The illustrations are only attributed in the preface as
"courteously reproduced" from the collections of several
companies and individual collectors.
Plate 1. The
City of Treviso
with a Carrack. (From The
III: THE FIRST SHIP PRINTS
Page 22 The
rest of the journey need not detain us long.
All the pilgrims got to Jerusalem, whence some of them proceeded
to Mount Sinai and returned home via Alexandria. Breydenbach,
who was the originator and moving spirit of the whole
pilgrimage, arrived back at the end of January 1484.
In that same year he was made Dean of Mainz Cathedral, and lived
till 1497, when he was buried in this very church, his body
being embalmed with spices that he had brought from the East. Now, fortunately for our interest
and pleasure, Breydenbach on getting back from his pilgrimage
took steps to have this account printed in Mainz, which had been
the birthplace of Gutenberg.
The text was written in Latin, not by Breydenbach himself but by
a Dominican named Martin Roth, a distinguished doctor of
divinity, who had not accompanied the expedition.
This publication was in effect a tourist guide likely to assist
any others who might think of making the pilgrimage to the East.
It was indeed destined to become so popular that it was
translated into German, Flemish, and French, and between 1486
and 1522 no fewer than a dozen editions appeared.
Containing such data as the distances from Venice to the various
places en route to Jaffa; much information concerning the Holy
Land, the manners, rites, and errors of those in whose
possession it happened still to be held; with such miscellaneous
matter as Mohammedan laws, remedies for sea-sickness (handed
down from two Arabian physicians who flourished in the tenth and
twelfth centuries respectively), and remedies against vermin, it
was the very book that was required. Roth's text matches the woodcuts,
all of which were drawn by Urnwith, though we cannot say who was
the actual engraver.
panoramic views of the places visited, figures of strange
animals, and various Oriental alphabets.
Not merely were these panoramic views the first ever made on
such a large size, but never previously had one single painter
been known to undertake the illustration of a printed book.
They are of the greatest importance because they were actually
sketched on the spot, authentic, artistic.
Many of the other woodcut views belonging to the fifteenth
century are not authentic, as we shall presently find; whereas
Reuwich has left for all time an exact picture of famous places
as seen in 1483, and the earliest printed representations known
of Venice, Parenzo, Modon, Corfu, and Rhodes. Reproduced as Plate 2 in this book
is Reuwich's lively illustration of Rhodes.
In the middle distance we can see the chain boom to defend the
harbour and its shipping from any sudden arrival of the enemy,
and the artist has shown the unrepaired heavy damage which the
Turks had wrought on this stronghold three years previously.
In the foreground is the two-masted galley in which Breydenbach
and his fellow-pilgrims were transported by Contarini from
Venice to Jaffa.
This galley is, of course, lateen-rigged, the mainsail being far
the bigger, and the woodcut clearly shows a couple of hands at
the peak end of the yard engaged in stowing the sail under the
supervision of an officer who stands half-way down the yard.
This spar is correctly shown to consist of two pieces lashed
together in accordance with historic custom obtaining in the
At the masthead is clearly shown the top from which darts and
other missiles could be hurled against any ship that dared to
attack. Coming down on deck and looking from
forward to aft we note the banner which flies at the bows.
This bears the device of the Jerusalem cross of the pilgrims.
At the stern are two more flags, which have been thought to
represent Burgundy and Flanders,
Page 24 whilst on the awning is the Lion of
St. Mark which Contarini would naturally be proud to display.
There are many interesting points in this galley worthy of
attention; such for instance as the survival of the ram, the
hawse pipes and stowage of the anchors, the pens just forward of
the mizzen mast for carrying the pilgrims' horses.
Then, again, Reuwich has shown such details as the single-fluked
grappling anchor to be used in tackling and boarding an enemy,
the canvas screens for keeping out the seas from the oarsmen,
whilst there are such items of gear indicated as the block and
vangs of the mizzen, the top cranes with their crane-lines for
hoisting up further supplies of darts or stones to be hurled
from the maintop. Inside the chain-protected harbour
the artist has tried to give the reader an idea of the
three-masted ship lying under protection of the walls; but,
inasmuch as the latter interfere with the rigging, he has shown
us in the open sea a three-master at anchor, running before the
wind, and on a wind across the horizon.
This ship is the conventional carrack of the time, and Reuwich
has given a more impressionistic idea of that class whose model
was reproduced by "The Master W*."
There can be no doubt but that both artists were contemplating
the same type of vessel which was well known as a trader from
the Levant to the North Sea.
She is the typical fifteenth-century big-bellied round ship,
with rounded forefoot and full round stern.
The fore and after "castles" are seen as the usual fighting
platforms, super-imposed on the ship's hull, but soon to be
embodied in the actual design. As to the rig, we are able to
witness the transition stage from the single-sail type handed
down from Viking times; for, if this fifteenth-century vessel
carries three sails, it is really the large mainsail that
matters, the foresail and mizzen being used on a wind, as shown,
but rather as auxiliaries.
Presently the latter were to become Page 25 of increased importance.
The bowsprit, correctly shown as well-Beeved, was as yet
primarily for the purpose of supporting the stays and bowlines,
in addition to suspending the grapnel, which could thus be
dropped from a height on to the enemy's decks when hoarding
tactics should begin.
Reuwich has carefully indicated the powerful rigging for the
mainmast and the important round-top with its supply of darts
kept in readiness.
Thus, in short, by representing in one picture both a carrack
and a galley he has given us the two opposite types along which
naval architecture developed: the long, quick-manoeuvring,
shallow craft, and the short, round, more seaworthy, deeper
draught vessel able to carry the maximum anount of cargo. I have stressed these
Reuwich-Breydenbach prints because it ii difficult to exaggerate
their importance to the collector of nautical material.
So much was the artist a pioneer that others did not fail lo
borrow his first-hand designs unblushingly.
It will suffice to give three instances.
The great Venetian painter Carpaccio, who displayed in his works
such minute knowledge of Oriental costumes and figures that it
has been assumed he visited the East, used three of Reuwich's
figures of Saracens and Abyssinians in painting the Triumph of
St. George in the chapel of San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Secondly, Reuwich's work becomes
associated with Christopher Columbus in a strange manner.
The latter set out for his memorable first voyage across the
western ocean in 1492, and after discovering the Bahamas, Cuba
and Hispaniola, got back to
Spain in the following year.
In 1493 was translated his famous Epistola de insults nuper repertis, giving an
account of his initial voyage.
This is a very rare book nowadays, and in 1494 there was an
edition issued at Basle containing four woodcuts, of which the
first and the last are absolute "cribs," having nothing
whatsoever to do with Columbus's Santa Maria or his other two ships, Page 26
Pinta and Nina.
For the first of the four cuts is a galley!
Quite apart from her unsuitability for crossing the Atlantic,
this illustration has been copied from Reuwich's pilgrim galley
seen in our reproduction.
The only alteration which the Basle engraver made was to reverse
it, remove the obvious Jerusalem flag at the bows, and then let
the cut go at that.
The horses in the pens, and everything else aboard, are
presented just as observed off Rhodes.
Similarly the last of the Basle quartette shows an excellent
stern view of such a fifteenth-century carrack as we discussed
It is true that the Basle printer has this design reversed also,
but in all other respects it is exactly as appeared in Reuwich's
design showing the port and shipping of Modon.
The third instance of plagiarism will be noted in the following
chapter. The various editions of Breydenbach
are eagerly sought, and the accompanying print has been taken
from that of 1502 printed Drach at Speier.
This Gothic-lettered book was the third Latin edition.
The French translation of Breydenbach by N. Huen, folio, printed
at Lyons in 1488, beginning, "A tres haulte tres cretienne et
tres redoubtee princesse," was the first French book to appear
with copper plates, and during the first half of the nineteenth
century fetched £84.
Obviously it is worth considerably more nowadays.
But we pass on to examine a coloured woodcut.
CHAPTER III :
SHIPPING AND ENGRAVING
Of all the old romantic towns in
Europe few appeal to us with such fascination as the walled and
moated Nuremberg, which still remains in respect of its
mediaeval buildings and its art treasures one of the richest in
From its position on the route between the Netherlands and
Venice it necessarily became an important centre of activity and
The industry of its inhabitants was proverbial, and as the place
became a free township in the thirteenth century there was every
encouragement for the work of hand and brain in a brotherhood of
peace and an atmosphere of contentment. Under such happy conditions the arts
and crafts prospered amazingly.
Painting and sculpture, wood-carving and music, engraving and
printing were fostered by their guilds, and one inevitably
thinks of Wagner's Mastersingers, of Hans Sachs, Beckmesser,
Walther von Stolzing and the rest.
For it was at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of
the next century that the guilds had reached their climax, and
under the prudent discipline of the older men there grew up such
painters and engravers as Durer, the greatest of all designers
in woodcuts, Hans Sebald Beham, rge Pencz, and other masters,
who were in turn to hand on the tradition to their successors;
as Peter Visscher, the Nuremberg sculptor, did to his five
eminent sons, all of whom became skilled with their chisels. Page
28 Thus, confining ourselves
immediately to book production, we can hardly be surprised at
the ambitious work which Nuremberg issued in 1493 under the
title Registrum hujus opens
This "Chronicon Norimbergense " was originally issued in two
editions, the first in Latin and the second in German a few
The latter is even more scarce than the other, and even fifty
years ago fetched from £15 to £30.
The perfect collection of prints can never be complete without
at least one of the woodcuts which the Nuremberg Chronicle
This great folio was compiled by its contemporary Hartmann
Schedel, a Nuremberg physician; its illustrations of cities and
figures of people were executed under the superintendence of
Michael Wohlgemuth and of William Pleydenwurff, who were reputed
as mathematicians as well as painters-" adhibitis tamen viris
mathematicis pingendique arte peritissimis " is the description
applied to these art-editors, as we may regard them.
Now Wohlgemuth was that master to whom Diirer in his early
career was apprenticed, and the book was issued by Anthony
Koburger, the famous printer, who was Durer's godfather.
Thus we have the closest connection between the ablest artists
and the most skilled reproducers of that day. Certainly the Nuremberg Chronicle is a
curious collection both as to letterpress and woodcuts.
There is an excellent copy of the Latin edition in the British
Museum, and as we turn over its leaves we may feel inclined to
smile at the ponderous German mentality.
But here are distinguished literary and artistic men of the
fifteenth century trying to quicken the minds of their
fellow-townsmen towards the big fundamentals of life.
In a sense it is a kind of picture-book, for there are about two
thousand woodcuts, most of them being half-page; but it is less
an encyclopaedia than a guide to knowledge.
The book opens with the creation of the world, and there is Page 29 an arresting cut showing Noah's ark
in course of construction.
Inasmuch as these inland dwellers had knowledge only of the
conventional fifteenth-century carrack type, the ark is drawn as
just such a vessel, with fighting forecastle and sterncastle of
the type already seen in Reuwich's Rhodes design.
Those Nurembergers with their lack of information, which can
come only from original research, could not possibly know what
even an Egyptian ship of the Dynastic period resembled; and
though to-day no artist could reconstruct Noah's craft, yet the
last thing he would do would be to depict a three-masted sailing
ship of his own period. But we must not be too critical, for
the compilers were doing their best.
If to-day an instructor going into the heart of Wiltshire, or
the Middle West of America, tried to show landsmen, who had
never left their farms, what Noah's ship actually resembled in
appearance, he would have no easier task than Wohlgemuth and
The Chronicle has less regard for originality of conception than
for an employment of the limited material at its disposal, so
that the results are often amusing.
Some of the designs were unmistakably adapted from the
Reuwich-Breydenbach publication, and there is a strange
disregard for historical accuracy.
Thus you will find large woodcuts intended to indicate Jerusalem
and Damascus, yet with the Mediaeval Gothic churches and
steeples of Germany.
Similarly, when the art-editors ran short of blocks for one
town, they used again the same which had done duty for another.
In this way the wood-cut of Damascus serves on other pages for
such different localities as Neapolis and Perugia. The large double-page illustration
of Venice is "lifted" from Breydenbach, and further on at
the back of folio comes the illustration reproduced here as a
This purports to be the ancient city of Tarvisium, more familiar
to us under the name of Treviso, which lies eighteen miles north
Plate 1. The City
of Treviso with a Carrack.
Numerburg Chronicle, 1493)
Page 30 It is
true that Treviso already possessed its fifteenth-century
cathedral and the Gothic church of Santa Maddalena, but there
was no reason (so far as the editors were concerned) why this
design should not be given whatever geographical title was most
That which chiefly entertains us, however, is the three-masted
carrack which is shown outside the city's walls.
This has been copied from Reuwich's carrack in the Rhodes
woodcut, but it has been reversed.
Three sailors on the mainyard and one other below it on deck
have been added for the Nuremberg block, but otherwise the two
ships are practically the same down to the very angles at which
the yards have been lowered and crossed. Throughout the Chronicle there are
other woodcuts which also reveal the round-bellied ships with
There are seamen going about their duties, there are
harbour-quays and so on, all of these details contributing to
our nautical knowledge of that century.
It is, none the less, something of a shock to find before the
end of the book that a cut which pretends to represent
Magdeburg is in fact identically that which has also served for
The book contains a large double-page print of Nuremberg, which
is perhaps the finest thing of the whole series; for there was
no necessity here to plagiarize. But the towers, the spires, and
embattlements of the engravers' own beloved city are shown with
an enthusiastic fidelity and truthfulness. The introduction of cross-hatching
gave to these woodcuts a warmth and tone which make them of
greater attractiveness, yet they are lacking in spirit and
feeling when compared with much of the other fifteenth-century
The Nuremberg Chronicle artists have sought to obtain their
effects by strongly marked shadows cut in stout contiguous
lines. Many of these cuts, however, show that the editors were
anxious to give their uncritical public rather a large quantity
of entertaining illustrations than a few Page 31 selected impressions of the highest
As one critic of the nineteenth century reminds us, these are to
be appreciated not for their art but their imagery.
And at a time when Europe was beginning to wake up from its long
Mediaeval slumber and inquire concerning the world about it, the
Nuremberg Chronicle and
later volumes supplied part of the same pleasure which in our
own time is obtained from the illustrated newspapers.
The map which the compilers included in this volume is of
further interest as showing how limited was fifteenth-century
Anglia is indicated with London (Lvndea) marked, as also shown
are Ireland (Ibernia), Scotland (Scocia), Iceland (Vslant) ; but
the full burst of enlightenment had yet to come. A further confirmation of what we
can now readily accept from
" The Master from Reuwich, and the NurembergChronicle as the standardized type of
ocean-going merchantship will be found in the next print.
Here we have a couple of such vessels in an engagement off the
coast of Iceland.
This is taken from a book written by Olaus Magnus (1496-1558),
Archbishop of Upsala, concerning the North European peoples.
Like many other books of the time it was printed in Latin, the
title being Historia
de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, the incident shown
bearing the explanation, "De mutua strage mercatorum pro
This volume, which is full of many quaint chapters on wars,
winds, whales and much else, appeared at Rome in 1555, but
another edition was printed, also in Latin, at Antwerp three
In 1658 there was printed at London, in English, a version
entitled, "A Compendious History of the Goths, Swedes and
Vandals and Other Northern Nations, written by Olaus Magnus,
Arch-Bishop of Upsall and Metropolitan of Sweden."
It is by piecing together data such
as are gathered by these early publications that we can fill in
the gaps and get a fairly full picture
Page 32 of past seafaring.
From the Archbishop's account we have positive information of
the jealousies and fights which went on between the merchant
ships of Bremen, Lubeck, Scotland and England for the primacy of
the sea and the privilege of riding at anchor in Icelandish
The book tells us of "the leather ships made of hides used by
the Pyrats of Greenland" ; "of the manner of fishing for whales
" ; and we get an insight as to the early sixteenth-century mariner by the regulation which insisted that any who
"shall perniciously falsify the marriner's compass, especialy
the needle" was to lose one of his hands.
Having regard to the enormity ol such an offence against the
safety of ship and crew, the penalty was obviously well
deserved. In thoss print of the merchantmen
bombarding each other it will be noticed that as they are
running before the wind neither foresail
Engagement Between Two
of the Coast of Iceland.
engraving of 1555.
Page 33 ENGRAVING
nor mizzen is set.
The ship to starboard has two guns mounted aft, and able to
deliver a broadside of eight.
The use of artillery in Northern European ships had already
during the first half of the sixteenth century made considerable
Portholes had been introduced into the English ships during the
reign of Henry VII, • I although shot of iron, lead and stone
were the ammunition, there was still great reliance on boarding
tactics and therefore howH, arrows, spears, pikes, halberds and
bills. Indeed, as ilham llourne wrote in the year immediately
preceding the Armada Itions, 11 We English men have not beene
counted but of last I to become good Gunners " ; for the art of
using naval guns h would fire a 30-lb. ball had been regarded by
our forefathers barbarous and rude thing." The extreme range of
such a was less than 2,800 yards fired by a demi-cannon ; but
sup-fig these Icelandish merchants carried only " periers " they
i\ fire a 24-lb. ball about a hundred yards less. We must not 01
too much detailed accuracy from the draughtsman : for ncc he has
omitted in both ships to show the bowsprit. But illustrating
northern cargo vessels of a date immediately reeding the
Elizabethan period these prints are helpful and HIT glad to have
our slender resources strengthened. Pel haps the most modern
item in the book is the line engraving, here reproduced, showing
a contemporary lifebelt which is
< iiHMcd in a chapter, " De natatione
armati militis." Sixteenth-niuiy books dealing with bright
ideas, and what the seaman of duy terms '' gadgets," were not
unknown. The same William urne, for instance, in 1578 published
a little volume entitled 1 rations or Devises Very necessary for
all Generalles and Captaines, headers of men, as well by Sea as
by Land, which contained
< Iul tips for preventing an enemy
boarding, how to sink him lltn he was in superior strength, and
so on. Bourne even
suggested a method how " you may make a Boate to goe without
oares or Sayle, by the placing of certaine wheels on the outside
nf the Boate. in that sort, that the
of the Boate, in that sort, that the armes of the wheeles may
goe into the water, and so turning the wheeles by some
provision, and so the wheeles shall make the Boate to goe." In
other words, here was an Elizabethan already thinking ahead
towards the solution which was found in the nineteenth-century
But the Swedish Archbishop's " gad¬get " was a method of
enabling even a soldier in armour to keep afloat by means of a
leather bag filled with air (" saccus coriarius insuflatus ") by
means of a pipe (" fistula "). The design here shows the bag or
belt below the soldier's
by straps across the
shoulders, whilst he is in the act ot inflating it. To many who
served afloat in the British Navy during the recent Great War
this print will be reminiscent of almost identically the same
article which was in use at the Dardanelles and elsewhere. The
book, altogether, is so replete with maritime incidents and
illustrations—not excluding the sea-serpent—that the collector
will find it a great joy.
Israhel van Mechenem of Bocholt, who died in 1503, whose lather
has been identified with The Master of the Berlin Passion, was
another early line engraver by whose work we get yet further
illuminative details of the late fifteenth-century ships. Frans
Huys, who made engravings of the younger Pieter Breughel's
From an engraving of
E. Kebel Chatterton: Old Ship Prints,
John Lane The Bodley Head Limited,