As we’ve seen in a previous post, illuminations in incunabula can be seen as a remnant of the manuscript tradition that persisted in the transition to the printing era. In our copy of Ognibene Bonisoli’s De octo partibus orationis (Padua, 1474), bequeathed to King’s College by Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), there are no guide letters in the spaces left blank for the illuminator, so it was up to him to choose which letter to write. On the first page is Bonisoli’s dedication to his pupil, the condottiere Federico Gonzaga (1441-84), who later became the third marquess of Mantua.
Instead of inserting an “E” to give “En humanissime pri[n]ceps” (Lo, most humane leader), the illuminator added an “I”: “Inhumanissime pri[n]ceps” (Most inhumane leader):
Though this is most likely to have been an unintentional error on the illuminator’s part, whose Latin perhaps was not up to scratch, it is tempting to imagine that it may have been a parting shot from a disgruntled employee on his final day at work…