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About the Nuremberg Chronicle and The Print Revolution

by Leonard Butingan

The Nuremberg Chronicle, released in 1493 is a book that according to scholars from Beloit College, the author Hartmann Schedel, strove to explore “the true nature and history of the creation of the world and the first birth of man”. The book was framed largely through a biblical spectrum but was not just relegated to events specific to the bible. It also included, descriptions of “natural catastrophes, wars”, portraits, and the history of modern day cities in the form of text and woodcuts, which was the Nuremberg Chronicle’s most highly touted feature. The scholars at Beloit point out that some of the cities specifically the German cities and others in central Europe had never been displayed in print prior to the publication of the Nuremberg Chronicle.

The story of the Nuremberg Chronicle’s cannot be told without mentioning the Print Revolution because it made production and distribution easier and faster, which in turn helped to connect early modern society. Historian Elizabeth Eisenstein notes that for many, including even scholars, it is hard to envision a world without print because “the conditions of scribal culture can only be observed through a veil of print” (The Printing Revolution 6). And with the inception of the Internet and with the increasing ease of access to it examining conditions and culture before print becomes more difficult. As Eisenstein wrote, “There is nothing analogous in our experience or in that of any living, creature within the western world” (The Printing Revolution 6). But in fact the information age, occurred long before the age of Google and the Internet. Printing helped to foster standardization seen in the form of reference guides such as “calendars, dictionaries…maps, charts, diagrams, and other visual aids” all of which we use today (Eisenstein 57). Prior to the advent of the printing press scribes and other publishers were faced with “the difficulty of multiplying identical images by hand” (Eisenstein 57). However with the inception of the printing press, the woodcuts and images displayed in the Nuremberg Chronicle such difficulties eased and the book was able to be massed produced and distributed. The Nuremberg Chronicle was one of the first books and visual aids that allowed people to envision worlds and time periods outside of their immediate borders because as noted some of its woodcuts were the first visual and most accurate representations of certain cities. This was made necessary not exclusively by but by and large by the advent of print, which allowed for the ease of mass production and distribution, thus helping to connect the world at large long before the Digital Age.

In the twenty first century we have access to libraries and even quicker portals of information access such as around the clock news networks on television and the Internet. As Eisenstein noted above, this makes it more difficult to envision the information age in the era of the print revolution in the early modern world. In an attempt to overcome such barriers both a map of the early modern world and a map of the current day was used. Doing so would provide a side-by-side comparison and a visual representation of how the landscape of the world has changed since the inception of the Nuremberg Chronicle in 1493.

Works Cited

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983. Print.

"Nuremberg Chronicle - Morse Library, Beloit College." Nuremberg Chronicle - Morse Library, Beloit College. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/inside/about/index.htm>.