“Incunabula,” from the Latin for “swaddling clothes,” are the earliest books printed in the West, specifically those dated before 1501.
The first documented instance of women actually employed in printing comes from a manuscript kept at the Convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence.
Perhaps because their printing works was supervised by two male friars, the women’s contributions have been little noted until recently.
In 1999 the convent’s Diario, a type of account book and daily log, was published with a commentary and transcription by Melissa Conway.
As is evident in the colophon shown here, the nuns gave themselves no credit in the works they printed.
This example, The Conspiracy of Cataline by the Roman historian Sallust (86-34 B.C.), shows that these women were skillful and accurate — although not artful — compositors.
Their work is nevertheless of great importance to the history of women, as are their contributions to scholarship, particularly their magnum opus — and the last imprint of San Jacopo di Ripoli — the first complete printed edition of the works of Plato, published in 1484.
Crispi Salustii De coniuratione Catilinae liber incipit, printed by the Nuns of San Jacopo di Ripoli
Aside from getting you over water, it was common for medieval bridges to have chapels and shops built over them, and many were fortified with towers and ramparts because bridges served important entry points to the cities.
The Ponte Vecchio or the “Old Bridge” over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, is a medieval stone bridge noted for still having shops built along it.
The first bridge over the Arno River was probably built by the Romans in stone and wood and is mentioned in a document that dates from 996.
The bridge was swept away in a flood in 1117 and was rebuilt in stone only to be destroyed again by another flood in 1333, save for its two central piers.
Consequently, the bridge was rebuilt again, twelve years later, designed by the Italian painter and architect Giotto’s most talented pupil Taddeo Gaddi, who was a painter and architect in his own right.
Photo: Artemisia Gentileschi channelled personal trauma into her art. (Getty: Universal Images Group)
An Italian seventeenth-century Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi’s paintings are “full of rage, of feminist anger”, Murray say.
While many women of her generation were expected to be little more than nuns, Gentileschi instead became an accomplished artist. She was the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious art academy, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, in Florence.
Her paintings, Murray writes, typically depict strong female characters — whether they’re enacting revenge on men (Judith Slaying Holofernes) or re-imagining biblical scenes (Susanna and the Elders).
Painting of Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, located in the Vasari Corridor in Florence.
Photo: Gentileschi’s take of this biblical account is considered more visceral than that of other artists. (Getty: Alinari Archives)
As a young woman, Gentileschi was sexually assaulted by another painter, Agostino Tassi.
She successfully pressed charges against him and he was convicted of rape in 1612.
“She used biblical stories to portray, in exquisite paintings, her fury at the sexual violence she herself had endured,” Murray writes.”I have no doubt that much of her work was inspired by events that could only have happened to a woman, particularly the terrible sexual violence she experiences as a teenager.”
But, she adds, “it would be wrong to assume her fame and appreciation was purely a result of her notoriety and vengefulness”.