Popular Culture

Reineke de Vos mit dem Koker
Wolfenbüttel: Frytag, 1711
Edited by Friedrich August Hackmann

One of the most enduring fables of European folklore has been the cycle of stories concerning knavish Reynard the Fox and his ability to outwit Isengrim the Wolf, Bruin the Bear, King Noble the Lion, and other animal characters. Le Roman du Rénard probably originated in the French-Flemish border region during the eleventh or twelfth century. Over succeeding centuries, the fable served not only as a means for literary expression, but also as a vehicle for satirical comment on human vices and weaknesses and on the corruptions of feudal institutions. The oldest known German version was composed in 1180 by an Alsatian monk, Heinrich der Glichezaere, but the major source for later German adaptations is to be found in the Flemish Reinaert de Vos, written by one Willem around 1250. Willem's version served as the basis for a Low Saxon incunable edition, Reynke de Vos, produced at Lübeck in 1498, which in turn was edited by the German scholar Friedrich August Hackmann (fl. 1709 ­ 1734) in 1711. Along with the tales of Reynard, Hackmann introduced De Koker, a poem of uncertain authorship consisting mainly of old proverbs.

Ernst Christoph Homburg
Geistliche Lieder
Jena: Georg Sengenwalden, 1659
Two volumes in one

Following the example of Martin Luther, many sixteenth-century German hymnists sought to express the new religious consciousness in vernacular songs. In the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), poets, song-writers, and musicians turned to the composition of such traditional songs as a means of comfort and solace during difficult times. Ernst Christoph Homburg (1605 ­ 1681), a legal counsel and court clerk at Naumberg who had gained a reputation as a poet, was brought by personal tragedy to create 150 moving spiritual songs. His Geistliche Lieder appeared in two volumes: in 1658 at Naumberg with music by Werner Fabricius, and in 1659 at Jena based on the melodies of Paul Becker. Homburg's compositions, dealing especially with penitence, passion, consolation, and death, are vigorous and eloquent. Several, including "Jesu, meines Lebens Leben," are still in use.

Wolfgang Helmhard Hohberg
Georgica curiosa
Nuremberg: Martin Endters, 1701 ­ 1715
Three volumes in two

Following the devastation brought to Germany by the Thirty Years War, the local nobility and landed gentry faced the ruin of their properties and the loss of their life-styles. A work which rekindled enthusiasm for domestic life among the propertied class was Georgica curiosa (1682), written by the agricultural writer Wolfgang Helmhard Hohberg (1612 ­ 1688). The text, which became extremely popular, is essentially a manual for the landed gentry, discussing agriculture, technology, economics, and political history. The first part treats the establishment of a manor, administration and finances, horticulture, vineyards, and the production of wine. The second part addresses field cultivation, care of meadows, animal husbandry, beekeeping, fishing, hunting, social gatherings, and the historical events which led up to the Thirty Years War.

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Jeppe
Herbarium vivum
Rostock: A. F. Achilles, 1826

Little is known about the life of Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Jeppe except that he was a merchant at Rostock when he published his Herbarium vivum, an early seed catalogue, in 1826. The work contains pressed mounted specimens of fifty species of fodder, grasses, and noxious weeds, a knowledge of which Jeppe considered essential for local merchants and agriculturalists. For the weeds, he suggested means of control and eradication. Yet the majority of the plants presented in the Herbarium vivum are beneficial grasses, and Jeppe gave their distinguishing characteristics, soil preferences, and practical uses. Each description is provided with a carefully prepared specimen of the plant, including flowers and seed-clusters. Jeppe's catalogue served, no doubt, as a useful source of information for his customers, who, according to an enclosed subscription list, included pastors, military leaders, nobility, and landed gentry.