Tschachtlans Bilderchronik

Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Ms. A 120

The first illustrativ Swiss Chronicles are represented by the Care-free and fresh picturesque language, which Unholds especially in the whole-paged illustrations of things of day to day life.  The chronicles close in the year 1470.

Tschachtlan´s Illustrated Chronicle

Tschachtlan - A Politician and Analist

Bendicht Schachtlan reputedly was a reliable, devoted statesman and administrator; an experiences and moderate person, he belonged to the well-situated, aspiring upper middle class. Out of his position close to the aristocracy, he always was mindful of his honor and reputation. All n all, he worked for 45 years in the public service.

Tschachtlan was born around 1420. In 1448 he entered the Municipal Council of the City of Bern, in 1452 he married.

As member of the Council in the years 1453 to 1493 he participated in important decisions regarding his city.

His activities included some of the most important public functions: finance and building, law, economy and control over ecclesiastical institutions. From the last quarter of the 15th century, Tschachtlan began to retire from certain official functions. The politician and analyst died late in 1492.

Tschachtlan´s Illustrated Chronicle

National Library Zurich, Ms. A 120

The Oldest Swiss Illuminated Chronicle

Tschachtlan´s chronicle contributes some great innovations to the field of chronicles in general. First of all, it is the first illustrated chronicle as such; pictures were added to clearly illustrate the text.

Second, it contains the first comprehensive reproduction of the great annalists before Tschachtlan, in particular Konrad Justinger and Hans Fründ, in a single volume. And third, part of this chronicle served as a working base for Diebold Schilling´s first work.

It is assumed that the young Schilling had an editorial function in Tschachtlan´s chronicle. The text as such was written by Heinrich Dittlinger, another politician from Bern. Both worked together to achieve this chronicle without public commission, on a purely private basis. In the epilogue, they refer to themselves as the authors stating that the chronicle was completed in 1470.

The History of the Confederation from 1152 until 1470

Only a small part of the text is Schachtlan´s own work. The first part which deals with the time before 1431 is based on the Official Bern Chronicle by Konrad Justinger of the year 1431. In the second part, which recounts the old Zurich war, Tschachtlan refers to Hand Fründ’s chronicle. The rest goes back to the counselor himself. Schachtlan considered it necessary to change any negative comments which former chroniclers had made on his home city of Bern. Bern and its history should appear in the best light. However, as Bern was associated to the four founding cantons since 1323 and belonged to the Confederation of the eight cantons since 1353, Bern’s history coincides with the history of the Swiss Confederation.

The Decoration

schachtlan´s paintings reveal a stunning variety. His pictures are a real mine of information for any art historian eager to study weapons, clothing, uniforms, siege and battle techniques or even camp life of the time. Tschachtlan´s well-trained eye describes everyday life: trial scenes, life in the country, in the cities and in castles. The chronicle seems to vibrate with the turmoil of war campaigns, siege and conquest. Colorful events in the city and in the countryside, with special emphasis on the warlike conditions of the time, as well as the ways of great statesmen and the simple life of mercenaries, all is shown in this most interesting kaleidoscope of the chronicle. The work is a vivid testimony to Swiss history.

The Origins of Swiss Illuminated Chronicles

In the illuminated chronicles of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Swiss Confederation created cultural documents of a very unique character. They all go back to ta stunning work with and unbiased pictorial language of very special artistic charm.

Tschachtlan’s chronicle particularly fascinates because of its decoration, 230 mostly full-page colored illustrations, which, in line with the tradition of the Late Middle Ages, are characterized by a certain fresh light-heartedness. The pictures appear as relieve landscape sections and enchant the viewer by their vivid, expressive manner.

The Fine Art Facsimile Edition

The facsimile edition is strictly limited to 980 unique numbered copies worldwide. All 1060 pages of the manuscript, including 230 illustrations, have been reproduced in the original format of 29.8 x 22 cm.

The full-leather binding has been reproduced by hand, embossing and clasps correspond with those of the original book. The leaves have been sewn by hand on five cords.

The Commentary Volume

The commentary volume comprises more than 470 pages and comes in a half leather binding in the same format as the facsimile edition of the manuscript. On the occasion of the publication of the replica, renowned experts have examined the work and its background in all its aspects: Alfred A. Schmid, Freiburg i.Ü.; Pascal Ladner, Freiburg i.Ü.; Sigmund Widmer, Zurich; Urs Marin Zahnd, Bern; Hans A. Michel, Bern; and Vinzenz Bartlome, Bern. A transcription of the full text by Pascal Ladner guarantees a better understanding of the work.