GLENS FALLS, New York—The Hyde Collection has a vast collection of first edition and rare books lining the walls of the library in the historic home of Museum founders Louis and Charlotte Hyde.
Mr. Hyde, a lawyer, loved reading and sought refuge among his hundreds of carefully collected books — law texts, encyclopedias, novels, and more. But among the most precious of the collection is one not exhibited on the shelves in Hyde House, but safely stored in the Museum’s vault.
The Nuremberg Chronicle, a history of the world that dates to the late-fifteenth century, will be exhibited in Making History: The Nuremberg and Augsburg Chronicles, which runs November 10 to December 30 in Whitney-Renz and Hoopes Galleries.
Commissioned by Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister, the 600-page book was created between 1493 and 1497 in Germany. The incunabulum — what the earliest books created using moving type were called — was the most complex publication of its day, exploiting the new creation of the printing press to disseminate knowledge.
With editions in Latin and German, the tome tells the history of the world as it was believed at the time. Illustrated with more than 1,800 woodcut images by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, the Nuremberg Chronicle relies heavily on the Bible.
Humanist physician Hartmann Schedel chronicles time from Creation through Last Judgment in seven ages: Creation to the Flood; Through the birth of patriarch Abraham; Till the reign of King David; Till the Babylonian captivity of Israel; Till the birth of Jesus Christ; Till the present; and the End of the world and Last Judgment.
“This book epitomizes a medieval Christian world view: History begins and concludes according to Biblical accounts,” said Jonathan Canning, director of curatorial affairs and programming at The Hyde.
According to Canning, The Hyde’s book, in Latin, is one likely purchased by a collector of greater means who had the stark woodcuts hand-tinted to look like a more expensive illuminated manuscript.
“The Hyde’s copy is one of the rarer hand-tinted volumes. It has been described by scholars as one of the finest examples of the Chronicle in the country,” he said.
The Nuremberg Chronicle will be exhibited in the galleries, with prints of its pages showcased on the walls.
In the years following release of Nuremberg Chronicle, an Augsburg, Germany, printer named Johann Schönsperger abridged the text, commissioned woodcuts largely copied from the earlier book, and released a smaller format, undercutting the price of the original and creating what could be argued to be among the earliest examples of theft of intellectual property.
The Hyde also has a copy of the resulting Augsburg Chronicle, which will be included in the exhibition. A second copy of Nuremberg Chronicle, a gift to The Crandall Trust from Louis Hyde — will be on loan from Crandall Public Library, where it is deposited.