The journey between the cottons of the first book printed in Spain | Culture

The bishop of Segovia, Juan Arias Dávila, could not imagine when he had Juan Párix of Heidelberg print the minutes of the synod held in the town of Aguilafuente (Segovia) from June 1 to 10, 1472 , that after centuries have been treated with so much care and protection. What is considered the first book printed in Spain and in Castilian, reigning Enrique IV, was transferred this Monday from the Cathedral of Segovia to the headquarters of the National Library of Spain (BNE) in Madrid, where it will be exhibited from Thursday to July 23 as part of the sample Incunabula: 550 years of printing in Spain, as well as a varied representation of incunabula kept in the collections of the BNE.

The incunabula, known as the Synod of Aguilafuente, It has always remained in the archives of the cathedral, in a place that very few know about and which changes from time to time for security reasons. In the same place the original manuscript is kept, in which traces of having been used for printing can be perceived. The book is small, has 48 pages, and was insured for eight million euros for its transfer, which would be paid by the State in the event of any compensation for its destruction, loss, theft or deterioration.

The preparations for the transfer had their liturgy in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Segovia in the presence of the dean, Ángel García Rivilla, the two curators of the exhibition, María José Rucio Zamorano (responsible for the Manuscripts and Incunabula service of the BNE) and Fermín de los Reyes (professor of bibliographic heritage at the Complutense University of Madrid), as well as the restorer of the BNE Arsenio Sánchez Hernampérez. Previously, the archival technician Bonifacio Bartolomé, without being observed by anyone, had removed the incunabula from its secret place. Technicians from the specialized company hired for its transfer placed it in a box lined with wood and then screwed down, sealed with a number, fireproofed and specially adapted to the exact size of the sample, which had been measured months before. According to Sánchez Hernampérez, the book was packed in the cathedral itself so that its usual temperature and humidity conditions were maintained inside the box.

The Synod of Aguilafuente, consisting of 48 pages, was insured for eight million euros.BNS

Before the dean signs the delivery certificates, an exhaustive analysis of the state of the copy was carried out, which will be repeated when he returns, then the box was transported to the truck that took it to Madrid, already escorted by the national police, in uniform and as a compatriot A patrol car opened the transfer convoy, consisting of two other police cars located in front and behind the truck.

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The book begins with the index of chapters and then makes a list of all who attend the synod. Commissioner De los Reyes reports that it is composed of a drawn line, except for two fragments in which there are two columns, since the representatives of Pedraza and Fuentidueña did not want to appear linked one after the other others. The solution was to put them in two columns, according to the professor. The synod convened by Arias Dávila brought together ecclesiastical and civil representatives of the cities and places of the diocese of Segovia. Its content is not exceptional, but it was printed: it recounts the development of the assembly and, incidentally, offers details on the development of the life of the diocese of Segovia at the time.

The document is addressed to both clergy and laity who have participated in the life of the diocese. For example, clergy must be educated and respectful in their dress and worship, and they are prohibited from carrying weapons without a permit. The laity are forbidden to divorce without the knowledge of the Church or to have preferential seats in churches.

The police guarded the truck transporting the incunabula from Segovia to Madrid.
The police guarded the truck transporting the incunabula from Segovia to Madrid.BNS

The BNE exhibition commemorates 550 years since the arrival of the printing press in Spain (1472-2022) and, to this day, the Synod is the book that marks this beginning. The exhibit explains what incunabula (that is, all books printed until 1500) looked like, how engravings were made at that time, and even features a replica of a 17th-century printing press from the municipal printing house of Madrid. It also describes how the passage from manuscript to print took place, with samples of a codex, a xylographic book and the first printed matter of the National Library, the catholicon, from 1460, possibly Gutenberg presses, according to Fermín de los Reyes. Also on display are the first Spanish music book (1492), the first illustrated book (fascicle temporum1480) or the world map of cosmography by Pomponio Mela (1498). Also Grammar of Nebrija (1492), medical, liturgical, literary or legal works, a representative sample of the knowledge of the time.

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