First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…
FOLIO I recto

As it sometimes happens among the most learned and distinguished men who have written of the true nature and history of the creation of the world and the birth of man, that two different accounts exist, so we will begin with those early times and write briefly of those remote matters as far as is possible, considering their age. Some were of the opinion that the world was not born and that it is indestructible; that the human race has existed from eternity and had no origin. Others maintained that the world was born and is destructible, and that man took possession of it from birth. And the highly enlightened Greeks who collected all the histories and accounts subscribed to the theory that before the beginning of all things of heaven and earth and while these things were still together, there was but a single form; that later through separation and division of matter, the world took on the order and structure in which we now see it. They say that because the air and the fiery part of its upper state were constantly in motion, these became lighter, and that the sun and many of the stars are carried about in it. But the dark and substantial part, together with the moist things, were carried to the lowest region by their own weight. After these things were mixed, the sea came out of the mist, and the substantial matter, which was loamy and soft, became the earth. And as the earth first became denser through the heat of the sun, there originated decaying ooze, covered by a thin skin, and out of such marshes and puddles came a variety of living forms. Those who had received more heat became winged creatures and soared into the upper regions; but the drier and heavier ones became crawling and earthly animals. Those which attained to a watery nature were carried into the element intended for their species. Now as the earth through the heat of the sun and the action of the air became dry, there was born a collective mixture of more perfect creatures, male and female. To this testifies Euripides, the tragedian, a disciple of Anaxagoras, the master of natural history. In the same manner they say the people were born in the field, roaming afar, and living a wild and unregulated life, and to whom the herbs and the fruits of the trees offered sustenance. However, as much is taught, old and new, that has been written concerning these matters, not only in Latin and Greek, but also in Chaldean and Hebrew, we will leave these old errors and look at the mysterious Mosaic writings about the creation of the world and of the work of the six days in which the mysteries of all nature are comprehended. For Moses, the prophet, father of God’s historians, through the dictation of the holy spirit of the Master of all truth, fully understood all these things, and to his human understanding and experience in all fields of learning, our people and his people, as well as the pagans, have testified. Solomon in his book of wisdom, as an expounder of nature and of living things, acknowledges that he derived his learning of these inmost matters from the laws of Moses. This man (as Luke and Philo, our own brave teachers say) was highly experienced in all the lore of the Egyptians. And, according to Hermippus, Pythagoras also derived much of his philosophy from the Mosaic law. Numenius, the philosopher, states that Plato was a very Attic Moses;[In these sentences Schedel slightly paraphrases the (pp. 170-172) of Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494): "Extat apud Hebraeos, Salomonis illius cognomento sapientissimi, liber cui Sapientia titulus, non qui nunc in manibus est . . . secretiore lingua compositus, in quo vir, naturae rerum sicuti putatur interpres, omnem se illiusmodi disciplinam fatetur de Mosaicae legis penetralibus accepisse. Sunt item, quantum attinet ad nostros et Lucas et Philon auctores gravissimi illum in universa Aegyptiorum doctrina fuisse eruditissimum. Aegyptiis autem usi sunt praeceptoribus Graeci omnes qui habiti fuere diviniores: Pythagoras, Plato, Empedocles et Democritus. Notum illud Numenii philosophi non aliud esse Platonem quam Atticum Mosem." ("There exists among the Hebrews, under the name of the wise Solomon, a book called , not the one we now have, the work of Philo, but another, written in that secret language called Hierosolyma, in which the author, an interpreter, it is thought, of the nature of things, confesses that he got all his learning of that sort from the inner meaning of the Mosaic law. We have the weighty authority, moreover, of both Luke and Philo that Moses was deeply learned in all the lore of the Egyptians. All the Greeks who have been considered the most excellent took the Egyptians as teachers: Pythagoras, Plato, Empedocles and Democritus. The saying of the philosopher Numenius that Plato was nothing but an Attic Moses is well known." English translation by D. Carmichael, from , translated by Charles Glenn Wallis, Paul J. W. Miller, and Douglas Carmichael, [Indianopolis, 1965] p. 68).] for in the beginning of his works upon nature a wealth of true wisdom lies buried. He speaks learnedly and wisely of all things as emanating from God, of their relationships, their number, and the regulation of their mutations. Wherefore it was a law with the old Hebrews (as Jerome also thinks) that no one, considering the remoteness of the age, should hark back to the creation. But what the most pious men, Ambrose and Augustine, Strabo and Bede, or Remigius, and the younger ones, Aegidius, Albertus, and also the Greek Philo, Origen, Basil, Theodorus, Appollinarius, Didymus, Gennadius, Chrysostom, etc. have written about this book we shall leave untouched. Nor will we make any mention of what the Jonethes or Anchelos, or Simeon the elder, in the Chaldean tongue, have said; nor of what was written by the Hebrews, Eleazadus, Aba, Joannes, Neonius, Isaac, Josephus, Gersonides, Sadias, Abraham, etc., but will briefly write the order of the six days in which, according to Moses, God created the earth.

Now as God created the earth, he placed at the head of his infinite work the first and greatest son, employing him as a counselor and master-craftsman in the planning, beautification and creation of things. For he was sufficiently endowed with wisdom and understanding. It is also asked out of what God made these great and wonderful things, for he made all things out of nothing; and therefore it is more righteous that insensible trifling things be ignored and the eyes directed to the seat, where is the abode of the true God, who endowed the earth with everlasting solidity, hung up shining stars in the heavens, distinguished the clearest suns, surrounded the earth with the sea, caused the rivers to flow, the fields to spread out, the valleys to sink, the forests to bedeck themselves with foliage, and the rocky mountains to rise. But this all Jupiter did not create, for it was created by the Master-craftsman of the world, the fountain-head of the best, who is called God, and whose beginning cannot be comprehended or discovered. Unto man it should be sufficient that there is a God, that he is the creator of the human race and the master-builder of this wonderful work. The ancients spoke of three kinds of worlds: the uppermost, the world of the angels; of the heavenly world; and of the one under the moon, in which we live, and this is the world of darkness, lighted, however, by the lights of heaven in regular course. In addition to these there is a fourth world in which all the attributes of the other worlds are to be found, and this world is man himself. In school we learned the saying that man is a little world in which elements of body and soul are intermixed – the growing spirit of plants, the sensitive faculty of unreasoning animals, and an intelligence and angelic disposition; and therein is seen God’s likeness. And all this according to Moses was ordained by the Almighty, as he learned on the Mount. We shall shortly relate what the book of Moses teaches about these six days.

FOLIO I verso
First Full-Page Woodcut



  1. According to the Douay Version of the Bible as translated from the Latin Vulgate and published with the approbation of the Roman Catholic Church, the reference to Psalm 32 is still the same:
    9. For he spoke and they were made: He commanded and they were created.

  2. In the Authorized or King James Version, used by the Protestants, Psalm 32 appears as Psalm 33, but the verse number remains unchanged:
    9. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.

NOTE: The woodcutter left the two shields in the lower part of the page blank in order that any owner of the book might insert his family coat of arms, or other indicia of ownership of the book. The illustration shows the Almighty attired in his regal robes, seated upon his throne.

FOLIO II recto

In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty. And darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters.[The Incipit is that of Genesis 1:1-2, according to the Vulgate.] Moses, the divine prophet and historian, who lived almost 700 years before the Trojan War, teaches that when God, the Creator and Ordainer of all things, was about to undertake this work, he first made of heaven a throne for himself as Creator, and raised it on high; and thereafter he established the earth and subordinated it to heaven. He invested the earth with darkness, and it is without light except as it derives light from the heavens; for there he placed the eternal light, the celestial spirits, and the eternal life; but to the earth he assigned darkness, the mundane spirits, and death. When Moses states that God created, etc., he abrogates the errors of Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus; for Plato held that God and the creatures in his image, and Yle, have existed for all time, and that in the beginning the world was made of this same Yle. The Greeks say that Yle was the first shapeless mass out of which all things were created, and that these visible things were formed of elements that were in harmony with each other; or (as others say) of matter and form, or were made of the finest dust that sparkles in the sunlight. But God created the world without available or previously prepared material; for he is to be regarded as having been a most wise and Intelligent maker before he undertook the Creation, and as a fountain of perfect and accomplished goodness, that springs from graciousness like a brook. Of all beings he first created the angels, and these out of nothing; for by reason of his immortality he is strong, and by virtue of his strength his power is infinite and without end, as is also his life. Therefore, why wonder whether he who undertook to create the world, first provided himself with material from that which was not. This was probably also understood by the Saracens, who say that the angels were brought by God from the darkness into the light, and filled with eternal joy; but some of them did not retain the conception of their divine origin, and through their own errors deserted good for evil, and became devils. The earth was void, that is, (as Jerome and the Seventy["The Seventy" (also written as "LXX") refers to the Koine Greek version of the Old Testament translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE in Alexandria, Egypt.] interpret it) invisible and chaotic, and because of its chaotic condition it was called an abyss; and this the Greeks called chaos, which consists of a material of three dimensions scattered about in the great deep. Ovid, the poet, gives elegant expression to this in his poems. And the Spirit of the Lord, an instrument of divine art, moved over the waters like the will of a master-builder, who orders all things done; and so the work is of divine perfection and is expressed in the figure six, whose component parts are 1, 2, and 3.

Moses in his account of the six days devotes the first to the creation, the second and third to the order and disposition, and the remaining days to the adornment of the world.


This woodcut, covering more than half of Folio II recto, represents the first step in the creation of the world, but is a strange confusion of ancient Greek theories with the Bible account. The design, like the succeeding ones, representing the six days of work and the one day of rest is circular in form. The center is a circle within a circle; the inner one, about three inches in diameter, was undoubtedly intended to represent the nothingness out of which the world was created by the hand of God. Apparently the artistic sense of the woodcutter rebelled against this blank space and he inscribed the word "YLE" upon it in large ornamental script of the period of the Chronicle, thereby introducing the ancient Greek theory into the midst of his Christian setting; for "YLE" is surrounded by the angelic hosts of the kingdom of God, acting as witnesses to the act of creation. Above them is suspended a dove with outspread wings and a nimbus, symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit. To the upper left, but outside the circular design, appears the hand of the Creator.

FOLIO II verso

And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.[Genesis 1:3-5.] With divine and not with human assiduity, Moses wrote a wonderful masterpiece upon all the mysteries of nature—a book which excels all others in utterance and ingenuity; for the glorious God, who is the true light, and who loves the light and made all light-giving things, very fitly began the creation with light. In three days and before the fourth (on which the great lights were formed) he placed the same in their spheres, and thus brought about the natural day. Among all physical things light is the noblest and, next to spiritual creation, the best. Its bounty is most general, and it reaches the smallest places throughout the world. By it all the world is made good and beautiful; for without doing any harm it penetrates all unclean things. God saw that the light was good; for the light is nothing other than a symbol—a tender, thin and hazy image of the initial Goodness. Now, when the Spirit drew up the waters and penetrated the nether matter, light was created by the command of the Architect; and it shone forth like a bright cloud, lighting upper regions with its brilliance, as when the morning sun bursts forth and lights up half the heavens. Thereafter God separated the darkness from the light, and made two hemispheres. Because of its brightness he called the light Day; for it clarifies the darkness. The darkness, which is detrimental to man’s sight, he called Night. And thus he created day and night, by which the endless cycle and course of time were to be marked off, and of which the years were to be made up. And it was a day—the first day of the world, but not the first of all days; wherefore it is not called the first day, but a day. On this day God made shapeless matter, the angels, the heavens, the light, the earth, the East (Aufgang, or rise), and the West (Niedergang, decline). The East is ascribed to God; for he is the fountain of light, and an enlightener in all things, who opens up to us eternal life. The West, or decline, is ascribed to the wrathful and those of wicked disposition; for it conceals the light and brings on darkness, and aims to destroy man by sin. As the light emerges from the East, and understanding soars in the light, so darkness comes from the West, and within it death and destruction are comprehended. Thereafter God established other regions, namely the South (Mittag, noon) and the North (Mitternacht, midnight), determined by like means. These are related to the other two regions; for the region which is warmer through the heat of the sun is closely related to the East; but the region which is cold, and suffers eternal frost, is related to the West. Just as light is opposed to darkness, so cold is opposed to heat. Therefore, as warmth is related to light, so South is related to East; while cold and darkness, and North, are related to the West.


The woodcut is in the form of a square, wherein are inscribed two large concentric circles, apparently intended to represent single band—a day, the first day. There is no attempt to depict light, and except for this linear design, and the creative hand at the upper left, the illustration is entirely blank. The subject may have proved too elusive or abstract, although light has frequently been represented by rays proceeding from a common center or a given point. The woodcut has an unfinished appearance as though the artist had lacked time to work out details.


On the second day God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters; and he called the firmament Heaven.[Genesis 1:6-8.] God divided the firmament and made it movable; and he made other sensitive things comprehensible. And the waters that ran together he fixed in the nature of crystals, and he fastened the stars to them. Now the sphere of the heavens, with its fixed stars, is provided with two pivots, one of which is called the north, and the other the south pole, and is revolved from east to west with such speed that the world would be torn asunder if the planets in their counter-courses would not prevent it. The master-craftsman of the world so tempered the heavens with water that the heat of the upper regions cannot ignite the other elements. Some teachers, not only of our own time, but also among the Hebrews and others, believed that above the spheres of the seven planets, and above the eighth sphere, which they call the unerring one, and also over the ninth sphere, which is reached by reason alone and not by perception (and which is the first among movable corporeal things) is a tenth sphere, that is stationery and at rest. Consequently Isaac the Wise, one of the learned men already mentioned, holds that the tenth heaven was identified by Ezekiel through the zaphirum, in the similitude of a throne; and that the color of the zaphirum, the brilliance of the light and the likeness of a throne, indicated immobility. But to return to Moses, who separated the waters from the waters, resulting in a triple division of corporeal things under the moon! Some are in the middle region of the air as the uppermost part of the same element, as the brightest fire, and in itself a pure unmixed and proper element. Others are under the mid-regions of the air, as with us, where there is no pure element, but all elements are mixed, due to the density of the corporeal world. In between is a region of the air, also called the firmament, in which rain, snow, lightning, thunder, comets and the like appear. Therefore this firmament is very fitly distinguished, not alone because of its location, but because of its nature as well—the upper elements from the lower, as the water from the waters. Therefore the upper elements are pure and bright and separated from those below, which are mixed. And he called the firmament Heaven for it covered all susceptible and unseen things.

Schedel’s commentary on the work of the second day is very obscure. In medieval times the revolution of the spheres was not supposed to take place, like the motion of the earth in modern astronomy, round an imaginary axis, but round one which had a material existence, which was provided with pivots moving in fixed sockets. According to Vitruvius, architect to Augustus,

The heaven turns continually round the earth and sea upon an axis, where two extremities are like two pivots that sustain it: for there are two places in which the Governor of Nature has fashioned and set these pivots as two centers; one is above the earth among the northern stars; the other is at the opposite end beneath the earth to the south; and around these pivots, as round two centers, he has placed little naves like those of a wheel upon which the heaven turns continually.

Many of Schedel’s commentaries are based upon the theories of Greek philosophers concerning the structure of the heavens. Thus Eudoxus, who paid more attention than others to the motions of the planets, gave more than one sphere to each of them to represent or account for variations of movement. According to his theory every planet has a separate part of heaven to itself, which is composed of several concentric spheres, whose movements, modifying each other, produce that of the planet. These concentric spheres were supposed to fit each other, so that the different planets were only separated by the thicknesses of these crystal zones.

In a small work ascribed to Aristotle, entitled Letter of Aristotle to Alexander on the System of the World, is the following passage:

There is a fixed and immovable center to the universe. This is occupied by the earth, the fruitful mother, the common focus of every kind of living thing. Immediately surrounding it on all sides is the air. Above this in the highest region is the dwelling-place of the gods, which is called the heavens. The heavens and the universe being spherical and in continual motion, there must be two points on opposite sides, as in a globe which turns about an axis, and these points must be immovable, and have the sphere between them, since the universe turns about them. They are called the poles . . . . The substance of the heavens and of the stars is called ether . . . because it has an eternal circular motion, being a divine and incorruptible element . . . Of the stars contained in the heavens, some are fixed, and turn with the heavens, constantly maintaining their relative positions. In their middle portion is the circle called the zoophore, which stretches obliquely from one tropic to the other, and is divided into twelve parts, which are the twelve signs (of the zodiac). The others are wandering stars.

Another passage of the same work states that,

On the nearer, that is inner, side of this ethereal immovable, unalterable, impassable nature is placed out movable, corruptible, and moral nature. Of this there are several kinds, the first of which is fire, a subtle inflammable essence, which is kindled by the great pressure and rapid motion of the ether. It is in this region of air, when any disturbance takes place in it, that we see kindled shooting stars, streaks of light, and shining motes, and it is there that candles are lighted and extinguished. Below the fire comes air, by nature cold and dark, but which is warmed and enflame, and becomes luminous by its motion. It is in the region of the air, which is passive and changeable in any manner, that the clouds condense, and rain, snow, frost and hail are formed and fall to the earth. It is the abode of stormy winds, of whirlwinds, thunder, lightning, and many other phenomena.

Letter of Aristotle to Alexander on the System of the World

The testimony of Ezekiel to which the text refers, was this:

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof was the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire . . . .

Ezekiel 1:4
And above the firmament . . . was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it . . . As the appearance of the Bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord

Ezekiel 1:26-28.


Again we have a square, and in this instance inscribed with five concentric circles forming four bands, the hand of the Creator at the upper left. This design cannot be reconciled with the work of the second day, whether we regard the design as consisting of five circles or of four bands. It has been conjectured that this woodcut was misplaced, or interchanged with the woodcut on the verso of the same folio, and which has but four concentric circles, making three contiguous bands. However, this being but the second day, neither of these cuts appears appropriate. This illustration, like its predecessor in the series, appears unfinished.


On the third day God gathered together unto one place the waters under the firmament; and the dry land appeared. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas; and God saw that it was good, and said, Let the earth bring forth the green grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit trees yielding fruit after their kind.[Genesis 1:9-13.] After the creation of the firmament Moses calls our attention to the completeness, location, and order of the elements. Soon after the gathering of the waters into one place, boundaries were fixed for the sea so that it would not overflow the land. Now, after the submerged land appeared, it became necessary that the waters under the firmament (that is, those which are in the mid-regions of the air and had been stored up there in a common mixture) should be collected in an orderly manner and provided with banks. It is not true that no water is found in certain isolated regions, for the Hebrew Sea comes from the Hyrcanian Sea, the Hyrcanian from the Adriatic, the Adriatic from the Euxine Sea; and there are also countless rivers, springs and lakes, separated by regions far distant from each other. But the waters, it is said, were gathered together in one place, because the sundered waters of lakes and rivers (as Solomon says) flow down to the sea of their origin. When the land is inundated by floods, it is neither visible nor of any use to us; but when it emerges after the floods have subsided, and again becomes more and more visible, it also becomes useful to our people and their cattle as it becomes productive. This is here very clearly revealed by Moses; for as soon as the land appears he brings forth the herbs, shrubs, and trees. After the gathering of the waters, he brings forth the earth, green and in flower. He placed the earth in the center of the world, and endowed it with veins of gold, silver, bronze, copper, zinc, lead, and iron, and with all kinds of seed-bearing herbs, which are very pleasant as soon as they become clad in verdure, and the trees have very sweet fruit. They also say that on this day God made Paradise, the most fruitful and wonderful garden; and he planted it with every species of tree, and set in it a wonderful fountain.


Again a square, and inscribed with four concentric circles, or three orbits. Otherwise the cut is blank except for the hand of the creator in the upper left hand corner. The creation is still concerned with the elementary universe, consisting of earth (the center) and the three other elements of water, air, and fire (the three contiguous orbits). The ethereal universe will be added on the fourth day when the planets and stars are fixed in their orbit; while the empyreal universe, or zone of rest, will appear on the seventh day.

FOLIO IV recto

On the fourth day God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day and the night; and let them be signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years, and shine in the firmament of the heaven and give light to the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater to rule the day, and the lesser to rule the night. And the stars separate the light from the darkness. Moses thinks first of the celestial things which God set in the firmament to shine in the heavens and to give light to the earth; as the sun, the moon and the stars with which the upper part of the world is adorned, just like the earth is adorned with the things that grow in it. And after Moses has spoken of the nature of the firmament, he follows with the work of the stars and explains their functions—to what exercise and use they were dedicated and for what purpose they were intended. The heavenly corporeal bodies have two apparent functions to perform in the world, namely motion and to give light. And there are two movements: One of the whole world by which the heaven and the sphere of the air and of fire are moved through the whole area of the world in a complete revolution in twenty-four hours. The other movement is of the stars, and is singular, manifold and various. Among these the movement of the sun is most important, for in twelve months the sun revolves through the circuit of all the signs. The sun makes the day. So this course of the sun through this same circuit makes a year. The movements of the stars occur at various times in the interim. That is why Moses has so ably and briefly reminded us of those things, namely, that the stars were set in the firmament to indicate the days, years and seasons. In addition he has clearly spoken of the other function of the stars, that is, to give light. So he says they were set to shine in the heavens and to light the earth. Therefore the bodies of the moon, sun and stars are fitly constituted for such purposes. And although the sun which rises in the day is alone, yet it gives a real, full and complete light, and with its warmth and clearness reaches everything. Although we see all the stars glitter and shine at once, they do not make as full and strong a light; nor do they give warmth nor overcome the darkness. So two things of quality are found which in various ways have functioned in opposition to each other, namely, warmth and moisture, which God created to sustain and bring forth all things. About these matters many important inquiries could be conducted and a proper book written upon each—what stars are in the firmament and what their size; also what creations rank higher than others in nobleness and worth; what the nature, properties, and functions of these stars, and which of them may be useful in foretelling the future. However, neither time nor space permit us to write about that.


The universe is becoming more complicated as the creation proceeds. The concentric circles or orbits have appreciably increased. In the center is the earth, indicated by a landscape, inverted for some unexplained reason, not by the printer, but so designed by the artist. The inverted earth is circumscribed by thirteen concentric circles or orbits. The three immediately adjoining the earth, together with the earth, probably represent the four elements, earth, air, water, and fire. They may have been left blank as already created and not concerned with the work of the fourth day. In the fourth orbit is the moon, in its first phase. In the fifth are two stars, one to the right, the other to the left. The sixth orbit is blank, and in the seventh appears the shining sun. The eighth zone has a single star, the ninth is blank, and the tenth and eleventh have a star each. The twelfth is neatly set with nineteen fixed and equidistant stars. The last or thirteenth orbit is blank. And thus the greater and lesser lights were set in the firmament by the artist. The hand of the Creator appears as usual.

Why the landscape representing the earth appears upside down is not clear. The woodcut would appear to be a single block, and although the landscape is inverted, the sun, moon, and hand of the Creator are upright. The same peculiarity appears in the woodcut for the Seventh Day (Folio V verso).

FOLIO IV verso

On the fifth day God said, Let the waters bring forth creeping things with living souls, and fowl upon the earth under the firmament of heaven. And God created great whales and every living thing and moving creatures, which the waters brought forth, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, You shall grow and multiply and fill the waters in the seas; and let fowl multiply on the earth.[Genesis 1:20-22.] And so on this day God adorned the air and the water, the air with fowl and the water with swimming creatures; and there appeared great whales and wondrous aquatic animals, and through the overflow of the sea’s moisture greater ones were found. What is born in some divisions of nature, is also (as is generally held) to be found in the sea. Known and manifest are the things which follow when animals bear. And the plants also have certain things in common—movement and sensitiveness, ascribed to them by the Pythagoreans. The creatures are by Moses and Thimeo divided into three classes: those which live in the air, those in the water, and those on land. Though one may say that fowl do not live in the air, we will avoid this disputation, as well as the question as to the state in which the creatures were born of the elements; how God implanted fruitfulness in them; whether life was given to irrational animals out of matter; or whether all life had a divine origin, as Plotinus firmly holds; which doctrine is also to be found in Moses. For he states that the waters were to bring forth the creeping thing with living soul, and then adds that God made all living creatures. Therefore, one would not want to stand alone in the contention that the waters bore at God’s behest, and that thereafter God bore also. Furthermore, in the passage where God’s pronouncements are recorded, it is written that God created a living creature; but where the waters are spoken of, it is not so stated, but it appears that a creeping thing is to be brought forth. Although Moses on the following day makes note of three kinds of living creatures in the earth, yet most and by far the largest animals are to be found in the Indian Ocean. Many wonderful creatures are to be seen in the region where the solstices occur and the great waves fall from the mountains into the sea and expose its wonders to man’s face. And much is to be learned there of the nature of both birds and fish.


The woodcut is square in outline, and contains a circular illustration. Again we find the hand of the Creator at the upper left. The entire circle is given over to the work of the fifth day—the creation of the fish in the sea, and the fowl in the air. A few of the former appear in the sea. On the bank in the foreground stands a large tree that spreads its leafless branches over the landscape. The birds have come to roost. They have already obeyed the mandate to increase and multiply. But even at this early stage of their existence all is not well. In the center of the tree sits a bird of prey as though dominating the feathered kingdom. Below, two birds are screeching in excitement. On the ground to the left is an owl, attacking a prostrate dove. At the base of the tree struts the symbol of vanity. All this very naively presages the realm of man who is still in the womb of the earth.

FOLIO V recto

On the sixth day God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature, cattle, and the creeping thing, and wild beast of the earth, after his kind; and God saw that it was good, and said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the animals over all the earth. So God created man in his own image and likeness.[Genesis 1:24-27.] Having adorned the upper part of the world, God finally, on the sixth day, provided the earth with species of animals. Moses divides the animals of the earth into three classes: beasts of burden, creeping animals, and wild animals. So he gives us to understand that there are, in general, three kinds of irrational animals. There are wild animals, which as creatures of perfect imagination and fantasy, occupy a middle ground among irrational animals, and yet may not be tamed nor made obedient by man. And so there are creeping creatures of imperfect imagination and fantasy, who occupy a middle ground between animals and plants. And there are beasts of burden, which, although lacking in reason, are in some measure capable of training, and seem to have some measure of understanding. These occupy a middle ground between animals and man. Now God created the large as well as the smaller animals of various species and form, and every species became male and female, and by their seed the air, earth, and sea were filled with them. And for each species he provided sustenance from the earth so they might be useful and serviceable to man, some as food and some as clothing, and the larger ones to help him build up the earth by their strength and power. Up to this time three worlds have been mentioned—the super-heavenly, the heavenly, and the under-heavenly. Henceforth we will treat of man, the fourth world. God having wonderfully ordered all things, and having determined to create an actual empire of countless immortal beings, he now created a sensible and understanding likeness in his own image, a being that could not be more perfect. And he made him out of clay or a clod of earth, after which he was accordingly named.[‘Adam’ generically means earth, or earth-born (Hebrew, adamah).] God the creator of all things, also created man; but of this, as well as other heavenly writings of the prophets, Cicero knew nothing. This animal, which we call man, is a circumspect, many-sided, keen being, full of understanding and clear judgment, and born of the supreme God alone. Among all species of natural life, he alone is endowed with that intelligence and reason which all the other creatures lack. Now it is often the custom with kings and princes, when building a mighty, great and noble city, on having completed the task, to erect their own image in the midst thereof, to be seen by all. God, the prince of all things, has done likewise, for after he completed the entire world structure, he finally created man in his own image and likeness, and placed him in the midst thereof. And so, with Mercurius, we may well exclaim, O, Aesculapius, what a great miracle is man! Of this distinguished name mankind may well be proud, and no one should be unhappy in serving him. The earth and the elements, and the irrational animals willingly obey him. The angelic hosts wish him well and heaven urges him on to knighthood. No one should wonder that he is loved by all creatures, for all recognize in him some quality of their own.


This woodcut is square in outline and circular in design. The four-footed animals have already been created. To the right, under the shade of the trees, reclines a deer, while its doe grazes about in the open spaces. A bear-cub toddles about in the foreground. The mysterious hand of the Creator does not appear in the upper left-hand corner of the square, for he himself participates in the action of the picture. Resting on a hillock, his ample garments fluttering about him, he is extracting our first ancestor from a lump of clay. Adam has already emerged to the waist, and the Creator is blessing him.

FOLIO V verso

The creation of the world having been accomplished by divine wisdom in six days, and heaven and earth having been finished, ordered and adorned, the glorious God fulfilled his task; and on the seventh day he rested from his labors. Having created the entire world and all the things therein, he stopped, not because he was wearied by his labors, but to make a new and immortal creature or likeness out of matter; for he never ceased in his work of creation. And the Lord blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, and called it the Sabbath, which according to the Hebrew tongue means rest, for on the seventh day he rested from all the work which he had done.[Genesis 2:1-3.] The Jews may be known by the fact that on this day they also rest from their labors. Before the time of the Law this same day was also observed as a holiday by certain pagan peoples. And thus we have arrived at the end of the divine works. Therefore we should fear, love and honor him in whom all visible and invisible things are comprehended; and of the Lord of Heaven, who is the Lord of all good, and vested with power over heaven and earth, we should seek like endowments as well as the true blessings of eternal life.


This is one of the most interesting illustrations in the Chronicle, and covers almost an entire page. It represents the universe according to the Ptolemaic System as amplified by the Fathers of the Church in medieval times. The same concentric circles which appeared in previous illustrations of the Creation series are here again invoked, and developed with considerable detail. In the center is the earth (terra) in the form and size of a small coin. We know this is the earth because it says so and because it is depicted by a landscape, which, however, again appears as inverted. The earth is circumscribed by thirteen orbits:

  1. SPERA AQUE – The zone of water or moisture, by which the earth is kept from being burned up by the heat of the upper regions.
  2. SPERA AERIS – The zone of the air.
  3. SPERA IGNUS – The zone which is all aflame with fire and heat, against which the earth is protected by zone one.
  4. SPERA LUNE – in which the moon is shown in its first quarter.
  5. SPERA MERCURY - The sphere of the planet of that name; shown as a star.
  6. SPERA VENERIS – The course of the planet Venus.
  7. SPERA SOLIS – in which the sun is shining forth with all its might.
  8. SPERA MARUS – The sphere of Mars, represented as a star.
  9. SPERA IOUIS (Jove) – The orbit of Jupiter, also shown as a star.
  10. SPERA SATURNI – Wherein moves the planet Saturn, shown as a star.
  11. FIRMAMENTI – A band containing the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
  12. COELUM CHRISTALLINUM – The imaginary crystal envelope or ceiling of the firmament.
  13. PRIMUM MOBILE – Representing the prime moving force (or first mover) by which the universe is kept in motion.

Ptolemy was a native of Egypt and flourished 139-161 CE. As an astronomer and geographer he held sway over the minds of scientific men down to the sixteenth century. He proceeded on a geocentric theory—that the earth is the center of the universe, and that the heavenly bodies revolve about it; that beyond and in the ether surrounding the earth’s atmosphere are concentric spherical shells, to each of which a heavenly body is attached, the fixed stars occupying the eighth. According to his Cosmography the world is divided into two vast regions, the one ethereal, the other elementary. The ethereal begins with the first mover (primum mobile) which accomplishes its journey from east to west in twenty-four hours; ten skies participate in this motion, and their totality comprises the double crystalline heaven, the firmament of the seven planets. He placed the double crystalline heaven between the first mover and the firmament. The elementary region, comprising the four elements, earth, water, air and fire, reigned beneath the cavity of the sky, and was subject to the influence of the moon. The terrestrial globe, composed of earth and water, existed motionless in the center of the world, and was surrounded by the element of air, in which was mingled that of fire.

It is the Fathers of the Church that we owe the medieval idea of a crystal vault, a heaven of glass, composed of eight or ten superimposed layers, something like so many skins of an onion. This idea seems to have lingered on in certain cloisters of southern Europe, even in the nineteenth century, for a venerable prince of the church told Humboldt in 1815, that a large aerolite lately fallen, which was covered with a vitrified crust, must be a fragment of the crystalline sky. On these various spheres, one enveloping without touching another, they supposed the several planets to be fixed. While the primum mobile rotated from east to west, each planet and fixed star made an effort against this motion, by means of which each of them accomplished its revolution about the earth in greater or less time, according to its distance or the magnitude of the orbit it had to accomplish.

The heavens, as we have seen, were not supposed to consist of a single sphere, but of several concentric ones, the arrangement and names of which we must now inquire into.

The early Chaldeans established three. The first was the empyreal heaven which was the most remote. This, which they called also the solid firmament was made of fire, but of fire so rare and penetrating in nature, that it easily passed through the other heavens, and became universally diffused, and in this way reached the earth. The second was the ethereal heaven, containing the stars, which were simply formed of the more compact and censer parts of this substance; and the third heaven was that of the planets. The Persians, however, gave a separate heaven to the sun, and another to the moon.

The system which has enjoyed the longest and most widely spread reign is that which places above, or rather round, the solid firmament a heaven of water (the nature of which is not accurately defined), and round this a primum mobile, prime mover, or originator of all the motions, and round all this the empyreal heaven, or abode of the blessed.

In the illustration before us this universe of thirteen spheres is contained in a much larger circumference in the base of which is rests, forming a crescent above the universe. In this crescent or empyreal heaven sits the Almighty on his throne, resting from his labors, and surrounded by a host of rejoicing celestial beings. This is the immobile and fixed region in which the Creator, according to Schedel, established his throne when he was about to enter upon the work of the creation.

Inscribed on the panel of the left in this woodcut are the following names: SERAPHIM, CHERUBIM, THRONI, DOMINACIONES, PRINCIPATES, POTESTATES, VIRTUTES, ARCHANGELI, and ANGELI. According to Roman Catholic theology these nine divisions, choirs or orders of angels make up the celestial hierarchy:

  • SUPER CELESTIAL - one head
    • Upper Order
      • Seraphim
      • Cherubim
      • Thrones
    • Middle Order
      • Dominations
      • Principalities
      • Powers
    • Lower Order
      • Virtues
      • Archangels
      • Angels
  • SUB-CELESTIAL - Holy Persons

Apparently the artists here combined the ideas of Ptolemy with those of the Church Fathers. In the center we have the immovable earth, surrounded by the three other elements, and thus constituting the elementary world. Enveloping these, and succeeding one another are the orbits of the planets. The eighth orbit represents the firmament, which is followed by the crystalline heaven. Above all these is the primum mobile which rotates the entire machine; and his angelic hosts.

The geocentric theory of Ptolemy was finally supplanted by the heliocentric theory of Nicolas Copernicus, founder of modern astronomy. Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473, just twenty years before the Nuremberg Chronicle was published. His work, De Revoluntionibus Orbium Coelestium, proving the sun, and not the earth, to be the center of the universe, was not completed until 1530. In 1542 Copernicus was seized with apoplexy, and on May 24, 1543, the first printed copy of the work was touched by his dying hands. And thus he escaped the posthumous condemnation passed upon the work, which was placed in the Index by Rome in 1616, notwithstanding its having been dedicated to the pope. Be it said in praise of Copernicus that he was a creator of true astronomy, and that at a time when astrologers, necromancers, and diviners were alone in favor. He inaugurated a new era in the scientific world. As has been remarked by the learned Doctor Hoefer, "Copernicus begot Keppler, and Keppler begot Newton. What a genealogical tree!"

The four corners of the woodcut accompanying the seventh day are filled in with the winds, their distended cheeks blowing from the four cardinal points of the compass: SUBSOLANUS (east wind), AUSTER (south wind), APARCTIAS (north wind), and ZEPHYRUS (west wind).