Another Gem from Abbotsford Treasure Trove
News - date posted 08/06/12
Sir Walter Scott's Library at Abbotsford has produced another major literary find with the discovery of an original volume of the Nuremberg Chronicle published more than 500 years ago.
The illustrated history of the world from Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark through to the date of publication in 1493 is in excellent condition and one of about 300 German translation versions thought to have survived into the 21st century.
Scott refers to the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the earliest printed books, in his novel The Antiquary but a typographical error in an 1838 catalogue led to the assumption that the book was a reprint produced in 1693.
However, when Lindsay Levy, Rare Books Librarian for the Faculty of Advocates, came across the book during her online cataloguing of Scott's Library she realised that the volume was an original.
It is one of the first printed books to integrate illustrations and text successfully and at a recent auction at Bonham's another original version sold for 500,000 dollars.
Scott (1771-1832) was one of the Faculty's most celebrated members and the Nuremberg Chronicle is the latest of a series of remarkable discoveries unearthed during the online cataloguing.
Lindsay Levy described the latest find as especially interesting as the first discovery specifically referred to in one of Scott's novels.
"The Antiquary, published in 1816, contains a scene in which the antiquarian Jonathan Oldbuck and his neighbour Sir Arthur Wardour are arguing over their respective historical theories," Lindsay explained.
"Each man tries to boost his credentials by claiming descent from a famous historical antiquarian, with Oldbuck claiming that his ancestor was the typographer of the Nuremberg Chronicle.
"The book was given to Scott by 'his obliged friend W. Miller' - William Richard Beckford Miller (1769-1844), one of the leading British publishers of the early 19th century, and himself the son of an antiquarian."
Scott expert Dr Ali Lumsden said: "The discovery of this book is significant for it enhances our understanding of the complex ways in which Scott was drawing on the collections at Abbotsford for creative inspiration as he wrote his fiction."
The Nuremberg Chronicle was first published in Latin in July 1493 and quickly followed by a German translation in December that year with a unprecedented number of more than 1800 woodcut illustrations.
Albrecht Durer, generally regarded as the most significant artist produced by Northern Europe, was the godson of the publisher and might well have been involved in designing some of the illustrations for the specialist craftsmen who cut the blocks onto which the design had been drawn or a drawing glued.
Other major Abbotsford discoveries include Legenda Aurea (the Golden Legend) a previously lost version of a 500-year-old manuscript identified as the work of Osbern Bokenham, an Augustinian Friar and a major English poet of the 15th century; Teuerdank, a medieval German text co-written by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian; Oh Saw Ye My Maggie, the only complete manuscript of a bawdy Burns song and the Grotesquiad, a 9,000 word poem penned by 18th century Scottish scholar James Beattie.
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