Exquisite incunabulum up for auction

Jo Francis
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A rare 15th century book produced in the early years of mechanical printing is expected to fetch tens of thousands of pounds when it goes up for auction this week.

"The most richly illustrated printed book produced in the 15th century" Image: Lyon & Turnbull
"The most richly illustrated printed book produced in the 15th century" Image: Lyon & Turnbull

Auction house Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh is holding an auction of Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps and Photographs tomorrow (22 September).

Among numerous printed treasures for sale the star lot is a copy of The Nuremberg Chronicle, described as “the most richly illustrated printed book produced in the 15th century” and “a truly unprecedented work, due to the quantity of illustrations provided and the way that these accompany the text”.

The Nuremberg Chronicle depicts the six ‘Biblical ages’ of world history to 1493 and discusses the Day of Judgement to come.

The text was written in Latin by Nuremberg physician and humanist Hartmann Schedel, and the book was printed by Anton Koberger. It has also been hailed as “the largest printing enterprise of the incunable period”, printed less than 50 years after Gutenberg instigated a revolution in the printing process with his use of moveable type. 


The Nuremberg Chronicle
folio is 456 x 309mm, and includes more than 1,800 woodblock prints by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff – “possibly with the input of a young Albrecht Dürer, who was an apprentice of Wolgemut and the printer’s godson”.

Local merchants Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister bankrolled the venture, with the print run believed to be 1,500 of which 1,240 copies are understood to survive. 

The copy going under the hammer has been owned by the same family for several generations and has a guide price of £30,000-£40,000. 

Other items in the sale include a first edition of AA Milne’s When We Were Very Young, a Beatrix Potter first edition from 1906 still in its original wallet, and various books in fine bindings and from private presses. 

The sale comprises 242 lots in total and also includes signed and first editions of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, including a first edition of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets with an estimate of £3,000-£4,000. 

 

 

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