Bibliotheca

Making Shakespeare –  Used Books

#23 Conrad Gesner, Bibliotheca (1583)

In 1545 the Swiss scholar and bibliographical pioneer Conrad Gesner published Bibliotheca Universalis, the first attempt to provide a “universal library” of books in print. It was organized by author, and provided brief commentaries on each work. Gesner’s Protestant sympathies invoked the ire of the Catholic church, which banned the book. Subsequent editions of the work appeared throughout the sixteenth century, including revisions by other scholars that offered a manageable selection of authors and titles. This book is an edition of 1583, printed in Zurich, that offered an updated list of books. It was owned by a Catholic monastery in Buxheim (in what is now the south of Germany). An inscription on the title-page states that the works of prohibited authors (“auctores damnatos”) have been expurgated. The volume has been meticulously redacted: often the censors cross out a single word. However, certain entries—such as the one for Martin Luther—have been crossed out in an emphatic manner.

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