Paul Praetorius 1521-1565

Paul[um] Praetorius (1521-1564 or 5), Chronica darinnen der Römischen Keiser historien, vom ersten Keiser Julio, bis auff Carolum den fünfften, und ire Bieldnis gefunden werden (Wittenberg: durch Peter Seitz, aus Verlegung Christopheri Schram, 1561). 118 circular woodcut portraits (white on black). Graphic Arts GAX 2009- in process

The 1559 first edition of Praetorius’s history of the Roman Emperors was published in Latin without illustrations. For the first German edition, Praetorius added over one hundred woodcut portraits of the emperors described, taken from imperial coins and later commemorative medals.

The final portrait is that of Ferdinand I of Prague, who Praetorius met while on a diplomatic mission for the Archbishop of Magdeburg. This may have been a last minute substitute since the earlier text indicates the final portrait is to be Emperor Charles V.

Note the words in the woodcuts are printed white on a black background. It was easier to use a thin knife to cut out the letters than to cut around them. The large areas left in relief, printing black, make for a stronger block that would last through a large printing run. In fact, these same blocks were also used in Georgius Sabinus’ Catalogues Romanorum et Germanicorum Imperatorum in 1561.