Mining Book of Schwaz

Mining Book of Schwaz Facsimile Edition

Schwaz (Austria) — 1556–1561

Pen drawings ranging from machinery to clothing: life in the Tyrolean mining community of Schwaz and work in the Fugger silver mines

  1. The Fuggers established part of their fortune in the silver mines of the Tyrolean community

  2. It addresses every aspect of the mining community from regulations to machinery to social hierarchies

  3. The colorful pen and ink drawings detail tasks, machinery, and the robes worn at court by high officials

Mining Book of Schwaz

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Mining Book of Schwaz

Aside from being an excellent work of late illumination, the Mining Book of Schwaz also provides an important illustrated source for experts in the humanities and natural sciences of the 16th century. The town of Schwaz grew into the second largest community in Austria in the course of the 15th century and miners were attracted there by its rich silver and copper deposits. Such was its economic importance, that when Emperor Maximilian I ascended to the throne, Schwaz in Tyrol became the financial foundation for his ambitious undertakings. The manuscript addresses every aspect of the mining community, specifying mining law and regulations, equipment and clothing, social hierarchies, and even includes topography with the first illustrations of villages and mountainous landscapes ever made.

Mining Book of Schwaz

This manuscript has had a great influence, not least with art historians for its generous decoration with miniatures. Its significance as an excellent source for mining operations in Tyrolean Schwaz makes the manuscript a precious gem of European scientific literature. With a total of 120 colorful miniatures to support the historic evidence of the text, making it understandable to the reader, the Mining Book of Schwaz also provides an important illustrated source for experts in the humanities and natural sciences of the 16th century. It conveys and illustrates work and social events of everyday life in this period. What's more, the book gives a comprehensive insight into the legal, economic, social, and cultural aspects of mining in the 16th century. The Mining Book of Schwaz contains a reflection on the legendary mines of Schwaz at the end of their heyday. The book was not printed and the few hand-written and illustrated copies were not intended for a wider public but for a small and exclusive circle of readers.

The Oldest German Mining Book

The town of Schwaz became celebrated in the 15th century for its rich silver and copper deposits. Due to its leading position in the mining business, it was called the "mother of all mines". When Emperor Maximilian I ascended to the throne, Schwaz in Tyrol became the financial foundation for his ambitious undertakings. The inflow of miners rapidly turned this Tyrolean village into the community with the second largest population in Austria, after Vienna. The Mining Book of Schwaz was made at a time when mining in Schwaz, after a hundred years of leadership in European metallurgy, had already passed its peak and was going through a major crisis. Written by a high ranking official of the regional mining authority, the Mining Book was probably made to serve a triple purpose: the first intention was to make the Emperor Ferdinand I familiar with his richest resource and to remind him of the role of mining for his economic and political interests. Second, it was intended as an incentive for new investors to buy shares. Third, it was meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the legal and safety aspects of mining in preparation of the mining conference in 1557.

An Invaluable Source for the History of Mining in Schwaz

These three aims are clearly outlined in this book, which is itself divided into four sections. The first section deals with the so-called mining orders. The mining regulations of that period were stricter than in modern times. They not only dealt with property rights and the mining inspectorate but also organized the operation of the mine, environmental, labor and social laws, as well as special mining jurisdiction. In the second comprehensive section the reader finds material on mining in general and on special matters, recommendations to the sovereign, instructions for different tasks as well as descriptions of the mining operations in Schwaz, in addition to the duties of the mining official, as well as duties and remuneration of the miners. The third section provides an illustrated encyclopedia on mining, the oldest of its kind, including colorful illustrations of work in progress and equipment used as well as practice-oriented descriptions. The fourth section is a compilation of the jurisdiction practice of the mining court in Schwaz, including important judgements, procedural instructions and remarks on how a miner had to appear before court.

The Miniatures

Apart from the explanation of Mining Law and a whole range of remarkable features illustrating the exploitation of the Schwaz deposits, the position of miners in society and their hierarchy, the intrinsic meaning of the accompanying text is of great value. The finely colored pen and ink drawings illustrate the multiple mining tasks and give us a lively impression of the machinery and clothing of miners and the robes worn at court by high officials. The views of the exploited areas in the foldout illustrations are of eminent significance for topography, as they are the first illustrations of villages and mountainous landscapes ever made. When compared to the famous mining textbook of Agricola (De re metallica libri XII, printed in 1556), which essentially describes the contemporary state of the art in mining technology, the Mining Book of Schwaz fascinates by its comprehensive illustration of mining in all its aspects and its colorful illustrations.


Alternative Titles
Das Schwazer Bergbuch
Size / Format
396 pages / 34.0 × 24.0 cm
120 colorful miniatures

Available facsimile editions:
Mining Book of Schwaz – Cod. Vindob. 10.852 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1988
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Mining Book of Schwaz

Exploiting a Silver Vein

This pen and ink drawing shows a cave containing three miners, two with sledgehammers and one with a long prybar, driving wedges into the ground with the hope of getting to the rich vein of silver they have found. In this dynamic scene, the artist has emphasized the fact that the two men on the left and right are in mid-swing by showing the handles of their sledgehammers bending. All three men are brightly dressed, but their pants are worn and ripped.

Das Schwazer Bergbuch
Single Page

Mining Book of Schwaz

Silver Mine

This richly colored double page miniature (including a third foldout section) shows the impressive machinery used in the Schwaz silver mine inside of the mountain. In the upper-left corner, an underground stream has been rerouted to turn the two giant water wheels that in turn power cranes raising and lowering buckets and sacks full of silver ore for the miners.

This is an extraordinary and innovative miniature that was executed with the greatest artistry and realism. Set within an Alpine landscape, it looks as though the artist has sliced away the mountainside to reveal the vast interior space, complete with supporting columns to keep the mine from collapsing. The attention to detail in depicting the mechanical devises is equally impressive.

Das Schwazer Bergbuch
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Schwazer Bergbuch

Limited Edition: 500 copies
Binding: True to the original leather binding
Commentary: 1 volume (54 pages) by Erich Egg and Heinrich Winkelmann
Language: German
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. All folios are cut according to the original.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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