Ingenious Impressions

The Hunterian Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow currently has a fantastic exhibition, Ingenious Impressions, of 15th century books from the University Library’s own collections.

Using the books on display as examples the exhibition charts the development of the early printed book in Europe, looking at the transition from the scribal cultural to print, design and decoration and technology.

Two sections were highlights for me. First the section of mistakes, books where something had gone wrong such as the typesetter getting the spacing wrong and leaving too much blank space on a page, early printing was challenging! The section on decoration and illustration stood out for two reason, first of all the books are beautiful objects; secondly an unexpected discovery related to my own library! The headnote (case summary) in a law report is also known as the rubric, a word that I use but that I’d never really thought about before. I am now educated that rubrication was the process by which a scribe added additional information to a book using red ink, this was done for emphasis such as the start of a chapter, you can see an example here. My dictionary defines rubric as a heading or guiding entry showing its link back to the process of rubrication. It’s a shame it’s not in red anymore, law reports could do with some brightening up. I do love learning the roots of words!

The exhibition is worth a visit just to see the beautifully hand decorated pages in some of the books, it’s only on until 21st June so go now!