Good King Wenceslas. Nuremberg Chronicle


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

Recto: 52 lines of text in Latin printed in two columns by letterpress on laid paper. Two woodcuts distributed through the text: Wenceslas of Bohemia and Otto I, king of Saxony.

Verso: As Recto, text only.
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 text concerning Wenceslas reads, in part, He was skilled in reading, fed and clothed the poor, protected widows and children and purchased the freedom of hapless prisoners. The story is told of how on a winter's night he carried a bundle of sticks to a poor old man who was suffering from the cold. Its most famous version today is found in the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas".

Condition: This leaf is in very good condition. Original margins all round and a sharp impression. Very slight browning to the edges. No worm holes.
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: PSE010

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