Schembart (“hiding beard”) Carnival Book Spread 0

Schembart (“hiding beard”) Carnival Book Spread 0 cover

Schembart (“hiding beard”) Carnival Book In German

ii+88 leaves, complete (collation: 2+i50, ii20 (16+1+2+1), iii18 (the third gathering is a very complicated quire with four intermediary threads, added leaves and stubs, but it is complete and apparently original in this state, as the first and the last leaf form one bifolio)), 2 flyleaves at front, written on paper of various origins in light brown and black ink by a number of different German cursive hands (one major hand in the first gathering which continues in the second, second hand from f. 67 (66)-71(70), from f. 72(71) four different hands) in one column of varying lengths, modern pencil foliation in upper right, skipping one leaf after f. 17, no ruling, no decoration or other enhancement of script. The watermarks in the first and second gathering mainly from one source (a bear, turned 90°, with collar and tongue poking out, with claws, not recorded in Piccard or Wasserzeichen online database; also a castle or fortress and another bear, none of them identifiable) whereas the watermarks in the third quire are quite mixed: also the bear, but moreover two kinds of coats of arms with crowns, one of them (f. 86(85)-88(87)) only remotely similar to DE5040-PO-24548 (1648 Speyer), yet so far unidentifiable , however, the two front flyleaves bear the same watermark as ff. 80-82 and 68 and 70, which suggests that the third gathering cannot have been added to the book much later than the second, 64 full-figure pen and ink drawings in very fine condition, colored with washes, some details in gold and silver leaf, 22 smaller pen and ink drawings, probably added only slightly later, paper quite strong in varying stages of darkening, thin and thumbed towards the margins, especially in the third gathering, minor stains and spots throughout, some offsets of the washes of the drawings, green hues coloring the ground and some of the costumes often shine through, very few minor tears, no restoration. Contemporary limp vellum binding with flap, loose in binding, lacking fore-edge ties, splits at head and foot of flap fold, inscribed on spine “Schempart Buech.” Dimensions 310 x 205 mm.

This complete witness of the famous Schembartlauf, a carnival parade that was held in the German city of Nuremberg from 1449 to 1539 includes 64 full page illustrations of marvelous and eccentric carnival costumes from each year the carnival was held together with 22 drawings of floats that accompanied the pageants from 1479. The present codex is one of the earliest preserved copies, only a few of which remain in private hands. Three of the eighty manuscripts are located in North American public collections. This copy was customized for its first owners, the members of the influential patrician family of Kress von Kressenstain in Nuremberg, who prominently featured in the carnival.


1. Ex-libris of Iohannes Guilhelmus Kress à Kressenstain dated 1619, an engraved plate with his coat of arms and additional crests of related families (Schweikhart, Haller, Kress, Freidel) glued to front first flyleaf. The Kress family, which in 1530 was permitted to add the title “von Kressenstein” was one of the major patrician families in Nuremberg. It is possible that the present manuscript was made and/or acquired for the Kress family in particular, as a couple of members of the family participated in the Schembartlauf (Schembart pageant or carnival) and are recorded in this manuscript with their masks, names and coats of arms (see below).

2. Letters “MCP” written in lower corner of f. 1. It is not certain whether this is an ownership entry, which remains to be identified.

3. Ex libris Liechtensteinianis, engraved armorial bookplate of the princely library glued to front pastedown. Their shelfmark written in pencil on top of first flyleaf: “Ms B. Fach IV”, “64 Bl. mit Figuren + 19 Bl. bloss Text,” “165.4.8. c. 1561”);

4. In 1949, H.P. Kraus from New York bought around 20.000 volumes from the Prince of Liechtenstein’s library, among them this and other Schembart Books, 1949-1954;

5. Paul & Marianne Gourary (Paul, d. 2007), Collection of Illustrated Fête Books, their bookplate underneath the Kressenstein label;

6. Christie’s New York, Splendid Ceremonies the Paul and Marianne Gourary Collection of Illustrated Fête Books, June 6, 2009, lot 309.


ff. 1-66(65 pencil foliation), individual records for all 64 Schembart carnivals from 1449-1539 over page openings with illustration on verso and text on the facing recto:

f. 2, incipit: “Anno 1449 Dar ist ein Schempartlauf gehalten Inn dem was Cuntz Eschenlörer Hauptmann ...” (In 1449 there was a Schembart Carnival, and Cuntz Eschenlörer was its captain, the lead figure);

f. 45(44): a list with names of all participants, of all men accompanying the captain in the Schembart Lauf of 1503, among them also a member of the Kress family; f. 59(58): a list with names of all accompanying men and a more exhaustive report on the 1518 Schembart; f. 65(64) lists the carnivals from 1524-1532;

f. 65, explicit: “Anno 1532 Zug Kaiser Carollus mit einem grossen Volck dergleichen bey menschen gedencknus nit erhört ward, In Osterreich dem Turcken zu wehrenn vnnd schlug ein grosse Summa derselben todt mer dann 15000 der straiffenndenn Rott” (In 1532 emperor Charles moved towards Austria with a big army the numbers of which was never heard of before in order to defeat the Turks; he killed a vast number of them, more than 15000 of the wandering troops);

ff. 67(66)-68v (67v), extended account of the riotous carnival of 1507 on an added bifolium
incipit: “Anno Domini 1507 In disem Jar was Haubtmann ...”, explicit: “Die Schichte (?) hab ich alle vor 48 Jaren in meine Schempart Buech also eingeschrieben unnd ytze hierher verzeichnet das ich aygentlich gewiß pin das nicht Sigmund Fuerer wie andre Schempart buecher anzaygen Hauptman gewesen sey im 1507 sonder Sigmund Pfinzing zum Marolfstain(?)” (I noted this story 48 years ago in my Schembart Books and now copied it here, so that I am quite certain that in 1507 it was not Sigmund Fuerer who was the captain, as stated in other Schembart Books, but Sigmund Pfinzing of Marolstein”). This text confirms that this account must have been written or added in 1555 or later, as well as the sections until f. 71v as they were written by the same hand; also it means that this note was written by someone who copied or contributed to other Schembart manuscripts as well;

ff. 69(68)-70(69), list of all participants in the Schembart Lauf of 1532, incipit: “Anno domini 1532 Auff dieses Jar ist hierin Schempart gelaufen ...,” explicit: “Mannspersonen .........170/ Frouwen .......121/ Junckfe(re) ...........45/Alle personen .......336”;

ff. 70v(69v)-71(70) blank

f. 71v(70v), account of the last Schembart Lauf in 1539, also describing the float;

ff. 72(71)-74v(73v), sixteenth-century additions, including the account of the institution of the Schembartlauf, incipit: “Am dritten Ostertag im 1349 Jar kam von den urbaren (?) ...,” explicit: “Also ist das Regement bei den urbarn (?) be ...tren, biß ... (illegible)”;

ff. 74(73)-79(78), repeated entries for the first 63 years it took place, text in different wording, probably from another model, written by another hand, incipit: “Wo man zahlt 1349 Jar, do wars der aufläuft hy zu Nürnberg zu Pfingsten da nam der erbaren Regement ein enndt ...”, explicit (last addition to the text): “Im 1532 Jar Zug Kaiser Karolus mit ainem großen Volk der gleichen bei menschen gedencknus nit erhort ward ... (same as on f. 65, but in a different orthography)”

ff. 80 (79)-85(84), subsequent events into the 1560s and additional and complementary texts referring to previous years, at the end a list with names of participants of earlier tournaments held in Nuremberg (f. 82v(81v)), among them again members of the Kress family, incipit: “Inn disem 1521 Jar Am Samstag nach Petri Cathedra kam des Nuerremberg ...”, explicit: “Sebald Kreß, Conrad Kressenstain (?) von der Hallerin geborn Inn Rosenfarb”;

ff. 85v(84v)-88v(87v) blank, probably additional space for further entries which have never been added.

The text of this beautifully preserved manuscript is a record or chronicle of the so-called Schembartlauf, a carnival parade, in Nuremberg, as it was held for Shrove Tuesday in the years between 1449 and 1539. The short texts accompany full-page illustrations of the colorful and eccentric costumes worn by the captains of the pageant of each year. The text relates to the year in which the carnival had taken place and also signals those few years where it did not occur due to unrest or the plague; included is the name of the captain, the number of men who accompanied him, sometimes a short description of the costume, and sometimes the route of the pageant in Nuremberg.

The last 18 leaves that are not illustrated seem to have been added to the manuscript as a complimentary record only shortly afterwards, and they contain another textual version of the account of events and also include the legendary narrative of how the Schembartlauf was first instated in Nuremberg.

According to this narrative, the parade originated in 1349 as a privilege granted by Emperor Charles IV to the butchers’s guild of Nuremberg. The trade guilds of the city had risen up in the previous year, overthrown and replaced the patrician town council. Their new council survived for almost a year, and then Charles IV acted against them; he reinstated the original regime, had their usurpers executed and their new building torn down. To reward the butchers’s guild for not participating in the revolt, Emperor Charles IV granted them the right to a special public celebration on Fassnacht. They could wear masks -- a rough translation of Schembart (which literally means “hiding beard”) --, dance, perform fencing matches, and parade. The dancers were protected by the so-called Läufer (the runners), whose own performance gradually came to be the main event. They wore not only masks, as can be clearly seen in the illustrations, but newly designed and extravagant costumes, richly decorated with embroidery and ribbons, and bells that jingled as they ran through the streets. They brandished lances and held boughs of leaves that look like artichokes -- known as Lebensrute -- that concealed fireworks (as can be seen on f. 64v). Eventually, fireworks were outlawed during the carnival because they caused so many fire hazards in the city.

From 1475 onwards the pageants were also accompanied by floats, called Hölle (Hells), twenty-two of which are represented as pen and ink drawings in this manuscript, probably added slightly after the other illustrations were completed. The first ones were mounted on sledges, and later they were on wagons with wheels. Twice an actual elephant paraded with the carnival figures, as reflected in the drawings of the floats (ff. 43v, 63v). The last Schembartlauf was held in 1539, when it had become so riotous that authorities prohibited it for years to come. That year, the accompanying float presented a Ship of Fools with the Lutheran minister Osiander, who was holding a backgammon board and was surrounded by fools and devils (f. 63v). The Protestant movement had been prominent particularly in Nuremberg from quite early on, and it is easily imaginable that both the nobility and the members of the city council as well as the clergy were offended by this overt display of satire.

Sumberg recorded approximately 80 manuscripts, most of which are in public collections in Germany (e.g., Nuremberg and elsewhere). See the online list of digitized manuscripts listed below. Three copies are in North America, one in Washington, D. C. in the Library of Congress (Rosenwald MS 18), one in the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (Getty Research Library, 2009.M.38); and one in the University of California at Los Angeles Special Collections (MS 170/351). All the extant manuscripts can be dated after 1540 when the carnival festivities had ceased; they are thus a retrospective commemoration of the event itself. Many of the copies are as late as the seventeenth century. The present manuscript appears to be one of the earliest extant copies.

The relatively concise texts accompanying the illustrations in the first quire are identical in many other Schembart manuscripts, such as for example in the manuscript in the Library of Congress in Washington (Rosenwald MS 18), so that we may assume that there was a main model for it. (The digitized copy of Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Merkel Hs 2°241 lists the names of all the depicted captains of all carnivals, which is very useful to identify the coats of arms that go along with many illustrations.)

Corrections to this text, such as on f. 2, were apparently added only slightly later. For example, the first hand on f. 2 just notes that in 1450 there was no “Schempartlauf,” while a second hand explains why and the circumstances of this. Similarly, many corrections or modifications seem to have been added when other “witnesses,” either living or recorded, of the Schembart carnivals had been consulted. In fact, it appears that the early owner of the manuscript was keen to possess a record of the history of the Schembart carnival that was as historically reliable as possible, as the text was complemented and modified following ever newly surfacing “evidence.” Many paragraphs in the first section are crossed out perhaps because they received appropriate attention in the more extensive additional reports at the end of the manuscript. The repeated record of the Schembartlauff as it appears from f. 74 (73) is identical to the text that accompanies the illustrations in one of the Merkel manuscripts kept in Nuremberg (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Merkel HS 2°241, from f. XXIXr). Thus, there must have been at least two sources the scribes copied from. However, the present manuscript does not contain the lengthy rhymed prologue as it is found in a copy at the Getty Research Library. There are other copies preserved with the same text redaction as the present manuscript, which could suggest that the manuscripts were produced on demand, following the preferences of a commissioner.

This and other manuscripts record the participation in the Schembartlauf of a number of members of the Kress family. In 1464, 1465, 1468, and 1495, Hans Kress acted as captain (Hauptmann) of the Schembart, which is pointed out in the text as well as by the coat of arms with a sword leaning to the right on a red ground. Also members of the Haller family -- related to the Kress family by marriage -- are mentioned among the captains. Moreover, a list with the names of all participants of the 1503 Schembart (f. 44) mentions Jorg Kress. In the third section of the manuscript, we also find lists with names of participants of earlier tournaments held in Nuremberg that were not at all linked to the Schembartlauf, but were apparently added to complete the record of socially important events in the city (f. 82c (81v)), among them again members of the Kress family. Finally, the text terminates by again listing “Sebald Kreß” and “Conrad Kressenstain von der Hallerin geborn” wearing pink for the tournament. The “Kressenstain” title was permitted to the family in 1530. Although none of the watermarks could be identified with certainty, the evidence of the paper particularly in the third quire of the manuscript and the prominent appearance of Kress family members in both sections of the manuscripts together suggest that the manuscript had been in the possession of the Kress family from the beginning. The engraved date of 1619 on the bookplate and a suggested date of script and paper from f. 72 around 1600 or 1610 make this appear very likely, while the first two quires seem to originate from an earlier phase, maybe around 1540-50, thus soon after the Schembart carnival ceased. First corrections and amendments were made soon afterwards as added leaves and comments (f. 68v (67v)) imply.

The production process of this manuscript is extremely difficult to reconstruct as the collation of the third gathering and the distribution of writing hands across the second and third quire and the occurrence of different watermarks throughout all the gatherings are so complex. However, we do have a couple of indications as to when the manuscript may have been made. It seems quite obvious that the first and second quire were produced in one campaign, probably with a couple of blanks left at the end of the second. A few empty leaves have been added to the quire only slightly later, probably around the same time the third gathering was added, as the identical watermarks on the added leaves in the second and the leaves from the third quire imply. The extended account of the riotous carnival of 1507 (f. 67(66)-68v(67v)) is recorded on an added bifolium and single leaf to the second quire, where the scribe explicitly states that he had kept records of this event 48 years ago in his Schembart Books, which is why he is certain that Sigmund Pfinzing was the captain of the 1507 carnival rather than Sigmund Fuerer. This interesting statement implies that the record in the present manuscript must have been written after 1555, that the scribe was probably an eyewitness of the carnival, and that the scribe was probably known to the commissioner of the added parts of the manuscript, whom he regarded as a trustworthy witness to the chronology of events, unless this paragraph had also been copied from a model with identical wording (but why then would the scribe refer to his earlier Schembart Books?).

The essential element in the Schembart books is the sequence of masked runners representing the lead figure for each year, the Hauptmann, wearing a mask and a highly decorative costume, and usually identified by coats of arms. A series of 64 stunning colored illustrations, some with gold and silver, is at the center of this precious manuscript. While the details of costume are faithfully repeated in each surviving copy, they are very differently represented. The twofold history of the production of this beautiful manuscript is also mirrored in the illustration. Next to the colorful illustrations of the captains’ costumes, we find 22 additional pen and ink drawings without washes depicting the floats (known as “Holle” or Hells) that were drawn along with the pageant from 1475. These uncolored drawings seem to have been executed by another artist, and, as they have been adjusted to the mise-en-page of the text, probably were added a bit later. In fact, among the approximately 80 preserved manuscript, most of which are kept in public institutions in Germany, there are some that do contain illustrations of the floats as a regular element of the illumination, such as the Getty Research Library copy or Nuremberg Merkel HSS as Los Angeles, Getty Research Library, 2009.M.38 or Nuremberg, Merkel HS 2°241 and 2°271, and those that do not, like the Rosenwald copy in the Library of Congress.

The illustrations in the present manuscript are almost identical to those in the Washington copy, although those in the present copy are of consistently higher quality. . Although the design of the costumes and the postures of the figures are very similar in all of the Schembart Books, the similarities between this copy and the Washington manuscript are striking. The palette of the Washington Schembart is a bit subdued and not as bright and shining, but both books must go back to the same model. It is unlikely though, that both were illustrated by the same artist. The pen and ink drawings of the floats are comparably simple, i.e. without much elaborate hatching to model the figures, but they bear witness to an experienced artist who was more than able to sketch vivid impressions of the motifs on the floats. He must have been influenced by Albrecht Dürer’s legacy. The artistic quality of these drawings appears to be of a higher level than most depictions of the floats in other manuscripts where they were part of the original decoration scheme. As the structure of the text already suggests, the early owners of the manuscript clearly wanted a comprehensive record of the Schembart carnivals and had the depictions of the floats added, probably alongside the additional texts.

The Masked Runners
f. 1v, Cuntz Eschenlörer (Hauptman 1449);

f. 2v, Andreas Wagner (Hauptman 1451);

f. 3v, Anthony Talner (Hauptman 1453);

f. 4v, Hanns Elwanger (Hauptman 1456);

f. 5v, Fritz Holfelder (Hauptman 1457)

f. 6v, Heinrich Rummel (Hauptman 1458);

f. 7v, Niclas Henner (Hauptman 1459);

f. 8v, Hans Grabner (Hauptman 1460);

f. 9v, Heincz Heydn (Hauptman 1461);

f. 10v, Hanns Flock (Hauptman 1462);

f. 11v, Sebalt Halbwachss and Michel Paumgartner (Hauptman 1463);

f. 12v, Hans Kress, Tauber genannt (Hauptman 1464);

f. 13v, Hans Kress (Hauptman 1465);

f. 14v, Sebalt Paumgartner (Hauptman 1466);

f. 15v, Hans Reuter (Hauptman 1467);

f. 16v, Hans Holfelder and Hans Kress (Hauptman 1468);

f. 17v, Hans Segner and Niclas Gruber, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1469);

f. 17bis v, Sebalt Krenner (Hauptman 1470);

f. 18v, Henszlein Schlusselfelder (Hauptman 1471);

f. 19v, Heintz Scherb (Hauptman 1472);

f. 20v, Veyt Platner (Hauptman 1473);

f. 21v, Cuntz Höflein (Hauptman 1474);

f. 22v, Hans and Benedick Frey (Hauptleut 1475);

f. 23v, Hanns Werner (Hauptman 1476);

f. 24v, Hans Stör (Hauptman 1477);

f. 25v, Sebald Geuder and Linhardt Detzel, two shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1478);

f. 26v, Fritz Herman and Georg Cunradt (Haubtman 1479);

f. 27v, Ulrich Macher (Hauptman 1480);

f. 28v, Ulrich Macher and Hentzlein Satler (Hauptleut 1481);

f. 29v, Hentzlein Schremlein (Hauptman 1482);

f. 30v, Ulrich Macher (Hauptman 1484);

f. 31v, Fritz Millach (Hauptman 1485);

f. 32v, Sebalt Tucher and Georg Ketzel, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1488);

f. 33v, Jobst Dopler, Georg Ketzel and Sebalt Deychsler, three shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1489);

f. 34v, Thoma Fuchs (Hauptman 1490);

f. 35v, Thoma Fleischman (Hauptman 1491);

f. 36v, Nickel Saytler, Gotz Herman, Steffan Purstenpinter and Gregel Schneider, no shields, one figure, the Wildman? (Hauptleut 1492);

f. 37v, Wolff Haller, Georg Ketzel, Steffan Paumgartner and Sebalt Deichsler, four shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1493);

f. 38v, Wolff Haller, Hans Kress, Steffan Paumgartner and Georg Ketzel, four shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1495);

f. 39v, Wolff Caspar Paumgarther and Georg Ketzel, two shields, one figure (Haupleut 1496);

f. 40v, Ludwig Klingenschmid (Hauptman 1497);

f. 41v, Wolff Ketzel and Caspar Paumgartner, two shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1498);

f. 42v, Caspar Paumgartner and Wolff Ketzel (Hauptman 1499);

f. 43v, Jörg Köczel and Caspar Paumgartner, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1503);

f. 44v, Georg Kemerer and Pertolt Strobel, two shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1504)

f. 45v, Hans Ebner and Pertolt Strober, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1506);

f. 46v, Sigmunt Fuerer and Pertolt Strobel, two shields, one figure (Haubtman 1507);

f. 47v, Seyfrid Koller and Sebastian Haller, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1508);

f. 48v, Prosset Hensslein [corrected in this copy] (Hauptman 1509);

f. 49v, Partel Haller and Christoff Detzel, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1510);

f. 50v, Hans Tucher and Gabriel Pessler, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1511);

f. 51v, Hans Tucher and Gabriel Dopler, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1512);

f. 52v, Jeremias Pessler (Hauptman 1513);

f. 53v, Partel Haller and Christoff Detzel, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1514);

f. 54v, Hans Tucher and Benedict Rumel, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1515);

f. 55v, Arnolt von Dill (Hauptman 1517);

f. 56v, Ulrich Haller, Jeronymuss Pessler and Veyt Schutz (Hauptleut 1516); [these two illustrations out of chronological order];

f. 57v, Hans Tucher, Lorentz Steiber and Ultrich Haller, three shields, one figure (Hauptleut 1518);

f. 59v, Paulus Grunther,…Kemmerer and Wolff Pemer (Hauptleut 1520);

f. 60v, Jeronymus Tucher and Antony Coberger [could this be Koberger, the printer?], two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1521);

f. 61v, Sebastiaan Haller and Praun Engel, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1522);

f. 62v, Heintz Tucher and Martin von Ploben, two shields, one figure (Hauptman 1523);

f. 63v, Hans Rietter, Pauluss Grunther and Endress Flockher, three shields, one figure (Hauptman 1524);

f. 64v, Jacob Muffel, Joachim Detzel and Martin von Ploben, three shields, one figure (Hauptman 1539);

Drawings of the Floats:

f. 23: a winged dragon on a sled;

f. 38: tower or castle on a sled with stork nesting on the turret,

f. 39: a castle,

f. 43v: elephant and castle,

f. 45: a castle inhabited by fools and foxes being attacked by humans, on a sled,

f. 46: ship of fools,

f. 47: a basilisk,

f. 48: a giant in a castle wielding infants,

f. 50: a fountain shaped like a castle,

f. 51: a three-headed dragon,

f. 52: a shop,

f. 53: a garden with a water well and a furnace both operated by fools,

f. 54: a firing cannon,

f. 55: a fool driving a donkey to the windmill,

f. 56: a wooden house,

f. 57: the devil devouring a child,

f. 59: a garden of earthly delights,

f. 60: a pub,

f. 61: a bird’s trap,

f. 62: a giant wearing a foolscap devouring a child,

f. 63: a castle with a wheel of fortune inside,

f. 63v: elephant and castle,

f. 65: a ship of fools with a backgammon set and the figure of the Lutheran minister, a key in a house, on wheels.


Sumberg, S. The Nuremberg Schembart Carnival, 1941

Roller, H.-U. Der Nürnberger Schembartlauf. Studium zum Fest-und Maskenwesen des späten Mittelalters, 1965

Exh. Cat. The World from Here, Treasures of the Great Libraries of Los Angeles, ed. by C, Burlingham and B. Whiteman, Los Angeles 2001-2002, pp. 158f.

Kinser, Samuel. “Presentation and Representation: Carnival at Nuremberg, 1450-1550,” Representations, 13 (1986), pp. 1-41.


List of digitized Schembart Books in public collections: www.

Schembart Book Washington, Library of Congress, Rosenwald Ms 18:

Schembart Book Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Digitale Bibliothek, Merkel HS 2°241, ca. 1551/1600:

Schembart Book, UCLA Digital Library MS 170/351

Digitized copy of the Getty Research Library, 2009.M.38