Memphis, The Sacrifice of Isaac, Nuremberg Chronicle,1493

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Large woodcuts of the city of Memphis (now Cairo) and Abraham 

about to sacrifice Isaac.



Recto: 31 lines of text in Latin in Antiqua Rotunda typeface printed by letterpress on laid rag paper. 

A large woodcut of Memphis (Cairo) and a full length portrait of Abraham as part of the Lineage of Christ. See detail images below


Verso:  30 lines of text with a woodcut of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac and a portrait of Zoroastes.  See Verso image below


Printer:  Anton Koberger, Nuremberg


Date:   1493


Content:  Immediately below the woodcut of Memphis is its description, which begins: Memphis nunc Chayrum dicta regia Egiptios... (Memphis, now called Cairo, the royal city in Egypt, was built by Ogelous, the king of Egypt and was named Memphis after his daughter.  It is located in the most convenient part of the region where the river Nile divides into many branches...and almost surrounds the city, giving access to shipping.)

Notes on the woodcut illustration comment that “there is nothing ‘eastern’ about this scene, and certainly nothing Egyptian.  The artist depicts the town as securely girded, with the usual battlements, turrets, towers and gates.  To the left is a stream, which we must assume to be the Nile.  On its banks grows an iris...but we see no reeds or rushes in which a little Moses might be concealed.”  

Comments on the woodcut on Verso note “the kaleidoscopic character of the illustration portraying a number of successive actions - a narrative - within a single illustration, which was common to this as well as far earlier periods.  The ram of Genesis which, in the Bible, was ensnared in a thorn bush, and ready for the sacrifice, is “free and vigorously rampant, and apparently about to buck the old patriarch from the rear...”


Condition:  This leaf is in good to very good condition, with full margins and very little browning. Edge stains are masked off by the mat.  There is slight cockling through the centre of the leaf and a few minor creases. Verso has some pen scribbles in the last section of text. (see detail image). The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 465x325 mm. Printed area : approx.  380x230 mm.  Mat size: approx. 600x435 mm.  Presented in a museum quality mat, ready to frame.  Certificate of Authenticity.

Contact us for further images of this leaf.Packing & registered, insured post within Australia: $22.50. Overseas destinations: ask for quote.

References:  Goff S307, ISTC No. is00307000 Incunabula Short Title Catalogue, British Library.


Stock Number:  PSE026

Notes:  Author: Hartmann Schedel (1440–1514)  

Woodcut illustrators: Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (with the assistance of their studio apprentices, including the young Albrecht Dürer).  Publisher and printer: Anton Koberger, 1493, Nuremberg.    

One of the most famous early illustrated books, this ambitious text chronicles the history of the world, from the Creation to 1493. It is considered to be the first book to successfully integrate illustrations and text. The contents are divided into seven ages:   

First age: from creation to the Deluge
Second age: up to the birth of Abraham
Third age: up to King David
Fourth age: up to the Babylonian captivity
Fifth age: up to the birth of Jesus Christ
Sixth age: up to the present time (i.e. 1493)
Seventh age: outlook on the end of the world and the Last Judgement.

This monumental work is more than simply a fine example of the skills of early printers and illustrators, it also reflects the spirit of its time. While on the one hand it demonstrates the influence of Renaissance humanism, it also shows a society in the process of transformation from medieval to modern and from a scribal culture to a print culture. 

The Chronicle was originally published in Latin in 1493, and a German edition followed later that year. The Latin edition was printed using a typeface known as Antiqua Rotunda, while the German employed Bastarda Schwabacher. 

Scholars estimate that approximately 1400-1500 Latin copies and 700-1000 German ones were printed.


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