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[Nuremberg Chronicle]. Hartmann Schedel. Liber chronicarum cum figuris et ymaginibus.

Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, publisher, July 12,, 1493. First edition. 326 (of 328) leaves, without fols. 61/5-6 blank, with blank leaf 55/6; quire 55, the Sarmatian supplement, bound between quires 53 and 54. 4/1-61/3 foliated I-CCLXVI with errors, quire 55 without printed foliation, fols. CCLVIIII-CCLXI (fols. 54/1-3) left blank except for printed headlines, intended for readers’ manuscript additions to the Sixth Age. Types 9:165G (headings), 16:110BG (text). 64 lines and headline (variable). Xylographic title, 2- and 3-line pearled Lombard initials, spaces left blank for larger initials. 645 woodcuts repeated to a total of 1809 illustrations (by Sydney Cockerell’s count, in Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century, (1987, 35-36), including 2 double-pate maps, of the world (Shirely 19), and of central Europe, 29 town views extending across two pages, and 8 full-page cuts, by Michael Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff and their workshop, including the young Albrecht Dürer. Unrubricated. Lacking last two blank leaves; title-leaf with upper and lower margins extended (inscription excised from upper margin). Minor marginal repairs to about 12 leaves. Pagination of fol. CLX cropped. Europe map with dampstain at outer edges and with a single minute hole touching printed surface on right sheet (with a small ink stain nearby). Some worming to lower blank margins at front and towards end. Faint marginal dampstaining towards end. A few leaves browned. Blue cloth clamshell case.

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A beautifully illustrated history of the world compiled by physician Hartmann Schedel with the assistance of Conrad Celtis and Hieronymus Münzer. One of the best known books of woodcut engravings, the Nuremberg Chronicle boasts 645 distinct blocks, intermittently repeated, rendering a total of 1,809 illustrations. These include many pictures of minor European towns as well as depictions of different bishops and saints. As one of our colleagues noted, the Nuremberg Chronicle is one of the earliest examples of ‘clip art,’ as the same images are used in several cases for different kings or different cities, though the major cities are individualized. One of the first secular histories of the world, the Nuremberg Chronicle reflects the humanist aspirations of its author and patrons. Its maps, which include one of the earliest obtainable maps of the world, the earliest printed map of Europe, and geocentric Ptolemaic astronomical charts, reflect the known geography and astronomy that Columbus had at his disposal when, only a year earlier, he embarked on his first voyage of discovery. Fifty years later Copernicus would publish De Revolutionibus (1543), which would resurrect the heliocentric theories of Pythagoras. Michel Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff produced most of the woodcut blocks, many of which are considerable. Albrecht Dürer, at the time an apprentice to Wolgemut, also produced some of the woodcuts here. The Nuremberg Chronicle’s publishing history is perhaps the most thoroughly documented of any incunable edition, owing to the survival of the contracts between Koberger and his financial partners and team of artists, and of the manuscript exemplars of both the Latin and German editions, all preserved in the Nuremberg Statdbibliothek. Anton Koberger established a large, well-organized and successful printing business, employing a fleet of twenty-five presses and one hundred pressmen. He also had other printers producing books for him on commission. For more information, see Adrian Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1976). (#kfk190)