A LANDMARK IN THE HISTORY OF PRINTING, AND ONE OF THE GREATEST ILLUSTRATED BOOKS EVER PUBLISHED: 1493 FIRST EDITION OF THE MONUMENTAL “NUREMBERG CHRONICLE”
Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicles).
Item Number: 5726
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493.
First edition. Tall folio, bound in full blind-tooled calf, metal clasps, raised bands. With the xylographic title and double-page map of Europe, and hundreds of city and town views and portraits. Text complete with leaves 1-299 each numbered and present. Minor wear and contemporary marginal notes and a few small repairs. A near fine example of this monumental achievement in printing.
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. He compiled this elaborate history of the world from “the first day of creation” to his own time in an effort to correct what he felt was a slight to German history by other chroniclers. He divided his work into the usual six ages of the history of mankind, adding a seventh in which he foretold the coming of the Antichrist, the destruction of the world, and judgment day. The invention of printing is mentioned on verso of leaf CCLII: “born in Germany… in the city near the Rhine [i.e. Mainz]… in the year 1440”; on verso of leaf CCXC is a brief account (not appearing in the subsequent German edition of the same year) of the “Portuguese voyage of discovery along the coast of Africa in 1483 , under the direction of Diego Cam and Martin Behaim of Nuremberg, which has been used as a basis for the unwarranted theory that the expedition reached America” (Sabin). The legacy of the volume rests on its illustrations. “There are 1809 woodcuts printed from 645 different blocks. They picture the major events of the Old and New Testaments, episodes in the lives of many saints, portraits of prophets, kings, popes, heroes, and great men of all centuries, freaks of nature, and panoramic views of cities. Nuremberg artists Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff were responsible for the production of the book… The wood blocks were designed by the two masters and their assistants, including the young Albrecht Dürer, who was apprenticed to Wolgemut at the time. The printing was carried out under the supervision of the great scholar-printer Anton Koberger, whose illustrated books were famous throughout Europe” (Legacies of Genius 5).