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

And from this arose the custom that when a beautiful bull unexpectedly appears to them, they detain him and for a time they worship him.[The reference is to Apis, the Bull of Memphis, worshipped with the greatest reverence as a god among the Egyptians. They believed him to be the offspring of a young cow impregnated by a ray from heaven. There were certain signs by which he was recognized to be a god. It was necessary that he be quite black, have a white square mark on his forehead, on his back a figure similar to that of an eagle, have two kinds of hair in his tail, and on his tongue a knot resembling an insect called cantharus. When all these signs were discovered, the animal was consecrated with great pomp, and was conveyed to Memphis, where he had a special residence, containing extensive walks and courts for his amusement. His birthday was celebrated every year and was his most solemn festival. It was a day of rejoicing for all Egypt. The god was allowed to live only a certain number of years, probably twenty-five. If it had not died before the expiration of that time, it was killed and buried in a sacred well, the location of which was unknown except to the initiated. But if the bull died a natural death, there was a public and solemn burial; and as his birth filled all Egypt with joy and festivities, so his death threw the whole country into grief and mourning. The worship of Apis was originally nothing but the simple worship of the bull, but in course of time he, like other animals, was regarded as a symbol, and Apis is hence identified with Osiris or the sun.] The Nile, one of the largest rivers in the world, flows by the city of Memphis. Every year, when the sun is in the Crab, it overflows the entire land of Egypt. Memphis now belongs to the Saracens.[After the foundation of Alexandria, Memphis sank into a provincial city. But the Saracen invaders in the seventh century confirmed the wisdom of Menes’ choice, for they built both Old and New Cairo in the neighborhood of Memphis, only changing the site from the western to the eastern bank of the Nile, because their natural alliances, unlike those of the Pharaohs, were with the Arabians and the Syrian Khalifates.] It is a fine, well populated city, and possessed of rich estates. There, in a large castle, lives the all-powerful Sultan. The city is divided into two parts, called New Babylon and Alcairo. Here once lived Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. To this country came the glory deserving Virgin Mary, with the child Jesus and Joseph. And here are the foremost balsam gardens. To this place many men of learning have journeyed, as Pythagorus and Plato, &c. Here is to be found the wisdom of the Babylonians. In this country many columns have been erected to the memory of the dead, and other monuments to matters worthy of remembrance, concerning which many from far and wide have written.

Memphis was the first capital of the entire kingdom of Egypt, after the Deltic monarchy at Heliopolis was united to the Thebaid capital at This or Abydos. It stood on the western bank of the Nile 15 miles south of Cercasorus. Its foundation belongs to the earliest age of Egyptian history. It is ascribed to Menes, the first mortal king; (2) to Uchoreus, a monarch of a later dynasty; and (3) to Apis or Epaphus. The latter two are doubtful. The motives that induced the founder to select the site of Memphis as his capital are obvious. Not far removed from the bifurcation of the Nile at Cercasorus, it commanded the south entrance to the Delta, while it was nearer to the Thebaid than any of the Deltaic provincial cities of importance, Heliopolis, Bubastis and Sais. He placed it on the western bank because he had little to apprehend from the tribes of the Libyan desert; whereas the eastern frontier of Egypt was always exposed to attack from Arabia, Assyria, and Persia, and it was not beyond the reach of the Scythians. It was important, therefore, to make the Nile a barrier of the city. This was accomplished by placing Memphis to the west of it. However, before Mendes could lay the foundations of his capital, an artificial area had to be provided for them. The Nile, at that remote period, seems to have had a double bifurcation; one at the head of the Delta, the other above the side of Memphis, and parallel with the Arsinote Nome. Of the branches of its southern fork, the western and the wider of the two ran at the foot of the Libyan hills; the eastern and lower was the present main stream. Between them the plain, though resting on a limestone base, was covered with marshes, caused by their periodical overflow. This plain Menes chose for the site of Memphis. He began by constructing an embankment about 100 stadia south of its site, that diverted the main body of the water into the eastern arm; and the marshes he drained off into two principal lakes, one to the north, the other to the west of Memphis, which thus, on every side but the south, was defended by water.

Athotis, styled a son of Menes, is said to have built the palace, and thus stamped the new city as a royal residence. In the reign of Kaiechos, second dynasty, the worship of Apis was established at Memphis.

In Abraham’s ninety-ninth year the Lord appeared unto him and assured him that a son would be born unto him by his wife Sarah. And he called him Isaac. When Isaac was twenty-five years of age, the Lord in order to test Abraham’s obedience, commanded him to sacrifice his son. Abraham hastened to fulfill the command. And as he approached the altar and was about to slaughter his son, God recognized the man’s obedience, and called out, Abraham! Lay not thy hand upon the lad; for now I know that thou fearest the Lord. And soon thereafter the Lord unexpectedly brought forth a ram. And as Abraham was obedient to God, the sweet promised of Christ came unto him. And God said to him, In your name will be blessed all the people, for you were obedient to my voice. [This is a rather severe abridgement of the biblical narrative (Genesis 22:1-19), which should be read to fully appreciate the illustration.]

Zoroaster the wise, was (as Isidorus states) a king of Bactria, form whom king Ninus slew in battle, and who ordered his books to be burned. Of him Solinus thus writes: Although the first sound given off by newly born children is that of crying, and their sense of joy is postponed for forty-two days, yet we know of one, called Zoroaster, who laughed on the day he was born. He was the first wise man or magician (Magi); and he studied the stars, and made twenty times one hundred thousand verses. This same accomplishment Democritus[Democritus, a celebrated Greek philosopher, was born about 460 BCE. He spent a large inheritance on travels that he undertook to satisfy his unusual thirst for knowledge. He journeyed over a large part of Asia, and spent some time in Egypt. His diligence was incredible, and he lived exclusively for his studies. He died in poverty in the year 361, but highly esteemed by his fellow-citizens. He lost his eyesight probably through severe application to his studies, but this did not disturb the cheerful disposition of his mind, which prompted him to look, in all circumstances, at the cheerful side; and for this reason later writers took to mean that he always laughed at the follies of men. His knowledge was very extensive, his style lively. He and Leucippus, another philosopher, were the founders of the theory of atoms. In order to explain the creation of all things, Democritus maintained that in infinite space there are an infinite number of atoms or elementary particles, homogeneous in quality, but heterogeneous in form; that these items combine, and that all things arise from the infinite variety of form, order and position of these atoms in forming combinations. The cause of these combinations he calls ‘chance.’ He does not use the word in its ordinary sense, but to signify the necessary succession of cause and effect. In his ethical philosophy he considers the acquisition of peace of mind as the end and ultimate object of our actions.] long thereafter enlarged upon. Zoroaster flourished in the time of Terah, father of Abraham.

Zoroaster, or Zoroastres, the Zarathustra of the Zend-Avesta, and the Zendusht of the Persians, was the founder of the ancient Magian or Persian religion. The religion of Zoroaster, held by the modern Parsees, was known to antiquity as the religion of the Magi. The religion was probably of Bactrian origin. The statement that he laughed on the day he was born is from Pliny (Natural History, VII, 15).

The accompanying illustration of a king with crown, orb and scepter, has no particular application to Zoroaster, except as indicated by the inscription.

Abraham About To Sacrifice His Son Isaac

5" x 8-7/8"

The Lord is testing Abraham’s obedience by ordering him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains. Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took with him two of his young men, and his son Isaac, and prepared the wood for the burnt offering. And he went up to the place of which God had told him. As he saw the place, afar off, he told his young men to stay with the ass, while he and hi son would ascend the mountain and worship.

The artist has made the best of the space allowed him within the confines of the woodcut. He has portrayed several successive actions in this single illustration. The picture falls into two divisions, separated by a narrow trail leading to the place of sacrifice. To the right the stern old patriarch dashes into the picture, a pot of fire in his hand, and the sacrificial sword under his arm. He is rushing his son, upon whose shoulders he has placed the wood of the burnt offering. The little lad is stooping forward under his burden. He certainly does not appear the twenty-five years which the Chronicler has placed to his credit. In vain he looks about him for the lamb that is necessary to the offering; but his father assures him that the good God will provide a sacrifice. And so they went together, and with them we cross the trail to the other side of the picture, where the diligent father has already built an altar and has laid the wood in order. And now to the sacrifice!

Little Isaac is kneeling on a low dais supported by squat little legs or columns, He is not lying on the altar, nor is he bound as the Bible describes. His hands are outstretched, and his father, who stands behind him, holds him by the hair with his left hand, while with a huge broadsword (not a sacrificial knife), held aloft in his right hand, he is about to deal the fatal blow. The angel of the Lord swoops down upon the scene and suspends the action, uttering the injunction of the Lord that the lad is not to be harmed; for the test is complete. And, according to Genesis, "Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns." The ram of Genesis had conveniently ensnared itself for the sacrifice; but not so the ram of the woodcutter! It is doubtful whether Abraham sees it behind him, free and vigorously rampant, and apparently about to buck the old patriarch from the rear, as if to second the efforts of the angel in checking the bloody work. It is a relief to know that soon the heavy broadsword will find its way back to the scabbard, which lies beside the executioner, and that the blazing caldron in the foreground will shortly be extinguished.

The kaleidoscopic character of this illustration portraying a number of successive actions at the same time was common to this as well as far earlier periods and repeats itself in our own day in the moving picture film. On one hand the victim is being driven to the block; on the other the fatal drama is being enacted.

Another thing that strikes us in these woodcuts is the lack of proportion in the figures, the head being too large for the body, giving a rather juvenile appearance to the characters, in spite of their somber and aged visages. This proportion is a characteristic of children and hence this impression arises naturally.

According to Josephus, Isaac was twenty-four at this time, but there is no indication of his age in Genesis.