Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Johannes Marchesinus, Mammotrectus super Bibliam (Venice: [Johannes Rubeus, Vercellensis], 18 June 1498)

Mammotrectus super Bibliam

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This book is the work of an Italian humanist, Johannes Marchesinus, in the 15th century. Because of the misleading title, it was thought to be a Bible dictionary, but in fact it serves various purposes. For example, the first half of the book is a commentary on the Old Testament, with a focus on etymology and grammar, and the second half has sermons that correspond to the Liturgical year, hymns, prayers and excerpts from the Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine (1228/30-98). The small octavo format promotes portability, and this book would likely have been a handbook that a priest carried daily and frequently consulted for his sermons. Peter Schoeffer printed the first edition in Mainz in 1470, and it had become very popular by the end of the century. In Italy, it was originally printed in Venice in 1476, and went through nine printings over the course of the rest of the century.

According to Venetian public records, John Rubeus from Vercelli was already trained as an apprentice to a printer by 1477. He started his career by printing the Geographica of Strabo (64 BCE-23 CE) in Treviso in 1480, and he specialized in humanist works. In 1482 he moved to Venice, where he printed commentaries on Latin grammar by Guarino da Verona (1370/4-1460). Rubeus collaborated with his brothers, Albert and Bernard, as well as with other printers, and produced books in Italian and Latin containing woodcut illustrations.

This book at Keio University Library has capital letters in both red and blue, and the autograph of the previous owner on the title page. It does not have any handwritten notes, and thus the condition of the publication is excellent, despite the fact that the Mammotrectus super Bibliam was extremely popular in the 15th century. Because of its good state of preservation, this book at the Keio University Library provides precious insights into the lives of 15th-century priests.



Marchesinus, Johannes
Place of Publication
[Johannes Rubeus, Vercellensis]


Date of Publication

Contemporary blind-stamped calf over boards, latterly rebacking in vellum, spines missing.

Bibliographical Notes

103 leaves (of 104), wanting the final leaf; initial capitals supplied in blue and red, with guide letters.

Goff M254, HC 10574*, BMC V 596, IJL 214, IJL2 267, PP 103
Acquisition Year
1987 (donated by Shinsuke Ando)

Ownership inscription (title page).