The Nuns of San Jacopo di Ripoli
Italian, active 1476-1484
"Incunabula," from the Latin for "swaddling clothes," are
the earliest books printed in the West, specifically those dated
before 1501. The first documented instance of women actually employed
comes from a manuscript kept at the Convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli
in Florence. Perhaps because their printing works was supervised
by two male friars, the women's contributions have been little
noted until recently. In 1999 the convent's Diario,
a type of account book and daily log, was published with a commentary
by Melissa Conway.
As is evident in the colophon shown here, the nuns gave themselves
no credit in the works they printed. This example, The Conspiracy
of Cataline by the Roman historian Sallust (86-34 B.C.), shows
women were skillful and accurate -- although not artful -- compositors.
Their work is nevertheless of great importance to the history of
women, as are their contributions to scholarship, particularly their magnum
opus -- and the last imprint of San Jacopo di Ripoli -- the
first complete printed edition of the works of Plato, published in
Crispi Salustii De coniuratione Catilinae liber incipit,
Impressorum Florentiae, apud Sanctum Iacobum de Ripoli, 1478.