A Fifteenth-Century Rubricator’s Complaint

The 1483 Horace, with Donatus fragment visible.

In November 2017, Notabilia reported Princeton University Library’s acquisition of a copy of Horace, Opera (Venice: Johannes de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, et Socii, 17 May 1483), the original binding of which included two fragments of the Ars minor of Aelius Donatus, printed with the same typeface that had been used to print Gutenberg’s 42-Line Bible in Mainz, ca. 1455.

 

One intriguing aspect of the book that we were unable to explain was the rubricator’s cryptic inscription at the end of the Horace:

We contacted Dr. Falk Eisermann at the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke in Berlin, who consulted with Dr. Christoph Mackert at the University of Leipzig, who provided the answer. The rubricator complained, quite understandably, that he had completed his arduous work, encompassing hundreds of red and blue initials and thousands of paragraph marks and red capital highlights, with “DIGITIS FESSIS” — tired fingers.

Some of the rubricator’s handiwork.

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