The World according to Hartmann Schedel

On 13 November 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Schedel and Descartes won the highest bids—a matter of method.

Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514), Nuremberg Chronicle (Nuremberg, 1493), folio edition (in Latin) with a 17th-century ivory vellum binding with flaps.
Result: €63,700

It is no surprise that the highest bid was obtained by Liber chronicarum. Registrum huius operis libro cronicrum, better known as The Nuremberg Chronicle after the city where it was first published in 1493. Its author was German humanist, physician, bibliophile and collector Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514). The book is highly sought after because of its lavish illustration consisting of 1,809 prints made from 645 different wooden blocks by artists Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519) and his son-in-law Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (c. 1450-1494): their prominent workshop is where young Albrecht Dürer did his apprenticeship. A work like this would have been very expensive to make, so it was funded by a local entrepreneur, Sebald Schreyer (1446-1520), in partnership with his brother-in-law Sebastian Kammermeister. Divided into eight chapters, each about a great religious episode, the chronicle is an illustrated history of the world from Genesis to the time it was published. Just 400 of the original 1,500 copies printed in Latin survive, including this one, which fetched €63,700. Next came a rare 1637 first edition of the Discourse on Method by René Descartes (1596-1650) printed in Leiden. Originally bound in brown calfskin, it came from the library of journalist and publisher Frédéric Decazes de Glücksbierg (1958-2018) and sold for €30,330. After Galileo’s condemnation in 1633, Descartes decided to no longer allow any of his writings to be printed during his lifetime. However, in 1637 he gave in to his friends’ pleas and agreed to have this collection of his thoughts published, but with a sense of caution that gives the Discourse its particular tone.

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