Skip to Main Content

Early Printed Books (Europe 1450 to 1800)

This guide offers bibliographic tools for understanding the national output of printed works in early modern Europe .

Finding Incunabula

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) s the best starting point for identifying Incunabula internationally. Any incunabula cataloged  here can be retraced to the holding library, and to a digital object, if the incunabula have been digitized. The ISTC integrates a comprehensive number of earlier incunabula bibliographies, and is therefore the most complete catalog of pre 1501 incunabula.

Incunabula Short Title Catalog (ISTC)

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue is the international database of 15th-century European printing created by the British Library with contributions from institutions worldwide.

You can:

  • perform a simple search using different kinds of keywords 
  • find items by browsing author, title, dates, and other headings 

The database records nearly every item printed from movable type before 1501, but not material printed entirely from woodblocks or engraved plates. 30,375 editions are listed as of March 2014, including some 16th-century items previously assigned incorrectly to the 15th century. Additions and amendments to ISTC are made frequently, and new information and comments and suggestions are  always welcome by e-mail at

Information on each item includes authors, short titles, the language of the text, printer, place and date of printing, and format. Locations for copies have been confirmed libraries all over the world. Many links are provided to online digital facsimiles, and also to major online catalogues of incunabula such as the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Inkunabelkatalog

Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. Union catalog of incunables.

This database appears in conjunction with the print edition of the ‘Union Catalogue of Incunabula’ (GW) which lists all 15th century prints in alphabetical order. The print edition of the catalogue has been published since 1925 by the Hiersemann publishing house. There are currently eleven volumes, detailing all incunabula from ‘Abbey of the Holy Ghost’ to ‘Hord, Jobst.’

The database contains all incunabula editions recorded in the manuscript of the Union Catalogue of Incunabula and in the printed editions. Each listing varies in detail, as explained below:

  Editions recorded in the printed version of the catalogue listed by title with further supplementary information. In addition, the database records numerous editions the existence of which was not known when individual volumes of the print edition were going to press. These are categorised with the letter ‘N’ for ‘Nachträge’, or ‘addenda’.
  Editions recorded in the manuscript that have not yet appeared in print (letters I–Z), supplemented by digitised hand written descriptions from the Union Catalogue manuscript.