Non-fiction literature in the 13th to 15th century

Even though didactic poetry is only represented in a few linguistic monuments of courtly classical Bavaria (Der Winsbeke, 1210/20; Bescheidenheit des Freidank, 1215-30), it can be said that it has an exceptional status in German literature of the Middle Ages with regard to its scope and practical utility value. All the more so since "Der welsche Gast" (The Romance Stranger) by Thomasîn von Zerclaere (1186-1238), written at the court of the Patriarch of Aquileia, the former Passau Bishop Wolfger von Erla (1191-1204), is the first monumental didactic poem of the Middle Ages written in German and the first comprehensive doctrine of behaviour and virtue in the German language. For an audience that includes "vrume rîter, guote vrouwen, wîse phaffen" (brave knights, good noble ladies, wise clergy) and which is denied access to Latin specialist literature.

Late medieval utility literature in Bavaria also experiences a rich development in terms of scope, themes and forms. New subject areas are opened up for the German prose language, e.g. in legal literature, in scientific literature, but also in astronomy, astrology, the mnemonics, fortune-telling and historiography.

In bourgeois, urban areas, historiography is divided into the high medieval type of universal history (World Chronicle by Rudolf von Ems [1200-1250/54], World Chronicle by Heinrich von München [1st half of the 14th century]) or comes to the fore in numerous city chronicles. The Chronicle of Augsburg by Sigismund Meisterlin (c. 1435-after 1497) is also the first German humanistic history to be based to some extent on source criticism. The new genre of family history, on the other hand, is based on the "Püchel von mein geslecht und von abentewr" (Book of my family and adventures) by the Nuremberg councillor and entrepreneur Ulman Stromer (1329-1407).

The first natural history in German is the Buch der Natur (Book of Nature) by Konrad von Megenberg (1309-1374), a native of today's Mäbenberg, canon and pastor of St. Ulrich in Regensburg. He does not just publish German-language learning literature for merchants in the cities (cf. his astronomical textbook Deutsche Sphaera) but offers a natural history handbook with this work that is almost exclusively used and popular until well into the 16th century. Another type of utility literature are the divination books by Konrad Bollstatter (c. 1420-1482) to predict the future from the weather to political events. Bollstatter, who lived in Augsburg since 1466, copied a large number of German manuscripts, including important early humanistic works such as the Ackermann from Bohemia.

Bernhard Hirschvelder (died c. 1503), the master scribe from Nördlingen, compiles his mnemonics, a special branch of rhetoric within the Artes liberales. This Ars memorativa, "Ein kurtzer Tractat Der edlen vnd hochgelopten kunst der gedechtnus" (A short treatise on the noble and highly praised art of memory), was written between 1470 and 1475 and came into the possession of the Nuremberg physician and humanist Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514).

Finally, the Upper German legal books "Deutschespiegel" and "Schwabenspiegel" from the Augsburg Franciscan Circle around 1270/75 should be mentioned. The significance of the latter mainly lies in the further development of German law, the introduction of canonistic and Old Testament ideas and the enrichment of the German language in the Middle Ages.