From Manuscript to Print


This primary source packet provides resources related to the transition from manuscript to print in Western Europe. Materials in this packet will help students understand how manuscripts and early books were created, practice analyzing primary sources and material objects, and consider the similarities and differences of these methods for conveying information. 

The manuscripts included in this packet come from Haverford’s J. Rendel Harris collection, and were recently digitized. Harris was a professor of religion at Haverford, and later became a librarian at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. He purchased these and other manuscripts during travels in the Middle East. More information about Harris and the collections is available at

Incunabula refers to books printed between 1450 and 1500, the cradle period of printing. The materials in this packet come from a collection of incunabula recently donated to Haverford by David Wertheimer ‘77. The digital versions are not from Haverford’s copies, but rather from German libraries. To see a list of the entire Wertheimer collection, you can search for Wertheimer. 

Packet contents:

  • List of manuscripts and incunabula (four each), with links to digital versions 
  • Guiding questions for students engaging with these primary sources (specific to each text)
  • Glossaries of relevant specialized vocabulary 
  • Articles which provide background on the creation of manuscripts and the transition to printing
    • Kwakkel, Erik. “General Introduction.” Books Before Print. Arc Humanities Press, 2018, 1-28.  

Lyons, Martin. “Was There a Printing Revolution?” A History of Reading and Writing in the Western World. Palgrave: 2009, 26-42.

List of Manuscripts


Psalter, England? 15th century, Latin, Harris 42

Vulgate concordance, France? 15th century, Latin, Harris 44

Essay on Greek and Roman history, Padua, 1457, Latin, Harris 44a

Thomas Aquinas treatises, England, 15th century, Latin, Harris 45


Zebolt, Gerhard. Tractatus de spiritualibus ascensionibus. Basel: Johann Amerbach and Johann Petri de Langendorff, not after 1489. Wertheimer BX2349 .Z47 1489

Haverford copy record

Digital copy from Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek

Felicianus. De divina praedestinatione. Speyer : Johann and Conrad Hist, ca. 1489. Wertheimer BT810 .F35 1489

Haverford copy record

Digital copy from ULB Darmstadt

Exercises and Handouts

These small group exercises and handouts will lead students through a discussion around these materials:

  • Manuscript Exercise
  • Manuscript Glossary
  • Early Printing Exercise
  • Early Printing Glossary