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The large workshop of Michael Wolgemut, then Nuremberg's leading artist in various media, provided the unprecedented 1,809 woodcut illustrations (before duplications are eliminated; see below). Sebastian Kammermeister and Sebald Schreyer financed the printing in a contract dated March 16, 1492, although preparations had been well under way for several years.
Wolgemut and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff were first commissioned to provide the illustrations in 1487-88, and a further contract of December 29, 1491, commissioned manuscript layouts of the text and illustrations. Albrecht Dürer was an apprentice with Wolgemut from 1486 to 1489, so may well have participated in designing some of the illustrations for the specialist craftsmen (called "formschneider"s) who cut the blocks, onto which the design had been drawn, or a drawing glued. From 1490 to 1494 Dürer was travelling. A drawing by Wolgemut for the elaborate frontispiece, dated 1490, is in the British Museum.
The book did not have a title page, common at that time. As with other books of the period, many of the woodcuts, showing towns, battles or kings were used more than once in the book, with the text labels merely changed; one count of the number of original woodcuts is 645. The book is large, with a double-page woodcut measuring about 342 x 500mm. Only the city of Nuremberg is given a double page illustration with no text. The illustration for the city of Venice is adapted from a much larger woodcut of 1486 by Erhard Reuwich in the first illustrated printed travel book, the Sanctae Perigrinationes of 1486. This and other sources were used where possible; where no information was available a number of stock images were used, and reused up to eleven times. The view of Florence was adapted from an engraving by Francesco Rosselli.
In the town of Augsburg, near Nuremberg, lived a very clever publisher named Johann Schönsperger (c. 1455-before 1521), who specialized in 'reprints.'
Since copyright laws did not yet exist, it is perhaps inappropriate to speak of Schönsperger's versions of the Nuremberg Chronicle as pirated.