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The Institution of Passover (Exodus 12) from the Koberger Ninth German Bible

Anton Koberger

German (1445-1513)
The Institution of Passover (Exodus 12) from the Koberger Ninth German Bible (1483)
Color woodcut
Deaccession Art Purchase Fund, 2004.23

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“Petroselinum petersilgen” from the book “Der Gart der Gesundheit” (Garden of Health)

Johannes von Cuba

German (1430-1503/04)
“Petroselinum petersilgen” from the book “Der Gart der Gesundheit” (Garden of Health) (1485)
Hand-colored woodcut
Deaccession Art Purchase Fund, 2000.55

Garden of Health and the Koberger Ninth German Bible are both examples of incunabula (Latin for “in the cradle”): books, pamphlets or broadsides printed in Western Europe before the 16th century. The earliest printed books were made from wooden blocks engraved with images and/or text. Following the introduction of mechanized printing by Johannes Gutenberg, printers set texts using movable metal type. These two book pages feature woodcut illustrations printed alongside the movable type.  

While movable type allowed pages of text to be assembled and reassembled quickly, woodcut illustrations also could be used and reused. For example, the set of 108 woodcuts that Koberger purchased to illustrate his edition of the Bible were originally produced in Cologne around 1478 for another printer. They were designed with thick outlines and minimal shading, and then hand colored after printing. The identity of the artist(s) is not known.