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

Nobility originated at this time, and it became established for many reasons. To begin with, it was a necessity; for as people multiplied and became addicted to evil, it became necessary to protect the pious against the evildoers. Therefore a pious man of righteous counsel was chosen by the rest as the head of the community, to give preference to the virtuous, to protect the middle classes, and to punish the evildoers. A nobleman, therefore, is one who is distinguished by his virtues; and for that reason, as Jerome says, the nobility should not allow itself to be diverted from its privileges. The second reason is that the vulgar were not competent to form a correct judgment, for they were too benighted to comprehend matters of greatness and courage beyond the ordinary public welfare. So, to preserve the peace among them, it was necessary that there should be princes of noble birth. The third reason was certain strength; for when at times certain communities were harassed by enemies, they caused it to be proclaimed that he who would relieve them should be vested with the rights of nobility for himself and his heirs forever. And in this manner they were ennobled. The fourth reason was the possession of abundant wealth; for in time many persons became so impoverished that they gave themselves up with their possessions to some wealthy person to mitigate their need. And they came to recognize him as noble, and as their lord. In certain cases nobility was also the result of divine grant; and with some this nobility remained, as in the case of David, while in others it lapsed, as with Saul, Rehoboam, etc. Frequently, nobility was the result of conquest and tyranny. Of these some were completely destroyed, while others remained. According to ancient historians the noble lineages of pagan times were seldom or never perpetuated because of the arrogance and tyranny of the nobles themselves. But this was also true among the Christians for like reasons; for the Scriptures say that the Lord broke up the seats of the haughty and on them placed the gentle. Item: No one every scorned nobility, for in itself it is a desirable estate; but many pious men fled from it because of the burdens and dangers concealed in it. This appeared in the case of the holy prophet David, whom God himself selected for humble service.

Nineveh, a great city of three days’ journey, was built by Ninus, the Assyrian king, after the death of his father, and he made it the capital of this kingdom. He led a restless life, and in his passion for novelty and new possessions, he changed all the ancient and pagan customs. He warred on his neighbors and soon subdued these untrained people. And as his power increased by these conquests and the subjugation of his neighbors, he also overran other peoples; and as each new conquest became an instrument for further acquisitions, he finally brought all the people of the West under his domination. He warred with Zoroaster, the king of Bactria, but when the latter was slain, Ninus died also, leaving him surviving his wife, Semiramis, and Ninyas, a son. To this city Jonah, the prophet, was sent; and as he interpreted the prophecy to mean that the sinners of the city would receive God’s mercy in the end, he was loath to appear untruthful in making known the city’s doom; and so he decided to flee from the face of God. For this he was drowned in the sea and swallowed by a whale.[According to the Book of Jonah, the prophet was commanded by God to go to Nineveh and cry out against its wickedness and to announce its impending doom. The fear that God would repent of his purpose and spare the city caused him to seek escape from his immediate jurisdiction. He went down to Joppa, and took passage on a ship. A violent storm came up. The prayers of the sailors to their gods were of no avail, and they concluded that some one on board had offended some deity. They cast lots to discover the culprit, and the lot fell to Jonah. He admitted his guilt and at his own request they reluctantly cast him into the sea. The storm at once subsided, but Jonah was swallowed by a fish appointed to the purpose by God. There he remained for three days and nights. His prayers while in the belly of the fish fill the greater part of the book. The fish then cast him upon land, and he was commanded to discharge his neglected duty. He went to Nineveh and spread his message over one third of the city. The king and the people repented, fasted and prayed. Their prayers and penitence were accepted, much to Jonah’s disgust.]

The most vicious sin, that of idolatry, which is the root of all evil, had its origin in these times; and this from three considerations, which (as we may gather from ancient writings) influenced the people in that direction, namely, fear, flattery, and the industry or art of producing images.


5-5/8” x 8-7/8”

The pictures of cities and towns in the Chronicle may be divided into two classes: (1) those which were made to actually represent some particular municipality, like Nuremberg, Rome, Florence, etc., and which can be readily identified; and (2) those which are purely imaginative, and were used to represent any city, one woodcut often being used to represent various places.

We have here a typical fortified medieval city of Europe, with its grim walls and turrets. The approach is by the usual tower gate, surmounted by a statue of a medieval king in his robes of state, crowned, and holding a scepter in his extended right hand. The figure is large and out of proportion to the architecture about it. Within the walls and to the left on an elevation is the castle or burg, resembling that which towers over the city of Nuremberg. To the right is a huge structure, apparently a church, provided with towers, without spires, but terminating in domes of various proportions. The circular walls of the city sweep inward toward the recessed city gates, giving those on the battlements at either side full command of the approach.