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History of the Book


During the late Middle Ages, there was an increased interest in the arts and sciences as well as a renewed interest in texts from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Although countries like China, Japan, and Korea had been using printing presses such as the woodblock for centuries prior, Johannes Gutenberg helped usher in a new era of printing in Europe with his invention, the Gutenberg press. This press used moveable type technology, making it easier to mass produce books and other texts.

The invention of the moveable type press marked the beginning of the Printing Revolution, a pivotal moment in the history of learning and information in Europe which in turn helped shape developments of the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment. With access to the printing presses intellectuals, scientists, philosophers, politicians, the nobility, and religious leaders could both print their ideas quickly and make them available to larger audiences than ever before.

Image source: [Unknown artist]. 1877.  The Caxton Celebration - William Caxton showing specimens of his printing to King Edward and his Queen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Subject Headings



Illumination of books and manuscripts 

Illumination of books and manuscripts, Renaissance

Manuscripts, Renaissance


Printing--History--Origin and antecedents

Printing presses--History

Call numbers in the UBC Library Catalogue

ND2889-3416: Illumination of manuscripts and books

NE400-773: History of printmaking

Z105-115.5: Manuscripts

Digitized Collections

Some of the materials relating to printing and the Reformation have been digitized and can be accessed online through the UBC Library website.

Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

A selection of western manuscripts and early printed books dating from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. There are 47 items in the collection, written in English, German, Spanish, French, and Latin.




Chinese Rare Book Collection

Composed primarily of works from the Puban (蒲坂藏書) and Pang Jingtang (龐鏡塘藏書) Collections held in the UBC Asian Library, this collection includes census, historical records, documents, literature, and manuscripts. The Puban (蒲坂藏書) collection was originally part of the Nanzhou Shu Lou (南州書樓), a large private library owned by Xu Shaoqi (徐紹棨) which focused on documents and records from his home province in South China. The Pang Jingtang (龐鏡塘藏書), collected by its namesake, includes works produced prior to 1796 including Ming editions and manuscripts.

Related Works

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