'What does he not express in monochromes, that is in black lines? Shade, light, radiance, projections, depressions... He even depicts which cannot be depicted: fire; rays of light; thunderstorms; sheet lightning; thunderbolts ... characters and emotions ... These things he places before your eyes by the most felicitous lines, black ones at that, in such manner that, were you to spread pigments, you would injure the work' (Erasmus of Rotterdam, cited in: G. Bartrum, Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy, London, 2002, p. 13).
The Apocalypse (see lots 38-51), Dürer's series of sixteen woodcuts on the Revelations of Saint John (of which fourteen are presented here), appeared two years before 1500, at a time when many thought the Last Judgement imminent. From the beginning it was praised for its innovative approach, both artistically and technically. With it Dürer not only transformed the medium, but pushed the boundaries of what had hitherto been thought possible in any medium. Whilst it was the first book in history to be created and published by an artist himself, Dürer relied on the support and experience of his godfather Anton Koberger. Koberger was then the most important printer and publisher in Germany, whose business consisted of his Nuremberg workshop, where he employed over one hundred and fifty printers, journeymen and apprentices working on twenty-four printing presses, as well as several distribution offices in Germany and elsewhere. (J. C. Hutchinson, Albrecht Dürer - A Biography, Princeton, New Jersey, 1992, p. 14).
By publishing it both in Latin and German in 1498, and then again in Latin in 1511, Dürer made it accessible to the widest possible audience and through his agents distributed it widely throughout Germany and abroad. It was a tremendous popular and critical success.