Michael Wolgemut or Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, The City of Ravenna (detail), from Die Schedelsche Weltchronik [The Nuremberg Chronicle] (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493), 1493. Hand-colored woodcut. Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund

The World in a Book: The Nuremberg Chronicle and the Art of German Renaissance Illustration

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A milestone in the history of publishing, the Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber Chronicarum) of 1493 was a hugely ambitious book documenting the entire history of the world back to the Creation with a sprawling text by German scholar Hartmann Schedel and an extensive illustration program in woodcut.

The financing, design, and production of this monumental volume over a five-year period involved many prominent members of Nuremberg society. The young artist Albrecht Dürer, who would later go on to revolutionize the art and craft of book illustration, was employed as a key illustrator for the project.

The Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts owns a first edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle — one of approximately 400 surviving copies of the roughly 1,500 published with a Latin text on June 12, 1493 — as well as a collection of unbound sheets orphaned from other copies over the centuries.

This focused exhibition presents the complete Nuremberg Chronicle alongside a selection of its woodcut plates featuring city views and biblical imagery. Also on view are bound copies and single leafs from other important publications from the same era and later — the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Instant and persistent bestsellers among the intelligentsia, publications such as these fed an ever-growing hunger for knowledge and information packaged in visually luxurious formats appealing to both the eye and the intellect.

Currently on view