An interest in chronology

Schedel, Hartmann. Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, XII 1493).
National Library of Russia [Российская национальная библиотека]:, f. 16v-17r.

The Nuremberg Chronicles The interest to chronology
The Nuremberg Chronicles The interest to chronology

By kind permission of the National Library of Russia. Публикуется с разрешения Российской национальной библиотеки.

All Our Chronicles

Readers of the Nuremberg Chronicle often used the margins to try and work out the chronology of sacred history, reconciling conflicting ways of calculating dates. Dates were counted both in relevance to the birth of Christ (Anno Domini or Anno Christi) and to ‘the creation of world’ (Anno Mundi) and as there was no universally excepted date of creation, readers sometimes struggled to resolve inconsistencies.  They also used the margins to add extra details that helped them identify when key events took place. 

“The anonymous German reader supplied the margins with the comprehensive chronological history of Jerusalem”

These pages of the German edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle (Anton Koberger, December 1493) show how an early modern reader made additions to the text to establish a chronological framework.  This page outlines the history of Jerusalem without any dates, and so an anonymous German reader has added chronological lists of ‘the siege of Jerusalem’, ‘the destruction of Jerusalem’, and ‘the kings of Jerusalem’ in the margins. He or she also inserted dates near the portraits of Christ’s ancestors. These chronologies were copied into the Chronicle from another book, showing how readers used the Chronicle both as a source of information and also as a way of storing knowledge. 

The author of this marginalia remains unknown to us. Like most of copies of the German edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle, this book was read and annotated by a German reader in the vernacular. Later this copy was held by State Library of Hamburg, before coming to the National Library of Russia in 1948.


The Nuremberg Chronicle combined sacred and political history, attracting readers with its encyclopaedic nature. Early modern readers read the book for information about the past but they also added to the historical narrative of the Chronicle, developing their own chronologies and even continuing the Chronicle’s narrative up to the present