Heads and Tails

An unusual scrapbook arrived recently at the Special Collections Processing Center.  The volume was created in Italy during the 19th century.  Unlike personal scrapbooks there are no cards, mementos, newspaper clippings, or photographs.  Instead, inside the scrapbook are pages decorated with ornamental devices cut out of printed books. These printed books, written in Italian and Latin, were published from 1569 to 1790 chiefly in Italy and France.  There are over 350 woodcuts and engravings of decorative printers’ marks including borders, head-pieces, tail-pieces, initials, vignettes, and portions of title pages. The volume has a decorative label on the cover: Album de stampine antiche (Ms. Codex 1859).

The creator of the scrapbook is unknown, but may have been a member of the Peruzzi family of Italy as several of the items are inscribed “Caroli Peruzzi” (as seen on the portion of a title page below left).  Other title pages pasted in the volume have former owner’s signatures or stamps.  Who took a pair scissors to the books in the family library and excised these decorative printed items? Was the creator a descendant of Caroli Peruzzi?

Curiously, the items in the volume are pasted on top of an instructional and informational manual for practical mathematics regarding business transactions with merchants.  The original handwritten manuscript has no discernible author.  An example of a partial page from the manual is above right.

Many questions are presented through this scrapbook: Who wrote the original instructional manual?, Who created the scrapbook?, Where was and who owned the original library for the books? …

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