Richly Illustrated with Woodcut Town Views and an Isidoran World Map
The first Erhard Ratdolt edition, dated 24 November 1480 in the colophon (F. 68 recto). The Fasciculus Temporum is considered by many the first printed history of the world, predating the more famous Nuremberg Chronicle by about two decades. The world map is one of the early "T-O" or Isidoran maps, with Jerusalem forming a distinct region through a semi-circle joining the two segments of the "T." With all its many editions, it seems only the 1480 and 1484 Venice editions by Erhard Ratdolt contain the world map. (Tony Campbell, The Earliest Printed Maps, page 142.)
Many of the woodcuts are early views of the built environments of European cities. One notable woodcut, on F. 31 (recto), is the double view of England, Britainia que postea dicta est anglia, among the earliest views of the British Isles. Another remarkable image is what is likely the first known printed view of Venice (showing gondolas and gondoliers in the Gran canale and the Piazza San Marco), which is somewhat similar to the earliest known drawing of Venice recently discovered in a 14th-century manuscript. The earlier drawing, attributed to Niccolo da Poggibonsi, has been described by Sandra Toffolo, author of Describing the City, Describing the State: Representations of Venice and the Venetian Terraferma in the Renaissance, as the basis for early printed views of the city. Other woodcuts include, Rome, Verona, Jerusalem, Toledo, Noah's Arc, the Tower of Babel, and the Temple of Solomon. Quite popular in its day, Rolewinck's Fasciculus temporum was translated into French, German, and Dutch and issued in 32 different editions during the 15th century. The present Venice edition is in Latin.
Of interest to historians of printing is a wonderful early reference to the invention of printing, under the year 1457, on F. 64 (recto)
Artifices mira celeritate subtilioses solito ... Et i[m]pressores libros mulitplicant in terra [Craftsmen with astonishing speed ar.e more subtle than usual. And printers multiply books on earth].
In fact, this edition is justly renowned for its beautiful typographical page design. The timeline depiction of history, with its dual starting points from Creation and the birth of Christ, required an innovative and complex layout of type. A recent scholarly analysis has gone so far as to describe the Fasciculus Temporum as an early example of hypertext - cf. Classen. Integral to the page design for this impressive universal history are numerous genealogical diagrams interspersed with text passages about kings, biblical figures, popes, and ancient gods.
A very nice example of late medieval cartography in the form of an Isidoran world map in an extensively illustrated incunable full of fine woodcut town views.