Catholicon (religious dictionary)

Catholicon (religious dictionary)

The "Summa grammaticalis quae vocatur Catholicon", or "Catholicon", was completed March 7, 1286 by John Balbi (Johannes Januensis de Balbis) , of Genoa, a Dominican. The Catholicon was a religious Latin dictionary which found wide use throughout Christendom.

The " Catholicon " is a Latin dictionary, which was arranged already 1286 by Johannes Balbus and served in the late Middle Ages to interpret the Bible "correctly". The educated citizen could gather from it the substantial knowledge of his time.

The "Catholicon" was one of the first books to be printed, using the new printing technology of Johannes Gutenberg in 1460; it is unclear who did the printing. It was printed with a newly cut Gotico Antiqua, a small but easily readable, still gothically influenced, printing type, using sixty-six lines of forty letters in each column.

The Catholicon was printed in three editions, which – on the basis of the types of paper – in each case can be assigned to the years 1460, 1469 and 1472. The set of these three expenditures is alike. For the explanation of this phenomenon the printing scientist Lotte Hellinga puts forward the thesis that the Catholicon was manufactured in the same year, only on three different presses by three different printers, who cooperated in a joint venture. Holding against is Paul Needham, who presents the revolutionary opinion, that the Catholicon was printed be means of plates or stereotypes, thus by firm printing forms created from the original set. Thus this form of printing would be three centuries before their "official" invention. The correct allocation of the Catholicon is one of the substantial problems of the incunabula research.

A summary of the problem is to be found in (only in German): Andreas Venzke: " Johannes Gutenberg - Der Erfinder des Buchdrucks und seine Zeit". Piper-Verlag, Munich 2000

In an abbey a "catholicon" is also the conventual church at the centre.


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