Liber Chronicarum or the Nuremberg Chronicle
The Liber Chronicarum, or Nuremberg Chronicle, by Hartman Schedel (1440-1514) printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger (1440-1513) in 1493 is one of the most important texts of the Incunabula period and the most illustrated. The text itself is a universal history of the Christian world from creation to Schedel and Koeberger's time. Schedel, a Nuremberg physician and humanist, was commissioned to write the text by Nuremberg merchants Sebald Schreyer (1446-1520) and Sebastian Kammermeister (1446-1503). Organized according to the ages of man, the numerous illustrations and text portray biblical and historical events. Schedel's text relies heavily on the other chroniclers of his time and as scholar Adrian Wilson points out, it "is scarcely more than an eclectic scholastic work in a thin humanist guise" (28). Instead, it is the images of European cities, maps, portraits, and other illustrations; the graphic design; and printing which make this book famous.
Anton Koeberger was a productive and important printer in Germany. He produced four other highly illustrated books before the Nuremberg Chronicle helping establish his reputation as a printer. In total there are 1804 illustrations produced from 641-643 woodblocks carved by Nuremberg artists, Michael Wolgemut (circa 1434/37 – 1519) and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (circa 1450 - 1494).
As far as incunables go, the Nuremberg Chronicle is not a particualarly "rare" text. There are over 1200 extant Latin editions and over 1500 German editions. Our library copy of the Latin edition has been hand-coloured by Johann Kruyshaar c. 1521, with his marginal notes found intermittently throughout the text. It is exceptional to have a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle that is not only signed by the person who coloured it, but who was also a contemporary reader.
Johann Kruyshaar of Lippstadt (1484 – 1555), better known as Joannes Cincinnius, was a Westphalian humanist, author and scholar of some significance. He attended the Schola Paulina in Münster, continued his studies at the University of Cologne, and held the office of librarian at the Imperial abbey of Werden, where he was employed from 1505 until his death in 1555. He includes a list of the abbots of his monastery near the end of the book. More interesting, are the spiders he has drawn next to figures throughout the text to indicate they were heretics.
The latest work in our collection of 15th century texts, the Nuremberg Chronicle exemplifies how quickly printing changed almost 40 years after Gutenberg. Koeberger successfully integrates illustrations into the layout of the page. Caxton's Polycronicon printed 10 years early does not attempt to add in woodcuts. However, the two still borrow from the manuscript tradtion using hand drawn initials and rubrication throughout the text.
The three pages in the right hand menu highlight some of the marvelous woodcut illustrations and are grouped into three themes: religious imagery, maps and cities, and the Joannes Cincinnius' annotations.
Clicking on an image will take you to the item page. To view images in full screen and zoom, click on an image in the right hand column.
Wilson, Adrian, and Joyce Lancaster Wilson. The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Nico Israel, 1976.