Medieval and Renaissance bestsellers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Early Modern literature

The term bestseller became popular in the end of the 19th century. But popular books were made before that era. The earliest highly popular books were nearly all religious, but the Bible, as a large book, remained expensive until the nineteenth century. This tended to keep the numbers printed and sold low. Unlike today, it was important for a book to be short to be a bestseller, or it would be too expensive to reach a large audience. Very short works such as Ars moriendi, the Biblia pauperum, and versions of the Apocalypse were published as cheap block-books in large numbers of different editions in several languages in the fifteenth century.

Middle Ages: list of bestselling blockbooks

  • Apocalypse, containing scenes and text from the Apocalypse and the apocryphal life of St. John.
  • Ars Moriendi, the "Art of Dying", offering advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death. The first edition of this work has been called "the great masterpiece of the Netherlandish blockbooks."
  • Biblia Pauperum or "Bible of the Poor", a comparison of Old and New Testament stories with images, "probably intended for the poor (or lesser) clergy rather than for the poor layman (or the unlearned)."
  • Canticum Canticorum or Song of Songs.
  • Exercitium Super Pater Noster, containing woodcuts and text interpreting the Lord's Prayer.
  • Speculum Humanae Salvationis or "Mirror of Man's Salvation". Only one pure block book edition was printed; other editions have the text printed by metal type, but printed on only one side of the paper.

Renaissance bestsellers

Renaissance literature produced quite a number of bestsellers.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Medieval and Renaissance bestsellers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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