Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Johannes Vivetus, Tractatus de orthographia (Paris: Antoine Denidel, [c. 1498]; also recorded as [c. 1500])

Tractatus de orthographia. Ed: Johannes Carthusiensis

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The Tractatus de orthographia is a tract on medieval orthography compiled by Johannes Vivetus (dates unknown). The present copy is in quarto, composed of twelve folios. In the opening of the work, it is stated that understanding alterations in the vowels and consonants of words and the derivatives of words is essential to the discipline of orthography. The work mainly discusses Latin orthography, although Greek, Hebrew and vernacular languages are also considered. On sig. A2r is found the name 'Johanis Vivet carthusiēsis', while on the last folio (fol. 12v) is written, 'Tractatus de orthographia editus a magistro Johāne carthusiensi vivet. . . .', which indicates that Vivetus was a Carthusian.

The Word is regarded an essential element of Christianity, as is manifested at the opening of the Gospel of St John: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' (John 1:1). With the need to accurately interpret the words of God, that is, the Holy Scripture, grammar was considered an indispensable discipline in exegetical studies. In addition, word-by-word analysis of the text of the Bible generated particular interest in the words themselves. It is therefore unsurprising that the Tractatus was compiled by a member of a monastic order, and, in particular, by a Carthusian. The order was active in manuscript production, and must have been especially interested in the correctness of words.

Antoine Denidel, the printer of the Keio copy, was active in Paris. There are nearly 70 known works signed by him. Twelve of them have dates, all of which were published between 1495 and 1500. On the title page is a woodcut of the printer's device. Saints Nicholas and Catherine hold a shield decorated with the initials A and D, knotted together by a cord. Two angels, hovering above them, hold the Bourbon coat of arms. The printer's name, 'M ANTHOINE DENIDEL', is inscribed at the bottom of the woodcut. The Gothic type used for this copy is probably Denidel's, 75G. At the beginning of fol. 2, a space is left for an initial, in which a small guide letter 't' is printed. In the outer margin of fol. 6 of the Keio copy is the repair of a tear. The calf-backed binding board is of recent addition.



Vivetus, Johannes, O.C.
Place of Publication
Antoine Denidel


Date of Publication
[c. 1498]; [c. 1500]

Recent calf-backed boards.

Bibliographical Notes

12 leaves; large printer's device on the first page; space for capital with guide-letter introducing the text.

Goff V311, C 6272, IJL 295, IJL2 380, PP 74
Acquisition Year