The main author of this text, Sebald II Schürstab, lived from 1452-1505 and was the son of Erasmus II Schürstab (1426-1473), a highly respected member of the family, who wrote a family genealogy (Geschlechterbüchlein), which was continued by other family members (presumably also by our Sebald II) until 1507. Sebald married Anna Groß in 1482. The Geschlechterbüchlein was an important document not only for the family but also for the free imperial city of Nuremberg, it came into the possession of the Nuremberg council from 1511 onwards and was thereupon kept in the Losungsstuben (equivalent of the modern tax office). This dignified place of safekeeping testifies to the importance of the family. Today it is kept in the state archives.
The Schürstabs probably came to settle in Nuremberg in the 13th century, with the first mention of their name dating to 1299. Their origin from Hermannstadt in Transylvania (today Sibiu in Romania) is mentioned in several sources, also in the genealogical book of Erasmus II Schürstab. In Hermannstadt, the family was known under the name ‘von Trautenberg’. Why the name was altered is unknown. However, the family’s involvement in the mining industry likely led to this change. Their escutcheon shows two crossed and burning branches, symbolising the pokers (Schürstab) that kept the fires of the forge burning. Evidence shows that a branch of the family settled in Krems in Carinthia from the 14th century onwards and was involved in iron ore mining there. In later years, the Schürstabs continued to be involved with mining and at times even had the privilege of minting gold and silver. The family owned five mills in Nuremberg and its vicinity, They also owned numerous large, prestigious buildings within and outside the city. In addition to economic success and considerable wealth, the Schürstabs had remarkable political influence as mayors in the Nuremberg city council, as well as diplomats and advisors in the German Empire. Erhard I (d. 1439) particularly excelled as an influential politician, negotiating with the Emperor and Pope over the imperial city’s privileges; he also succeeded in arranging the transfer of the imperial insignia and regalia to the city of Nuremberg. Our very personal manuscript belonged to this powerful and influential Nuremberg patrician family and provides information about the possessions of this branch of Sebald II Schürstab’s family.
This manuscript is a type of legal document called a Salbuch (Salpüchlein), especially in Franconia, southern Germany. It can be an official register of a town, in which rules and laws of the society, jurisdiction, and tenure are recorded. In our case, the Salbuch of the Schürstab family is a register of their ancestors, their important dates and events, as well as an inventory of the family’s possessions
The design of the three painted miniature pages is based on the already mentioned Geschlechterbuch of Erasmus II. There, too, the Man of Sorrows is presented before a dark blue background on the title page between two rows of family escutcheons. In both manuscripts, a couple kneels and prays on an arched patch of grass at the bottom of the page. Probably in both cases, the title shows Erasmus II with his first wife Dorothea Haller. Although the patrons in both books are similarly dressed, the illumination in our Salbüchlein is more individualised. Especially the Man of Sorrows is more expertly rendered, testifying to a capable illuminator.
In the second half of the 15th century, excellent workshops were employed to decorate charters, letters, family books (such as the present one), and printed works. Sophisticated patricians sought to have even commonplace documents exquisitely decorated. One of the most renowned Nuremberg workshops in the second half of the 15th century was that of Michel Wolgemut, Albrecht Durer’s teacher. His main interests were altarpieces and panel paintings, but we know that he was hired to design woodcut illustrations for several large book projects by Anton Koberger, which he did masterfully. He and/or members of his workshop were also responsible for several breath-taking manuscripts in the second half of the 15th century.
The subjects of the three particularly beautiful miniatures are:
f. 1v: Man of Sorrows on a blue background, on the left and right six coats of arms of the Schürstab family. In the lower zone, two of Sebald Schürstab’s ancestors are kneel and pray.
f. 2v: The Lamb of God in a similar composition, and below the portraits of Sebald and his wife, Anna Groß; at left and right, seven coats of arms each. Among the families related to the Schürstabs we find the coats of arms of Haller, Toppler, Ebner, Gross, Neuenmarck-Mendelein, Graser, Stromer, Holtzschuher, Koler, Derrer, Ordtlieb, Starck, Harstörffer, and others, all of whom, like the Schürstabs, belonged to the patrician families of Nuremberg.
f. 3v: The Lamb of God, in a full-page composition with the coats of arms of the family right and left below each other. At right, one escutcheon remains empty.