It’s a two-sided page from a book, printed in black and red letters. I bought it at a used-book store in Toronto back when I lived there and frequented such stores. I rediscovered it last week when cleaning out my workroom to create a ukulele space.
The page is roughly 21 x 14 inches (53 x 35 cm) and in very good condition, for its age. It’s also quite beautiful, especially to anyone like me who is interested in the history of printing.
I’ve taken some photos today, and posted them here. Click on the images for a link to a larger picture. The paper looks yellow in the photos, but that’s the bad lighting in my room: it’s really a creamy white.
Today I decided to do some research into it and learn more about this page. Is it authentic? if so, where did it come from and what does it contain? And what was its purpose?
A small sticker on the back of the frame gives the only notes I have about its provenance, and they are not properly written:
Antiphoriu hmnorem scancte
cu privlegio MDIII
Which appears to say it is a page cut from an “antiphonarium” (or antiphonary) from Venice, dated from 1503. That’s 510 years ago, a decade before Machiavelli wrote his famous work, The Prince, in nearby Florence.
Venice was one of the first Italian cities to have a printing press, starting in 1469, barely 20 years after Gutenberg’s press was built in Mainz. It became on of the Renaissance’s hottest spots for printing and had many printshops – and professional editors. More on that, below.
In my research, I found a blogger who also bought one of these pages in Toronto around the same time I did, probably from the same store: Byzantine Calvinist. His post and photos date from 2006, however. I haven’t identified the exact content of his page, but it seems to be the Order of the Mass or perhaps from the Epiphany service.
He writes the sticker notes as:
ANTIPHONARIU hmnorem sancte
Romane ecclesie copletu. . . .
Impressum Venetijs cu
priuilegio. . . .M.d.iij
Another page from what seems the same book showed up on National Book Auctions, lot 6460, in late 2012.