“Publishing Your Incunable”

Two things about this fine under-used word:

1) Fact: Its current-usage frame of reference stops at the year 1500.
2) Probability: Its current-usage users are no more than fifteen gaunt and over-used academics.

This fine word, which you know is crying out to be commandeered into broader and more common current parlance, is anglicized Latin for “swaddling clothes” or “cradle” and can refer to “the earliest stages or first traces in the development of anything.”

OK. How about the the earliest stages or first traces in the development of a poet?

I propose that we re-coin, re-deploy “incunable” to mean “first book of poetry.”

Only one Incunable for everyone, to be referred to in endless bildungs-narratives, entered into endless Incunable Contests and cited as proximate cause in endless career-path ex-/im-plosions.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

4 thoughts on ““Publishing Your Incunable””

  1. Call me a killjoy if you like, but I’ve got reservations.

    In a former life (I have a doctorate in English, with a concentration in medieval lit) I actually had reasons to use the technical term “incunabula” because I was dealing with medieval books, and that’s what the word means to me: books from the earliest history of printing. Wikipedia thinks that too; the older and more basic “early anything” meaning having succumbed to the technical meaning.

    What’s the matter with “first book”? A fancy new term doesn’t solve any of the problems of getting one accepted, published, marketed, reviewed, etc.

    I probably sound crabby, but hey, you called me gaunt and overused :) And I’m very sure there are a lot more than fifteen of us. Had that not been so, I might have gotten an academic job thirty years ago.

  2. Maryann! Great to hear from you. Reservations noted. It’s not so much problems with “first book” as an urgent imperative to rescue “incunable.” How did it get so obscure, is my question?

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