The story begins in 1977, when a renowned German journalist, Wolf von Lojewski, was covering the US presidential election in Washington DC. He had gone into a bookshop to search for interesting books about the current political climate and came out with a work on the Holy Land published in London in 1623. “I acquired it like a work of art, a message from a distant past, in order to immerse myself in it at leisure and learn what concerned our fellow humans 300 years ago,” he explained.
His interest piqued, he then bought five leaves from the Nuremberg Chronicle at an antiquarian bookshop in London.
A full decade passed before he stumbled upon more leaves from the Chronicle at a book fair in Virginia, kindling a piecemeal recreation project that lasted for three decades. In his new book, Verstreute Blätter/Scattered Leaves, von Lojewski journeys from his first discovery of a Chronicle leaf to the arrival of the final leaf from Escondido, Texas.
The Liber Chronicarum
The Nuremberg Chronicle, or Liber chronicarum (as it is titled in Latin), covers a history of the Christian world from its beginning up until the late fifteenth century. Collected by the Nuremberg doctor Hartmann Schedel, the Chronicle was first printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger in 1492–1493.
The Chronicle’s 326 folio leaves are lavishly decorated with roughly 1,800 woodcuts, and the sheer physical beauty of the collection helped it survive the following centuries through copies. The Chronicle was fragmented even further as copies of individual leaves with views of famous cities found an enthusiastic audience as stand-alone works.
New insights into early printing
Generally, in Germany, the idea of collecting something leaf by leaf is apparently seen as unusual, as confirmed by Detlef Thursch, the organizer of the Frankfurt Antiquarian Book Fair who encouraged von Lojewski to write about his collection.
His meticulous quest gave von Lojewski new insights into the world of early printing which he writes about engagingly in the publication of Verstreute Blätter/Scattered Leaves.
The ‘von Lojewski Chronicle’, like the Nuremberg Chronicle itself, is beautifully illustrated. It is itself a work of art, a courageous struggle against a world in flux, at risk of fragmentation.
Source: Collecting Leaf by Leaf
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