Picturing Experience in the Early Printed Book: Breydenbach's Peregrinatio from Venice to Jerusalem

Picturing Experience in the Early Printed Book: Breydenbach's Peregrinatio from Venice to Jerusalem

by Elizabeth Ross

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Bernhard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in terram sanctam (Journey to the Holy Land), first published in 1486, is one of the seminal books of early printing and is especially renowned for the originality of its woodcuts. In Picturing Experience in the Early Printed Book, Elizabeth Ross considers the Peregrinatio from a variety of perspectives to explain its value for the cultural history of the period. Breydenbach, a high-ranking cleric in Mainz, recruited the painter Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht for a religious and artistic adventure in a political hot spot—a pilgrimage to research the peoples, places, plants, and animals of the Levant. The book they published after their return ambitiously engaged with the potential of the new print medium to give an account of their experience.

The Peregrinatio also aspired to rouse readers to a new crusade against Islam by depicting a contest in the Mediterranean between the Christian bastion of the city of Venice and the region’s Muslim empires. This crusading rhetoric fit neatly with the state of the printing industry in Mainz, which largely subsisted as a tool for bishops’ consolidation of authority, including selling the pope’s plans to combat the Ottoman Empire.

Taking an artist on such an enterprise was unprecedented. Reuwich set a new benchmark for technical achievement with his woodcuts, notably a panorama of Venice that folds out to 1.62 meters in length and a foldout map that stretches from Damascus to Sudan around the first topographically accurate view of Jerusalem. The conception and execution of the Peregrinatio show how and why early printed books constructed new means of visual representation from existing ones—and how the form of a printed book emerged out of the interaction of eyewitness experience and medieval scholarship, real travel and spiritual pilgrimage, curiosity and fixed belief, texts and images.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271064949
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 03/25/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 90 MB
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About the Author

Elizabeth Ross is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Florida.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1—Introduction: The Pilgrims and their Project

Bernhard von Breydenbach and his Pilgrimage

The Role of Erhard Reuwich

Chapter 2—The Authority of the Artist-Author’s View

The Censorship Edict of 1485

Breydenbach’s Self-Presentation as an Author

The Artist as Eye-Witness

These Animals are Truly Depicted as We Saw Them

Gart der Gesundheit (Garden of Health)

The Artist-Author’s View in Petrarch and Van Eyck


Chapter 3—Mediterranean Encounters: Lady Venice, Holy Land Heretics, and Crusade

Crusade in the 1480s and the Turks Tithe

Mainz Printing and the Selling of Crusade

The Peregrinatio’s Journey between Venice and Heresy

Other Heretics of the Holy Land

Venice Influenced, Venice as Influence

What They Took from Peter Ugelheimer and What They Left Behind

Chapter 4—The Map of the Holy Land: Art-Making as Cartography

Mappae Mundi

The Burchard Map of the Holy Land

Portolan Charts

The Pilgrims’ Itinerary and Itineraries of Other Travelers

Netherlandish Pictorial Space

Chapter 5—The View of Jerusalem: Perspectives on a Holy City

The Centripetal View from Mamluk Monuments

The Franciscan Indulgenced View

Putting Islam at the Forefront of a Christian View

The Meaning of al-Haram al-Sharif for the Pilgrimage of 1483–84

Coda: The View from the Jewish Quarter



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