It’s time for another visit to the bunker!

We’ve already taken a peek at a few 20th century and 19th century books in our backlog of uncataloged books, now let’s look into some of the many pre-1800 volumes. I find the title page illustrations in these very early volumes especially interesting, here are a few of my favorites:

civil wars in england detail

The word “ornament” is a general term used to describe illustrations on the title page as well as other forms of decoration; “title page vignette” is used specifically to describe the above type of illustration. This engraving of Britannia sitting in a pile of symbology is from The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, Begun in the Year 1641… by the Right Honourable Edward Earl of Clarendon, published in 1704.

Syntagma detailThis lovely illustration of a man climbing a tree to receive a laurel wreath from heaven comes from Syntagma Iuris Universi…. published in 1639. The book is a discussion of universal and human law. Please note the bunnies.


Cyrilli detailThis wild illustration of a snake rising from a fire to bite what seems to be the hand of God adorns the title page of Divi Cyrilli Alexandrini Episcopi Theologi Clarissimi Operum…. (writings of St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria) printed in 1572 in Paris. I particularly like the book reading cherubs and the statue ladies (aka caryatids) with potted plants on their heads.

dictionaire historique 1730dictionaire historique 1741These two ornaments provide an interesting peek into the publication history of this book, the Dictionnaire Historique et Critique by Pierre Bayle. The top illustration is from the 1730 Amsterdam printing, fourth edition, and the bottom from the 1741 Basel printing, sixth edition. The two editions were printed eleven years apart in different cities and the second engraving is clearly a copy of the first with many small details different (unless they are both copies of an earlier engraving, which is quite possible).

ApostoliciThis is known as an engraved title page; the text is engraved into the illustration rather than set in type. The book is Apostolici or The Lives of the Primitive Fathers for the three first Ages of the Christian Church by William Cave printed in 1677 in London. I find the detail of the woman crying a bowl of tears particularly intriguing:

Apostolici detailIn addition to regular illustrations, one also often finds printer’s marks or devices on the title pages of older books (and continuing in some books today). A printer would use the printer’s mark along with or in place of their name. The following are two printer’s marks.

consuetudines detailThis is the mark of Antonio Vincenti, found on the title page of Consuetudines Ducatus Burgundiae… (Customs of the Duchy of Burgundy) printed in Lyons in 1552. A different version of Vincenti’s mark can be found here:

sexta centuria detailThis device is from Sexta Centuria Ecclesiasticase Historiae… (Sixth Century Ecclesiastical History) printed in Basel in 1562 by Ioannum Oporinum (Johann Oporinus). Another version of Oporinus’ printer’s mark can be found here:

If you enjoy these, there are a great many more in our cataloged collection and also available online at Try searching for books from the 16th-18th centuries.

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