Ken Kajoranta, digitisation studio manager, and Xiaoping Lu, digitisation assistant, write:

Peregrinatio in terram sanctam’ or ‘Sanctae Peregrinationes’ is an incunabulum in Latin containing the description of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem undertaken by Bernhard von Breydenbach (ca. 1440-1497).  He made the journey with Count Johann zu Solms and Philipp von Bicken in 1483-1484.  Breydenbach was the canon of Mainz Cathedral and also a diplomat.  The travellers first went to Venice where they stayed for three weeks.  They then sailed to Jerusalem via Corfu and Rhodes.

An artist, Erhard Reuwich (?-1486) from Utrecht accompanied Breydenbach’s party specifically to make sketches of the sights.  As a consequence the ‘Peregrinatio’ is said to be the first illustrated travel book.  Reuwich was also a printer and published the incunabulum on 11 February 1486.

The book contains seven woodcuts with topographical views of Venice, Parenzo, Corfu, Modon, Candia, Rhodes, the Holy Land and Egypt, with Jerusalem at its centre.  The text block of ‘Peregrinatio in terram sanctam’ measures 29.8 cm x 21.2 cm. However to provide panoramic views five of the illustrations are folded.  When opened to its full extent the longest illustration measures 160 cm.

Image showing the proportions of an unfolded print of Venice in relation to the text block of ‘Peregrinatio in terram sanctum’. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The book was requested for digitisation a couple of months ago by Professor Michael Brennan of the School of English for his forthcoming new book ‘English Travellers to Venice: 1450-1600’, The Hakluyt Society, c.2021.  As the folded pages inside the book are of different thicknesses it was a challenge to make a clean, neat and reasonably flat shot. We decided to digitise the whole book in two stages:

First Stage:

  1. Shoot the book without the woodcut views, but note the gaps for the locations of the views for the correct image sequencing in the second stage;
  2. Tag the images section by section with a unique record number, making sure that the gaps for the future insertion of the views are considered;
  3. Crop and export the images.

Second Stage:

  1. Shoot each view section by section;
  2. Crop the view images;
  3. Stitch the correct images of each view together one by one; and finally
  4. Consolidate the view images with the other images shot earlier, and check the sequence of the whole book.

The images show segments of the views and one gives an indication of their proportions in relation to the text block.