TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Excerpts from SEBASTIAN FRANCK, Chronica: Zeitbuch und Geschichtbibell von anbegin Bis in Dis Gegenwertig Jar 1536 ... [Ulm], Johann Varnier, 1536, beginning with Die siben beriembten Weisen in Grecia (‘The seven famous Sages of Greece’]

In German, manuscript on paper
Southern Germany or Austria, c. 1580-1595

TM 641

i+322 folios on paper, watermarks, letter ‘p’ with a shield on top which shows a rune mark, similar to Piccard online, AT 3800-PO-114808, DE 6300 PO 114807, and DE 6300 PO 114818, all from Austria, mostly from Vienna between 1588-1594, others from Klagenfurt in Austria from about the same time, and a griffon (?], difficult to identify since watermarks are trimmed and paritally visible (in the upper inner corner of a leaf], modern pencil foliation in upper right, last four blank, lacking one leaf after f. 305 (collation: i-xxxiii, alternating quires of 4 and 12, xxxiv10, xxxv-xxxvii, alternately 4 and 12, xxxviii7 [lacks 6], xxxix-xl8 [last leaf final quire probably used as back pastedown]], old paper pastedown at front, catchwords on every page, frame-ruled in light brown ink for one column (justification 123 x 70 mm.], written in brown ink in a semiprofessional sixteenth-century cursive script for the text and in a larger bold formated script for the headings in twenty-five to twenty-one long lines, often depending on size of script, slight waterstaining, a faint blue inkstain on top of upper edge, paper a bit darkened, few holes caused by ink corrosion (e.g. f. 52], but else in very fine condition. ORIGINAL BINDING, of blind-tooled dark brown leather on wooden boards, with two catches but no clasps, roll-stamps with decorative floral bands, center stamped with the number “96”, probably referring to “1596” when the book was bound, and with acorns, similar to EBDB s034718, from a workshop that was active in Regensburg (Bavaria/Oberpfalz] in the 16th century, sewn on three thongs, spine a bit rubbed and worn, fair wear and tear to outer edges, hinges fine, front and back cover in excellent condition. Dimensions 150 x 100 mm.

Copied, in seemingly random order, from the printed edition of Sebastian Franck’s, Chronica, an immense encyclopedic text on history and the history of ideas in the West (and a work that was later included on the Index of Prohibited Books), the manuscript was very likely produced this way to save its owner from the Catholic Inquistion. The scholar who compiled it was deeply interested in the competing ideas of humanism, Protestantism, Anabaptism, Catholicism and how these ideas were rooted in history. There is still no modern critical edition of the Chronica.


1.This manuscript probably belonged to a scholar, perhaps a theologian or philosopher, who was interested in the combination of humanist thought, biblical history, and chronicle literature, found in the vast Chronica by the German humanist and philosopher, Sebastian Franck, first published in 1531. Our scholar compiled excerpts from this highly interesting text himself and arranged them according to his own ideas and concept of “historical” order, rarely following the original sequence of the printed model. The text and wording of the present manuscript suggest that the scribe used as his main source the second 1536 edition, but some corrections in years and other numbers imply that he also consulted the third, posthumous, edition of 1565, which gives us a first terminus post quem.

2.An ownership entry on f. 1 suggests that it was part of a convent’s library: “Conventu(m] ...hensen (?]” (the beginning of the second word signifying the place is unfortunately illegible]. Contemporary entries on first flyleaf are either illegible or erased.

3.Private collection.


Headlines and incipits that appear in display type in the manuscript are reproduced here in bold; the paragraphs used in the description do not correspond to the visual organisation of the text in the manuscript, but are used here to clarify the relationship between the manuscript’s text and its printed exemplar by showing continuing sections copied from the model, as well as disruptions between them:

ff. 1-20, Die Siben beriembten weisen In Grecia Tholes der erst Cholles der Isiaanisch Philosophus, incipit, “In allen künssten erfaren, Inn sachen Burgerlicher Sitten und wesen antreffendt, fast guotter Rädt ...”;

The Seven Sages and some more Greek philosophers; text as in Sebastian Franck’s Chronica, Zeitbuch und Geschichtbibell ...., 1536, Die erst Chronick/ Von Adam bis auff Christum, ff. xxviii-xxxii]; f. 3, incipit, “Sollon der ander weis aus Grecia// Sollon der Anthenisch gesetzgeber, welchen die Römer darnach von In Entlehneten und annamen, ... “; f. 6, incipit, “Chilion, der dritt weiß Inn grecia // Chilon zur Zeit Sedechia des Künigs zu Athennis grüennendt, ist von seiner tüeffen Weishait wegen der Kurtz redner genanndt worden....”; f. 7, incipit, “Pitacus Mitilenus der viertt weiß In grecia// Pitacus Asianus oder Mitilenus, unnder den süben nit allain erleüchtet ...”; f. 8v, incipit”,Bias Priianeus der fünfft Weiss In Grecia// Bias vnnder den sibenn weisen der fünfft Leeret .... “; f. 9v, incipit, “Cleobusus [sic!] der sechst weiß In Grecia// Cleobus vnder den siben Weisen der sechst, das hat auch zu den Zeiten Sedochia ....”; f. 10, incipit, “Periander der sibend weiß in Grecia// Der Corinthisch Philosophus Periander auß den süben weisen der letzt Leeret, biß im glück müessig, Im Vnnglück weiß ... “; f. 10v, incipit, “Anarcharsis ein Philosophus:// Anarchasis ein Philoso(p]h von geburt ein Sritiber (?), was in Krüegssachen vnnd yebungen ein großgeachter komen war ...”; f. 11v, incipit, “Epimendes ein Philosophi// Epimenides der Creten sich Philosphus noch Jung zur Huet der Schaaf, von sein Vatter gesendt, Entschlieff in einer Höle, vnd schlieff 75 Jar ....”; f. 13v, incipit, “Simonides ein Poet und wol redner// Simonides der Poet sprach sicherer ist schweigen dan reden, künfftig hoffnung ist ein Artzney ...”; f. 13v, incipit, “Zaleus der gerecht gesatzgeber// Zaleucus ein trefflich liebhaber der gerechtigkait ....”; f. 14v, incipit, “Pherecides ein Philosophus und Prophet: Pericdes Syrus ein Junger Pitacoris ....”; f. 15, incipit, “Pithagorus ein Philosophi// Pithagoras von Geburt ein Sanius (?) nach Pherecide seinem Maister der aller berüemst Naturkunder gewesen auf den ganzen Erdreich über die mass ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, Chronica, 1536, ff. xxxi-xxxii].

ff. 20-23, incipit, “Licureus der Lacedemonier gesatz geber ... [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xviii]; f. 22, incipit, “Ceres ein Göttin des Getreids ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xvii v]; f. 22v: “Pometheus [sic] ein Künstler ... “ [ibid.], f. 23: “Atlas ein Riß” [ibid.];

ff. 23-41, incipit, “Isocrates ein Philos(op]hus ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxvi v]; f. 24v, incipit, “Epicurus der hochbegabt Philosophus// Athen hat uns auch disen hohen menschen und treffentlichen Philosophum geben ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxvii], f. 26, incipit, “Theophrastii Philosophus redt und anttwort// Diess war ein Man hoher Klueghait, sonderlicher Emsigkait ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxvii v]; f. 29v, incipit, “Aristotolem der Namige Philosophus ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxiiii]; f. 31v, incipit, “Von dem hochberüemten fürnemen Philosophus Diogene// Diser diogene widersatzt allen seinen begiereden vnd wollusten ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxiii v ff, but omitting the first paragraph, so this section precedes the paragraph on Aristotle in the printed edition]; f. 37, incipit, “O Curtius Calistheus Lisimachus drey artliche Philosophii vund natt(ür]liche maister// Dise zwen Philosophii Junger Aristotolis strafften Allex Allexandrum ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxiiii v]; f. 40, incipit, “Anaxarchus der Natürlich Maister // Alls Anaxarchus sahe, das Allexander die Eysstersten Künnigreich wolt krüegen in Orient ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxv-cxv v]; f. 40v, incipit, “Von dem weisen man Carneades// Diser ist mit Diogene Inn ainer Legaton geen Rom geschickt worden ...” [ibid.]; f. 41, incipit, “Anaxagora Philosopheii vnnd lehr// Anaxagoras ist in Asia achtbar gewesen ...” [text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxvi];

ff. 42-49, incipit, “Ursprung und herkomen des Adels// Der Adel ist zu Zeitten auffkomen und auß vill vrsachen gestifft zu Erst aus Nott ...” [explains the origin of nobility in Christian terms and in the sense of a Christian history, filled with quotations from the Bible; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xv]; f. 46v, incipit, “Von der engel ampt und aigenschafft// Die allten setzen in dem Neündten und vndersten Chor der engel ...” [explains the “ordo” of the Angels in heaven and their duties; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. v];

ff. 49-51, incipit, “Wen erstlich die Phariser vnd anndere secten bey den Juden auff komen sind// Nach dem bey den Juden baide Fürsstenthumb vnd Prüesterthumb, durch des Antiochie Krüeg zerrütt sind, vnd die Maccabey sich an die haidnische Künig hennckten ...” [How the Pharisees and other Jewish sects came into being, a “historiographic” text on religious subjects; text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, chapter “Von Adam bis auff Christum”, f. lxxxvii];

ff. 51-56, incipit, “Apulegius ein Nattürlicher Maister// Apulegius ein Jünger Plattonis, ist zu Athen fürnemb gewesen. Er hat ein Buch von dem Gott Socratis gemacht ...” [a story about another philosopher; text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, f. cxx]; f. 52, incipit, “Von den freyen sprüchen Socratis// Wen die Son auffgeeth, soll man vmb Rath dencken ...” [Sayings of Socrates; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. cxxx v];

ff. 56v-61, incipit, “Von dem gewalt Herrschafft Reendt Zins gült: Zoll, Steuer vnd vngelt// Da die welt so vnleidenlich boß ward nach dem Sündtfluß vnd yederman herschen, kainer umb den anndern nicht geben wolt ...” [an “historical” explanation how taxes, customs duty and other money came into being from biblical times after the deluge with quotations from the Bible and moral instructions; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Chronica der Keiser und weltlichen Historien”, f. cclxxv v];

ff. 61-63v, incipit, “Von der sündtfluss Irer vrsprung und vrsach vnd endt von der Arch Noe und von dem Regenbogen dem bundt zaichen Gottes Noa geben// Von dem beuelch Noa geschehen die Arch zue zurüsten ...” [a treatise on the deluge, its origins and its ending, on Noah and the rainbow as a sign of the union with God, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Die erst Chronik”, f. x v];

ff. 64-68, incipit, “Von der Zehennden// Weil der Zehend ein// gar grosse Vrsach der auffruhr war, Vnnd yedermann fragt von wann Inn der Teuffel hab hergefüert ....” [an “historical” explanation of how the tithe came into being, starting from Jewish legislation: Here, the author states, that in want of an answer to this question that caused so much upheaval, he intends to include the answer into this “Chronicle”; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Von Christi geburt bis auff Carolum v”, f. cclxxiiii v];

ff. 68-69, incipit, “Von dem heilligen geist und seinem Namen// Der heillig geist der von Vatter durch den Sonn außgeeth, ist nach Viller Mainung nichts anders den Gottes gnadt geist ...” [a treatise and explanation of what the holy spirit is; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. iii v ff];

f. 69, incipit, “Von Nemroth dem annfenger des thorns babilon// Nemroth ein Riß und stoltz, Muettig Mann ...” [on Nemroth who started the tower of Babylon; text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. x[ii];

ff. 69v-70v, “Ises ist ein tochter Inachi// Ises ist ein Tocher Inachi hat Inn Egibten [illegible] sii aus Grecia schiffet. Die buechstaben vnd schrifft erfunden und gesetz geleret ... “ [on Ises from Greece to Egypt where she invented letters and taught law, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xix]; f. 70, incipit, “Pachus der Wein Gott” [on Bacchus, God of wine, text as ibid.]; f. 70, incipit, “Neue fund des hönigs, Wagens vnd der buechstaben// Aptheros der Künigs des Lannds Cretcia hat erstlich die samlung des Hönigs erdacht ..” [how honey, chariots and letters were discovered or invented, text as ibid., f. xix v];

ff. 70v-73v [-98], incipit, “Von dem vrsprung ankünfft vnd heerkomen des mensch: mainung der heilligen schrifft Theologen vnd haiden// Von der ankünfft des menschen vnd seiner erschöpffung ...” [on the origin of man according to the Holy Script, theologians and heathens, as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. vi]; ff. 74-78, incipit, “Vnnderschaidt des Innerlichen vnd eisserlichen menschen// Der ausser erschaffen vnd nit aus gott sonnder vom Fleisch vnd bluet geboren Mensch ist der oberzeltt mensch mit all sein Krefften ..” [distinguishing the physical and mental/spiritual being of man, as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. vii]; ff. 78-80, incipit, “Von der Seell Manicherlay Opinion Der Leerer vnd Philosophen// Die Seell ist ein vnleiblich wesen, vonn gott dem Leib zuge eignet, vnnd eingossen ...” [various opinions on the human soul by christian and ancient teachers and philosophers, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. viii]; ff. 80-82v, incipit, “Von Manicherlay Wonn der Philosophen von Gott vnd der Welt// Die Plattonischen vnd Stoicy sagen Gott hab einen Leib, die andern sagen er sei on Leib, etliche sagen er sey aus dem Atomis, das ist aus den Streuchlen der Sonnen ...” [on the nature of God from various philosophical points of view, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. viii v]; f. 82v, incipit, “Das erst Alter vonn Adam bis auf Noah oder von der beschaffung der welt bis zu den sindtflus// Das erst alter von Adam bis auff Noah hat nach hebreyischer warhait 1656 Jar. Aber nach der sag der IXX Außleger 2242 Jar, als Isidorus vnnd andere setzen ...” [the first age from Adam to Noah => discusses the biblical ages, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. ix]; f. 85, incipit, “Von dem Lamech Mathusalems Sonn// Diser Lamech hat zum ersten zweyfache Gemallischafft ein gefüert wider das das Adam ausweissend ... “ [on Lamech, Methusalem’s son, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. ix v]; f. 86v, incipit, “Von dem langen Alter der menschen vor dem sündtfluß// Augustinus spricht das vill Menschen vor der sindtfluss Neünhundert Jar erreicht haben ...” [on the old age of people before the deluge according to Augustine, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, p. x]; f. 87v, incipit, “Das annder Alter der Welt von der sündtfluss bis auff die geburtt Abrahams// Das annder Alter hat nach dem Hebreyischen 292 Jar ...” [the second biblical age from the deluge to the birth of Abraham, text as ibd., f. x ff]; f. 88, incpit, “Von der Sündtflus Irer vrsach vnd enndt von der Archen Noah vnd von den Regenbogen ...” [identical text as on f. 61 ff., but in slightly different orthography, also taken from Sebastian Franck 1536, f. x v]; f. 89v, incipit, “Von dem Thurn zu Babilon// Von dem gebey des thurns zu Babilon. Aus forcht eines annder zuekimfftigen sündtfluß ...” [on the tower of Babylon, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xi]; f. 90, incipit, “Wie sich die nachkomen Noah nach der sündtflus Inn alle landt zersträet haben// Sem der Elter Son Noa von welchem Christus her kombt, hat mit seinen Sünen besetzt denn strichann von Siria gegen Oriendt ...” [how Noah’s offspring spread over the land after the deluge, text as in ibid.]; ff. 91v-93, incipit”,Von den vier Monarchen wie sie in Daniel fürgebildet sindt// Gott hat die füer Monarchen der Welt dem heilligen Daniel fürgemalt auf zweyerley weise. Erstlich mit einem grossem Mann, des haubt guldin war ...” [of the four monarchs as they are described/announced in Daniel, text as in ibid. f. xi v];

ff. 93-98, incipit, “Nun von gott was sol man sagen oder schreiben, weil er ding kain ist, davon man reden oder schreiben kan, auch der ding kaines, das man sehen hören an greiffen schmecken oder Rüechen kan. Er ist auch weder diß noch das, sonnder ein ewig vnenndtlich ding ...” [an attempt on how to describe and define God, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. i]; ff. 98-101, incipit”,Von Christo Gottes Son vnd seinem Namen// Christus Jesus der ist krefftig erweiset Gottes Son, nach dem Geist vnnd ein Sam Abraham ...” [On Christ, Son of God, and his name, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. ii]; ff. 101-104v, incipit, “Von dem Namen Christi// Jesus hat vill Namen In der Schrifft. Erstlich haist er Christus, das er mit geist vnd gnadt, ja mit dem Ohl der freüden gesalbt ist, von allen seinen Brüdern ...” [another treatise on the name of Christ, text as in Sebastian Franck’s Chronica 1536, f. iii];f

ff. 104v-105v, incipit”,Von der Babilonischen gefencknus vund enndt des Reichs Israell// Nabuchodnoser der Künig Babilonie, fast süghafft ....” [on the Babylonian Captivity, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Die erst Chronik”, f. xxxii ff];

ff. 106-134v, incipit, “Neün Beleegerung vnd Zerstörung Hierusalem// Die erst beleegerung der notfessten Statt Hierusalem von den Hebreern ...” [on the nine sieges of Jerusalem, dedicating separate chapters to each siege; explicit after the ninth siege f. 134v: “... zuletzt wie er diß gelobt Lanndt sambt der Heilligen Statt vörder vnder sich bracht hab, wirt im Anndern thail an seinem ortt der Jarzal hernach folgen.” [(“and last, how he subjugated this promised land including the holy city further, will follow later in another part dealing with the relevant year”) text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, chapter “Die erst Chronick - Von Adam bis auff Christum”, f. xxxii v- xxxix]; ff. 135-141v, incipit, “Sum[m]a der Zerstörung Hierusalem durch Tittum vnd Vespasianum. Auß Egesippo, Josippo vnd ein kurtzer begriff vnd Innhalt der vii büecher Josephi. von dem jüdischen Krüeg durch den Casper Hedio ein Sum [?] auszogen// Die Anfeng des Jüdischen Krüegs von Josepho in Süben büchern geschrieben ...” [summary of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and Vespasianus according to Egesippus and Josippus, contents of the seven books of Joseph and the Jewish war, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Von Adam bis auff Christum”, f. xxxix-xli]; ff. 142-147v, incipit, “Sum[m]a Gott hatt die sachen bassdann Vesfasianus oder Tittus Angeschicket, damit er ohn Arbaitt die Juden den Römern übergebe, dann alles menschlich und göttlich recht ...”; f. 147v-154: “Von dem erschrocklichen grausamen Hunger vnd teurung zu Jerusalem zur Zeit der Beleegerung Titti// Josephus lib 6. Capit. ii// thut ein schönne Orattion vnd anredt an die Juden ...” [on the great famine and inflation in Jerusalem during the siege, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Von Adam bis auf Christum”, f. xli-xlii, and xlii ff]; ff. 154-154v, incipit, “Die gefencknus Babilonie// Die gefencknus der Juden vund Enndtschafft Ires Künnigreichs hatt sich wie gehördt aus versagung Jeremia begeben ...” [on the Babylonian captivity, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xliiii]; ff. 155-156, incipit, “Sum[m]a der Künigen Assieria oder Babilonie” [List of Kings of Assyria, as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xliiii v]; f. 156, incipit, “Suma der Jar der Künigreichs der Assierer. taussent dreyhundert fünff Kinig der Assierer nach Sardanapolo ...” [Summary of the years of kingdoms of the Assyrians, thousand threehundred and five kings in Assyria after Sardanapal ..., text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. xlv]; f. 157v, incipit, “Kinig Babilonie oder Caldeorum” [King Babylon or Caldeorum, text as in ibid.]; f. 158v: “Ende des Reichs zu babilonie// Balthaser der letzt kinnig babilonies ...” [end of the reign of Babylon, text as in ibid. f. xlv v]; f. 160v, incipit, “Von der ankunfft des volcks// Erstlich zur Wurtzl vnd stammen solches ...” [on the arrival of the people [of Israel], text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, f. xlvi]; ff. 161-249v, incipit, “Wie das volck aus Egibten die Kinder von Israell in egibten landt komen sey// Diser yetzt genanndt Israell oder Jacob hett zwelff Sün ...” [how the people, the children of Israel, came to Egypt, text as in Franck 1536, f. xlvi-lxii; with a copying mistake of the headline and some inserted headlines, which are not to be found in the printed edition, as if to organise this chapter]; ff. 250-251, incipit, “Die Künig über Juda wie vil Jar ein yeder geregiert hab” [list of the kings of Juda and how long each of them reigned; text as in Franck 1536, f. lxii v, with a couple of changes in the arrangement of the table regarding mise en page]; ff. 251v-259v, incipit, “Die namhafftigen propheten in Israel nach Ordnung erzellt vnd wen ein yeder prophetceiet hab// Nathan Gaad vnd Asapha ...” [list of prophets in Israel in [chronological] order and whom they prophecied, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, f. lxiii-lxiiii v, but with a couple of contractions and erroneous as well as deliberate omissions];

ff. 259v-263, incipit”,Rechnung der sibentzig wochen Daniel// Gott hat den Daniel die Zeit geoffenbaret, wen christus komen solt vnnd wie lanng das Jüdisch volck bleiben solt ...” [calculation of the seventy weeks of Daniel, text as in Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “von Adam bis auff Christum”, f. lxxiiii-lxxiiii v];  f. 263v, incipit, “Tabula Annorum Mundtii// daraus leichtlich zu finden ist die Zeit in Danieli gesetzt ...” [table of the years of the world, which helps to find the time as set by Daniel ..., text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, f. lxxv];

f. 264, incipit, “Die Erst veruolgung der Christen Anno Sibentzig// Die erst veruolgung der Christen füeng sich an im 13 Jar des kaiserthumbs Neronis ...” [the first persecution of Christians in the year 70, text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, chapter “Von Adam bis auff Christum”, f. clxvii v; note: the last number of this list on f. 264 is “1536” after the birth of Christ, which only seemingly implies that the text was compiled from the 1536 edition of the text. However, the 1536 edition has “1532” in this section. Either the scribe “corrected” the year in his book, or he copied from the later 1565 edition, where the text is on f. lxx v, chapter “Von Adam bis auff Christum”: “Nach der geburt Christi vnsers Herrn gottes und Heylands”]; ff. 264v-269v, incipit, “Lucius Anncus Seneca ein zucht maister Neronis// Seneca, sonst Lucius Anncus genanndt, zu Rom hochgehalten ...” [on Seneca, Nero’s teacher, text as in Sebastian Franck 1536, chapter “Chronica der Keyser und weltlichen historien”, f. clxvii v-clxviii v]; ff. 270-318v [end of text], incipit, “Ab diser meiner vorred haben sich etliche vermaintliche Beischlichen, die an Irem Ordt troffen nit dorffen Och schreyen....” [with some copying mistakes, same text as in Franck 1536, f. cxlii - clxii, preface of Sebastian Franck to the chronicle of emperors and other secular histories and his explanation of heraldic animals, especially of the eagle];

f. 318, Explicit: “... sonder er sein glück vnd Aigenschafft betracht, vnd sich zu dem Nidrigen ding halt, wie sanndt Paulus leeret, Röm ii. vnd 12. Das wölle Gott. Amen Enndt” [Sebastian Franck, 1536, chapter “Auff der Keyser Chronick”, f. clcii].

This manuscript is a very interesting witness to the philosophical and theological intellectual life in Germany and Austria at the end of the sixteenth century. It was very probably compiled by a scholar who was deeply interested in the competing ideas of humanism, Protestantism, Anabaptism, Catholicism and how these ideas were rooted in history. Large parts of the text are seemingly unorganised, or arranged in a very unorthodox way, presumably owing to our scholar’s personal preferences and beliefs. All the excerpts have been compiled from the same source, namely Sebastian Franck’s, Chronica: Zeitbuch und Geschichtbibell von anbegin biß in diß gegenwertig 1536 ..., Ulm, Johann Varnier, 1536, with some possible evidence that the 1565 edition was also consulted (the year 1536 listed on f. 264v, reflects the later edition). However, since our scribe frequently copies numbers and text erroneously, this may be a simple error. Overall, it seems that the 1536 edition was used.

Sebastian Franck’s (1499-1542/3), Chronica is an immense encyclopedic text on history and the history of ideas in the West.  Franck was an incredibly audacious author and writer, who had started his “career” as a Catholic priest, like so many of the Protestant reformers. Born on 20th January 1499 in Donauwörth as a son of a weaver, he studied theology in Ingolstadt and Heidelberg to become a Catholic priest in the diocese of Augsburg. He converted to Protestantism, and became a Lutheran parish priest in Büchenbach and Gustenfelden. After his marriage to Ottilie Behaim in 1528, he seceded from all confessions to develop his own ideas on Christendom of the heart, free of all dogma. He moved to Strasbourg, where he first encountered the Anabaptists. Their ideas inspired him, and he met Hans Bünderlin, Kaspar Schwenkfeldt and Michael Servet, whose spiritualistic theories and whose guidance led him to compose his Chronica. After having been banished from Strasbourg for including Erasmus of Rotterdam among his list of heretics, Franck moved to Ulm.

Franck combined the humanist’s passion for freedom with the mystic’s devotion to a religion based on the inner illumination of the spirit. In the early 1530s, Ulm in Southern Germany was a congenial place for these ideas. Hans Varnier had moved to Ulm from the Tyrol, and published texts by the spiritualist theologians such as Schwenkfeldt and Franck, who worked for Varnier, before becoming an independent printer in 1534. Varner published the first two editions of Sebastian Franck’s Chronica in 1531 and 1536.

Although the text is not very well known today (the much needed critical edition is in preparation), it must have been very challenging and thus interesting to open-minded theologians. Franck, in meticulous scholarly manner, lists all his sources and teachers, and combines the teachings of classical philosophy, and Greek and Roman mythology with the teachings of the Church Fathers, the Bible, and Christian and secular historiography. He tries to find explanations and definitions of social layers of society, including the nobility, the order of Angels or heraldics in the coats of arms of dukes and kings. His book is divided into the time from “Adam to the appearance of Christ”, “Christ’s birth to Charles V” and “A chronicle of emperors and secular history.”  In all three major chapters, Christian religion, humanist and classic thought and education and historiography intermingle, and thus show, how Franck thought that all teachings, theories, ideas and religions could co-exist -- truly a revolutionary idea for his time. One scholar summarizes, “Franck’s unbiased search for God in various cultures and historical traditions and his emphasis on nondogmatic, nonsectarian, noninstitutional forms of religion mark him as one of the most modern thinkers of the 16th century.”

His ideas were not accepted by everyone, and Sebastian Franck was included among the first edition of the List of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum) published in 1559 and promulgated by Pope Paul IV, Sebastian Franck. Hans Varnier the Younger, who continued his father’s business in printing, had also continued to publish Protestant and “heretic” authors, but was imprisoned in 1565 for publishing a pamphlet against the bishop of Augsburg, evidence of the tense and also dangerous atmosphere among Ulm’s printers and intellectuals at that time. The posthumous 1565 edition of Franck’s Chronica was published by an anonymous printer, who probably knew how dangerous his enterprise was in these circumstances.

Sebastian Franck’s oeuvre remained on the Index for many years to come, and, although there seemed to be a secret demand, was not reprinted. The scribe and scholar of the present manuscript must have been interested in this “dangerous matter” nonetheless, and looked for a safe way to acquire a copy of Franck’s Chronica. In the oppressive climate for intellectuals in the late sixteenth century, it may have seemed a wise decision to obscure the text’s identity and provenance by deliberately mixing up the original organisation of the text. This manuscript begins with “The Seven Sages” and concludes with a quotation from the Pauline epistles, and some of the very daring ideas of Sebastian Franck appear to have been omitted; his challenging explanations of God and the name of Christ are “hidden” in the center of the book, between ff. 93 and 98, and the self-explanatory preface is in the longest cohesive section of text from f. 270 to the end. Sebastian Franck’s name is mentioned nowhere, although it featured so prominently on the title-pages of all printed editions; none of his sources are listed, and the only way to find a certain paragraph in the book is by looking at the headlines in display script. It seems possible that the book was made for a very private use, trying to hide its contents in order to save them from oblivion for the community of intellectuals somewhere in Southern Germany or Austria.


Franck, Sebastian. Sämtliche Werke. Texte. Band 2: Chronica/Zeytbüch vnd geschychtbibel [1531], 2 vols, published at Frommann-Holzboog [in preparation; A critical edition of Franck’s oeuvre is being prepared and edited by Hans-Gert Roloff in “Berliner Ausgaben” since 2005. Only parts have been published so far, but not yet the vast Chronica, which is planned in volume two).

Dellsperger, Y. Lebendige Historien und Erfahrungen. Studien zu Sebastian Francks “Chronica Zeitbuoch vnnd Geschichtbibell [1531/1536]”, Erich Schmidt Verlag Berlin, 2008

Wagner, A. Das Falsche der religionen bei Sebastian Franck. Zur gesellschaftlichen Bedeutung des Spiritualismus der radikalen Reformation, Diss. Freie Universität Berlin, 2007

Steiff, Karl. “Hans Varnier”, in Historische Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften ed. Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. 39 [1895], p. 499-500

Online resources

Watermarks, Piccard Online

EBDB: Einbanddatenbank [Database of Book Bindings]

Sebastian Franck. Chronica, Zeytbuch vnd geschychtbibel von anbegyn biß inn diß gegenwertig M.D.xxxi. jar. Darin beide gottes und der Welt lauff ....ersehen und begriffen wirt, Ulm, Hans Varnier, 1531 [Copy available online, BSB Munich, 2 Chron. 15]

Sebastian Franck. Chronica, Zeitbuch vnnd Geschichtbibell von anbegyn bis in dis gegenwertig M. D. xxxvi. iar verlengt/ Darinn beide gottes vnd der welt lauff/hendel ....ersehen vnd begriffen wirt, Ulm, Hans Varnier, 1536 [Copy available online, BSB Munich, 2 Chron 17]

Sebastian Franck, Chronica: Zeytbuch und Geschichtbibel von anbegin biß in diß gegenwertig tausent fünff hundert und fünff und sechtzigste jar verlengt/ Darinn beyde gottes und der Welt Lauff/ Händel/ Art/ Wort/ Werck /thun/ Lassen ..... ersehen und begriffen wirdt, [S.I.] 1565 [Copy available online, BSB Munich, 2 Chron. 21]