May 17, 2022

Meet the Oldest Printed Book in the National Library of Israel

From a National Library of Israel Blog Post:

The rapid expansion of printing houses across the known world led to the First Knowledge Revolution. Christian religious books were the most commonly printed literature in the early days of the printing press, but philosophical works and even popular literature found their way onto the presses as well.

European Jews also recognized the advantages of printing. By the 1470s production of Hebrew books in Italy and Spain had begun. In most cases, the editions were relatively limited in quantity. The first books, released in batches of only 200 to 300 copies, were quite expensive.

Source: National Library of Israel

Among the incunabula preserved in the National Library is a copy containing several ancient philosophical texts, all originally composed in the second century CE. It contains essays by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis, “Hermes Trismegistus” (there was no such author in truth, this was a later given name for an author or multiple authors active in the 2nd-century), and Albinus Platonicus.  Printed in the city of Rome by Konrad Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz (a German pair who had immigrated to Italy) in 1469, this marked the first time that the philosophical texts were printed.

The printing of this book, as according to the colophon (the author or printer note that usually appears at the end of a book), was completed on February 28th, 550 years ago. This precise, recorded date helped us to determine that this is the oldest printed book in the National Library’s collection.

Learn More, Read the Complete Post, View Digitized Images of the Book

See Also: NLI Catalog Record for Book

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.