Eyn wunderliche Weyssagung von dem Babstumb was first printed in Nuremberg in 1527. Its series of woodcuts is made up of 30 images, predominantly of the pope, representing the progressive states of degradation of the Papacy until its predicted end. The title professes it to have been found in Nuremberg in the Carthusian monastery, while the preface identifies two books as its sources, the other from his ‘master’ in Nuremberg, both apparently around a hundred years old. Tracing the images, however, leads to the images of the prophetic texts known as the Vaticinia de Summis Pontificibus attributed to Joachim de Fiore at the end of the 12th century, which were in circulation across most of Europe.
The images of the Weyssagung reappear, with some omissions, in the pamphlet, Practica der Pfaffen, printed in Hagenau in 1528 and again in Strasburg in 1535 by Jakob Cammerlander. This shorter set of images then make their way to London into Walter Lynne’s pamphlet The beginning and ending of all Poperie in 1548, reprinted in 1588 by John Charlewoode. It is not published in print in Latin until the highly sold 1589 version, published in Venice as a dual language Latin and Italian text, the images copied into woodcuts by Hieronymus Porrus. Copies of all except Charlewoode’s version are held in the Weston Library here at Oxford.
The Weyssagung of the Taylorian with its unique hand-coloured images, is a key text and image series for understanding the international development of German Protestant visual culture. Osiander’s prose text seeks to explain the images emblematically as displaying the corruption of the papacy. Each image is also complemented by a stanza of two rhyming couplets composed by Hans Sachs, which are more succinct, witty and often topical. As opposed to most other image series of the period, the images are not illustrative but provide the evidence that must be interpreted.
Wadham College, Oxford