In the history of printing, an incunable or incunabulum (plural incunables or incunabula, respectively), is a book, pamphlet, or broadside that was printed in the earliest stages of printing in Europe, up to the year 1500. Incunabula were produced before the printing press became widespread on the continent and are distinct from manuscripts, which are documents written by hand. Some authorities include block books from the same time period as incunabula, whereas others limit the term to works printed using movable type.

Page from Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia, printed in red and black by Peter Schöffer (Mainz, 1471). The page exhibits a rubricated initial letter "U" and decorations, marginalia, and ownership stamps of the "Bibliotheca Gymnasii Altonani" (Hamburg).
Illumination with doodles and drawings (marginalia), including an open-mouthed human profile, with multiple tongues sticking out. Copulata, "De Anima", f. 2a. HMD Collection, WZ 230 M772c 1485
Image of two facing pages from "Phisicorum", fols. 57b and 58a, with doodles and drawings. HMD Collection, WZ 230 M772c 1485

As of 2021, there are about 30,000 distinct incunable editions known.[1] The probable number of surviving individual copies is much higher, estimated at around 125,000 in Germany alone.[2] Through statistical analysis, it is estimated that the number of lost editions is at least 20,000.[3] Around 550,000 copies of around 27,500 different works have been preserved worldwide.[4]

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