Heinrich Bebel

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Register of the University of Krakow “Henricus de Bevinden” right column, third entry from bottom[1]

This is how one must imagine a lecture by Heinrich Bebel, 1519[2]

Heinrich Bebel’s coat of arms as “poeta laureatus”, 1501

Heinrich Bebel (usually Böbel in Justingen urbaria and deeds) (Latinized Henricus Bebelius; * mid-1473[3] in Ingstetten near Justingen; † 31 March 1518 in Tübingen) was a German poet of Renaissance humanism.

Origin and family

The family “Böbel” can be traced in the imperial lordship of Justingen, specifically in the village of Ingstetten, to the early 15th century.[4] Known by name is the grandfather Heinrich Bebel, also with the first name Heinrich, who died of the plague in 1495.[5] Especially the Urbare of the Reichsherrschaft Justingen contain valuable information about other members of the family “Böbel”.[6] The father Haintz Böbel must have had at least one brother NN, because a Jörg Böbel (named 1497-1542) and a Ludwig Böbel (named 1503-1532) are listed in the Justingen registers; these were probably cousins of Heinrich Bebel. The uncle of Heinrich Bebel, who is unknown by name, is probably identical with a person in Bebel’s autobiographical piece “Comoedia de optimo studio iuvenum”. Here Heinrich Bebel has an uncle named “Cacobius” (from Greek κακό βίος = “bad life”) appear.[7] Jörg and Ludwig Böbel possibly had no sons: the court successor of Jörg Böbel was Hans Herb, who may have married a daughter of Jörg Böbel before 1576. The first name “Ludwig” appears again in the next generation with the son of Wolfgang Böbel, who studied medicine. After that Wolfgang Böbel would have used the first name of his cousin Ludwig Böbel for his son. Walther Ludwig[8] on the other hand assumes that Ludwig, son of Wolfgang Böbel, got the first name of the brother of his maternal great-grandmother, Dr. Ludwig Vergenhans; he was chancellor of Württemberg under count Eberhard im Bart.

Unfortunately, many archival records of the Justingen castle archives have been maculated or have otherwise disappeared: thus, we only have mentions of an “Engelbert Böbel” around 1500 and a “Hans Bebel genannt Gaicht”, who was a resident (“Beigeheüseter”) in the manor of Justingen in 1583. Around 1600, the family name “Böbel” finally disappears from the manor of Justingen.

Heinrich Bebel was born in Ingstetten in 1472 or mid-1473, the son of the farmer and Schultheiss “Haintz” Böbel.[9] The presumed place of birth is Ingstetten, although this is neither archival nor by the works of Bebel clearly determinable. However, the threefold mention of the small village Ingstetten (the “Comoedia de optimo studio iuvenum” is partly set in the village) in his works and the archival evidence that most of the members of the Böbel family resided in Ingstetten allows the conclusion that he was an Ingstetter.

Between 1475 and 1486, his father moves to Schelklingen when Heinrich was between three and fourteen years old; most likely in 1478/80, when Heinrich was six to eight years old. His father became a citizen of Schelklingen and received fiefs from the monastery of Urspring. The actual reason for this departure from Ingstetten seems to have been the second marriage of his father. The father married NN Myer, daughter of Konrad (“Cuntz”) Myer from Schelklingen. The stock book of the imperial lordship Justingen from 1497[10] names “Haintz Böbel zu Schälcklingen”; he paid one gulden to the lordship, presumably to obtain certain rights in Ingstetten or in return for permission to move away. The father Haintz Böbel is still listed in the Urbaren of the monastery of Urspring: although the Urbar of Urspring from 1475[11] does not mention him yet, he is listed in the Urbar of 1486[12] recorded. In 1486 he held the fief which Haintz Pfortzer had held in 1475.[13] His father-in-law Cůntz Myer was himself a feudatory of Urspring Monastery in 1486.[14] Between 1486 and 1502, after the presumed death of his father-in-law, Haintz Böbel also took over the fief of his father-in-law Cůntz Myer.[15] In the renovation of 1502 he is named as the owner of the fiefs of Haintz Pfortzer and Cůntz Myer.[16]

In 1491, Heinrich Bebel’s brother Wolfgang was probably born in Schelklingen. He was 18 years younger than his brother Heinrich.

The father Haintz Böbel is mentioned in a single document of the monastery of Urspring, when he beat the nun Märgel von Welden in 1492 in a dispute between the inhabitants of Schelklingen and the monastery of Urspring over the night pasture. He was to be punished by the authorities.[17]

The father Haintz Böbel died in 1508, probably in Schelklingen.[18]

School education

After the Böbel family moved to Schelklingen between 1475 and 1486, it was obvious that Heinrich Bebel probably attended the Latin school in Schelklingen in the 1480s.[19] The fact that there was such a school in the small town might have been due to the local noble families (von Stadion, von Wernau, von Freyberg). The nearby monastery of Urspring also brought the citizens of Schelklingen into frequent contact with the Swabian lower nobility, not least because the original chaplains who looked after the family altars of the noble families in Urspring lived in Schelklingen. One also finds Schelklingen burghers’ sons in the university registers, who presumably acquired the basics of Latin in Schelklingen.

In 1492, at the age of 19, he began his studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków under Laurentius Corvinus. In 1495 he left Krakow.[20]

From 1494 to 1495 he studied at Basel under Sebastian Brant.[21]

Professional life

In 1496 Heinrich Bebel began his own publishing activities. In the same year he published the “Cosmographie” of his teacher Laurentius Corvinus.[22] In 1496 he published his first poetic work “Distichon ad Musam […] | Carmina […]”.

In 1497 he held the pastorate in Justingen “probably during the time when Johannes Stöffler was setting up his astronomical clock in the cathedral at Constance”.[23]

In 1497 he received the chair of oratory (rhetoric) at the University of Tübingen and was professor of poetry and eloquence. He retained this position throughout his life. It was poorly paid, probably one reason for Heinrich Bebel’s tireless publication activity. As late as 1515 he published one of his major works, the “Triumphus Veneris”.

Heinrich Bebel was also frequently on the road, although the few places of residence interspersed in his writings probably merely illustrate a low lower limit to his travel activity. In 1499 he spent the holidays in Schelklingen with his family and his brother Wolfgang, who was eight years old at that time (“Ex Scheklingen (sic!) oppido M.CCCC.XC.IX” (=1499)).[24]

In 1500 he stayed at the University of Basel.[25]

In 1501 he delivered a speech in Innsbruck in praise of Emperor Maximilian, and was thereupon crowned poeta laureatus by the emperor and presented with a poet’s coat of arms.[26]

In 1502 Heinrich Bebel was in Ingstetten with relatives and wrote from there a letter in Latin verse to his pupil Johannes Brassicanus.[27]

Also in 1502 in Ingstetten, where he had taken refuge from the plague, he begins work on the “Thriumphus Veneris”. The text of the “Thriumphus Veneris” ends with the remark “Ex Ingsteten villa tempore pestis” (From the village of Ingstetten at the time of the plague).[28]

In 1507 he was in Aachen.[29]

Heinrich Bebel died in Tübingen on 31 March 1518 at the age of 45.[30]

Heinrich Bebel was a frequent and welcome guest in the monasteries of Adelberg, Zwiefalten and Bebenhausen.[31]

Heinrich Bebel remained in all probability unmarried.

Bebel as editor

Bebel brought the manuscript “Cosmographia […]” of his teacher Laurentius Corvinus from Cracow to Basel, which he published there and had printed there by Nikolaus Kessler in 1496.
In Tübingen he published the tract of the theologian Thomas Plantsch “Opusculum […]” (printed by Thomas Anshelm in Pforzheim). This consisted of the sermons which Plantsch had held on the occasion of the first burning of witches in Tübingen in 1505.


In 1501 he was crowned “poeta laureatus” by King Maximilian I at Innsbruck and awarded a poet’s coat of arms. On this occasion Bebel delivered a speech in praise of Maximilian, which appeared in print in 1504.[32]


Heinrich Bebel’s collection of facetias and his book of proverbs “Prouerbia germanica …” had the most lasting effect. His Fazetien were taken up by the 16th-century Schwankdichter Jörg Wickram and Hans Wilhelm Kirchhof and are a source on the history of manners around 1500. The mocking anecdotes give an impression of the dislike and hatred of the peasant population at the end of the 15th century for the clergy, the monasteries and the nobility, whose “untenless”[33]exploitative[34] exploitative and wasteful behaviour was denounced in the form of spotter narratives. This underlying antipathy of the peasants towards the “first estate” finally vented itself in the Reformation and the Peasants’ War.


Heinrich Bebel as editor

  • Laurentius Corvinus: Cosmographia dans manductionem in | tabulas ptholemei […] | vna cum nonnullis epigrammatibus et carminibus. Nik. Kessler, Basel 1496. [1] (Copy of the Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden Signatur: Ink.324.4:2)
  • Martin Plantsch: Opusculum de sagis ma | leficis Martini Plantsch concio | natoris Tubingensis. Thomas Anshelm, Pforzheim 1507.

Heinrich Bebel as author (selection)

  • Distichon ad Musam […] | Carmina […]. Reutlingen: Michael Greiff, 1496.
  • Commentaria Epistolarum | conficiendarum | Contra epistolandi modos Pontij et aliorum | […] | Commentaria de Abusione linguae latinae apud germanos et de pro= | prietate eius dem | Vocabularius optimarum dictionem | […]. Strasbourg: Johannes Grüninger, 1503. (Commentaries on letter writing. Against […])
  • Comoedia de optimo studio iuvenum. Pforzheim: Thomas Anshelm, 1504 [Comedy about the best way for young people to study], performed in Tübingen in 1501
  • Oratio ad regem Maximilianum de laudibus atque amplitudine Germaniae. Pforzheim: Thomas Anshelm, 1504 [Speech to King Maximilian on the Glory and Greatness of Germany]
  • Ars versificandi et carminum condendorum […]. Pforzheim: Thomas Anshelm, 1506 and many later reprints [Art of forging verses and writing songs]
  • In hoc libro continetur haec Bebeliana opuscula noua et adolescentiae labores. […] | Libri facetiarum iucundissimi […] | Prouerbia germanica in latinitatem reducta | […] Elegia hecatosticha de institutione vite Bebelii pestis | Tubinge grassaretur. M.D.II. […] Cantio vernacula[…].
  • Opera Bebeliana sequentia | Triumphus Veneris sex libris conscriptus […]. Hecatostichon de victoria Caesaris Bohemica […]. Pforzheim: Thomas Anshelm, 1509 (Bebel’s continued works: Triumph of Venus in six books […]. Hundert Verse zum Sieg des Böhmischen Königs […])

Modern text editions

To this day there is no historical-critical complete edition of Heinrich Bebel’s works, as already urged by Johannes Haller in 1929.[35] Only a few authors have so far taken the trouble to edit selected texts by Bebel and to translate them into German.

  • Angres, Marcel (ed.) (2003), Thriumphus Veneris: Ein allegorisches Epos von Heinrich Bebel. Edition, translation and commentary. Münster: LIT Verlag (Hamburger Beiträge zur Neulateinischen Philologie, vol. 4). ISBN 3-8258-6689-0.
  • Barner, Wilfried (ed.) (1982), Heinrich Bebel: Comoedia de optimo studio iuvenum. On the best kind of study for young people. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun. ISBN 3-15-007837-7.
  • Bebermeyer, Gustav (ed.) (1931), Heinrich Bebels Facetien: Drei Bücher. Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe von ... Leipzig: Verlag Karl W. Hiersemann (Bibliothek des Literarischen Vereins in Stuttgart Sitz Tübingen, Bd. CCLXXVI) (Reprint Hildesheim: Olms, 1967).
  • Fuhrmann, Manfred (ed.); Heinrich Bebel (2005), Fazetien: drei Bücher. Translated u. introduced by Manfred Fuhrmann. Constance and Eggingen: Edition Isele (Bibliotheca Suevica, vol. 13). ISBN 3-86142-278-6.
  • Suringar, Willem H. D. (ed.) (1879), Proverbia Germanica [Heinrich Bebel’s Proverbia Germanica]. Leiden: Brill (reprint Hildesheim: Olms, 1969).
  • Wesselski, Albert (ed.) (1907), Heinrich Bebels Schwänke: Zum ersten Male in vollständiger Übertragung herausgegeben von ... 2 Bde. Munich and Leipzig: Georg Müller.
  • Zinsmaier, Thomas (ed.); Heinrich Bebel (2007), Patriotische Schriften: sechs Schriften über Deutsche, Schweizer und Schwaben. Translated, explained u. introduced by Thomas Zinsmaier. Constance and Eggingen: Edition Isele (Bibliotheca Suevica, vol. 22). ISBN 978-3-86142-415-4.

Literature (selection; the secondary literature on Heinrich and Wolfgang Bebel already comprises over 100 titles)

  • Stephanie Altrock (2009), Gewitztes Erzählen in der Frühen Neuzeit: Heinrich Bebels Fazetien und ihre deutsche Übersetzung. Cologne: Böhlau. ISBN 978-3-412-20434-1.
  • Thomas Baier (2019), Heinrich Bebel in Ingstetten: Homeland as Exile. In Francesco Furlan, Gabriel Siemoneit, and Hartmut Wulfram (eds.), Exile and Homeland Distance in the Literature of Humanism from Petrarch to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century. (NeoLatina, vol. 30). Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, pp. 459-477.
  • Gustav Bauch (1883), Laurentius Corvinus, the Wroclaw Town Scribe and Humanist. His life and his writings. Journal of the Association for History and Antiquity of Silesia. Breslau: Josef Max & Komp., vol. 17, pp. 231-302 (p. 240 Heinrich Bebel in Krakow)
  • Binder, Helmut (1977), Heinrich Bebel. Humanist and Poet, Professor of Eloquence and Poetry at the University of Tübingen. Around 1472-1518, pp. 25-51. in Robert Uhland (ed.), Lebensbilder aus Schwaben und Franken. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.
  • Carl Joachim Classen (1997a), On Heinrich Bebel’s life and writings. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. I. Philological-Historical Class. Jahrgang 1997. no. 1).
  • Carl Joachim Classen (1997b), Bebel (Heinrich) (1473-1518). In: Colette Nativel (ed.), Centuriae Latinae: Cent une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières offertes à Jacques Chomarat. (Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance, No CCCXIV.) Genève: Librairie Droz, pp. 91-96.
  • Ludwig Geiger: Bebel, Heinrich. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Vol. 2, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, pp. 195-199.
  • Heinrich Grimm:Bebel, Heinrich. In: New German Biography (NDB). Vol. 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6, p. 685 f. (Digitalisat).
  • Klaus Graf (2000), Heinrich Bebel (1472-1518): Wider ein barbarisches Latein. In: Paul Gerhard Schmidt (ed.), Humanism in the German Southwest: biographical profiles. Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, ISBN 3-7995-4166-7, pp. 179-194
  • Johannes Haller (1927), Die Anfänge der Universität Tübingen 1477-1537: Zur Feier des 450jährigen Bestehens der Universität im Auftrag ihres großen Senats dargestellt von … 1. part: Darstellung. 2. Part: References and explanations. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer (reprinted in Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1970).
  • Johannes Haller (1929), Heinrich Bebel als deutscher Dichter. Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Litteratur (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung), pp. 51-54.
  • Heinrich Hermelink (ed.) (1906), Die Matrikeln der Universität Tübingen. Vol. 1: Die Matrikeln von 1477-1600. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.
  • Klaus Kipf (2017), Heinrich Bebel, der Tübinger Poetikdozent, und seine “schwäbischen Schwänke”. In: Jörg Robert et al. (eds.), “A father of new times: Reuchlin, the Jews and the Reformation”. Tübingen: Stadtmuseum Tübingen (Tübingen Catalogues, vol. 104), pp. 68-79, ISBN 978-3-941818-33-0.
  • Wilhelm Kühlmann, Robert Seidel and Hermann Wiegand (eds.) (1997), “Humanistic Poetry of the 16th Century: Latin and German”. (Library of the Early Modern Period, vol.: 5). Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker-Verlag, pp. 204-211.
  • Sönke Lorenz (2010), Heinrich Bebel oder der Tübinger Frühhumanismus vor Melanchthon. In: Sönke Lorenz (ed.), Vom Schüler der Burse zum “Lehrer Deutschlands”: Philipp Melanchthon in Tübingen; [… on the occasion of the exhibition “Vom Schüler der Burse zum Lehrer Deutschlands – Philipp Melanchthon in Tübingen”, 24 April – 18 July 2010]. Tübingen: Stadtmuseum (Publications of the Alemannic Institute Freiburg i. Br., vol. 78), pp. 117-137, ISBN 978-3-941818-00-2.
  • Walther Ludwig (1995), The brother of the humanist Heinrich Bebel and the Tübingen professor Konrad Ebinger. Südwestdeutsche Blätter für Familien- und W appenkunde (published by the Association for Family and Heraldry in Württemberg and Baden, Stuttgart) Jg. 21, pp. 248-252.
  • Dieter Mertens (1983), “Bebelius … patriam Sueviam … restituit”: Der poeta laureatus zwischen Reich und Territorium. Zeitschrift für württembergische Landesgeschichte Jg. 42, pp. 145-173(full text)
  • Dieter Mertens (2008), Art. “Bebel, Heinrich”. In: Franz Josef Worstbrock (ed.), Deutscher Humanismus 1480-1520: Verfasserlexikon. Vol. 1: A-K, pp. 142-163. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-020639-5.
  • Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Historii; wydali Antoni Gąsiorowski, Tomasz Jurek, and Izabela Skierska (2011), Najstarsza księga promocji Wydziału Sztuk Uniwersytetu Krakowskiego z lat 1402-1541 (Antiquissimus liber promotionum Facultatis Artium in Universitate Cracoviensi a. 1402-1541) . Warszawa: Instytut Historii PAN, ISBN 978-83-88909-91-7; 83-88909-91-6. (p. 92 no. 36 and p. 106 (facsimile): “Henricus de Bevinden”).
  • Franz Rothenbacher (ed.) (2006), Das Lagerbuch der Reichsherrschaft Justingen aus dem Jahre 1497. Mannheim: Franz Rothenbacher. [2]
  • Franz Rothenbacher (2016), Die Sammlung Anton Kley: alte wertvolle Bücher von Heinrich Bebel, Johannes Stöffler, Caspar von Schwenckfeld und anderen Autoren mit Bezug zu Justingen. Mannheim: Franz Rothenbacher. [3]
  • Albert Schilling (1881), Die Reichsherrschaft Justingen: A Contribution to the History of Alb and Upper Swabia. Stuttgart: self-published by the author.
  • Albert Wesselski (1907), Heinrich Bebels Schwänke: Zum ersten Male in vollständiger Übertragung hrsg. by …. 2 vols. Munich and Leipzig: Georg Müller.
  • Georg Wilhelm Zapf (1802), Heinrich Bebel nach seinem Leben und Schriften: Ein Beitrag zur ältern Litteratur und zur Gelehrtengeschichte Schwabens. Augsburg: At the expense of the author and on commission from Joh. Georg Christoph Braun (reprint: Leipzig: Zentralantiquariat, 1973) [4].

Web links

Wikisource: Heinrich Bebel– Sources and full texts

Individual references

  1. Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Historii; wydali Antoni Gąsiorowski, Tomasz Jurek, and Izabela Skierska 2011, p. 106 (facsimile)
  2. Source: Heinrich Bebel, Ars versificandi et carminum condendorum cum quantitatibus syllabarum Henrici Bebelii Justingensis Poete Laureati: Denuo et exactissime per auctore correcta, cum additionibus multis. Nuremberg: Joannis Stuchs, 1519, title page.
  3. The proven Bebel connoisseur Classen (1997b: 91) claims 1473 (“et non 1472”) as the year of birth, and Mertens (2008: column 143) specifies mid-1473.
  4. For the genealogy of the “Bebel” family, see the genealogical table of the Bebel family in Rothenbacher 2016, p. 74f.; the most recent comprehensive account of Heinrich Bebel is Mertens 2008.
  5. Wesselski 1907, vol. 1, p. IV: the date of death 1495 was here erroneously referred to the father instead of the grandfather of Heinrich Bebel.
  6. The following argumentation is based on Rothenbacher 2016, p. 74f.
  7. Barner 1982, p. 29ff.
  8. Walther Ludwig 1995, p. 252.
  9. Mertens 2008, column 143; Classen 1997: pp. 3-6.
  10. HSTA Stuttgart H 129 vol. 180, fol. 22 u. 31. Edition: Rothenbacher 2006.
  11. HStA Stuttgart H 234 vol. 5, Schelklingen, entry no. 27.
  12. HStA Stuttgart H 234 vol. 6, Schelklingen, entry no. 86.
  13. HStA Stuttgart H 234 vol. 8, Schelklingen, entry no. 76.
  14. HStA Stuttgart H 234 vol. 6, Schelklingen, entry no. 24 and 54.
  15. HStA Stuttgart H 234 vol. 6, Schelklingen, entry no. 54 and 86.
  16. HStA Stuttgart H 234 vol. 8, Schelklingen, entry no. 44 and 76.
  17. Eberl 1978a, p. 88f. u. Eberl 1978b, No. 608 p. 268.
  18. Wesselski 1907, vol. 1, p. IV; Haller 1927, part 1, p. 212; part 2, p. 77*; Zapf 1802, p. 62f.
  19. Schilling 1881, p. 144.
  20. Schilling 1881, p. 144.
  21. Mertens 2008, column 143; Wesselski 1907, vol. 1, p. V.
  22. See under works.
  23. Schilling 1881, p. 144.
  24. Schilling 1881, p. 145; Oratio ad regem Maximilianum de laudibus atque amplitudine Germaniae. Pforzheim: Thomas Anshelm, 1504.
  25. Schilling 1881, p. 145.
  26. Schilling 1881, p. 145.
  27. Translation and reprint of the letter in Schilling 1881, p. 145f; edition and translation in Kühlmann, Seidel, and Wiegand 1997, pp. 204-211; cf. more recently Baier 2019.
  28. Angres 2003, pp. 8, 14 and 21.
  29. Wesselski (1907), vol. 1 p. XVII u. vol. 2 Fazetie 41.
  30. According to Schilling 1881, p. 147, Bebel died in 1516 in Blaubeuren, where he had fled from the plague.
  31. After Schilling 1881, p. 146.
  32. Oratio ad regem Maximilianum …; edition in Zinsmaier and Bebel 2007, pp. 7-63.
  33. Many monasteries were reformed in the late 15th century; for the events at Urspring Monastery, known to Heinrich Bebel, cf. Gredanna von Freyberg
  34. The impoverishment and the slide of the lower nobility into robber baronialism.
  35. Haller 1929, p. 54.