The Illuminated World Chronicle Tales from the Late Medieval City Nina Rowe

Publication date:
24 Nov 2020
Yale University Press
220 pages: 279 x 216mm
148 color illus.
Sales territories:

A look into an enchanting, underexplored genre of illustrated manuscripts that reveals new insights into urban life in the Middle Ages

In this innovative study, Nina Rowe examines a curious genre of illustrated book that gained popularity among the newly emergent middle class of late medieval cities. These illuminated World Chronicles, produced in the Bavarian and Austrian regions from around 1330 to 1430, were the popular histories of their day, telling tales from the Bible, ancient mythology, and the lives of emperors in animated, vernacular verse, enhanced by dynamic images. Rowe’s appraisal of these understudied books presents a rich world of storytelling modes, offering unprecedented insight into the non-noble social strata in a transformative epoch. Through a multidisciplinary approach, Rowe also shows how illuminated World Chronicles challenge the commonly held view of the Middle Ages as socially stagnant and homogeneously pious. Beautifully illustrated and backed by abundant and accessible analyses of social, economic, and political conditions, this book highlights the engaging character of secular literature during the late medieval era and the relationship of illustrated books to a socially diverse and vibrant urban sphere.

Nina Rowe is professor of art history at Fordham University.

“A superb book. It convincingly challenges some of the fundamental elements of received wisdom regarding the art of the later Middle Ages, and particularly the art of the late medieval Germanic world.”—Stephen Perkinson, Bowdoin College