Re-materialising the Incunable Petrarch: Ernest Hatch Wilkins and the Politics of Bibliographical Description

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This article re-evaluates the editions of the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta and Triumphi printed between 1470-1500, re-reading not only the book-objects themselves, but also the two fundamental bibliographical articles on the incunable Petrarch written by Ernest Hatch Wilkins, which have shaped the field for the past eighty years. I argue that we should approach this corpus via book-historical, material-textual approaches, viewing the editions as individual, localised textual productions, and as social texts, rather than considering them simply in terms of their genealogical interrelations and from the particular perspectives of Petrarch studies. A re-examination gives a much more complex and varied picture of the material incunable Petrarch than previously noted, while an exploration of the bibliographical studies demonstrates the necessity of enlarging our study to read these, too, as discursive texts in their own right, and thereby taking account of the scholarly contributions of other, hitherto less-recognised figures such as librarians to the construction of meanings around the early printed book.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
JournalItalian Studies
Issue number1
Early online date2 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Petrarch
  • Rerum vulgarium fragmenta
  • Triumphi
  • Historical bibliography


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