbal printed in Padua in 1485.
By far the largest proportion (83 volumes of 105 single works) are from the library of Professor John Thomas Graves. These are exclusively on early science, especially mathematics and astronomy. The second largest collection comes from the library of C.K. Ogden (24 volumes, all single works) and covers a wide range of unusual subjects, including theology, witchcraft, history and literature. Details of both the Graves and the Ogden incunabula can be accessed via the Library's on-line catalogue: Explore.
The remainder of the collection was given by, or bought from the libraries of many distinguished collectors and scholars listed below. The numbers in brackets represent the number of volumes.
- Frederick Mocatta (8)
- Sir Herbert Thompson (8)
- Walter Seton (4)
- The Hertfordshire Natural History Society (2)
- Sir John Rotton (2)
- Samuel Sharpe (2)
- Jeremy Bentham (1)
- Professor R.W. Chambers (1)
- Professor R.E. Grant (1)
- The Guildhall Library (1)
- Helga Hacker (1)
- Professor T.G. Hill (1)
- Professor T.H. Key (1)
- James Morris (1)
- Samuel Parr (1)
- Professor Egon Pearson (1)
- Huxley St. John Brooks (1)
- Professor Sir John Tweedy (1)
There are in addition 12 books of unknown provenance.
A provenance index is available.