University Library publication wins the Breslauer Prize

Published: 9 September 2022

Honorary Research Librarian Jack Baldwin has won the prestigous ILAB Breslauer Prize for bibliography

The University is pleased to announce that 'A catalogue of fifteenth-century printed books in Glasgow libraries and museums' by Honorary Research Librarian Jack Baldwin has won the prestigous ILAB Breslauer Prize for bibliography. Chosen from a highly competitive field of 99 submissions, this is a significant accolade for the Library’s Archives & Special Collections (ASC).

Jack Baldwin, Honorary Research Librarian at the University, said: “I am truly astonished and profoundly honoured to learn that I have been awarded the ILAB Breslauer Prize  … When I looked some months ago at the list of titles submitted for the prize, I realised just how enormous the competition would be – the titles embrace such a wide range of scholarly research – and I never for a moment expected that my catalogue might be chosen. For me, the jury’s decision comes as a wonderful celebration of some sixty years working with books."

Jack Baldwin with an incunabula

Honourary Research Librarian Jack Baldwin with an incunabulum (a book written prior to 1501)

The catalogue was published in 2020 by Boydell and Brewer with support from the Friends of Glasgow University Library. It is the culmination of over ten years in depth research to fully describe over 1000 incunabula (that is, books printed prior to 1501) found in Glasgow. The University’s outstanding collection of 1062 incunables makes it one of the most important in the UK, but the catalogue also documents a further 62 from five other institutions  – the Mitchell Library, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Burrell collection, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and the University of Strathclyde – making it a truly comprehensive guide to the city’s earliest printed books.

Incunabula are fascinating on many levels. Witnesses of the past , they are hardy survivors of the first print revolution with its shift from manuscript culture. Each book is a cultural artefact, with its own five hundred years history, carrying signs of ownership, annotations and engagement that can often only be interpreted from subtle clues. Many of them are beautifully crafted, with interesting bindings and visually appealing decoration and illustration, found in a gloriously hybrid mix of scribal artistry and printed woodcut technology.

A project to catalogue these remarkable books began in 2009, picking up on work that began in the 1980s when Jack Baldwin was the Keeper of Special Collections at the University of Glasgow. Focusing on the unique ‘copy specific’ characteristics of each book, Jack painstakingly examined and researched every single book for the first time. The Glasgow Incunabula Project initially aimed to promote this rich collection via a website catalogue, now complemented by this publication that serves as a permanent and stable record of the project. As well as identifying each book bibliographically, details of provenance, binding, annotations, decoration and imperfections are fully provided for each copy. A plethora of indexes further provide access to the idiosyncrasies of the books from a wide range of research angles – from printers to prices paid, and from pinholes to provenances.

"The ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) Breslauer prize for bibliography is the world’s leading prize to honour outstanding work in the field of bibliography and book history. It is awarded every four years, and Jack will receive his prize at a prize ceremony in Oxford on 14 September." Julie Gardham, Semior Librarian ASC

First published: 9 September 2022