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Sebastian Brant

Sebastian Brant

*  1447 Straßburg
† 1521 Straßburg

The humanist and poet Sebastian Brant was born in Strasbourg in 1458. Brant composed "The Ship of Fools" ("das Narrenschiff"), the most popular book of the 16th century. Brant studied law and classical languages at the University of Basel beginning in 1475. He received his doctorate in 1489 and became a professor in Basel in 1496. Brant was named dean of the school of law at the University of Basel in 1492. When Basel seceded from the German Reich and entered the Swiss Confederation in 1499, Brant gave up teaching as a professor. Besides Brant's main work, he wrote flyers and moral tracts. "Ship of Fools" was printed the first of many times in Strasbourg in 1494 and was soon reworked and translated into Latin, French, English, and Dutch, quickly becoming a European bestseller. Over 100 woodcuts illustrate the 113 chapters on human vice, weakness, and folly. These illustrations, 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. Brant returned to Strasbourg in 1501 and became a legal advisor. In 1503, he was appointed to the highest civil office, city chronicler. Brant was then named royal advisor and assessor to the Court in Speyer by Kaiser Maximilian I, where 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" (1509) by Ulrich Tenglers and the "Klangspiegel" (1516) by Conrad Heyden. Sebastian Brant died in Strasbourg in 1521.