Of wisdome three bookes (in one)

Of wisdome three bookes written in French by Peter Charro[n] Doctr of Lawe in Paris, is a translation, by Samson Lennard, of Pierre Charron’s popular philosophical work of 1601, De la sagesse. In this instance, it seems the title of Lennard’s translation is particularly fitting – the University of Liverpool’s SPEC J12.1 comprises 3 books in one.

Book 1 – the main event – is a copy of the 1640 edition of Of wisdom. However, this copy is incomplete, lacking the engraved title page and the first, blank leaf. At some point in its history these pages have become detached, and at some later date someone has seen fit to replace the missing title page with a (rather ugly) photostat from the Bodleian copy of the same work (the classmark handed down via our catalogue for this is Antiq.e.E. 1640/3).

And so we have two books Of wisdome. To find a third book within this binding, we must pay more attention to the binding itself – on the face of it pretty plain, but with the curious addition of the letters ‘LG TF’ engraved on both covers.

The LG presumably refers to Loveisgod Gregory, who has made it very clear that this is “His booke”, in not one but four inscriptions, including, in red, on a rear endpaper. The endpapers he has signed are comprised of printed pages from a third book.

Referred to as binder’s waste, this practice of recycling paper or parchment from other books or documents to use in bookbinding (for pastedowns, endpapers, spine lining, or even book covers), has provided fragments of many books and documents with an afterlife, enabling them to survive and find function long past their initial and intended purpose as part of a text to be read. These scraps of paper or parchment can throw up some interesting and exciting discoveries. In this particular instance, the endpapers are clearly from a much older book, complete with rubrication. Indeed, I am delighted to report that these are pages from an incunable – they are the first 31 lines of signature e5 and e6 of Jordanus de Quedlinburg, Sermones de sanctis, Strassburg, J. Gruninger, 1484 (ISTC: ij00479000), to be precise.

This is a previously unknown about incunable fragment – an exciting little find!