The World in a Book: Weltchroniken and Society at the End of the Middle Ages


ACLS Fellowship Program


Art History and Music


In the cities of Bavaria and Austria between 1330 and 1430, it was fashionable to own illustrated Weltchroniken (world chronicles). These books present biblical and ancient history as a seamless narrative, told in Middle High German verse and augmented with images that feature unusual iconographies and experimental styles. Yet this genre has been largely overlooked, as art historians who work on this late-medieval German region have focused instead on art used in Christian devotion. This project examines picture and text in twenty-two Weltchronik manuscripts to reveal how this new type of book registered preoccupations and aspirations of late-medieval lay audiences, drives otherwise difficult to discern in the artworks that survive from the period. Case studies focus on the themes of political ambition, religious skepticism, and eventually the impact of printing on social ideals in the urban sphere.