News | May 31, 2024

Scarce 1500 Pirated Edition of Nuremberg Chronicle to Auction

Nate D Sanders

The Nuremberg Chronicle coming up for auction

A rare 1500 third German edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders on May 30.

Originally authored by Hartmann Schedel, the Nuremberg Chronicle holds a significant place in printing history. This particular edition, published by Johann Schonsperger in Augsburg, represents not only the third German iteration but also the first pirated German edition since there were no copyright laws at the time.

The Nuremberg Chronicle (also known as Liber Chronicarum) first appeared in Latin in July 1493, courtesy of publisher Anton Koberger. Recognizing the demand for vernacular editions, Koberger subsequently released a German version later that same year. Johann Schönsperger, an enterprising publisher, saw an opportunity to create a more accessible rendition of this monumental work. His goal was to cater to a broader audience by producing a smaller-sized edition. Schönsperger meticulously recreated the 1,809 woodcuts featured in the original, vividly depicting cities, inhabitants, religious figures, fashion, and architectural marvels from across the known world.

The pirated editions, including this 1500 third German edition, are even scarcer than the official versions. Their limited print runs and smaller formats contribute to their rarity. Sanders say that only one auction result from the past two decades sheds light on the value of this edition - in a Christie’s sale on December 9, 2009, a copy fetched $13,750, though this lacked the often-excised double-page map of Europe, which the Sanders offering includes.

This edition going under the hamme comprises 332 leaves, each measuring just under 8’’ x 12’', and is bound in gilt-ruled calf, with marbled endpapers and gilt edges. The private library label of Forbes, Northampton, Mass. is on the front pastedown. While mostly clean, the copy has undergone minor repairs to some leaves along the margins, and leaf 191 bears writing in the right margin.