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Cristina Dondi Sandars Reader 2022

The Sandars Readership in Bibliography is one of the most prestigious honorary posts to which book historians, librarians and researchers can be appointed. Those elected deliver a series of lectures on their chosen subject.

Sandars Lectures 2021-2022

Incunabula in Cambridge: European heritage and global dissemination

The development of printing in Western Europe was not just a technological innovation; its profound social and economic impact ushered into the Continent the transition from a medieval to an early modern society, a phenomenon which was analysed in different ways by Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin, L’apparition du livre (Paris 1958) and by Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (CUP, 1979). For the last twenty years, an international network of scholars and librarians coordinated by Professor Cristina Dondi has been uncovering the historical evidence for the seismic impact of the European printing revolution preserved in the many thousands of surviving incunabula (books printed between the 1450s and 1500). Harnessing the tools of the digital revolution is also allowing us to reconstruct virtually, and understand, the dispersal and formation of European and American book collections over the intervening centuries. Incunabula in Cambridge libraries, including Sandars’ own collection, will be set in the wider context of where they came from, and their connections with other collections around the world. 

These lectures were hosted on 22nd, 23rd and 24th November 2022. To view the recordings, please follow the links below:

Lecture 1: Books from the suppressed religious institutions of Europe: Mapping the dispersals

Lecture 2: Samuel Sandars as a collector of incunabula

Lecture 3: Reassessing the European Printing Revolution, forty years after Eisenstein

About the speaker

Cristina Dondi is Professor of Early European Book Heritage, and Oakeshott Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities at Lincoln College, University of Oxford. She is also Secretary of the Consortium of European Research Libraries. During the period 2014-2019 she was the Principal Investigator of the 15cBOOKTRADE Project, funded by the European Research Council, whose results were shared with the general public in an exhibition held in Venice in 2018/19 and now online at She is the editor of Printing R-Evolution and Society 1450-1500. Fifty Years that Changed Europe (Venice: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, 2020), and co-editor (with D. Raines and R. Sharpe) of How the Secularization of Religious Houses Transformed the Libraries of Europe, 16th–19th Centuries (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022).