Friday 1 April 2022

World map, showing the Mediterranean and the Maltese islands, in Ptolemy’s Cosmographia (Rome, 1490). National Library of Malta

A research team of Italian and Maltese book historians including Krystle Attard Trevisan, a PhD student at the School of Advanced Study's Institute of English Studies (IES), has been awarded a Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) fellowship for a project that will identify and catalogue many dozens of previously unrecorded incunabula, which are books that were produced all over Europe using metal moveable type up to the year 1500 and held in Maltese public, ecclesiastical and private collections.

The highly competitive ‘BSA Peck-Stacpoole Fellowship for Early Career Collections Professionals’ supports bibliographical research by conservators, curators, librarians, and others who are responsible for institutional collections of textual artifacts, at early stages of their careers.

The research project is being conducted by Dott.ssa Anna Scala, Professor Mario Palma, Dott.ssa Rosalia Claudia Giordano from Italy and Sicily, and Professor. William Zammit and Krystle from Malta. The $3,000 prize will allow the project’s team to make a major contribution to scholarship in book history. Their expertise ranges from bibliography to palaeography and book conservation, and the catalogue of incunabula will be published in Italian (the native language of the core research team) in early 2023, to be followed by an English translation.

This project is a milestone in the history of the book in Malta, particularly the circulation of knowledge in the early years of printing in Europe,’ said Krystle Attard Trevisan, who is also a curator at MUŻA – the Malta National Community Art Museum.

‘We are uncovering previously unknown incunabula in diverse collections in Malta, especially those of the religious orders, and we are bringing them to the attention of international researchers through the upcoming publication and by recording them on the online databases Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI) and Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue (ISTC), which are managed by the Consortium of European Research Libraries and the British Library.

‘The BSA fellowship award will allow us to publish our catalogue and is the first step in what we hope to be a larger campaign to catalogue and preserve collections of rare books and increase awareness of the island’s rich bibliographical heritage'

More than 70 incunabula from the National Library and from religious orders’ libraries in Malta have been added to the databases so far. This research is providing new information and resources for the international research community through these well-known and much-used databases, and the project will provide a missing piece of the large puzzle that is the 15th-century book trade in Europe.

For more information on the Incunabula in Malta project visit: