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The Collation

News of St. Bartholomew's Day, 1572

When the Swann Auction Gallery catalog for the March 15 sale crossed my desk, I flipped through as usual, looking for things that might fit the Folger’s collection development policy. I wasn’t paying too much attention, since it was primarily a sale of Americana, but a German illustrated news sheet of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre caught my eye, so I went to the online auction site for more information:

Auction sale thumbnail

(Click image for full view)

It turned out to be one of Franz Hogenberg’s so-called Geschichtsblätter (“history broadsheets”), a series several hundred prints depicting the Wars of Religion that Franz Hogenberg and his successors published from 1569 to 1637. 1 I knew the Folger had a two-inch-thick bound volume of these illustrated broadsheets, so we almost certainly had this print, plate 33 from the 34-plate series of “French Religious Quarrels (1565-1573).” It hardly seemed worth the trouble to go upstairs and check the card catalog (most Continental imprints are not yet in  Hamnet) or go downstairs and check the book itself, since the chances of that one plate being damaged or missing were so slim, but in a fit of professional zeal (or maybe I was just procrastinating on something else, I can’t remember) I did it anyway. Paging through the relevant section of the volume while checking numbers in the lower left, I got to plate 32: 

  1. Ursula Mielke, compiler. Frans Hogenberg: broadsheets, 2 vols. New Hollstein Dutch & Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, 1450-1700, ed. Ger Luijten. (Ouderkerk aan den IJssel: Sound & Vision Publishers, in co-operation with the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2009), 1:3.
  2. ibid. 3-5


Hi Erin,

I stumbled upon your post and was glad to see that the Folger got this item from Caren Collection II. Caren Collection I is the basis of The Newseum collection and Caren Collection III is a monster- better and larger than both collections put together!

I love the Hogenberg news prints and have a volume of approx 300 of them plus some individual ones with period color.

I hope one day to find sponsors to tour highlights of my third collection around the country.


Eric C. Caren — May 5, 2012

Thanks for stopping by, Eric. If you happen to remember how you came came across this St. Bartholomew’s Day print in the first place, I’d be interested in hearing more of its story.

Erin Blake — May 28, 2012

This seems like it must be an etching because of the extensive cross-hatching and other places where many lines are busily crowded together. I can’t see wood being strong enough to withstand many trips through the press before tiny segments would start to break off.

Terry — May 6, 2012

I agree about the etching–I’m not always adept enough to make the identification based on the details that Terry, above, does, but I did spot the tell-tale plate mark in the reproduction of the entire image!

Sarah Werner — May 7, 2012

I’m also for etching (assuming Erin isn’t tricking us with a print that has both engraving and etching). The free, wavy lines on the horse’s neck, and especially the lines indicating grain on the door, have to have been etched.

Deborah J. Leslie — May 11, 2012

I was looking at this in some reproduction recently, so glad to see it here. Re: the quiz about the technique, I’d say etching — the hand on the right has a wobbliness about it that seems unlikely in an engraving. Etchings when observed close-up seem a bit like drawings made in ink — think a .3 Pilot pen — lines of more or less even thickness with a sensitivity to the motions of the hand that you don’t get in engravings. (I think?)

Andras Kisery — May 24, 2012

Etching it is. Thanks for the great observations!

Erin Blake — May 28, 2012