52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings, Week 31: a gift from the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot

Our collections, like most historic collections, are littered with hundreds of armorial stamped bindings, ranging from the 16th to 19th century. These bindings are wonderful for cataloguers and researchers, as we can, with some certainty, place where an individual book was during a certain time period. This week’s binding highlight comes from our incunabula collection and has been in our collection for 400 years exactly. It came with a very distinct, and welcome, armorial binding.

The front cover of the 1491 printing of Summa angelica, part of the foundation gift given by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, to the library in 1611/1612.

This book, the 1491 Strasbourg printing of Angelo Carletti’s Summa angelica, came to the University of St Andrews as part of the foundation gifts for the Common Library on the instigation of James VI. It bears the arms of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, who gave the University 41 books for the library’s foundation (click here to see a full list of the foundation gifts). All of the books, the majority of which make up the Abbot Collection, bear the arms of Abbot stamped in gold on both boards. This stamp can be found in many historic collections across the country, including these books at Canterbury Cathedral Library.

A large, pen flourished initial 'A', on leaf a1r. This copy of Angelo Carletti's Summa angelica is decorated throughout with smaller red and blue initials.

Because this book is an incunable, it was moved to the Typographical Collection alongside the rest of these early printed books. We can now identify only 15 of the original 41 books that Abbot donated, some were probably lost due to theft or replacement.


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