This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Incunabula Cardigan

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Welcome to the fourth of ten posts introducing the patterns in This Thing of Paper. We are close to launching, so I want to take you through the patterns and their stories.

Incunabula is a fitted bottom-up cropped cardigan with a mock-cable and textured detail at both fronts and the back. The 3/4 sleeves are worked seamlessly top-down using the short-row method. It is worked in Blacker Yarns Classic DK — a wonderful workhorse yarn on the heavier side of DK. The buttons are from my bottomless button stash but Textile Garden sell similar. I knew I wanted to design a cardigan that was technical to knit, yet easy to wear. It was also inspired by my librarian friend Lauren who has an enviable knack for wearing cardigans.

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Incunabula are books printed before 1501 (I know that some people struggle to pronounce the word, so think of it as in-ku-NA-bu-lah. Or call it Inky. We are among friends here). Incunabulum means 'cradle' in Latin - and scholars used to think of the earliest printed books as being the cradles of knowledge. I am particularly fond of this type of books as they hover somewhere between manuscripts and actual printed books (I write more about this threshold in the book essay). 

We shot the photos at Innerpeffray Library - the oldest lending library in Scotland. They own an incunabulum which I was allowed to handle. It was terribly exciting and also somewhat meta - handling an early printed book whilst wearing my Incunabula cardigan! I wore the cardigan with my bookshelf dress and my mustard brogues. I have seldom felt more stylish as I did walking around the Library, picking up 16th and 17th century manuals on calligraphy, astronomy, and mathematics. Good times.   

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Finally, I want to draw your attention to a little detail. The mock cable and textured panel on the back extends into the bottom-ribbing. Isn't that pretty? 

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For the Love of Old Books

I like many things, but there are not many things that I love. I definitely love incunabula (books printed between 1455 and 1500) and early modern period printed books. Yesterday I went to Edinburgh to look at some very old printed books from Scotland. I was not disappointed. I have long been interested in and worked on the shift from (handwritten) manuscripts to the (printed) books. The shift is not as abrupt and clear as many people assume; post-Gutenberg handwritten manuscripts were still produced and printers arguably sought to make their product look as much like handwritten manuscripts as possible. Although The Scottish National Library do not hold any incunabula (as far as I know), I was pleased to see some early 16th century books which still displayed evidence of this urge to mimic handwritten manuscripts: typefaces designed to resemble handwriting, woodcuts trying to look like hand-drawn illustrations and rubrication (emphasising parts of the text using red ink). Gorgeous, fascinating stuff.

And Edinburgh was her usual, gloomy, beautiful, fantastical self. I like visiting the city but I couldn't live there, I think.