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Sebastian Brant

Straßburg 1447 - Straßburg 1521


Sebastian Brant was born in Strasbourg in 1458 as the son of an innkeeper. The German humanist writer and poet composed "The Ship of Fools" ("das Narrenschiff"). This work was the most popular book produced in the 16th century. From 1475, Brant studied law and classical languages at the University of Basel. He received his doctorate in 1489 and became professor in Basel in 1496. Sebastian Brant was named dean of the school of law at the University of Basel in 1492. Brant gave up teaching in 1499 when Basel seceded from the German Reich and entered the Swiss Confederation. Besides flyers and moral tracts, Brant's main work was his "Ship of Fools," which was printed in Strasbourg in 1494. It was soon reworked and translated into Latin, French, English, and Dutch, and quickly became a European bestseller.
The 113 chapters on human vice, weakness, and folly are illustrated with over 100 woodcuts, which, along with Brant's folksy, realistic style, contributed to the amazing success of the book. Sebastian Brant became the most well known representative of German folly literature. In 1501, Brant returned to Strasbourg and became a legal advisor, being appointed to the highest civil office, city chronicler, in 1503. Sebasrian Brant was then named royal advisor and assessor to the Court in Speyer by Kaiser Maximilian I. There, he played an important role in the history of law as the writer of several smaller tracts. He was also the editor of two significant law books, the "Laienspiegel" by Ulrich Tengler and the "Klangspiegel" by Conrad Heyden, which appeared in 1509 and 1516 respectively.
Sebastian Brant died in Strasbourg in 1521.


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