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Posted on 2008.05.21 at 18:26
So here is today's show and tell:

This is a leaf(recto and verso respectively) from the Liber Chronicarum(Book of Chronicles)popularly known to English speakers as The Nuremberg Chronicle, after the city where it was printed by Anton Koberger in 1493. Basically it is a (medieval-Euro-centric)history of the world from creation to 1490. It is a sizable folio(meaning the original sheets were folded once to make 4 pages.)My leaf is about 16 by 12 inches but has been cut down from the original 500mm by 342. The book is best known for its woodcut illustrations of bible scenes, battles, kings; and especially towns, Nuremburg getting a 2 page spread.The book contains 1809 woodcuts but here Koberger Cheats a little and uses the same cuts for more than one individual etc. Accounting for duplicates there are still 645 different woodcuts. Some copies were also beautifully handcoloured.
Anton Koberger was also godfather to the artist Albrecht Duer who served an apprenticeship in his workshop. While it is certain he was away during the actual printing, it is quite possible that he was involved in the design of some of the woodcuts.
Koberger published both German and Latin editions; mine is in Latin.(Just to be clear; I own one leaf. The entire book would set you back 6 figures.)
The thing I find most fascinating has nothing to do with the printing. The paper of this vintage was made of linen rags(I think this is where the term "rag picker" comes from) and is incredibly sturdy. If you hold the paper up to the light you can see a few spots, defects where the paper is a tiny bit thinner, watermarks are made by intentionally creating this effect in the shape of the desired design. Paper was made by pouring a slurry of the broken down rag fibers into a mold with a screen on the bottom through which the excess water drains. After pouring, the workman would give the mold a hard shake so the fibers would settle evenly. Hard work this; what these little spots are from are the beads of sweat that dripped off the nose of the paper maker over 500 years ago.


ask me
vorona at 2008-05-22 20:16 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That's marvellous and obscure. The marks of 500-year-old paper-making sweat! What a lovely thing to know, and to have.
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