The Comet of 1456. "Pirated" Nuremberg Chronicle


An incunable leaf from the "pirated" version of The Nuremberg Chronicle

Recto: 51 lines of text in Latin printed in two columns by letterpress on laid and watermarked paper. Two woodcuts distributed through the text: Ladislaus, king of Hungary and Bohemia and the Comet of 1456.

Verso: As Recto with a woodcut of the philosopher Franciscus.
See Verso image below

Printer: Johann Schönsperger, Augsburg.

Date: 1497.

Content: The leaf is from the 6th age of the world (sexta etas mundi). The paragraph above the woodcut of the comet reads: Various monsters appeared in the month of February, 1456; for instance, a double-headed calf in Sabina. In Rome it is said to have rained blood, and in Liguria, flesh. And a child was born with a large face and six teeth.
The text beside the comet woodcut reads: A comet is said to have appeared in the month of June, and a year later another appeared; and the people were greatly distressed thereby.

Condition: This leaf is in very good condition. Original margins all round and a sharp impression. Very slight browning to the edges. Two worm holes and tracks in the inner margin, not intruding into the text.
The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Size of leaf: approx. 285x205 mm. Text area including heading: approx. 230x145 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.

Notes: Johann Schönsperger (c. 1455-before 1521) was a publisher who lived in Augsburg, quite near Nuremberg. Schönsperger specialised in "reprints" and saw the potential in publishing a cheaper version of the Chronicle. He did so, in 1496, producing a German version with exactly the same text and number of images. To make it affordable, Schönsperger published it in a smaller format (190x280 mm. as opposed to Koberger's much larger 300x420 mm.), used cheaper paper and reduced the size and complexity of the woodcut images.
His pirated version sold extremely well, so well, in fact, that a planned revised edition of the Chronicle by Schreyer and Koberger was scrapped. A year later Schönsperger sought to capture the academic market with his Latin version. In 1500, because the German reprint of 1496 had sold so well, Schönsperger produced a second edition of the German version.
To call it a "pirated" version is perhaps misleading as no copyright laws existed at the time. There's no doubt, however, that Schönsperger copied Koberger's work without receiving his permission or paying any fee for the privilege - a common practice in the earlier days of printing.

References: Goff S 308.

Stock Number: PSE009

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