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    First Edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle, the Greatest Illustrated Book of the Fifteenth Century

    [Hartmann Schedel. Liber chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger for Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister, 12 July 1493].

    First edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle, preceding the German language edition (published 23 December 1493) by just over five months. Large folio (17.125 x 11.5 inches; 436 x 292 mm.). 325 (of 328) leaves ([1, title], [19, index], CCXCIX, [1], [5]), lacking only three blank leaves (the two final blanks, as well as the blank leaf following the five unnumbered leaves). Preliminary leaves [6] and [7] are mounted on stubs and supplied from another copy, leaf [7] bound following leaf [20]; a few additional leaves possibly supplied from other copies. This copy contains the three numbered leaves CCLVIIII-CCLXI (259-261), blank except for headlines (often lacking), and the five additional unnumbered leaves containing the description of Poland, De Sarmacia regione Europe, and laudatory verse on Maximilian, here bound at the end. Foliation corrected (with paint or a stamp) on leaves CCXXIX (229) and CCXLVII (247). Gothic type, sixty-four lines plus headline. Table and parts of the text in double columns. Woodcut title and 1,809 woodcut illustrations, of which 1,164 are repeats, from 645 blocks (Sydney Cockerell's count in Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1897), pages 35-36), by Michael Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, and their workshop, including the young Albrecht Dürer, including double-page maps of the World (Shirley 19) and of Europe by Hieronymus Münzer after Nicolas Khrypffs, twenty-nine double-page city views, and eight full-page woodcuts. Most of the woodcuts have been colored by hand at a later date. The double-page map of Europe and the double-page view of "Nissen" in the Sarmatian supplement are uncolored. Two- and three-line printed lombard initials. Two- to fourteen-line capital spaces; several initials in the index and a few initials in the text have been supplied or supplied in outline in red; capital strokes, paragraph marks, and underlining supplied in red.

    The portrait of Pope Joan ("Joannes septimus," verso of leaf CLXIX (169)), usually missing, is present and unmutilated. The verso of leaf CCLVII (257) is in the later, corrected state, with the uppercase As present, and the recto of leaf CCLVIII (258) is in the first, uncorrected state, with the uppercase As omitted (presumably Koberger ran short and left spaces for the As in early copes of this sheet, later filled in with a new supply). The colophon at the end of the Sixth Age of the World, on CCLVIII (258) verso, is dated 23 May 1493 ("x. kal[end]as Junias"); the colophon at the end of the Seventh and Last Ages of the World, on CCLXVI (266) recto, is dated 4 June 1493; and the final colophon on the verso of the map of Europe, [CCC] ([300]) verso, is dated 12 July 1493. The first two colophons identify only the author; the final colophon identifies the patrons, the printer, and the artists.

    Expertly restored in early blindstamped calf over thick bevelled wooden boards (binding measurements: 18 x 12.375 inches; 457 x 315 mm.). Neatly rebacked, retaining the original spine and two leather pull-straps across the spine. Two metal catch plates on the front cover renewed, metal corner plates on both covers renewed, remains of straps on rear cover (one renewed). Later vellum endleaves from a manuscript choirbook. Boards a bit bowed, some minor worming to covers. The title, which has been backed, is darkened, with a few smudges or stains and a few marginal wormholes; the top blank portion (two to three inches) of the title has been torn away. There is a dampstain in the lower gutter margin throughout much of the book, very faint at the beginning, heavier toward the end, with occasional traces of mold, which, combined with some worming, has necessitated paper repairs to several leaves (neatly accomplished). Additional repairs to the upper and outer margins and corners of preliminary leaf [6]; repaired tear to preliminary leaf [7], affecting four lines of text; repair to leaf XXI (21), affecting a few letters in the last two lines on the recto; repaired tear to the lower margin of leaf CXIV (114); repairs to the lower margin of leaves CLXXXIV (184), CLXXXV (185), CXCVIII (198), and CCLIII (253), just entering the woodcuts; a few additional leaves with neat marginal repairs or strengthening. Several tiny puncture holes in the woodcuts on leaves II, III, and IV (2, 3, and 4), expertly and almost invisibly filled. Two tiny wormholes in the text from leaf CCLXVIII (268) to the end, sometimes affecting a letter or two. Occasional browning; some smudging of the coloring and offsetting or bleeding onto adjacent leaves; a few additional small stains or splatters. Early ink ownership inscription on the title, the following leaf, the first leaf of text, and on the verso of the final colophon leaf, all inked out; a few scattered early ink marginalia and corrections. The double-page map of Europe on leaves CCXCIX (299) verso and [CCC] ([300)] recto has several cities in Germany and Switzerland added in ink in an early hand. Overall, a sturdy, handsome copy.

    "The text by Schedel records the history of the world from the Creation to 1493 and-after allowing six blank pages for the purchaser to fill in a brief account of his own time-concludes with the apocalyptic vision of St. John and the Day of Judgment. In its reach the work covered all the aspects of history: biblical, classical and traditional. It is the illustrations on which the fame of the volume rests. There are 1,809 woodcuts printed from 645 different blocks. They picture the major events of the Old and New Testaments, episodes in the lives of many saints, portraits of prophets, kings, popes, heroes, and great men of all centuries, freaks of nature, and panoramic views of cities. An economic use of the blocks resulted in certain curious anomalies: Nebuchadnezzar appeared later as several German emperors, and the town of Mainz does service also for Naples. Nuremberg artists Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff were responsible for the production of the book...The wood blocks were designed by the two masters and their assistants, including the young Albrecht Dürer, who was [godson to Koberger and] apprenticed to Wolgemut at the time. The printing was carried out under the supervision of the great scholar-printer Anton Koberger, whose illustrated books were famous throughout Europe" (Legacies of Genius: A Celebration of Philadelphia Libraries 5).

    On the verso of leaf CCXC (290) "is a passage which has been used as an authority for the [unwarranted] claim that Martin Behaim of Nuremberg, in a voyage made by him with James Camus, or Jacob Cam, under orders from the King of Portugal, went to the Southern Sea near the coast of Africa, and, after crossing the equator, reached the New World and discovered new islands. This passage is not in the German edition, and an examination of the original manuscript of the work, which is still preserved in Nuremberg, has shown it to be an interpolation, written in a different hand" (Church 7; see also Harrisse 13 and Sabin 77523).

    BMC II, page 437. Bodleian S-108. Fairfax Murray, German, 394. Goff S-307. GW M40784. Hain-Copinger 14508*. Harvard/Walsh 726-732. ISTC is00307000. Polain 3469. Proctor 2084*. Schreiber 5203. See also Adrian Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle (Amsterdam: 1976).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
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