Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Johannes Tortellius [Giovanni Tortelli], Orthographia (Vicenza: Hermannus Liechtenstein, 31 Oct. 1480)

Orthographia. Ed: Hieronymus Bononius

IIIF Drag-n-dropIIIF Manifest

This copy is a printed edition of the Orthographia, which was written around 1450 by Giovanni Tortelli (the Italian form of Johannes Tortellius), a humanist who flourished in 15th-century Italy. The first edition was published around 1471, and the Keio copy was printed in Vicenza in 1480.

In mid-15th-century Rome, Pope Nicolas V (1387-1455) assembled scholars who had fled from the Byzantine Empire, and encouraged the revival of classical studies under his patronage. Moreover, he spent vast sums of money in collecting classical books, which became the basis for the Vatican Library. Tortelli is said to have served as Nicholas V's librarian and compiled a catalogue.

In the dedication of the Orthographia, Tortelli positions himself within the tradition of classical grammar and bibliography, and makes grand claims for the significance of his writing. Indeed, his work was often used as a reference work for classical grammar. Tortelli also had a great interest in the ideas and inventions that were changing his world. Discussing the question of the supposed Greek derivation of Latin words in the Orthographia, Tortelli refers to such new inventions and delights as the mechanical clock, the compass, and sugar as examples of words not derived from Greek.

The printer of the Keio copy, Hermannus Liechtenstein, is said to have moved his printing house from Vicenza to Treviso, probably so he could accept an offer to publish Tortelli's work (BMC, VI, xlix), although he only stayed there for a year before moving back to Vicenza. He published the edition of the Keio copy in October 1480, shortly after his return to Vicenza. From 1482 onwards he worked in Venice, where he collaborated with Johannes Hamman (cf. IKUL 032). In Venice Liechtenstein published various works, including those of Thomas Aquinas and Vincent de Beauvais, before dying there in 1494.

The binding of the Keio copy is from the mid-18th century. The text is underlined, and the marginalia (which include, for example, the word 'Vergil') are probably written in a 16th-century hand. These annotations may provide interesting insights to aid our understanding of the reception of this work.

  Gombrich, E. H., 'Eastern Inventions and Western Response', Daedalus (Winter 1998), 193-205



Tortellius, Johannes [Giovanni Tortelli]
Place of Publication
Hermannus Liechtenstein


Date of Publication

18th century vellum binding over boards, with marble papers, edges tinted in red.

Bibliographical Notes

318 leaves; spaces for initial capitals; some marginalia notes in a contemporary (16th-century?) hand.

Goff T398, HC 15567*, BMC VII 1037
Acquisition Year

Ownership inscription (sig. π1r, &5v)