"Pirated" Nuremberg Chronicle leaf, 1497. Saxony woodcut.

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An incunable leaf from the 1497 "pirated" version of The Nuremberg Chronicle.


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.

Recto: Text in Latin printed in two columns by letterpress on laid and watermarked paper. A full page width woodcut of “Saxonia magna”.

Verso:  As Recto, text only with one three-line printed initial ‘P’ .

Printer: Johann Schönsperger, Augsburg.          Date: 1497

Content: The Chronicle’s commentary on  Saxony begins on Verso, the first line reading:

"Post trutenos saxonicum nomen incipit gens valida et latissima…”

("After the Prussians the Saxons loom up - an extensive people, whose possessions extend from the west to the river Weser, although some say as far as the Rhine, Saxony borders on Denmark to the north; Franconia, Bavaria and Bohemia to the south; Silesia and Prussia to the east. In this terrain are included Thüringia, Lausitz, and Pomerania, although the Thüringians are said to have been in this country before the Saxons. For it is said that the Saxons were Greeks who were brought to this country in ships by the Macedonians, who distressed the Thüringians with many wars and drove them out of their homeland; which to me does not appear to be the truth. For the Saxon name is very ancient in Germany, and is mentioned by all the old historians; however, those who speak of the German people do not mention the Thüringians".)

Condition: This leaf is in very good condition with original margins all round, a sharp impression of the woodcut and a clear watermark.  One black spot in the text and a light water stain in the bottom margin, which is largely masked off by the mat.  The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Leaf: approx. 285x200 mm. Woodcut approx. 90x140 mm. Please note that shipping is quoted & invoiced separately.

References:   Goff S 308                                                                       

Item No:  PSE113

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