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Calligraphy Specimens following Writing Manual by ADOLPH ZUNNER[?] printed by JOHANN CHRISTOPH WEIGEL or CHRISTOPH WEIGEL THE ELDER

In German and Latin, manuscript on paper
Germany (Nuremberg), c. 1713

TM 1007
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20 folios on paper, complete [collation i20], unidentified watermark (bisected with center lacking, crest holding 3? bezants with ornate frame, initials M and F at bottom), foliation in modern pencil in upper recto corners, text written in various calligraphic scripts in black ink on recto only, no visible ruling and varied justification, sketched decorative evergreen boughs on f. 1 and calligraphic scrollwork throughout, minor flecking and staining, some original ink blots.  CONTEMPORARY BINDING, brown (once red?) brocade paper with elegant mixed floral design and traces of gold embossing, pasted spine, abrasion and discoloration but wholly intact. Dimensions 150 x 190 mm.

Calligraphic sample books from the Renaissance, such as this manuscript, are far less common than their printed exemplars; this charming booklet, designed for teaching writing to the young, appears to be one of a kind.  This volume in its fine contemporary binding includes texts that display a scribe’s skill in writing different types of scripts.  It is partially copied from writing master Adolph Zunner’s 1709 Kunstrichtige Schreib-Art printed in Nuremberg by famous publisher and engraver [Johann] Christoph Weigel.


1. Written in Germany, in Nuremberg, in 1713 or shortly thereafter, with a title page reading Gründliche Unterweisung zu Fraktur – Canzley – und Current Schrifften der lieben Jugend zum Anfang des Schreibens und sondern Nuzen gestellet durch A. <A. or Z.?> in Nürnberg Zufinden bey Johann Christoph Weigel (A Thorough Instruction in Fraktur, Chancery, and Cursive Scripts, prepared for the especial utility of dear Youth in beginning to write by A. <A. or Z.> to be acquired in Nuremberg from Johann Christoph Weigel). The sample contract on f. 12 includes the date 1713, allowing us to conclude that either its model also included this date and our manuscript was written shortly thereafter as suggested by the scripts used, or the scribe included the actual year when he was writing in place of that found in the model text. While the name of the scribe himself is unknown, the publisher of the writing master’s book from which this booklet was in part copied is identified on its title page as Johann Christoph Weigel, a Nuremberg art dealer, engraver, and publisher.

This attribution is somewhat problematic: this manuscript most closely corresponds to the 1709 volume by Adolph Zunner, a Nuremberg ‘Schreib- und Rechenmeister’ (writing and arithmetic teacher), and the monogram on the title page may refer to Zunner.  (Alternatively, if it is read “A. A.” perhaps this is the monogram of the scribe, although there are no scribes working in Nuremberg at this time with those initials listed in Doede, 1958).  However, Zunner’s books, Kurtze Anweisung (1701) and Kunstrichtige Schreib-Art (1709), are both attributed to the shop of Johann Christoph Weigel’s older brother, Christoph Weigel (Bauer, 1982, esp. §929-393; Doede, 1958, pp. 79 and 83).  Further research may solve this puzzle; perhaps our manuscript follows a Zunner book printed by Johann with no known surviving examples; or it contains sections found in sources printed by Johann, with material from Zunner’s 1709 book printed by his elder brother; or perhaps the scribe simply confused the two brothers, and listed the name of the younger brother instead of the elder.

2. Modern note in pencil reading “27 Regal” on the inside front cover, and some attempts at calligraphic letters (three in dark brown ink, probably eighteenth- or nineteenth-century, four in modern pencil) on the inside back cover.  Described briefly in 1983 as in a private collection in Hamburg (Doede, 1983, p. 291, describing the exemplar as a work by Adolph Zunner printed by Johann Christoph Weigel as the title page demands, without discussing the difficulties of this attribution). 


f. 1, [In simple Fraktur], Grundliche Unterweisung Fractur – Canzley – und Current Schrifften … in Nürnberg Zufinden bey Johann Christoph Weigel; frame reads in round “USVS ARTIUM MAGISTER OPTIMUS” in Roman Quadrata (also known as Capitalis);

Although the manuscript appears to be copied in part from Zunner’s Kunstrichtige Schreib-Art, this title page lacks his name. There are enough overall similarities (including the identical frame inscription on this folio) with Zunner’s book to identify it as at least one of the scribe’s sources.

ff. 2-3, Alphabets in Kurrent script in lower- and uppercase with ligatures; [f. 3], Lutheran maxim in Latin cursive, followed by an unidentified prayer written in Kurrent, incipit, “Vertraue Gott bet und arbeit, so segnet Er dein Thun alle Zeit … Nein gehen euer Vatter”;

The Lutheran maxim on f. 3 is found in Zunner, 1709, in a banderol held by a scrollwork bird on p. 14.

f. 4, Letter in Kurrent script, incipit, “Infonders herr geliebter herr Vatter … Deß Herrn Vatters gehorsammer Sohn Abraham Gottlieb”;

Sample letter from a son to his father; the text also found in a Latin-German-Czech children’s grammar published in Prague (Jandit, 1715, p. 215), but probably originally appeared in a presently unidentified German children’s grammar which both this manuscript’s scribe and the Czech grammar’s author used for their respective works. Although the surname Gottleib is apparently borrowed from Zunner, 1709 (p. 17), perhaps the scribe’s own name was Abraham; it is the only name found in the manuscript besides that of the publisher Johann Christoph Weigel.

ff. 5-8, Four letters in Latin cursive script (address line) and Kurrent script, incipit, “Werthgeschäzter Freund! … Meines werthges[c]häzten Freunde ergebenster”; [f. 6] “Liebwerthester Freund! … Dein dienstegebenster”; [f. 7] “Hochwerther Herr! … Meines Hochwerther Herrn”; [f. 8] “Hochgeehrter Herr! … Meines Hochgeehrter Herrn”;

Two sample letters to dear friends, followed by two sample business letters, sources unidentified.

ff. 9-10, Alphabets in Canzley (German Chancery) script in uppercase, followed by Canzley cursive and Handels (business) Canzley in lowercase;

For the named variations of Canzley script, see Zunner, 1709, p. 19.

f. 11, Latin maxim in Rotunda script, and German texts in Canzley, incipit, “Deus potest omnia. Die Forcht [sic] des Herrn mehret [sic] die Tage … Sprueche: Salomon: 10”, followed by a simplified Canzley alphabet in uppercase;

Proverbs 10:27-28 and 10:30 from a Lutheran Bible. The Latin title and Canzley alphabet are both found on p. 13 of Zunner, 1709, but the sample text there is instead Proverbs 3:5-6 and 3:11-12.

f. 12, Latin title in Fraktur, balance in cursive Handels Canzley, incipit, “Obligation. Ich Ends Unterzeichneter … Geschehen Nürnberg 12 Martii 1713”;

Sample contract is found in the same Latin-German-Czech children’s grammar containing the letter on f. 4 (Jandit 1715, p. 216), which may have originated in another unidentified German source (see above).  The dateline given here, March 12, 1713 in Nuremberg, supports this possibility, as it predates the grammar’s dateline, March 12, 1715 in Prague: clearly, the Prague edition was not this sample’s first publication. The precise date of 12 March should be disregarded – it is given in both the manuscript and the grammar, suggesting it was borrowed from the exemplar – but the year, 1713, may be accurate. Presumably, either the original German source included 1713 as the date and this manuscript was written shortly thereafter as suggested by the scripts used, or the scribe offered his current year of writing in place of that found in the model text.     

f. 13, Maxim in Fraktur, Proverbs 16:22-24 in cursive Handels Canzley, incipit, “Wohl dem der den Höchstenliebet und in Gottes Willen übet. Klugheit ist ein lebendiger Brunn … und erfrischen die Gebeine”;

ff. 14-16, Alphabet in Fraktur in lower- and uppercase; [f. 15], incipit, “Ein weiser Sohn ist seines Vatters freu[n]d, aber ein Spötter gehorcht der Strafe ni[ch]t.”; [f. 16], incipit, heavily scrolled Fraktur alphabet in uppercase;

The proverb on f. 15 is a combination of the first half of Proverbs 10:1 and the second half of Proverbs 13:1, taken from a Lutheran Bible. The Fraktur alphabet on f. 16 is similar, although considerably less scrolled and expert, to that found in Zunner, 1709 on pp. 30-31.

ff. 17-20, title, ORA et LABORA in Latin cursive, followed by alphabets in lowercase Rotunda and another in lowercase Latin cursive, numerals 1-20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 100, and 1000; [f. 18], title, Deus Adjutor meus in Rotunda enclosed in a scrolled frame, followed by Ps. 77:1-5, incipit, “Voce mea ad Dominum clamavi … et non sum locutus. Ps. 77.” in Latin cursive, and an uppercase Latin cursive alphabet; [f. 19], title, DEUS PROVIDEBIT, followed by Psalm 145:17-19, incipit, “Justus Dominus in omnibus viis suis … Psalmi 145. v. 17. SOLI DEO GLORIA”, all in Latin cursive; [f. 20], incipit, “Beatus, qui intelligit super egenum … in animam inimicorum eius,” followed by alphabets in Roman Quadrata, lowercase Rotunda, and lowercase Latin cursive.

Although not mentioned on the title page (f. 1), Latin cursive and Rotunda both feature in this manuscript, and likewise appear in Zunner, 1709; see, for example, p. 25 for sample alphabets naming the scripts.

This manuscript is a calligraphic sample book: it contains texts copied by the scribe to show his proficiency in calligraphic writing styles popular in early eighteenth-century Germany. Beginning in the sixteenth century, European writing masters produced sample books of their skills, some handwritten and others printed, for imitation by students, sometimes supplemented with writing manuals.  While presumably the skill of fine writing could be acquired at any age, often these books were intended for youths, as the title page of this manuscript demonstrates: “der lieben Jugend zum Anfang des Schreibens.”  In the early modern period German students would learn the ‘Latin’ block letters and cursive, and then the so-called ‘Deutsche Schrift,’ including Fraktur and Kurrent (Herrmann, 2015), and, as seen in this book, sometimes Canzley or Kanzleischrift (Chancery script) with its older, Gothic elements (Nesbitt, 1957, pp. 117-18). In Europe these scripts were practiced strictly in the German territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but they experienced considerable reach and longevity among German-speaking colonists in the New World (Whalley 1980, p. 243).

Johann Christoph Weigel (1661-1726), noted on f. 1 as the printer of this manuscript’s exemplar, learned engraving alongside his more famous brother Christoph Weigel (1654-1725).  After marrying the daughter of a writing master, he set up shop near the Spitalkirche in Nuremberg in 1705. Both Weigel brothers built their businesses primarily on engravings and maps, but also specialized in engraved reproductions of celebrated works of art, sheet music, literature, and children’s books, including several by writing masters teaching the art of calligraphy. Engravings and publications by both brothers are today avidly collected by bibliophiles and institutions (see Bauer, 1982; “Johann Christoph Weigel” in Online Resources). 

Adolph Zunner (known activity c. 1696-1752) appears in several contemporary records as a Nuremberg writing and math teacher; he was likely the writing master whose hand was replicated by the unknown scribe of this calligraphy sample book.  Zunner was associated with the Spitalkirche of the Heilige-Geist-Spital (Holy Ghost Hospital), partially overhanging the Pegnitz River in Nuremberg’s Old City, and lived in now-lost “Steingäßlein,” or Stein Alley (Hirsch, 1752, p. 134). His two known printed works, Kurtze Anweisung and Kunstrichtige Schreib-Art are uncommon; of the first, copies are held in Berlin, Nuremberg, and Copenhagen, and of the second, in Berlin and Lucerne (Doede, 1958, pp. 79 and 83, respectively).  

Sample books such as this manuscript are far less common than their printed exemplars; this charming booklet appears to be one of a kind.


Bauer, Michael. “Christoph Weigel (1654-1725), Kupferstecher und Kunsthändler in Augsburg und Nürnberg,” Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 23 (1982), pp. 327-594.

Doede, Werner. Bibliographie deutscher Schreibmeisterbücher von Neudörffer bis 1800, Hamburg, 1958.

Doede, Werner. “Glanz und Elend der Fraktur,” Philobiblon 27.4 (1983), pp. 275-294.

Heisinger, Hans. Die Schreib- und Rechenmeister des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts in Nürnberg: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Lehrstandes, Doctoral Dissertation, Friedrich-Alexanders-Universitat, Erlangen, 1927.

Hirsch, Carl Christian. Die Verdienste der Stadt Nürnberg…, Nuremberg, Georg Peter Monath, 1752. Available at https://books.google.nl/books?id=AfNCAAAAcAAJ&dq=Die+Verdienste+der+Stadt+Nürnberg&source=gbs_navlinks_s.

Jandit, Václav. Grammatica Lingvae Boemicae methodo facili …, Prague, Caspar Wauseon, 1715. Available at https://books.google.nl/books/about/Grammatica_Lingvae_Boemicae_methodo_faci.html?id=grEsMwEACAAJ&redir_esc=y.

Nesbitt, Alexander. The History and Technique of Lettering, Mineola, NY, 1957.

Sprenger, Kai-Michael. Zug um Zug: die Schreibmeister und ihre Kunst vom 16. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert, Mainz, 1998.

Whalley, Joyce Irene. The Pen’s Excellencie: Calligraphy of Western Europe and America, London, 1980.

Zunner, Adolph, Kunstrichtige Schreib-Art, welche allerley Teutsche Current- Canzley- Fractur- und auch Lateinische Schrifften…, Nuremburg: Christoph Weigel, 1709. [Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, 4-KB-43, available at ark:/12148/btv1b10550838f.]

Online Resources

Herrmann, Ralf. “Kurrent – 500 years of German handwriting,” Typography.guru, February 21, 2015. 

“Johann Christoph Weigel,” Wikipedia.

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