Geschichtsblätter: 1572, Spanish Fury in Mechelen

by Frans Hogenberg


Date:  1 October 1572

Dimensions (not including margins): 21 x 28 cm

Condition: Very good. Strong paper and wide margins. Centre fold as published.

Condition rating: A+

Verso: blanco

Text at bottom: in German

Item number:
Belgium cities
War maps
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Hogenberg shows the Spanish Fury in Mechelen of 1 October 1572

In spring 1572, many cities in the Low Countries came under control of William of Orange, some actively supporting the rebels, other taking a more cautious attitude. Mechelen had opened its gates to the troops of William on August 31. However, in September William was forced by a large Spanish army under Duke of Alba (who had just taken Mons) to withdraw to Holland. The Duke of Alba now wanted to retake all cities in the south. He ordered his son Don to punish Mechelen for tolerating a rebel garrison.

Despite the fact that the State troops had left the city, the Spaniards plundered the city for two days. Three days of slaughter, rape and pillaging followed. Goods were seized.

One of the escapees from the city was the cartographer Jacob van Deventer. He left for Cologne.

Aftermath: The States General, influenced by the sack, signed the Pacification of Gent only four days later, unifying the rebellious provinces with the loyal provinces with the goal of removing all Spanish soldiers from the Netherlands, as well as stopping the persecution of heretics.

Spanish Fury at Mechelen, anonymous, MAS museum (Antwerpen)


Hogenberg and his Geschichtsblätter (news prints)

The publication of news prints was already in vogue in the 16th century before Hogenberg published his well-known Geschichtsblätter. In printing houses in Rome (Lafreri) and Venice (Gastaldi), the cartographers also published these such news prints. The preferred topics were then-current political or military images. Publishing news prints actually went hand in hand with the publication of maps.

Hogenbergs Geschichtsblätter are a collection of several hundred history papers that Frans Hogenberg and his son Abraham published between 1569 and 1637. The central theme is the Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648), but some views also show the French Religious Wars (1559 – 1573) and the English dynastic disputes. The Geschichtsblätter illustrate in an almost photographic way an act of war with a German caption at the bottom, sometimes in verse form, dating the fact. They provide both a visual and a narrative picture of the evolution of the war. The different engraving styles show that several engravers contributed to this work in the studio of the Hogenberg family. The Geschichtsblätter were sold loose-leaf and were popular.

Several editions of the Geschichtsblätter are known with varying numbers of pages and varying comments.

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