On this day in 1493 German physician, humanist, and historian Hartmann Schedel published the Nuremberg Chronicle. It is one of the best-documented early printed books.
Hartman Schedel was a native of Nuremberg who earned degrees in arts, humanities, and medicine from Leipzig and Padua, Italy. A bibliophile, Schedel had an impressive library consisting of some 370 manuscripts and 670 printed books, many of which survive to this day. It was this library that served as the basis for the Nuremberg Chronicle.
Also called the Liber Chronicarum, or “Book of Chronicles” in Latin and Die Schedelsche Weltchronik, or “Schedel’s World History” in German, the Nuremberg Chronicle is one of the first books to successfully integrate text and illustrations, many of which were hand-coloured after printing. The book follows a biblical framework of human history, including natural catastrophes, wars, and the rise and fall of civilisations, many of which are drawn from the Bible itself. Schedel’s world history is divided into seven ages in the Nuremberg Chronicle, including the Creation to the Deluge, up to the birth of Abraham, up to King David, up to the Babylonian captivity, up to the birth of Jesus Christ, up the present time, and the Last Judgment.
The Nuremberg Chronicle is considered an incunabula, Latin for “cradle,” a term given to printed books before the year 1500. It was printed by Anton Koberger and illustrated by Michael Wohlgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. An estimated 1400 to 1500 Latin copies and 700 to 1000 German copies of the book were printed, a significant amount at the time.
To this day, the well-documented Nuremberg Chronicle, replete with maps, illustrations, and intricate woodcuts, remains a treasure for historians and a wellspring of information.
Caption: Coloured woodcut from the “Nuremberg Chronicle.”