A new book by Marion McNealy
Landsknechts on Campaign: Battle and Siege Scenes in Detail from Geisberg’s German Single Sheet Woodcuts of the early 16th Century
BY MARION MCNEALY AND MAX GEISBERG
Many years ago, when the Internet was young and doing research online mainly consisted of looking book titles up in the library catalog… One sunny Saturday, I visited my local university’s art department library and discovered four dusty yellow volumes of “The German Single-Leaf Woodcuts 1500-1550”, published in the 1970s. I can still remember the smell of the dusty old books in the basement library, how quiet it was as the large books thumped softly onto the wooden table in the study area, and I opened up the volumes and marveled at the research riches inside. I carefully wrote down the page numbers I wanted, fed my change to the photocopy card machine, and copied the few pages I could afford that day. Those pages would get treasured, scanned in, dog eared and finally covered in plastic sheet protectors.
A few years later, by a stroke of extreme fortune and a good connection, I was able to purchase my own copy of the four volume set, and spent many a happy hour pouring over them, sticking tape flags on various pages for easy reference. They assumed pride of place on my bookshelf, carefully shared with friends for their research, as the set was now too expensive for most people to afford.
I began to look for a copy of Max Geisberg’s original publication from the 1920s so I could republish it and get these amazing resources into the hands of more people. I had never seen a set, and had no idea how often they turned up for sale on the used book market, (if they ever did), but hoped that one would, and that I would be able to afford it.
After a few years of waiting, and a move to Germany for my husband’s work, I just happened to look online one morning and discovered that a copy had come up for sale in Hamburg. It was not inexpensive, but made a great 40th birthday present! It was sent to Munich, and one morning my husband drove our Volvo station wagon over to pick it up. I think I’ll always remember the phone call I got from him after he picked them up
“Dear, do you know how many books you got?”
“Yes, there should be 37 smaller volumes and 6 larger ones, for a total of 43.”
“Yes, but do you know the size!?!”
“Uh, no, I didn’t ask that part….. They didn’t look that big in the photos. Why?”
“Because they are HUGE! They have completely filled our entire station wagon, the entire back and the front seat. It’s a good thing you didn’t come, you would have had to take the train home.”
I’m not sure I’ll ever live this down, it’s gone into our family’s lore of “Remember the time that Mom bought all those books!”
Turns out, I had bought 600 pounds of large size art books! The smaller ones were 16 by 22 inches, and the larger ones 22 by 32 inches. We hauled them up three flights of stairs to our apartment with the help of our neighbor, and stacked them on the floor of the living room. I opened up the first book, feeling like a child with a large atlas…. And the crisp black print of the woodcuts entranced me as it had done years ago in the library thousands of miles away in the States.
Now, four years later, I have finally been able to scan them in, and have prepared the first volume. I have chosen not to reprint them in full by artist, as Geisberg organized them originally, as nearly half of the woodcut collection is pictures of saints or religious images, and there is not a high demand for such images currently. Perhaps in the future I will attempt this, but for now, I hope you have enjoyed the story of how this volume came to be.
Contents and Details
While my first inclination was to just restrict the woodcuts included to those found in Geisberg’s masterpiece “Der deutsche Einblatt-Holzschnitt in der ersten Hälfte des XVI. Jahrhunderts” (The German Single-sheet woodcuts of the first half of the 16th century), I found that several battles at the beginning of the story of the Landsknechts were missing, since they happened before 1500, so these have been added from various museum sources. The images from Geisberg have been noted with their identifying number, formatted thus: “G.##”, and the other images with their museum and inventory number.
I have also attempted to write a very brief description for each battle, when it happened, why, and the result, in order to give the reader some context for the image. However, this is not meant to be a complete description of the event, and mistakes have surely been made in my understanding of the situation. I have included a bibliography with many good resources to help the reader understand the military history in more depth.
My hope is that this book will be useful in many ways and will help re-enactors and enthusiasts to make better informed decisions when creating their kit and camps.
The book is 8.5″ x 11″ in size, and contains 300 pages of descriptions and scenes from the battles and sieges depicted in Max Geisberg’s German Single Sheet Woodcuts. Pavia, Vienna, Budapest, and Münster, are just a few of the battles and sieges which are depicted. These battles, along with many others, all are shown with detail scenes, and closeups, on clothing and equipment to help you with your research.
Each of the scenes are presented as a whole, then each individual plate, and finally zooming in to see the details up close. There is also a brief description of the battle, and an explanation of the scenes in the woodcuts, to help the reader understand the scene.
Here are a few sample pages from the book.