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Classics professor digitizes, translates the "Wikipedia of 1493"

December 6, 2011

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849

Associate Professor of Classics Kosta Hadavas’ latest project seeks to expand the audience of the 500-year-old-plus Nuremberg Chronicle through digitization and translation.

The Beloit College Library received a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle 12 years ago, (from former trustee George Parker) and Hadavas began the long project of digitizing, editing, and translating the book into English nine years ago.

Written by Hartmann Schedel, the Nuremberg Chronicle was published in 1493 and was the most heavily illustrated book of its time. The book itself was a “Wikipedia of its day,” according to Hadavas. It divides the world up into seven ages, starting with the age of creation and running through 1493, eventually concluding with a survey of European lands and kingdoms, including a detailed map of central Europe.

Hadavas’ project began with digitizing the original text. Walter Schmauch, a Chicago-based lawyer, began translating the text from German to English in the 1940s, providing Hadavas with over 3,000 pages of notes to be digitized. Digitization was a team effort, including the help of Hadavas’ students, and the end result can be found online here.  

The other component of the project was translating, editing, and annotating the text into a four-volume set of books, a series titled Liber Chronicarum Translation ( Hadavas collaborated with Michael Zellmann-Rohrer on translation and published with Selim S. Nahas Press in Boston. Currently two volumes have been released, and the remaining two volumes are due next summer.

While the Nuremberg Chronicle survived for centuries, other texts have been lost over time. This makes for a lot of piecework for classicists.

“Classics is a giant puzzle. We have these pieces, but 90 percent are missing,” Hadavas said. “The pieces we have are kind of intriguing, but also limiting. (Putting it together is) kind of like playing Sherlock Holmes. There’s never going to be a definitive approach to anything.”

Source:  Kosta Hadavas is an associate professor and chair of the classics department. He teaches a variety of courses in classics, often cross-listed with history, comparative literature, and women’s and gender studies.  Some topics that he teaches include Ancient Greek language and history, comedy, ancient philosophy, and the Trojan War.  He also teaches First-Year Initiatives courses every other year. Hadavas’ current research is the Nuremberg Chronicle. He can serve as a media contact on topics related to his teaching and research.