From The Autobiography of Johannes Butzbach, A Wandering Scholar of the Fifteenth Century, [Hodoporicon] Translated from the German by Robert Francis Seybolt and Paul Monroe; Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1933; pp. i-iv.
This little autobiography presents a contemporary description of the life of a wandering scholar of the fifteenth century. It is a valuable, original source of information concerning the bacchant and his servant, the “ABC-shooter.” The hardships endured by these familiar characters of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are clearly and vividly pictured by one of their number. The author not only corroborates the narratives of Burkhard Zink and Thomas Platter, but relates much that is unique. His tale is never dull; one adventure following another is recounted in brief and interesting fashion.
Johannes Butzbach, 1478-1526, was born in Miltenberg, whence Johannes Piemontanus, the name he preferred to use, after the manner of his day. At the age of eighteen, after much wandering, he became a lay brother in the Benedictine monastery at Johannisberg. Inspired by the peaceful, contented lives of the brothers, he decided to prepare for the cloister, and take the vows. He learned there that the higher offices in the monastic life were usually occupied by educated men. With this in mind, he entered the famous school at Deventer, where he remained two years, 1498-1500. Here, he met the scholarly Rector, Alexander Hegius, who had had among his pupils Erasmus, Caesarius, and Murmellius; and whose reputation attracted students from many countries. Butzbach’s circumstantial account of his studies contains one of the very few contemporary descriptions of life at this celebrated seat of learning.
On December 18, 1500, Butzbach entered the Benedictine monastery at Laach. Within a year after iv his profession, he was chosen instructor of the novices. Early in 1507, he was elected Prior, in which office he remained until his death.
Butzbach was a voluminous writer in both prose and verse. His various works reveal a familiarity with Cato, Caesar, Cicero, Sallust, Horace, Virgil, Livy, Ovid, Seneca, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and many authors of his own time. Among his friends were some of the most distinguished lights of the New Learning in Germany: Johann Trithemius, Johann Reuchlin, Willibald Pirckheimer, Conrad Celtes, Eberhard von Kamp, and Sebastian Brant.
The text used for the translation is D. J. Becker’s Chronica eines fahrender Schülers, oder Wanderbüchlein des Johannes Butzbach (Regensberg, 1869). Footnotes have been reduced to the minimum. An appendix has been added for the purpose of making accessible the appropriate portion of Burkhard Zink’s autobiography.
Robert Francis Seybolt