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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 19, 2013


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2013;309(23):2420. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.174888

At the meeting of the Medical Library Association, held in Washington, D. C, May 5, Sir William Osler gave an interesting talk on the plan now being carried out in Germany of making a complete catalogue of all the known incunabula in the world, including the medical. The advantages of such a project will be obvious to any one who has had anything to do with these ancient tomes, which, as their designation implies, are the very “cradles” or “swaddling-clothes” of European learning—in effect, the earliest printed books, including, by common agreement, all published up to the year 1500. Many of these books are without title-page, colophon, author, date and place of publication or publisher, and these data can be supplied only by an intensive study, along the lines pursued in any comparative science, of their typography, initial letters, paper, watermarks and other features, in connection with the internal evidence which may be derived from a study of their contents and what is known of their individual histories.