Woodcuts of Bologna & Byzantium, 1493

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An incunable leaf from the German edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle with woodcuts of cities, Babylonian Kings and the philosopher Xerxes.

Recto:  25 lines of text in Bastarda Schwabacher typeface printed by letterpress on laid & watermarked rag paper.  Below the text is a full width (200x230 mm.) woodcut of the city of Bologna, Italy.


Verso:  32 lines of text and four woodcuts -  the philosopher Xerxes with his chessmen and chessboard, as evidence of his invention, the Babylonian Kings Merodach & Nebuchadnezzar and a view of Byzantium. 


Printer:  Anton Koberger, Nuremberg


Date:  1493


Content:  The leaf is from The Fourth Age of the Chronicle. The main body of the text begins: Bologna (Bononia), an ancient city of the Romans, was at first called Felsina, a name given it by the Etruscans; but thereafter, the Boii, a people of Gaul, called it Bononia. It was the first city of the Etruscans beyond the Apennines. Later it became the capital city of the Boii, after whom it was called Bononia. Livy states that the Romans secured possession of the city, taking it from the Boii, this being the territory that formerly belonged to the Etruscans. After the latter were driven out, the Romans sent 3,000 men there, and with their help the population was increased and the city expanded to such an extent that by the time of Augustus and under other emperors it became one of the three richest cities of Italy on the upper sea. Suetonius states that Octavian granted the Bolognans a charter incorporating their territory into that of Italy out of consideration for the tact that they were at one time of the Antonian family. Suetonius also writes that the emperor Nero favoured the Bolognans against the Romans. In the Year of Salvation 840, in the time of Pope Sergius (formerly called the Pig's Snout), when Emperor Lothair (Lotharius) sent his son Louis (Ludivicum) with a large force against Rome, the Bolognans opposed him and inflicted much mischief and damage, compelling Louis to retreat with his forces. And he overstepped the bounds of reason in wreaking vengeance upon the Bolognans, devastating their lands and slaying innocent people he found on the streets of the city and in the villages; and he besieged and levelled the cities that he conquered. Thereafter, in the Year of the Lord 1271, Bologna was so mighty that it barred the Venetians from free use of the Adriatic, and conducted a three years' war. The city was enclosed within its present walls by the Romans; and it increased in riches; and as it brings forth an abundance of grain, wine, and other necessities of life, the city is called the Fat Bologna  (La Grassa) in Italian.


Condition:   This leaf is in very good condition with sharp impressions of the woodcuts and text. The margins have been slightly trimmed and there is a faint brown spot in the text on Recto, but otherwise the leaf is virtually unblemished.

The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine. 


Size:  of leaf approx. 435x330 mm. Text & woodcut area: approx. 360x225 mm.  Presented in a museum quality mat, ready to frame. Please note that packing and postage is invoiced separately.  Within Australia: $27.50.  Overseas: ask for quote.


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. 


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


Item No. PSE 069

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