Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Werner Rolewinck, Fasciculus temporum ([Strassburg]: [Johann Prüss], [not before 6 April 1490])

Fasciculus temporum

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The Fasciculus temporum, the Latin edition of which was first printed in Cologne in 1474, is a so-called 'universal chronicle' compiled by Werner Rolewinck (c. 1425-1502), a Carthusian monk active in Cologne. The structure of the work follows the traditional order of a universal history, which is generally divided in six sections in accordance with the Augustinian six 'Ages' of the world. The first edition was concerned with the world of the Old Testament and with Papal history, and thus broadly encompassed the history of the Mediterranean region from the Creation until the author's time, 1474. Subsequent printers and publishers added original material to later editions, including descriptions of events after 1474 and local histories. The Keio copy has 96 leaves, perhaps wanting the last two leaves; it seems to have been printed after 1490. Though brief, it contains more than 20 woodcut illustrations.

The printed version of the Fasciculus temporum is a remarkable artifact, with a distinctive graphical design. The text is not arranged in either of the traditional formats (single or double vertical columns); instead, the histories of several regions are arranged, in parallel, horizontally across the page. The central row, which runs throughout the book, tracks two different chronologies, one starting with the Creation (the 'anno mundi' system) and the other with the birth of Christ (the 'anno Christi' system). Since antiquity Western historiographers attempted to create an authentic chronology that rigidly corresponded with descriptions in the Bible, but they were unable to reach a consensus; there were several different views on time-reckoning systems that framed each local history, right up to Rolewinck's time. Rolewinck and the producers of the Fasciculus temporum seem to have taken care to ensure that the different systems correspond, and they developed each local history along this chronological axis (Tilmans, p. 130). The adoption of such an innovative page design in an attempt to solve the Christian dogmatic problem of historical time is a noteworthy achievement in the history of printing and also an important development in historiography.

Towards the end of the 15th century printers on the Continent began to use more advanced printing techniques, and they published chronicles with complex layouts for text and illustrations. The Liber cronicarum, or so-called 'Nuremberg Chronicle', is one such publication. Since Adrian Wilson first examined it as a rare example of a 'sophisticated' chronicle, the Nuremberg Chronicle has attracted the special attention of researchers. There are several extant documents related to the Nuremberg Chronicle containing detailed plans for its printing. Although it is brief, the Fasciculus temporum is no less important than the Nuremberg Chronicle for students of early print culture. The Cologne versions of the Fasciculus temporum are known to be the first that recorded Western printing started in Mainz. The Fasciculus temporum itself became one of the first 'best sellers' in the printing age (Stillwell, p. 410; Ward, p. 209): it appeared in more than 30 subsequent editions during the author's lifetime, translated into all of the major European languages. And its influence was not limited to the Continent: early English printers also seem to have known of it. Wynkyn de Worde (d. 1534/5), for example, used designs in his own printing which bear a resemblance to the layout and illustrations of the Fasciculus temporum (Driver, p. 49).

  Bühler, Curt F., 'The Fasciculus Temporum and Morgan Manuscript 801', Speculum, 27.2 (1952), 178-83
  Driver, Martha W., The Image in Print: Book Illustration in Late Medieval England and its Sources (London: British Library, 2004)
  Stillwell, Margaret Bingham, 'The Fasciculus Temporum: A Genealogical Survey of Editions before 1480', in Bibliographical Essays: A Tribute to Wilberforce Eames (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1924), pp. 410-40
  Tilmans, Karin, Historiography and Humanism in Holland in the Age of Erasmus: Aurelius and the 'Divisiekroniek' of 1517, Bibliotheca Humanistica and Reformatorica, 51 (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1992)
  Ward, Laviece, 'Werner Rolevinck and the Fasciculus Temporum', in Normative Zentrierung (Normative Centering), ed. by Rudolf Suntrup and Jan R. Veenstra, Medieval to Early Modern Culture (Kultureller Wandel vom Mittelalter zur Frühen Neuzeit), 2 (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2002), pp. 209-30
  Wilson, Adrian, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle, introd. by Peter Zahn (Amsterdam: Nico Israel, 1976)
  佐川美智子, 高木幸枝, 雪嶋宏一 編集『書物の森へ—西洋の初期印刷本と版画』 (町田: 町田市立国際版画美術館, 1996)



Rolewinck, Werner
Place of Publication
[Johann Prüss]


Date of Publication
[not before 1490-04-06]

19th-century antique vellum, raised bands, boards paneled and decorated in blind.

Bibliographical Notes

π6 A8 B-O6 P4; 96 leaves; perhaps wanting last 2 bank leaves; the first page is probably a facsimile; a number of woodcut illustrations and diagrams; some contemporary marginalia.

Goff R276, HC 6916*, IJL 260, IJL 328
Acquisition Year

Bookplate with initials I.B.G.