Out of the cradle of print

Printed books in Gonville & Caius College Library, 1450–1650

11 March 2020

Gonville & Caius College has been collecting books since its foundation in 1348, and now holds around 25,000 early (pre-1801) printed books in its Lower Library. Until recently, however, the paper slips pasted into the Library guardbooks were the only means of searching the collection.

Fifteen years ago the College Library staff began a project to create a detailed, electronic catalogue record for every book, working forwards from the earliest. The project is ongoing, but this exhibition marks a milestone: all the College's books published from 1450, when printing was 'in the cradle', to 1650 are now findable worldwide in iDiscover.

From the Catholic altar book that escaped a bonfire, to another volume given in penance for a student riot, and to the navigation manual of one 'Captain Carelesse' (really the Caian mathematician and sometime pirate Edward Wright), we have selected some of the most memorable books we have met in the course of our work.