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Article: Timelines of Human History

ההיסטוריה האנושית במאונך

Timelines of Human History

Stefan Litt

By the end of the fifteenth century, the advent of book printing was influencing Christian intellectuals in Germany and their writings. The new invention enabled authors to widely disseminate their texts for relatively moderate prices. Among those who recognized the opportunities offered by this new technology was the Carthusian monk and prolific writer Werner Rolevinck (1425–1502), who still followed traditional medieval scholasticism in his writing and spent most of his adult life in a Carthusian monastery in Cologne. 

Rolevinck’s most famous book was the Fasciculus temporum, a Latin chronicle starting from the creation of the world and following historic events until 1474. Universal histories were popular in this period and usually combined biblical history with post-biblical occurrences; in Rolevinck’s case, these were predominantly Central European events. 

The design of this book was revolutionary. Instead of following the usual pattern of printing plain texts in one or two columns, it structured the events in parallel timelines running throughout the volume. Alongside the biblical history and the history of the ancient Roman and German emperors, it also presents papal history and regional events, with those deemed more remarkable circled in print. Woodcut illustrations were added to provide some visual elements. This unusual layout required intensive interaction between the author and the printers. The book was one of the most popular titles among readers for more than 300 years. By 1500, thirty-five editions had been printed, and the book had found readers in additional languages throughout Europe.