The "Medieval Housebook"


"Medieval Housebook" is the common name of a vellum manuscript written in ca. 1480 and preserved now in the Kupferstichkabinett (copperplate cabinet) of Wolfegg, Germany. According to Waldburg-Wolfegg1, the MH rather presents the Renaissance than medieval times. And it is less a "housebook" but more an extended "armourer-guide-book" ("Büchsenmeisterbuch")2.

It shows illustrations of civilan life too. Like a couple in love, the boy and the death, buffoons, the effects of planets on man's fate, and so on.

But most detailed are the representations of production sites, armour, technical tools and the use of this all in a war campaign. The chances of motives and the mood of the artist seemed to be more responsible for the collection choice than anything else. The artist obviouly was in love with technology.

One drawing of a tank-like wagon was perhaps more a result of his imagination than a device of reality. The detail of the undercarriage lacks a pivot pin on the rear axle. So the "tank" is unsteerable and not very useful.

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Wagons themselves are only represented by the 4-wheeled type as gun platform and only in relation to a war campaign of the German Emperor Maximilian 1475 against the city of Neuss. Civilian transport is presented in this collection only in the background of the landscape of other drawings. And only by two pack asses and one 2-wheeler in the whole collection.

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Nevertheless the presentations of the 4 wheelers are interesting. In a detailed drawing it is visible that the wheels were without iron banding but wooden fellies only. The same for the gun carriage too. The end of the spokes are visible on the rolling surface and the segmented felly structure is barley visible on this surface too. So even in 1480 iron seemed to be to expensive to be used as wheel banding, even for the imperial army of Maximilian.

  1. Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg: Das mittelalterliche Hausbuch, Muenchen 1957
  2. Ibid., p. 5

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