Here's a nifty confluence of wood block printing and speculative fiction! This woodcut made by Hanns Glaser is entitled "Heavenly apparition over Nuremberg on April 14, 1561." The woodcut was actually made in 1566, based on reports of what UFO enthusiasts call a mass sighting of an alien battle in the skies over Germany. The report, printed in a broadsheet called the Nuremberg Gazette, says that at dawn on April 14, 1561 many people looking at the sky witnessed large numbers of "cylindrical shapes from which emerged black, red, orange and blue-white spheres that darted about." Crosses the color of blood and a large black spear-shaped object were also involved, fighting with one another for about an hour, after which time some of the shapes flew into the sun while others fell to earth in clouds of steam. Some people of the time took the vision as a divine warning. Some people of this time take the account as proof of an extraterrestrial space battle.
I was unable to determine much about the authenticity of the "newspaper" account. The document is in the Zentralbibliothek Zürich's collection of early news, but it's certainly anomalous. It's hard to find any unbiased information discussing this stuff. (Perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. I used to get annoyed with "In Search Of" and such television programs, that begin with intriguing questions which always, always, ALWAYS end up inconclusive and unresolved.) But the authenticity of Hanns Glaser's 1566 woodcut seems to be unquestioned. The question is just what, in fact, it shows - how accurate a depiction is it of whatever happened five years earlier, and just what exactly did people see on that April morning?
My brother and I have come up with four plausible scenarios.
a) Aliens A are attempting to conquer the Earthlings but Aliens B arrive to defend Earth. B's win, and leave without making contact, nobly following their Prime Directive not to interact with the primitive species.
b) Aliens A are escorting captured rebels (Aliens B) from their remote base to the Galaxy headquarters. As they pass Earth, Aliens B attempt to make a break for it, but are recaptured by Aliens A, who then proceed upon their way.
c1) Future Humans A come back in time with their space age technologies to assassinate some Nurembergian ancestor of Adolph Hitler. However, Future Nazis B come back and thwart them, so Hitler does indeed rise to power as we know.
c2) Future Resistance Fighters A come back in time with their space age technologies to assassinate some Nurembergian ancestor of Adolph Hitler's unstoppable mad science genius Von Schnell. Future Nazis B attempt to stop them, but fail in a thrilling battle in the skies. The Von Schnell progenitor is assassinated, thus there is no unstoppable Nazi science genius after all, and the Allies are indeed able to defeat the Nazis as we know.
Whatever the truth of the celestial phenomenon, Glaser's woodcut is something real to be enjoyed. In the image I like the city under the black arrow just like Theed beneath a star destroyer. I like the little Renaissance gents pointing up excitedly (and understandably so). I like the way the sun looks sort of bemused as balls hover around his face like pesky flies, and crescents arc gigantically behind him. It's certainly intriguing! When it comes to UFOs I'm a skeptical agnostic, but when it comes to block prints, I'm a true believer. This Glaser print is a perfect example of how block prints, like photography nowadays, can be timeless fine art or a sensational journalistic tool reflecting the popular preoccupations of their times.
[Picture: Himmelserscheinung über Nürnberg vom 14. April 1561, woodcut with hand painting, by Hanns Glaser, 1566. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, with thanks.)]