Tyrolean Fishing Book of Emperor Maximilian

Codex Vindobonensis 7962 - Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)

Alternate Titles:

Fischereibuch Kaiser Maximilians I , Das Tiroler Fischereibuch Maximilians I , Fischereibuch of Emperor Maximilian I

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Fischereibuch Kaiser Maximilians I
Das Tiroler Fischereibuch Maximilians I
Fischereibuch of Emperor Maximilian I

Type
Extent / Format

112 pages / 33.2 x 23.2 cm

Origin
Date
1504
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (1459 - 1519)

Artist / School

Author: Wolfgang Hohenleiter
Miniaturist: Jörg Kölderer

Illustrations

14 miniatures, some of them full-page and many black and red initials

Short description

This 500-year-old manuscript on fishing is not only one of the oldest of its kind but is a work of art worthy of one of the greatest art patrons of the Renaissance: Emperor Maximilian I. Famous as a great warrior and statesman, he was also an avid hunter and fisher. As such, the Emperor commissioned a beautifully-illuminated work concerning the management of Tyrol’s fish stocks for his descendants. The text of the Tyrolean Fishing Book of Emperor Maximilian describes specific bodies of water, techniques, equipment, and times of year for catching various types of fish, which are also detailed in the miniatures. The fact that modern readers can make sense of the text with a little practice adds to the allure of the manuscript, which is of interest not only to anglers, but to biologists, historians, and art lovers as well.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Tyrolean Fishing Book of Emperor Maximilian

Maximilian I (1459-1519) Archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor was one of the most influential figures of the Late Middle Ages. He combined the ideals of a medieval warrior-king, not only fighting personally in battle but placing himself in the front line, with that of a learned Renaissance prince, establishing himself not only as a great patron of the arts but an author in his own right. Although successful as a warrior, it was his marriage politics that allowed him to expand Hapsburg rule into much of the former Duchy of Burgundy, claiming the richness of the Netherlands, and into Bohemia and Hungary. His living descendants include King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. This policy has been described as: "Let others wage war, but thou, O happy Austria, marry; for those kingdoms which Mars gives to others, Venus gives to thee." When not occupied by affairs of state, Maximilian loved hunting and fishing. The Tyrolean Fishing Book of Emperor Maximilian was written by Wolfang Hohenleiter, an author specializing in hunting and fishing, and was illuminated by Jörg Kölderer (ca. 1465-1540), Maximilian’s court painter and architect. Dated to 1504, it is a splendid manuscript that is of interest not only to anglers, but to biologists, historians, and art lovers as well.

Managing Tyrol’s Fish Stocks

Maximilian’s purpose in commissioning this manuscript was not merely to describe what kinds of fish lived where and how best to eat them, nor did he intend it purely for his own use. While his love of fishing certainly played a role, it was how best to exploit, manage, and protect these resources that motivated the Emperor for the nourishment of future sovereigns and their retinues. The fact that the names of the fish and bodies of water, as well as the dialect of Tyrol have not changed significantly in the last 500 years means that, with a little practice, the text of this work is quite accessible to modern readers. Specific bodies of water, techniques, equipment, and times of year for catching various types of fish are detailed both in the text and in the miniatures, which are remarkable for their detail and realism. Most of the bodies of water are small, including so-called “wild lakes”, and although large lakes like the Achensee, Plansee, and Kalterer See are mentioned, large rivers like the Inn, Lech, and Etsch are not. With a few exceptions, only sovereign-owned bodies of water are depicted, 110 in all, with most no longer existing. This could be that the manuscript appears to be incomplete, which is indicated by some empty pages in various parts of the work. Aside from the fourteen miniatures, some of which are full-pages, gorgeous coats of arms and decorative initials in red and black adorn the text, which is written in an elegant hand. Today, the precious artifact, one of the oldest of its kind, is stored among the illustrious collections of the Austrian National Library under the shelf mark Codex Vindobonensis 7962.

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