The First Fold-Out Plates

Bernhard von Breydenbach (d. 1497).
Peregrinatio in terram sanctam.
Mainz:  Erhard Reuwich, 11 February 1486. (06196)

Noted for its striking woodcut illustrations, this book recounts a pilgrimage to the Holy Land undertaken in 1483–1484 by Bernhard von Breydenbach, Dean of Mainz Cathedral. The compiler was accompanied on his pilgrimage by Erhard Reuwich, who designed and printed the book’s woodcuts depicting Mediterranean ports and cities, various peoples of the Holy Land, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and an exotic bestiary. The horizontal breadth of several of Reuwich’s compositions required a striking innovation: for the first time in European printing, additional sheets of paper were pasted together and printed as fold-out plates that extend far beyond the dimensions of the book itself.

Six leaves across, the exhibited fold-out illustration of Jerusalem represented the city with unprecedented topographical accuracy. However, the woodcut omits any evidence of the city’s contemporary Muslim rule and inhabitation. Reuwich’s Jerusalem is an imaginary pilgrimage destination in which the Dome of the Rock is mislabeled as King Solomon’s biblical Temple, obscuring the mosque’s importance for the Muslim faith. Crosses and inscriptions also mark numerous pilgrimage sites that Christians could visit to collect church-approved indulgences.

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Books with Moving Parts
The First Fold-Out Plates