|Original title||Liber Chronicarum|
|Illustrator||Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff|
|Subject||History of the world|
|Published||1493, Anton Koberger|
The Nuremberg Chronicle is an illustrated encyclopedia composed of world historical accounts, as well as accounts told through biblical paraphrase. Subjects include human history in relation to the bible, illustrated mythological creatures, and the histories of important Christian and secular cities from antiquity. Finished in 1493 after years in the making, it was originally written in Latin by Hartmann Schedel, and a German version was translated by Georg Alt. It is one of the best-documented early printed books—an incunabulum—and one of the first to successfully integrate illustrations and text.
Latin scholars refer to it as Liber Chronicarum (Book of Chronicles) as this phrase appears in the index introduction of the Latin edition. English-speakers have long referred to it as the Nuremberg Chronicle after the city in which it was published. German-speakers refer to it as Die Schedelsche Weltchronik (Schedel's World History) in honor of its author.
Two Nuremberg merchants, Sebald Schreyer (1446–1503) and his son-in-law, Sebastian Kammermeister (1446–1520), commissioned the Latin version of the chronicle. They also commissioned George Alt (1450–1510), a scribe at the Nuremberg treasury, to translate the work into German. Both Latin and German editions were printed by Anton Koberger, in Nuremberg.The contracts were recorded by scribes, bound into volumes, and deposited in the Nuremberg City Archives. The first contract, from December, 1491, established the relationship between the illustrators and the patrons. Wolgemut and Pleydenwurff, the painters, were to provide the layout of the chronicle, to oversee the production of the woodcuts, and to guard the designs against piracy. The patrons agreed to advance 1000 gulden for paper, printing costs, and the distribution and sale of the book. A second contract, between the patrons and the printer, was executed in March 1492. It stipulated conditions for acquiring the paper and managing the printing. The blocks and the archetype were to be returned to the patrons once the printing was completed.
The author of the text, Hartmann Schedel, was a medical doctor, humanist and book collector. He earned a doctorate in medicine in Padua in 1466, then settled in Nuremberg to practice medicine and collect books. According to an inventory done in 1498, Schedel's personal library contained 370 manuscripts and 670 printed books. The author used passages from the classical and medieval works in this collection to compose the text of Chronicle. He borrowed most frequently from another humanist chronicle, Supplementum Chronicarum, by Jacob Philip Foresti of Bergamo. It has been estimated that about 90% of the text is pieced together from works on humanities, science, philosophy, and theology, while about 10% of the chronicle is Schedel's original composition.
Nuremberg was one of the largest cities in the Holy Roman Empire in the 1490s, with a population of between 45,000 and 50,000. Thirty-five patrician families composed the City Council. The Council controlled all aspects of printing and craft activities, including the size of each profession and the quality, quantity and type of goods produced. Although dominated by a conservative aristocracy, Nuremberg was a centre of northern humanism. Anton Koberger, printer of the Nuremberg Chronicle, printed the first humanist book in Nuremberg in 1472. Sebald Shreyer, one of the patrons of the chronicle, commissioned paintings from classical mythology for the grand salon of his house. Hartmann Schedel, author of the chronicle, was an avid collector of both Italian Renaissance and German humanist works. Hieronymus Münzer, who assisted Schedel in writing the chronicle's chapter on geography, was among this group, as were Albrecht Dürer and Johann and Willibald Pirckheimer.
The Chronicle was first published in Latin on 12 July 1493 in the city of Nuremberg. This was quickly followed by a German translation on 23 December 1493. An estimated 1400 to 1500 Latin and 700 to 1000 German copies were published. A document from 1509 records that 539 Latin versions and 60 German versions had not been sold. Approximately 400 Latin and 300 German copies survived into the twenty-first century.They are scattered around the world in museums and collections. The larger illustrations were also sold separately as prints, often hand-coloured in watercolour. Many copies of the book are coloured, with varying degrees of skill; there were specialist shops for this. The colouring on some examples has been added much later, and some copies have been broken up for sale as decorative prints.
The publisher and printer was Anton Koberger, the godfather of Albrecht Dürer, who in the year of Dürer's birth in 1471 ceased goldsmithing to become a printer and publisher. He quickly became the most successful publisher in Germany, eventually owning 24 printing presses and having many offices in Germany and abroad, from Lyon to Buda.
The chronicle is an illustrated world history, in which the contents are divided into seven ages:
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The large workshop of Michael Wolgemut, then Nuremberg's leading artist in various media, provided the unprecedented 1,809 woodcut illustrations (before duplications are eliminated; see below). Sebastian Kammermeister and Sebald Schreyer financed the printing in a contract dated March 16, 1492, although preparations had been well under way for several years. Wolgemut and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff were first commissioned to provide the illustrations in 1487-88, and a further contract of December 29, 1491, commissioned manuscript layouts of the text and illustrations.
Albrecht Dürer was an apprentice with Wolgemut from 1486 to 1489, so may well have participated in designing some of the illustrations for the specialist craftsmen (called "formschneiders") who cut the blocks, onto which the design had been drawn, or a drawing glued. From 1490 to 1494 Dürer was traveling. A drawing by Wolgemut for the elaborate frontispiece, dated 1490, is in the British Museum. While some art experts may claim to be able to identify which Nuremberg Chronicle woodcuts may be attributed to Dürer, there is no consensus. Dürer was not yet using his monogram, and no artists in Wolgemut's studio signed their work in the Chronicle.
As with other books of the period, many of the woodcuts, showing towns, battles or kings were used more than once in the book, with the text labels merely changed; one count of the number of original woodcuts is 645.The book is large, with a double-page woodcut measuring about 342 x 500mm. Only the city of Nuremberg is given a double-page illustration with no text. The illustration for the city of Venice is adapted from a much larger woodcut of 1486 by Erhard Reuwich in the first illustrated printed travel book, the Sanctae Perigrinationes of 1486. This and other sources were used where possible; where no information was available a number of stock images were used and reused up to eleven times. The view of Florence was adapted from an engraving by Francesco Rosselli.
With the success and prestige of the Nuremberg Chronicle which had one of the largest print-runs of an edition during the incunabula a.k.a. incunable period of book production (circa 1455-1500), one of the first large-scale pirated editions of the Chronicle appeared on the market. The culprit was Johann Schönsperger (c. 1455-1521), a printer working out of Augsburg who produced smaller editions of the Chronicle in 1496, 1497, and 1500 in German, Latin and a second edition in German respectively. It was the beginning of unauthorized book editions, a.k.a. pirated editions, capitalizing on the success of another author and printer/publisher without consent, a problem which continues to the present day in book publishing.Despite the pirating of a successful book, Schönsperger went bankrupt in 1507.
Albrecht Dürer, sometimes spelt in English as Durer or Duerer, without umlaut, was a German painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by Emperor Maximilian I. Dürer is commemorated by both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches.
Hartmann Schedel was a German historian, physician, humanist, and one of the first cartographers to use the printing press. He was born and died in Nuremberg. Matheolus Perusinus served as his tutor.
An incunable, or sometimes incunabulum, is a book, pamphlet, or broadside printed in Europe before the 16th century. Incunabula are not manuscripts, which are documents written by hand. As of 2014, there are about 30,000 distinct known incunable editions extant, but the probable number of surviving copies in Germany alone is estimated at around 125,000. Through statistical analysis, it is estimated that the number of lost editions is at least 20,000.
Woodcut is a relief printing technique in printmaking. An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with gouges—leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts. Areas that the artist cuts away carry no ink, while characters or images at surface level carry the ink to produce the print. The block is cut along the wood grain. The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller (brayer), leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas.
Sebastian Franck was a 16th-century German freethinker, humanist, and radical reformer.
The German word Schwabacher refers to a specific style of blackletter typefaces which evolved from Gothic Textualis (Textura) under the influence of Humanist type design in Italy during the 15th century. Schwabacher typesetting was the most common typeface in Germany, until it was replaced by Fraktur from the mid 16th century onwards.
Michael Wolgemut was a German painter and printmaker, who ran a workshop in Nuremberg. He is best known as having taught the young Albrecht Dürer.
The German Renaissance, part of the Northern Renaissance, was a cultural and artistic movement that spread among German thinkers in the 15th and 16th centuries, which developed from the Italian Renaissance. Many areas of the arts and sciences were influenced, notably by the spread of Renaissance humanism to the various German states and principalities. There were many advances made in the fields of architecture, the arts, and the sciences. Germany produced two developments that were to dominate the 16th century all over Europe: printing and the Protestant Reformation.
Master of the Housebook and Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet are two names used for an engraver and painter working in South Germany in the last quarter of the 15th century. He is apparently the first artist to use drypoint, a form of engraving, for all of his prints. The first name derives from his book of drawings with watercolour, called the Housebook, which belonged to the German noble family of Waldburg-Wolfegg from the 17th century until 2008, when they were reported to have sold it for €20 million to a Swiss buyer; however, the legality of its sale for export has been challenged and, for the moment, it remains with the family. In 1999, the book was lent to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., for an exhibition. The majority of his surviving prints are in the print room at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, hence his second name. Most, but not all, art historians still agree that the Housebook and the prints are by the same artist.
Sebald Beham (1500–1550) was a German painter and printmaker, mainly known for his very small engravings. Born in Nuremberg, he spent the later part of his career in Frankfurt. He was one of the most important of the "Little Masters", the group of German artists making prints in the generation after Dürer.
Willibald Pirckheimer was a German Renaissance lawyer, author and Renaissance humanist, a wealthy and prominent figure in Nuremberg in the 16th century, and a member of the governing City Council for two periods. He was the closest friend of the artist Albrecht Dürer, who made a number of portraits of him, and a close friend of the great humanist and theologian Erasmus.
Erhard Reuwich was a Dutch artist, as a designer of woodcuts, and a printer, who came from Utrecht but then worked in Mainz. His dates and places of birth and death are unknown, but he was active in the 1480s.
Anton Koberger was the German goldsmith, printer and publisher who printed and published the Nuremberg Chronicle, a landmark of incunabula, and was a successful bookseller of works from other printers. He established in 1470 the first printing house in Nuremberg.
The Triumphal Arch is a 16th-century monumental woodcut print, commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. The composite image was printed on 36 large sheets of paper from 195 separate wood blocks. At 295 × 357 centimetres (116 × 141 in), it is one of the largest prints ever produced, and was intended to be pasted to walls in city halls or the palaces of princes. It is part of a series of three huge prints created for Maximilian, the others being a Triumphal Procession which is led by a Large Triumphal Carriage ; only the Arch was completed in Maximilian's lifetime and distributed as propaganda, as he intended. Together, this series has been described by art historian Hyatt Mayor as "Maximilian's program of paper grandeur". They stand alongside two published biographical allegories in verse, the Theuerdank and Weisskunig, heavily illustrated with woodcuts.
Hans Springinklee was a German artist from Nuremberg, best known for his woodcuts. He was a pupil of Albrecht Dürer.
The Apocalypse, properly Apocalypse with Pictures is a famous series of fifteen woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer of scenes from the Book of Revelation, published in 1498, which rapidly brought him fame across Europe. The series was probably cut on pear wood blocks and drew on theological advice, particularly from Johannes Pirckheimer, the father of Dürer's friend Willibald Pirckheimer. Work on the series started during Dürer's first trip to Italy (1494–95), and the set was published simultaneously in Latin and German at Nuremberg in 1498, at a time when much of Europe anticipated a possible Last Judgment at 1500. The most famous print in the series is The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (c. 1497–98), referring to Revelation 6:1–8. The layout of the cycle with the illustrations on the recto and the text on the verso suggests the privileging of the illustrations over the text. The series brought Dürer fame and wealth as well as some freedom from the patronage system, which, in turn, allowed him to choose his own subjects and to devote more time to engraving. In 1511, Dürer published the second edition of Apocalypse in a combined edition with his Life of the Virgin and Large Passion; single impressions were also produced and sold.
Hieronymus Andreae, or Andreä, or Hieronymus Formschneider, was a German woodblock cutter ("formschneider"), printer, publisher and typographer closely associated with Albrecht Dürer. Andreae's best known achievements include the enormous, 192-block Triumphal Arch woodcut, designed by Dürer for Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and his design of the characteristic German "blackletter" Fraktur typeface, on which German typefaces were based for several centuries. He was also significant as a printer of music.
Saint Michael Fighting the Dragon is a woodcut of 1498 by Albrecht Dürer, part of his Apocalypse series, illustrating the Book of Apocalypse or Revelation of St. John.
The Large Triumphal Carriage or Great Triumphal Car is a large 16th-century woodcut print by Albrecht Dürer, commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. The work was originally intended to be the central part of a 54 metres (177 ft) long print of a Triumphal Procession or Triumph of Maximilian, depicting Maximilian and his court entourage in a procession. This section shows the emperor in his triumphal car, and was part of a tradition depicting imaginary "triumphs" or real processions, such as royal entries.
Sebastian Schedel (1570-1628) was a German painter and illustrator best known for his contributions to the Hortus Eystettensis. A few of the original drawings for the Hortus Eystettensis are preserved at Kew in a codex called Schedel’s Calendarium.
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