First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…
FOLIO XI recto
(a) Building of Noah’s Ark

8-13/16” X 7-1/2”

The initial illustration of the Second Age of the World portrays the building of the Ark. On the seashore in the foreground are two carpenters, one a plain workman, the other in tight fitting medieval hose and jacket, a dagger in his belt, and shod in pointed shoes. They are squaring a large timber, of “gopher wood” no doubt, with formidable implements suited to the purpose. At the right appears Noah, a small wand in his hand, directing the work. In the background, but occupying most of the illustration, is the Ark in the course of construction. Several men are engaged upon it. Someone at the stern is drawing water from the sea. Behind this person is a bearded man with a rather doleful expression, who hands over the rail as if, in anticipation of a rough voyage, he already feels peculiar symptoms, although the ship is still firmly fixed in its improvised berth of logs.

The little vessel with its promenade deck and elaborate rails hardly seems adequate for the occasion. Except for its super-structure it resembles a miniature Spanish galleon, built for a pleasurable voyage. Amidship is the door, in which stands a woman gesturing to a man apparently boarding the vessel by way of a ladder (possibly one of Noah’s sons and his wife). The door opens into the bilge or “stercoraria,” into which dung and other refuse are deposited. On the deck above are the “appotheca herbarum” and “appotheca specierum” – storerooms for the lodgment of food and supplies for man and beast. Amidship on the upper deck is the “habitacio hominum,” reserved for Noah and his family. On either side of this are reservations for wild and domestic animals. But the artist has made no provision for fowl, although we know that the Ark housed at least a dove and a raven. Above the uncompleted vessel the dove already returns with the olive branch, signifying that the flood has subsided and the dry land has appeared. And thus by artistic license we quickly span the 150 days of the Flood.

(b) The Rainbow

Below the foregoing is a small woodcut of the Rainbow which God placed in the sky in token of his covenant with Noah, as set forth in the accompanying text.

The notations within the circumference of the rainbow are successively the signs of the Zodiac. Zodiac in astronomy and astrology is the name given to a zone of the heavens within which lie the paths of the sun, moon, and principal planets. It is bounded by two circles equidistant from the ecliptic, about 18 degrees apart. It is divided into twelve signs, and marked by twelve constellations.

In the technical sense of the word the twelve “signs” are geometrical divisions 30 degrees in extent counting from the position of the sun at the vernal equinox. In the time of Hipparchus the signs corresponded fairly closely with the constellations; that is to say, the first sign (called Aries) corresponded with the constellation Aries. Owing to precession there is now a discrepancy amounting to the breadth of a whole sign, so that the sign Aries is occupied by the constellation Pisces.