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Posted on Tuesday January 26, 2016

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

Wickiana Collection of 16th century news reports

The Wickiana Collection is recognised as one of the most significant collections of news reports and documents pertaining to current events dating from the 16th century. It contains single-leaf and illustrated broadsheets, pamphlets, prints, handwritten texts and drawings, including 439 illustrated broadsheets (woodcuts).

These time capsules form one of the most important archives pertaining to a particular epoch, namely that of the Reformation in Switzerland. Johann Jakob Wick (1522-1588), after whom the collection is named, was the clergyman at the Predigerkirche and its associated hospital in Zürich from 1552 and then second Archdeacon, and thus also Canon, at the Grossmünster in Zürich from 1557.

He assembled and arranged contemporary news documents chronologically between 1559 and 1588, also integrating further material from the period approx. 1505 until 1559 into his collection. In pictures and texts, the documents bear witness to contemporary life, reporting on such phenomena as natural occurrences – comets, earthquakes and floods -, physical deformities in animals and humans, sensational crimes and political events of the time.

For example, the comet of 1577 is described as “terrible and wondrous” (“schrecklich und wunderbarlich”). The collection can be regarded as manifesting the climate of crisis at a time of religious and political turmoil: Huldrych Zwingli (died 1531) had recently predicted the end of the world. Wick’s collection of documents may have been regarded by him and his contemporaries as harbingers of the Last Judgement.