Definition of incunabulum in English:



  • An early printed book, especially one printed before 1501.

    • ‘Books printed before 1501 are called incunabula; the word is derived from Latin for swaddling clothes and used to indicate that these books are the work of a technology still in its infancy.’
    • ‘A preliminary exhibition of one hundred incunabula from the collection was held before World War II, in 1937, and another after it in 1957, as well as a preliminary exhibition of masterpieces from it in 1954.’
    • ‘A pair of small drawings by Burne-Jones in a sketchbook from about this time depicts similar vessels nestled in stylized seas, surrounded by frames such as those used in illustrated incunabula.’
    • ‘The metaphorical designation incunabulum means that it concerns printing elements, one sees which lying still in its cradle or in the diapers.’
    • ‘An incunabulum represents the first step away from the entirely hand-written book to the printed work, one that is often still experimental as far as technical aspects of printing and typography are concerned.’


Early 19th century from Latin incunabula (neuter plural) ‘swaddling clothes, cradle’, from in- ‘into’ + cunae ‘cradle’.