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To browse the full list of items contained in this resource, click on the “Browse collection” tab.

Blockbooks and blockbook fragments

  • Eight items from the Bodleian Library collections representing four different blockbook texts; Apocalypse (three editions), Biblia Pauperum (three editions, one a fragment), Canticum Canticorum, and the Ars minor of Donatus (fragment). (Reference numbers Bod-inc BB-1 to Bod-inc BB-8).
  • The collection also displays a fragment, held in the Ashmolean Museum, of a German blockbook of the Passion. 
  • Two post-15th-century blockbooks from Bodleian Library collections: the Opera nova contemplativa, printed in Venice in the 16th century, and a 17th-century Russian Orthodox calendar.

Single-leaf woodcut and metalcut pictures

  • 41 single-leaf prints. (Reference numbers Bod-inc XYL-1 to Bod-inc XYL-36)


  • Four copies of a papal indulgence from 1482. (Reference number Bod-inc XYL-34)

Prototypography (the use of both woodblock and movable type)

  • A copy of the Speculum humanae salvationis, dating from the early 1470s, displaying both xylographic and typographic printing.  (Reference number Bod-inc S-268)

The images of these items are presented in context, showing, for instance, a handwritten interleaved German translation of the Apocalypse (BB-2) and the incorporation of snippets of woodcut printing into the marginal decoration of a manuscript book (XYL-28).

Evidence of paper watermarks gathered by scholars has been included in the form of images made by beta-radiography.


Click on the “Browse collection” to browse the items by title; shelfmark; and entry number in the Catalogue of 15th-century books now in the Bodleian Library (Bod-inc).
Use the “Browse collection” to link to images of individual items in the image database and to the full text of descriptions from Bod-inc.

Click on the “See all images” tab to search and browse the image collection associated with this resource. 

Click on the “Texts” tab to see brief descriptions of the texts in the blockbooks and full transcriptions of the Latin texts of four blockbooks from the Bodleian collections.

Other supporting resources, including a bibliography (updated to 2011) and glossary, are available on selected pages from the link in the right-hand menu: “Other resources”.

All images have been made by Bodleian Library Imaging Services at 600 dpi and are copyright of the Bodleian Libraries.

Click on the “See all images” tab to browse the image collection associated with this resource.

Items are searchable in the image database by shelfmark, reference number, title, or caption.

Descriptions of the items catalogued in the Catalogue of 15th-century books now in the Bodleian Library (2005), (Bod-inc) are provided by links from the “List of Items” to the full text of the entries written by Nigel F. Palmer, with binding descriptions by Andrew Honey.  A few items not described there are given briefer descriptions in this resource.

Individual images, including illustrated pages within blockbooks, are captioned in English following the descriptions made by Nigel Palmer and those in W.L. Schreiber, Manuel de l’amateur de la gravure sur bois et sur métal au XVe siècle, (vol. IV, 1902) and can be searched from the “List of Items” or within the image database (“See images”) by shelfmark, reference number, title, and keyword.

This online resource featuring early printed material was made possible by the generosity to the Bodleian Libraries of a private donor.

Professor Nigel Palmer has made valuable contributions to to the content and presentation of the site.

Permission from the Ashmolean Museum to use the image of Ashmolean Museum WA1863.1913 is gratefully acknowledged.

All images have been made by The Bodleian Libraries' Imaging Services at 600 dpi and are copyright of the Bodleian Libraries.

Other contributors to the content of this site are:

  • Peter Kidd, who prepared the Latin transcriptions of four blockbooks.
  • Paul Nash, who wrote the script and demonstrated printing on a handpress for the film, “How books were printed in the hand-press period”
  • Contact: for comments and questions about this resource, e-mail rare.books@bodleian.ox.ac.uk
  • Design and maintenance of the site are provided by Bodleian Digital Libraries Systems and Services
    • Design: Monica Messaggi Kaya
    • Luna image database development: Matthew McGrattan
    • Metadata delivery design: Anusha Ranganathan