Rare Book: Wunderzeichenbuch, or ‘Book Of Miracles’, 1552
“In AD 1119, fiery arrows or spears appeared in the sky, everywhere in the whole sky. And stars fell from the sky and when water was poured over them, they made a sound or screamed.” The words are taken from an unparalleled Wunderzeichenbuch – or “book of miracles”. The miracles in question, all 167 of them, are hand-painted in gouache and watercolour and arranged in chronological order, from Old Testament scenes (the Flood, the parting of the Red Sea) to the Last Judgement. The main body of the work, however, is given over to events from recorded history, apocalyptic scenes such as a rain of meat in Liguria or a plague of vipers in Hungary; it’s a Renaissance equivalent of cranks’ newsletter The Fortean Times, albeit with a distinct focus on the astronomical. Some 60 or so of the folios depict cosmic events, particularly comets, painted with inventive élan and highlighted with gold leaf.