SCHEDEL, Hartmann. Liber Cronicarum, Nürnberg, Anton Koberg/Schreyer & Sebastian Kammermeister, 1493.


The German humanist and physician Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) was born and died in Nuremberg. He studied Medicine in Padua and other subjects in various European cities. While in Italy, he wrote a general description of the country’s antiquities. After returning to Germany, he became treasurer to the Episcopal See and cathedral of Saint-Sébald. Schedel possessed a very large library, of three hundred and seventy manuscripts and six hundred printed books, which included works on grammar, logic, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, history and theology.

With the help of a team of collaborators, Schedel compiled a landmark work in the history of books, both in its scope and in the quality of the final outcome. The "Chronicle" belongs in the category of illustrated histories of the world, a tradition that began in the Middle Ages. Without exception, these histories begin with the Creation and reach until the age when the book was written, in this case until 1490.

The first such attempt to record the history of the world was the "Chronikon" by Eusebius of Cesarea, in AD 300, which narrates the history of the Church, together with popular traditions, ancient and contemporary events, mixed with myths and legends. Schedel’s "Chronicle" commemorates eminent personalities and includes portraits of kings, priests (Jewish and Christian), philosophers and scholars. The history of the world is divided into six periods: 1) from the Creation of the World to the Flood, 2) from the Flood to the birth of Abraham 3) events that followed until the birth of David 4) from the reign of David to the conquest of Babylon 5) the events that followed until the birth of Christ 6) from the birth of Christ to 1490. The work closes with a text on the Second Coming and the description of the history, economy and culture of various cities. Schedel wrote the text and supervised the edition. The wood engravings are the work of Michael Wohlgemuth, painter and engraver, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, and his son-in-law, also an engraver, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. It was published by the famous publisher Anton Koberger, who from 1489 onwards directed thirty-nine printshops with about one hundred employees. The work circulated in two editions (one in Latin and one in German), in a total of one thousand five hundred copies.

This first, extremely rare edition, consists of three hundred and twenty-five numbered folios, with Latin text in Gothic characters, and one thousand eight hundred and nine wood engravings (most of which, one thousand one hundred and sixty-four, are repeated). They mainly depict cities in Central and Southeast Europe, and rulers from these.

Known as the "Nürnberg Chronicle", this ambitious historical and geographical work, a product of the city in which flourished the theory and practice of scientific geography, as well as the art and craft of engraving, in the era of J. Van Eyck and A. Dürer, was a huge success, notwithstanding its high price. It was reprinted three times in the following ten years. In accordance with the spirit of the age, the images tend to be signifiers of place, in which snippets of verisimilitude are intermingled with purely imaginary elements. The same is true of the text, which includes passages from historical sources and a host of information presented without logical sequence and order. Twelve plates represent Athens, Corinth, Rhodes, Lacedaemon (Sparta), Troy, Alexandria, Achaea, Macedonia, Thrace, Athens, and two views of Constantinople.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

Collection Tree

  • SCHEDEL, Hartmann. Liber Cronicarum, Nürnberg, Anton Koberg/Schreyer & Sebastian Kammermeister, 1493.