1 : a book printed before 1501
2 : a work of art or of industry of an early period
The tiny college has a library that boasts an impressive - and surprising - collection of incunabula.
"This painting, which now resides in the Museo del Prado, has come to be venerated yet again, this time by art historians, as the incunabulum of an independent landscape genre." - From David L. Martin's 2011 book Curious Visions of Modernity: Enchantment, Magic, and the Sacred
Did You Know?
The invention of the mechanized printing press in the 15th century revolutionized the way books were produced, dramatically increasing the number and variety of works to be published and distributed to awaiting readers. "Incunabulum" first appeared in English in the 19th century, referring retroactively to those books produced in the first decades of printing press technology - specifically those printed before the year 1501, a date that appears to have been determined only arbitrarily. In Latin "incunabulum" is singular of "incunabula," which translates literally to "swaddling clothes" or "bands holding the baby in a cradle." The "baby" in this case is a figurative one, referring to a book that was produced when the art of printing was still in its infancy.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Memory
What is the meaning of "instauration," our Word of the Day from March 15? The answer is ...