Konrad Grünenberg’s Wappenbuch VII: The Zurich manuscript

The Zurich manuscript (Zürich, Zentralbibliothek ms. A 42) is an unknown version of the Grünenberg armorial from the early 16th century.

The manuscript has not attracted much scholarly attention, neither on its own nor in the context of Grünenberg‛s armorial. In the nineteenth century, Ludwig Stantz (the owner of the Grünenberg manuscript now in Berlin) identified the Zurich manuscript as a free adaptation of the Grünenberg armorial. Ernst Gagliardi in his 1982 catalogue (found online here) likewise describes it as modelled on the Grünenberg armorial. On the whole, however, the manuscript went unnoticed and is not quoted in the rather extensive literature on the Grünenberg armorial (including the various editions). I owe my knowledge of its existence to Steen Clemmensen (mange tak!), who in turn was told about the Zurich codex by his colleague Nils G. Bartholdy. Following this hint, Bernd Konrad and I studied the original at the Zentralbibliothek. In the following, I will present my first impressions of this manuscript; a more detailed description will be published in the near future by Bernd Konrad in the catalogue prepared for an exhibition at Schaffhausen.

To start with, the manuscript is massive: measuring about 290 to 210 mm, it contains over 1000 pages. The codex was produced in the early 16th century; historical events of 1520s are recorded and dated, indicating a terminus post quem of 1527. It may well have been begun earlier, but I assume it was finished not much later than this year. The manuscript almost certainly comes from south-western Germany and may have links to the counts of Zimmern.

Very much like the Grünenberg armorial, the Zurich copy starts with the tower of David, the Nine Worthies, the Roman Empire and various other empires including that of Prester John. This first large section is shorter in the Zurich version compared to the original of Grünenberg‛s armorial.

The next large section are the so-called quaternions; compared to the Berlin manuscript or Munich Cgm 145, this section is considerably reworked. Not only is the number of coats of arms enlarged, the Zurich manuscript also adds a number of short texts explaining the history of the quaternions. For example, the four banners of the empire are said to have been established by Henry VII according to Conrad Grünenberg(p. 70). On several occasions, the coat of arms are updated and added to; for example, the dukes of Württemberg are referred to as such (p. 73), while in the original Grünenberg armorial they were still listed as counts (correctly so, as they only became dukes in 1495), and their coat of arms are depicted accordingly.

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Zürich, ZB ms. A 42, p. 73 (detail): The dukes of Württemberg

The other sections of the armorial seem to correspond to the standard version of the Grünenberg armorial, but given its sheer scope (more than 2000 coat-of-arms!) much more research is needed before further claims on the relation between the Zurich copies and any other manuscript can be made.

In addition to coat of arms, the Zurich manuscript contains several non-heraldic illustrations. Many illustrations found in the earlier manuscripts are absent, other illustrations are added. For example, the Zurich copy lacks most illustrations of kings and emperors normally found in the Grünenberg armorial; only the dog-headed King of Matembrion is depicted in a miniature covering half a page (on p. 11).

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Zürich, ZB ms. A 42, p. 11: The King of Matembrion

Two magnificent full-page miniatures found in Cgm 145 (and most other Grünenberg copies) but not the Berlin manuscript, are present on p. 185 and 186 of the Zurich manuscript, namely the so-called Helmschau (presentation of coat-of-arms) and the depiction of twelve ladies representing the tournament societies. In Cgm 145, they are found on p. 233 (look here!) and 235 (here), respectively. Illustrations in the Zurich manuscript not found in any other copy of Grünenberg include the tomb of a knight, shown in full armour, two mounted knights and the depiction of an herold.

On the whole, the Zurich manuscript is faithful to the content and the structure of the orginal, and it may have been modelled on a very early manuscript, perhaps even Cgm 145. In any case the copyist was ready to make changes and to bring his armorial up to date, suggesting that the themes of the Grünenberg armorial were still of considerable interest in the first half of the sixteenth century.

Cite the article as: Christof Rolker, "Konrad Grünenberg’s Wappenbuch VII: The Zurich manuscript", in: Heraldica nova. Medieval Heraldry in social and cultural-historical perspectives (blog on Hypotheses.org), published: 23/02/2014, Internet: http://heraldica.hypotheses.org/917.

Christof Rolker

Christof Rolker is a historian interested in the Middle Ages, esp. canon law, kinship, family, sex and gender, and the use of symbolic goods (names, coats of arms etc).

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