Book art as historical evidence: disputation and representation in late medieval Germany

Sarit Shalev-Eyni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increase in the distribution and availability of images for personal use in the late Middle Ages raises the question of their potential historical value for understanding the societies that produced and made use of them. This paper exposes the effects and the historical meanings of some woodcut illustrations of disputations between Jews and Christians: the woodcuts were widespread during the 1470s and 1480s in Swabia and Bavaria and surrounding areas, and they are still familiar and continue to play a role in shaping perceptions of Jewish-Christian relations of that period. These images do not reflect actual events: rather they are misrepresentations of polemical anti-Jewish sermons, designed as fictitious scholarly discourses. Their historical value is not limited to their ability to expose hidden angles. They can guide us to a better understanding of the written sources and to find new meanings there.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)231-249
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Scholarly disputations
  • Seelenwurzgarten
  • late medieval Germany
  • public sermons
  • woodcuts


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