Published in Latin in 1493, the Nuremberg Chronicle was the most ambitious and elaborate publication of the fifteenth century. It was written by Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514), a humanist doctor, on a commission from wealthy Nuremberg merchants. The publication documents the history of the world in seven ages from the Creation to the Last Judgement.
The Chronicle was remarkable for its book design, and the quality and quantity of woodcut illustrations, which number over 1800. They were created by Nuremberg’s leading artist, Michael Wolgemut, to whom Albrecht Dürer was an apprentice, and fellow artist Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. Due to the book’s size and complexity, it took six years to produce the woodcut illustrations.
In composing the text, Schedel drew on both his own observations during travel and popular texts from the medieval period (5th to 15th centuries). Woodcut illustrations of monstrous people which appear in the Second Age, are described as inhabitants from the edges of the known world. At the end of the Sixth Age the author inserted several blank pages, ‘on which emendations and additions may be made of the deeds of princes and other events which take place’. It was generally accepted that humanity as it was known would soon come to an end before the Last Judgement and Christ’s return.
The FUMA collection holds three single leaf pages from the Chronicle in its collection, with each leaf an example of combining letterpress text and woodcut image on the page. These three prints were purchased by the late Robert Smith (1928–2020), inaugural Senior Lecturer of Fine Arts when the University opened in 1966, and used to supplement his teaching program. FUMA’s Chronicle works are typical of the interspersal of secular and religious histories documented in the publication; a hand-coloured woodcut of the German town of Bamberg, the genealogy of the Holy Roman empress Kunegund, and the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin, all from the Sixth Age of the World.
Collections Curator, Flinders University Museum of Art
Adelaide, Australia, 2022
© Flinders University Museum of Art