Glass Vocations of the 16th Century

Jost Amman (1539-1591) was a book illustrator active in Nuremberg, Germany, during the 16th century. His woodcut prints have earned him a spot in history as one of the most accomplished illustrators of his time.

Amman was born and educated in Zurich, Switzerland, and moved to Nuremberg in his early 20s; there, he worked for noteworthy printmaker Virgil Solis for a short time before Solis’ death. Over the course of his career, Amman created hundreds and hundreds of works, which – in addition to his woodcuts – included engravings, etchings, and paintings.

By the 16th century, there was a growing curiosity about professions other than one’s own, coupled with increased access to the published word. One result of this was the 1568 publication, illustrated by Amman, Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden (Exact Description of All Ranks on Earth, or, more popularly, The Book of Trades). Four of the book’s illustrations relate directly to glass professions: Der Glaser (glazier), Der Glassmaler (glass painter), Der Brillenmacher (spectacles maker), and Der Spiegler (mirror maker).

The same four illustrations from The Book of Trades are also featured in the Rakow Library-owned De omnibus illiberalibus siue mechanicis artibus by Hartmann Schopper; this book, published in 1574, is also dedicated to describing various 16th century occupations. Such illustrations were often paired with text which includes descriptive information or poetry.

Print Collection at the Rakow Research Library

Print Collection at the Rakow Research Library

The Rakow Research Library also owns four individual Amman prints, identical to the illustrations featured in these books.

Through his artistic talent, Amman has succeeded in transporting us over 400 years back in time to better understand the glass professions of a different time and place. These prints can be found in our Library’s Print Collection, which houses over 400 prints on diverse subjects relating to glass such as World’s Fairs and universal exhibitions, interiors and exteriors of glass factories, and illustrations of glassmakers and glassware.

Explore our Print Collection by visiting the Library and see some of them online.


The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

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