Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The Rare Books Department has recently added two significant early sixteenth-century books to the University’s collections, both rare collected writings of the Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux. The Opuscula and Flores were both printed in 1503 in Venice by Lucantonio Giunta, a member of the Florentine Giunta family, dynastic publishers, printers and booksellers. Lucantonio established himself as a bookseller in Florence, then from 1477 set up shop in Venice. In 1489 he founded a printing press there, from which he continued to issue books until 1538. The Opuscula and Flores both contain a spectacular woodcut of the Annunciation, described by Lilian Armstrong as ‘an early example of Venetian High Renaissance art’, and first used by Giunta in 1501. Bound together into one volume at the time of publication, the books have a familiar provenance – they are inscribed ‘Cartusiae Buxheim’, identifying them as originating in the library of the German Charterhouse at Buxheim, a Carthusian monastery near Memmingen in Bavaria. They were later owned by the celebrated bookseller and publisher Leo Samuel Olschki (1861-1940).

Both works supplement the University Library’s holdings across a variety of fields. There are some 60 different issues from the Venetian press in Cambridge University Library and the surrounding colleges, including seventeen incunabula. The acquisition supplements already strong holdings in collections like the Norton Collection of post-incunabula, and the Keynes Collection.

Bernard of Clairvaux Opuscula fol. 16v.

Woodcut of the Annunciation from Bernard of Clairvaux Opuscula (Venice: 1503) fol. 16v.

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