Book of Heroes

Book of Heroes – Bernardinum Wydawnictwo – Private Collection

Augsburg (Germany) — 1603

Philip the Good, Maximilan I, the Medici, and many more: over 100 of the most important princes and European rulers of the 15th and 16th centuries compiled in a codex

  1. Known as the “Heroes’ Armory”, the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria (1529–95) is still preserved today

  2. Ferdinand commissioned the very first systematic presentation of objects in the history of museums

  3. 125 woodcuts designed by Giovanni Battista Fontana (1524–1587) were engraved by Dominicus Custos (1560–1612)

Book of Heroes

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Book of Heroes

At the same time as the importance of mounted knights was waning on the battlefields of Europe in the Late Middle Ages, the code of chivalry that defined their identity was in many ways stronger than ever, evolving from a battlefield code of conduct to a model for courtly etiquette. By the 16th century, professional infantry dominated the battlefield and many among the nobility longed for a nobler past – real or imagined – wherein honor, loyalty, and Christian charity were prized above all else. Archduke Ferdinand II’s splendid collection of arms and armor, recorded here in the world’s first museum catalog, is a monument to the idea of chivalry that was supposed to elevate and ennoble the warrior.

Book of Heroes

This work catalogs the famous Heldenrüstkammer or “Heroes’ Armory” of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–95), a collection of arms, armor, portraits, and other objects in Ambras Castle associated with the most famous men of the 15th and 16th centuries, who all happened to be great warriors and military commanders. The collection is still preserved today. Among the most fascinating of the objects is Bartlmä Bon’s suit of armor, which towers over the rest of the collection because the knight in the Archduke’s service was supposedly more than 8 feet tall. Ferdinand II commissioned a book inventorying this collection, considered to be the very first systematic presentation of objects in the history of museums, and tasked his valet, counsellor, and confidential secretary Jakob Schrenck von Notzing (1539–1612) with its creation.

A Splendid Catalog of Warriors

In addition to a frontispiece, 125 woodcuts illustrating the text and were made by the Flemish engraver Dominicus Custos (1560–1612) according to designs by the Italian painter Giovanni Battista Fontana (1524–1587). Various European princes and warriors are depicted in portrait wearing their armor in decorative surroundings, a short biography accompanies each image. Unfortunately, Ferdinand II died before the initial publication of the Latin Armamentarium Heroicum in 1601, this German edition of the monumental work was published in 1603. Von Notzing’s work is considered to be the first printed and illustrated museum catalog in the world.


Alternative Titles
125 woodcuts showing the rulers of Europe
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Heroes – Bernardinum Wydawnictwo – Private Collection
Bernardinum Wydawnictwo – Pelplin
Limited Edition: 200 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Book of Heroes

Publisher: Bernardinum Wydawnictwo – Pelplin
Limited Edition: 200 copies
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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