Along with the collection of incunabula, the collection of paleotypes of the Bibliology research department is one of the most valuable and significant in Belarus. The paleotype (from the Greek παλαιóς – ancient and τύπος – impression) is a conventional name for European printed books published from January 1, 1501 to January 1, 1551. This collection includes also Cyrillic books. The mentioned period is characterized by the reduced format of an average book and the appearance of the Octavo (a book format in which a large sheet of paper or parchment is folded three times to produce eight leaves).
The library’s collection of paleotypes includes about 200 publications in Latin, Greek, Italian, German, French, and the Belarusian variant of the Church Slavonic language. There is no doubt about the predominance of books in Latin, as well as a large number of publications in the German language in which the literature of the Reformation was published. The geography of print embraces most European cities of that time.
The city of Wittenberg is most interesting among the numerous centres of book-printing, and its products are represented in the library’s collection of paleotypes. The city had not only been the most productive centre of German printing for 30 years but also the spiritual centre of the Reformation. In Wittenberg the publisher Melchior Lotter Jr. published the famous first edition of the Luther Bible (1522). The department collection holds more than 10 Martin Luther editions published in Wittenberg between 1521 and 1544.
The publications printed in Basel are no less interesting and numerous (about 30 units). The well-known typographers Johann Froben and Heinrich Petri worked in Basel. The former became famous as a printer of Latin and Greek texts which he published very carefully and with the design of the best artists. He published numerous works of the humanistic scientist Erasmus of Rotterdam. The library keeps the books of Erasmus of Rotterdam printed by Froben: Habes iterum Morias Encomiu [m] (1517), Enchiridion militis Christiani, saluberrimis praeceptis refertum... (1518), Paraphrasis in duas epistolas Pauli ad Corinthios (1519)).
The German book-printing is also represented by publications from Nuremberg, Augsburg, Strasbourg, Frankfurt am Main etc.
In the 18th century, Venice remained the largest centre of the Italian book-printing. The library’s collection presents more than 25 paleotypes published in this city, particularly in the printing house of Paolo Manuzio, the representative of the famous dynasty of book printers. His publications are represented by two books: Höyüyöo λεξικóν = Hesychii dictionarium (1514) and Officiorum libri tres ... Marci Tullii Ciceronis (1541).
The library has a good collection of paleotypes published in the leading centres of book-printing in Lyon and Paris. The most productive printers were Jodokus Badius Ascensius and the Estienne family, who published classics, contemporaries, philosophical and theological literature.
The Slavic book is represented by the publications of the Polish printers Hieronymus Vietor and Matthias Scharfenberg, who worked in Krakow and made the city famous as a Slavic centre of Latin book-printing. Among the Krakow publications of Hieronymus Vietor we can note Statuta serenissimi domini Sigismundi Primi Polonie Regis et Magni Ducis Lithuanie... (1541) and Decreta et convente publice in Conve [n] tu generali Piotrcovien [sis] (1538).
The collection of paleotypes also includes the single in Belarus set of books published by the Belarusian and East Slavic printing pioneer Francysk Skaryna. These are 10 issues (in 6 bindings) of the books of the Bible published in Prague during three years, from 1517 to 1519.