18 Costs We Don’t Think About
An Unusual Copy of Franciscus de Platea, Opus restitutionum (1474), and a Few Other Items
Rubrication, or the hand-finishing of manuscripts and (very) early printed books, falls between several areas of competence; however, it often tells us important things about the book and its early history; it also had a cost, and in description it is important to distinguish between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ rubrication. A copy of a Venetian incunable printed in 1474 in the collections of the Boston Public Library has on its final leaf a contemporary rubricator’s note, with the summary of the costs of illumination and rubrication. The edition concerned was maybe sold through the Zornale of Francesco de Madiis, the ledger of a Venetian bookseller, which records the sales of some 25,000 books between 1484 and 1488. These sales, however, mostly concerned books sold as unbound sheets, though occasionally bound copies are recorded with a consequent increase in price. Discovering the expense of rubrication and illumination, albeit in this one instance, makes it possible to understand better the real cost of purchasing a 15th-century book.