Germany to New Zealand

Schedel, Hartmann. Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, XII 1493).
Rare Books Collection, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand: f. 181v.

The Nuremberg Chronicles Germany to New Zealand

By kind permission of the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

All Our Chronicles

One of the earliest readers of this German edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle had a particular dislike of the papacy.  His annotations reflect popular antipopery, and he made notes on Pope Joan and drew a devil on the shoulder of Pope Benedict IX – famous for his simony. 

“It was widely reported that Sylvester gained the papal throne because of a pact with the devil”

On this page, the  reader picks up on an anti-papal rumour particularly popular with Protestant authors, the story of Pope Sylvester II.  Known by Protestant authors as the ‘sorcerer pope’, it was widely reported that Sylvester gained the papal throne because of a pact with the devil. This story was repeated in 16th-century histories designed to discredit the papacy by authors like John Foxe and Matthias Flaccius Illyricus. Here the German reader has added a detailed picture of a devilish figure climbing up to whisper in Sylvester’s ear. 

This copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle came to New Zealand at a formative time in the country’s history. It was owned by a German collector in Hanover before being bought by the Victorian antiquarian, George Grazebrook, who was based in the North-West of England. Its last owner was Benjamin Hubbard, who went to New Zealand as part of the Gold Rush in 1853.  Hubbard made his money running a store in the goldfields of Dunedin, and bought this copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle on a return visit to the UK. Hibbard was an enthusiastic book collector, and over 1000 books and manuscripts were recorded on a handwritten catalogue of his collection compiled after Hibbard’s death in 1912 (now in the National Library of New Zealand). This copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, given to the university by Hibbard’s children, has travelled beyond the limits of the world known to Schedel when he produced his world history, the Liber Chronicarum, in 1493.


The copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle that we have gathered here have been read by people across Western and Eastern Europe – fittingly so for a History of the World.  Different readers across Europe looked for different information in their copies of the Chronicle, but despite the geographical spread the mode of reading was often very similar.