Eastern European readings

Schedel, Hartmann. Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, VII 1493).
The Library of Russian Academy of Science [Библиотека Российской академии наук]: 483 (704), f. 280r.

The Nuremberg Chronicles East European readings

By kind permission of the Library of Russian Academy of Science. Публикуется с разрешения Библиотеки Российской Академии наук.

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This copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle reflects Lithuanian history. By the 17th century, it belonged to the Lithuanian statesman, diplomat, and Vice-Chancellor, Kazimierz Sapieha (1609-1656). Like his father – Leon Sapieha who was Chancellor of Lithuania –  Kazimierz bequeathed his library to the Jesuit College in Vilnius, where it was kept for the next two centuries. Then, as the result of uprisings against Russian rule in 1832, the University and its library were moved to St Petersburg under a new name, the Roman Catholic Clerical Academy. After the October Revolution of 1917, the Academy and library were dispersed. Along with some other books, the Chronicle was acquired by the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1927

“A reader marked the descriptions of Lithuanian pagan beliefs, such as worship of sacred fire, trees, and serpents”

Marginalia on this page illustrates its Lithuanian provenance. This page belongs to the final part of the Chronicle, the so-called ‘Addenda’ which describes European countries and regions. A 17th-century reader left all pages of Addenda untouched except this one, which recounts a half-legendary history of Lithuania as well as the customs of its inhabitants. The reader made additional notes on the descriptions of the pagan beliefs of Lithuanians, including the worship of sacred fire, trees, and serpents. Likewise, he or she marked out information about the Eastern European people who belonged to the Roman church and those who shared the ‘Greek errors’, repeating the latter words within the note in the margin.

Manuscript annotations elsewhere in the Chronicle bear signs of specifically Catholic readings of sacred history. For example, the story of Pope Joan is addressed by the marginal note ‘Lies’ (f. 169v) and words about the Pope’s supremacy over Christian church are underlined and marked with ‘+’ (f. 102v). This emphasis might reflect the beliefs of the Sapieha family, strong proponents of the Catholic Church, as well as the views of the later Jesuit owners of this copy. 


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