[HERALDRY.] -- GESCHLECHTBUCH DESS HEILIGEN REICHS STAT NÜRMBERG, in German, ILLUSTRATED MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER
330 x 205mm. ii + 87 + ii leaves, probably mostly in gatherings of 12, written in black ink in a gothic display script, title page with painted border of allegorical figures, putti and coats of arms, 81 FULL PAGE MINIATURES, EACH WITH A FIGURE HOLDING A COAT OF ARMS in liquid gold, silver and colours within rectangular frames of thin ragged staves in black and gold (slight rubbing to a few frames). Contemporary brown morocco gilt, with outer foliate border, inner compartment of six fillets with flueron cornerpieces enclosing a central motif with grotesque masks (gold worn, lacking two clasps, rebacked).
1. The book was presumably made in Nuremberg, on the model of the printed plates which appeared there in 1610. The first leaf is watermarked with the arms of Nuremberg, as seen also with the great arms of the city on the titlepage; the watermark of the book block shows a shield with the arms of ?Bavaria over a crowned head with the initials EZ.
2. Cornelius J. Hauk: bookplate inside upper cover.
CONTENT AND ILLUSTRATION:
Geschlechtbuch dess heiligen Reichs Stat Nürnberg: title page with date 1610, f.1; Register of the patrician families of Nuremberg, entitled to sit on the town council, from their first naming by the Emperor Henry VI in 1198, through the additions of 1332 to a list of the names added subsequently dating from 1340 to 1536, ff.2-5; the current state of the Geschlecht, listing which families are still members of the council, which have died out etc, ff.5-6; 81 full-page miniatures, each showing a man in historical costume with the coat of arms of the family whose name appears above.
The compilation apparently derives from the edition of 1610. The Imperial City of Nuremberg was governed by a strictly defined oligarchy so that the record of the ruling families was a matter of real importance, embodying the city's history. The 1610 engravings have been attributed to Johannes Kalver; their minimal modelling suggests that they were intended to be coloured, as is the case in many copies. The commissioner of this entirely manuscript version clearly wanted a luxurious version, where the lavish use of gold and silver and the strong body colour contrast with the thin washes used by most print colourers. The artist kept the basic design of the prints, where each figure stands on a tiled floor beneath a cartouche with the family name, but varied the poses and elaborated the costumes. Many of the figures were clearly based on family portraits by artists such as Albrecht Dürer and show costume of the past comparatively accurately; others are more fantastic, perhaps relying largely on invention for families which had long died out. Some of the more obviously anachronistic combinations, however, could have been based on 16th-century versions of earlier figures that were accepted as accurate in 1610.
By then the great days of Nuremberg's glory were fading so that the fashion for Geschlechtsbücher and for records of the magnificent Nuremberg carnival, the Schembart Lauf, may have been stimulated by nostalgia as well as civic pride.