Orationes Philelphi


The Orationes Philelphi is a scholarly text that was published in Latin in 1491. As with many early books, a number of people worked together to create it. Francesco Fielelfo wrote the text, Giorgio Valla translated it , and Bartholomaus de Zanis printed the book . The book is an incunabula, which is a term given to any printed book written before 1500. 

This page, known as a colophon, contained much of the information above. Colophons provided readers with important information about the book, such as the title, year and date of printing, the name of the author and transcriber, as well details about the publisher. These pages, which were a continuity from medieval manuscripts to incunabula, typically appeared at the end of a printed book. Colophons in incunabula did not always include every category of information noted above.  In this colophon, we find the printer and author’s name, as well as the year of publication.

Title Page- The title page was an aspect of medieval manuscripts that evolved over the first few centuries of printing. The first page of the book would often become damaged or lost, which resulted in printing on the second page. Over the course of the late 15th century, printers would eventually print text on the first page, which would contain text with the book’s title. Here, the title page is printed on the second page.


Rubrication refers to the large decorated initial letters on some pages. These letters were left blank in the printing process and filled in by a rubricator afterward. Initial letters were hand drawn in red ink. Similar to medieval manuscripts, the letters were often decorated with patterns and imagery. Throughout this book, we can see that the rubrication process has not been completed. Guide letters smaller letters designated where the initial letter was to be drawn over. These are filled throughout the book.


Marginalia: Short notes inserted into the margins, usually to provide context. These can be thought of almost as a bibliography alongside the text. These notes were both printed and handwritten.

According to scholar H.J Jackson, the definition of a marginal note is dependent on the fact that it is written in response to the text next to it. Such marginalia and annotation can take different forms. Glosses, for example, provide translations of foreign or unidentified words. Scholia are notes which bring in information external to the book that is relevant to the text beside it.

According to Jackson, printers made the margins in incunabula like intentionally larger to allow for room for readers to take notes. This was a continuity from handwritten medieval manuscripts. Here, both the marginal and central text were written in Latin. Jackson notes that writing in the margins in the same  language as the printed text was normal practice even for those whose first language was not  the same as that of the text. 


This is the  page right before the colophon. The legible section of text, which translates to “These are the Orations of Philelphos” is written twice. Both are identical and in Latin. The bottom line seems to be crossed out and the text seems to be written by different hands. Why do you think that is?