A certain book publisher (taschen.com) is doing a winter sale, where one of the books on sale is the Weltchronik - 1493 (aka the Nuremberg Chronicle). However, I cannot find any criticism of the work, and I'm not sure how relevant and reliable it is.

If I'm not mistaken, it starts with the Biblical creation of the world, which if taken literally is false, and if taken allegorically is not really scientific either. But, how accurate is the rest? Does the value of the book exclusively lie in the illustrations, and not the historical accuracy?

  • 4
    As a very early printed book (1493), the thing that interests most historians about it these days is not its historical accuracy level.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 18:54
  • @T.E.D. Agree. Though its illustrations of towns and cities relatively close to Nuremberg (e.g. not Ninive, Troy, or Carthago) might actually still be quite useful as primary sources
    – Jan
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 19:11
  • As far as I can make out, the Taschen edition is the one by Stephan Füssel and seems to contain his introduction: "Mit Einführung, Inhaltsanalyse und Register". According to the German WP article, this also seems to contain remarks on text sources. If what is said there is right, most of the text is quoted verbatim from other sources, so that historians would rather refer to those directly as primary sources.
    – ccprog
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 1:42
  • The vast majority of the Nuremberg Chronicle is plagiarised from other works and so has value in that regard, but for the most part the idea of ancient chronicles being accurate or reliable is somewhat a fool's errand. None of these people lived through all of the times they wrote about and instead drew upon sources available to them instead; modern scholars would thus analyse each documented event in detail on their own merits.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 9:51

1 Answer 1


Your question is interesting, and starting from the comment on the question I did some research.

As said by @ccprog and @Semaphore (thanks to both), the Nuremberg Chronicle is mostly (more than 90% - see here) references of other sources.

So, in the end the question can be put as "how reliable and accurate are the SOURCE of the Nuremberg Chronicle?"

Let's see how the Chronicle is divided (according to Wikipedia):

  • First age: from creation to the Deluge
  • Second age: up to the birth of Abraham
  • Third age: up to King David Fourth age: up to the Babylonian
  • Fourth age: up to the Babylonian captivity
  • Fifth age: up to the birth of Jesus Christ
  • Sixth age: up to the present time (the largest part)
  • Seventh age: outlook on the end of the world and the Last Judgment

Given that we may agree of the inaccuracy of the fonts for the first, second, third and fourth age (it is hard to find "historically accurate" reports of that time) and the seventh, as it is about the future, let's check on the source of the fifth and sixth age:

Fifth age:

The source is the biblic fonts, which cannot be taken as "historically accurate" (you can have a glimpse here) - so, long story short: no, it is not accurate

Sixth age:

Here the author may have used more historically accurate reports and sources.

Among them the autor choses to use the "Supplementum chronicarum" of Giacomo Filippo Foresti, which was itself a report of other chronicles. Given that as stated by his english wikipedia page:

Recent research has both drawn attention to the Legenda Aurea and the letter of Prester John as possible sources for Foresti's narration of the episode, casting doubt on the veracity of an Ethiopian embassy to Europe at this date

I believe that we can assume that the historically accuracy of the book is low in the best case.

It has instead a lot of really nice and interesting illustration as you may see in the digitalised version made available by the University of Cambridge

first image

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