- extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.
- the earliest stages or first traces of anything.
Origin of incunabula
1815–25; < Latin: straps holding a baby in a cradle, earliest home, birthplace, probably equivalent to *incūnā(re) to place in a cradle (in- in-2 + *-cūnāre, verbal derivative of cūnae cradle) + -bula, plural of -bulum suffix of instrument; def. 1 as translation of German Wiegendrucke
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
- any book printed before 1501
- the infancy or earliest stages of something; beginnings
C19: from Latin, originally: swaddling clothes, hence beginnings, from in- ² + cūnābula cradle
Word Origin and History for incunabular
"swaddling clothes," also, figuratively, "childhood, beginnings;" 1824, from Latin incunabula (neuter plural), ultimately from cunae "cradle," from PIE *koi-na-, from root *kei- "to lie; bed, couch."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper