What is it about?

Despite the invention of the printing press in ca. 1450, manuscript culture continued well into the 16th c. This is impressively illustrated in the case of the famous Ambraser Heldenbuch, commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I and written between 1504 and 1516. This article examines the reason why the intriguing verse narrative "Mauritius von Craun" was included, for the first time in any manuscript. The poet dealt with the downfall of courtly culture and courtly love, so it might well have been that the patron did not even realize what the critical points of this text are which almost undermines the entire project of this massive manuscript. We are dealing here with a kind of retrograde courtly narrative, at a time when courtly ideals were already in a dangerous decline.

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Why is it important?

Studying manuscript culture versus print culture at around 1500 sheds important light on the process of the paradigm shift resulting from the print technology, which was, however, resisted by the upper aristocracy and urban elites. This study also brings into focus many of the critical issues in the verse narrative of the highly intriguing "Mauritius von Craun."


The Ambraser Heldenbuch represents a major collection of medieval heroic epics, romances, and verse narratives at a time when printing was already well established. Here we observe an excellent case to understand the discourse around 1500 regarding the manuscript versus the printed book.

Albrecht Classen

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This page is a summary of: A Closer Look at the Sixteenth-century Ambraser Heldenbuch, Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, October 2022, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/18756719-12340267.
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