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Harmonia Time Capsule: 1493

On July 12, 1493, an early illustrated book with the title Nuremberg Chronicle was printed in Germany. Although it’s always been referred to in English after the town in which it was published, German speakers know it simply as “Schedel's World History,” a reference to its author, Hartmann Schedel.

Several months after the initial Latin publication, a German version was printed thanks to translator Georg Alt.

The Chronicle was no ordinary book. It sought to give an account of the history of the world as set out by the Bible—from creation to the year 1493. It also included histories of many important Western cities such as Paris, Naples, Athens, Prague, and others.

The Chronicle was also remarkable for the integration of images alongside the text. German artists Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff created the 1,809 woodcuts that give life to the words. Wolgemut and Pleydenwurff were able to do this with help from workshop assistants, which included a young Albrecht Dürer. Some of the woodcuts were also hand painted.

Among the hundreds images is the earliest depiction of St. Valentine, a Roman priest. The accompanying text tells the story of his martyrdom during the 3rd Century, under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. St. Valentine was apparently guilty of marrying and aiding Christians, which got him thrown in prison. But it wasn’t until he tried converting the Emperor that he was condemned to death—by a combination of clubbing and stoning, followed by a final beheading.

Although his life ended in a gruesome story, St. Valentine was given a feast day by the Catholic Church. St. Valentine’s Day, as it’s called, is celebrated on February 14th, a day for love and lovers.

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