LSU Libraries Special Collections recently acquired a Nuremberg Chronicle, making it the largest single purchase the library has made since 2001.
After a failed attempt to obtain the famous document last summer, the University procured a Nuremberg Chronicle at an auction for a bid of $50,000, funded by grants and a portion of LSU’s Rare Book Fund.
John Miles, a curator of books and head of instruction at Hill Memorial Library, was especially excited by the new addition to LSU’s Special Collection.
“We had a guy on the floor bidding for us and we won the auction. We were the last one standing,” Miles said.
He also said he watched the bid amounts as they came in online.
A Nuremberg Chronicle is a historical book published in 1493 and depicts illustrations of biblical times, such as the story of Adam and Eve, as well as what medieval people believed the end of the world would look like.
Artists used about 640 woodblock cuts to create over 1,800 illustrations. They even used one woodblock cut to depict Hercules, and later, it was reused to illustrate Merlin the Great.
“It is the most richly illustrated book of the 15th century,” Miles said, noting the pages of intricate artwork and Latin typography.
The University's version of the Chronicle is one of the rare few that still has its original furniture and is in good condition after numerous repairs of both its front and back covers as well as its spine.
To maintain the book’s structural integrity, it is stored along with other rare books in a climate-controlled room where it lays flat, just as it would in the 15th century.
Christine Kooi, a Lewis, Katheryn and Benjamin Price professor of European History, elaborated on the historical significance of a Nuremberg Chronicle.
“It’s a very early example of European printing, which was only invented about 40 years earlier,” Kooi said. “Technologically, it’s a very early experiment in printing illustrations with text.”
Today, some would believe Berlin or Munich to be among the most well-known cities in Germany, but in the 15th century, Nuremberg was much more popular.
“Nuremberg was the New York of its time for the Holy Roman Empire," Kooi said. "It was the center of commerce but also a center of scholarship and learning."
About 700 Nuremberg Chronicles still exist today, thanks to the innovation of publishers who learned to make book pages out of rags.
Miles and Kooi agreed that a Nuremberg Chronicle would survive longer than the average book that is sold today.
The Nuremberg Chronicle will act as a resource to a myriad of topics covered at the University such as architecture, book arts and primarily medieval history.
Kooi expressed her excitement for the learning opportunity and even plans to take some of her classes to study the book.
“It’s a wonderful resource, and we get to own a copy,” said Kooi.
The Nuremberg Chronicle will be available for patrons to study in Hill Memorial Library’s reading room.