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Posts Tagged ‘Nuremberg Chronicle’

The ‘Women in the special collections of Trinity Hall’ is an occasional series to celebrate the ‘TH Women 40’ anniversary. In this first post of the series we look at two very different depictions of Eve, the first woman, published two hundred years apart.

Nuremberg Chronicle

The Nuremberg Chronicle, or ‘Chronica Mundi’, is a history of the world. Written by Hartman Schedel and printed by Anton Koberger in 1493 (a year after Christopher Columbus sailed to the ‘new world’) the Nuremberg Chronicle reflects the medieval world view.

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Creation of Eve. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail).

It includes a large number of woodcuts by Michel Wolgemnut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff of city scenes, historical figures and events. At this time, sources for European history were the Bible and the Classics which is why figures from the Old Testament mingle with those from Greek and Roman history. Some of the illustrations include women and give a fascinating insight into the medieval view of women – including Eve. An opening near the start of the book shows God creating Eve out of Adam’s rib. Eve is born, fully-formed, as a comely young woman who gazes directly at her Creator.

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Temptation of Adam and Eve in Paradise. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail)

On the facing page we see the temptation of Eve and the expulsion from Paradise.  Adam and Eve are of an equal height standing either side of the tree of knowledge. Each holds a red apple in their hands, while the serpent has another apple in its mouth. The couple cover their bodies in shame, although only Eve casts down her eyes. She is shown as curvaceous, vigorous and grounded. Moreover, in our hand-coloured copy she is alluring, with long blonde hair, red lips and pink flesh tones.

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Medieval face of Eve. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail)

The Nuremberg Chronicle abounds with other arresting images of women, who are often portrayed as lively and confident: from women of Roman antiquity to the women of the Old and New Testaments.

Paradise Lost

‘The poetical works of Mr. John Milton’, published in 1695, was the first collected edition of Milton’s poems. It includes the epic poem ‘Paradise lost’ which tells the tale of the Fall and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

Milton was a republican and a civil servant during the Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. He composed his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ in 1667, after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. England had endured a period of religious and political upheaval. The trauma of the Civil War and the collapse of the Commonwealth brought tremendous soul searching: families had been torn apart and individuals were buffeted by changing fortunes. Gone were the medieval certainties.

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Frontispiece to Book 9 of Paradise Lost (1695)

A new insecurity is revealed in these illustrations to ‘Paradise Lost’. In the frontispiece to Book IX we see Adam and Eve in a sunny paradise but surrounded by dark forces. Their small figures are dwarfed by the coiled serpent and a prancing Satan in the gloomy foreground. Eve’s face is blank in her innocence and, as if in a dream, she seems powerless to withstand the inexorable sequence of events.  Both the engraving and Milton’s introduction leave us in no doubt about the prime mover: ‘Satan having compast the Earth, with meditated guile returns as a mist by night into Paradise, enters into the Serpent sleeping’.

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Milton’s Eve in Paradise

The engraving captures the moment when Satan wakes the serpent from his sleep. We see the serpent spiralling up above Satan’s head (almost like a thought bubble) and mesmerising Eve, who takes a bite of the apple. She then hands an apple to Adam, who takes it and bites into it. The fatal deed is done! Thunder clouds mass overhead and lightning strikes, symbolising the voice and wrath of God at their disobedience. The final vignette depicts their misery at having disobeyed God by tasting the forbidden fruit. They realise that they are naked and cover themselves with leaves. Here Eve, Adam and even the serpent are all depicted as pawns in Satan’s titanic battle with God.

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Detail of frontispiece to Book 12 of Paradise Lost (1695)

The frontispiece to Book XII reinforces this feeling of powerlessness. Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden by the Archangel Michael, who holds a flaming sword. The couple seems traumatised and full of guilt. Adam hides his face but we see the doleful face of Eve, with huge saucer eyes looking up towards heaven, or perhaps towards an uncertain future outside paradise.

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Milton’s Eve on her expulsion from Paradise

Milton tells us that she is ‘compos’d to quietness of mind and submission’. This is a very different Eve from the medieval Eve of the Nuremberg Chronicle, who looked confident and knew her place in the world. The seventeenth-century Eve is conflicted, haunted and worried about the future – a modern Eve for troubled times.

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The Old Library has a collection of about 7,000 printed books, the most treasured of which have to be our 31 incunabula! These books, also known as incunables, were published at the dawn of European printing, during the period before the start of the sixteenth century.

We are delighted to announce that our project to create online catalogue records for the incunabula of Trinity Hall was completed by our specialist rare-books cataloguer, Allen Purvis, earlier this year. Online records for the books can be found using Cambridge University Library’s LibrarySearch and most of our holdings can also be found in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

Our incunabula cataloguing project has had the added benefit of shedding a fascinating light on our early collection!

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Inscription of William Mowse

The inscriptions in the incunabula reveal that our early library was built up primarily by generous donation. William Mowse (Master 1552-52 and 1555-1559?) gave us fourteen incunabula, while Robert Hare of Gonville and Caius, who was a great benefactor of the University of Cambridge and friend of Henry Harvey (Master 1559-1585), gave us five incunabula. Unfortunately, we have no record of how the remaining twelve incunabula came into our collection.

Robert Hare

Inscription of Robert Hare

The subject of the majority of the incunabula is hardly a surprise for a College renowned for the study of law! Twenty one of the books deal with law, of which eleven concern canon law, nine cover Roman law and one is on feudal law. The other subjects covered include religion, the Catholic Church, history, classical drama and medicine.

Mowse, an eminent ecclesiastical lawyer, was responsible for the majority of the law books. However, his gift also included a book by Suetonius on the History of the Roman emperors (Venice, 1496). One of Mowse’s volumes has the distinction of being the fattest book on the library shelves! It is made up of eight books on canon law (five of which are incunabula) bound into one huge volume, with a spine measuring 15.8cm wide. It never fails to catch the eye of our visitors!

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The “fattest” book in the library! A collection of Consilia, works on canon law.

However, the true gems of early printing are the five incunabula from Robert Hare. Hare was an antiquarian with Catholic sympathies and the books he donated concern world history, religion and classical drama.

Woodcut image of Nuremberg

Woodcut image of Nuremberg from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Through his generosity we have a magnificent hand-coloured copy of Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and a copy of Werner Rolevinck’s “Fasciculus temporum” (Louvain, 1475), both of which deal with the history of the world.

Hand-decorated initial, with purple pen-flourishes, Biblia Latina

Hand-decorated initial, with purple pen-flourishes, Biblia Latina (1472)

His incunabula on the subject of religion are Schoeffer’s “Biblia Latina” (Mainz, 1472), which is the earliest printed book in the Old Library, and Bernardino de Busti’s “Rosarium sermonum” (Hagenau, 1500). Hare also donated a copy of Terence’s dramas translated into French (Paris, 1500).

Twelve of our incunabula were printed in Venice, revealing the importance of the Venetian Republic as a centre of early printing. These are followed by four books from Pavia, three books from Milan and two books each from Strassburg and Lyons. We also have one incunable from the following cities: Basel, Cologne, Hagenau, Louvain, Mainz, Nuremberg, Paris and Siena.

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Illuminated first page of Fasciculus Temporum (1475)

While most of our incunabula look quite plain, a few are hand-coloured or hand-decorated. It is especially pleasing that three of our books from Robert Hare have been selected for inclusion in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Cambridge Illuminations research project on illuminated and hand-decorated incunabula.

Foliate decoration at the start of the index to the Nuermberg Chronicle

Foliate decoration at the start of the index to the Nuremberg Chronicle

A project like this always brings surprises and during the course of cataloguing we have discovered three legal incunabula that are not listed for Trinity Hall in ISTC!

References

Early printed books to the year 1500 in the Library of Trinity Hall Cambridge (Cambridge, 1909)

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/istc/

Wikipedia for biographies of Mowse, Hare and Harvey

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