Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cats in the Print Shop

Otago University's Special Collections librarian, Donald Kerr, posted a fascinating query to Ex-Libris a few months ago, and I was delighted to see that the story got some press in New Zealand this week with a story in the Otago Daily Times. On f.250 of the library's copy of Astesanus de Asts Summa de casibus conscientiae (Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 1472/3), Kerr discovered three feline footprints in ink, and asked other holders of the book to check their copies to see if further footprints were evident.

Other institutions have reported some inky smudges and even fingerprints in their copies, but so far, no other cat prints have been reported.

Dr Kerr said his theory was Mentelin, who could produce 300 hand-printed sheets a day, laid his pages on benches or table tops to dry, where his cat had walked on one or more. 'Mentelin has been described as a 'careless printer' - perhaps this is why. But finding the cat prints does present a homely image of the printery.'"