Imperial literature in the 15th and 16th century

In the 15th and 16th centuries, a completely different literary life to the one in the Wittelsbach residence city of Munich developed in the imperial cities of Augsburg and Nuremberg. They establish themselves as literary centres for their surroundings and at the same time unite the new learning literature originating from universities, i.e. early New High German texts of the "septem artes liberales" (rhetoric, grammar, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music), medicine and theology of the Habsburg Viennese School. In addition to the citizen's chronicles (Weltchronik, Chronik von Augsburg, Buch der Croniken und geschichten), the shaping of the late medieval song genre also flourishes in these imperial cities. The "Augsburger Liederbuch" of 1454, the songbook by the Augsburg professional writer Clara Hätzlerin (1471), the so-called "Lochamer Liederbuch" by the Nuremberg patrician Lochamer (c. 1452/60) and the (Munich) songbook by the Nuremberg physician and humanist Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) are particularly noteworthy. The latter was written during Schedel's academic years from 1461 to 67 and is important evidence of the German tenor song from the second half of the 15th century.

In addition, there is the phenomenon of "Meistersang", which is organised by guilds and is mainly based in Nuremberg. This is cultivated in a firm singing school tradition according to strict metric-musical rules. In many respects, the Meisterlieder songs are close to the courtly poetry of the late 12th and 14th centuries, whose melodies and stanzaic forms they adopt. The stanzas follow the bar form pattern (AAB), with two "Stollen" in the "Aufgesang" (A) and one in the "Abgesang" (B) that repeats the same melody. Among the most important Nuremberg representatives of the Meistersang, besides Muskatblüt (around 1390-1458?) and Michel Beheim, are the Meistersingers Hans Folz (1435/40-1513) and Hans Sachs (1494-1576). This manuscript (Meisterlieder) is partly autograph and represents the main source of Folz's song art; at the same time, it is evidence of the Nürnberger Singschule which he presumably co-founded. The Nuremberg Meistersang reached its climax in the 16th century with Hans Sachs though. The master shoemaker is the best-known representative of 16th century bourgeois imperial literature with the Meisterlied becoming a mouthpiece of the Reformation through his work. In this volume of Meisterlieder by Linhart Ferber (before 1559-1585) with more than 160 Meisterlieder from the years 1530 to 1593, you will find works by Linhart Ferber, Sebastian Wild (died after 1538) and Benedikt von Watt (1569-1616) as well as 13 handwritten works by Hans Sachs (1494-1576).

Meisterlieder are already collated in codices early by those interested in such art. With around 940 songs with melodies mostly from the late 14th and first half of the 15th century, the Kolmar song manuscript, most likely written in 1459/62 in Speyer and reaching Munich in 1857, is probably the most extensive and important manuscript of this kind.

Another genre that was much cultivated in late medieval Nuremberg (the Shrovetide play would have to be added) is expressed in the rhyming couplet saying of a didactic or farcical nature. City praise, political, historical topics, spiritual speeches etc. are among its repertoire. Hans Rosenplüt (around 1400-1460) from Nuremberg, the first known craftsman poet of German literature, fairy tale poet of the Middle Ages and pioneer of the Nuremberg Meisterlied, tried his hand at it. He wrote the earliest example of a city praise poem of humanistic value, his "Spruch von der Stadt Nürnberg" (Laudation of Nuremberg) (1447). However, the genre of the prose novel, which established itself in book printing at the end of the 15th century, also reached its peak for the first time in another imperial city – the Fortunatus folk book printed by Johann Otmar in Augsburg in 1509, the "first bourgeois novel". It describes the rise and fall of two generations of a Cypriot merchant family.