The Book of Trades (Das Ständebuch)

The Book of Trades was published in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1568, with text by Hans Sachs (1494–1576) and illustrations by Jost Amman (1539–91). It features detailed woodcut illustrations of various professions, each accompanied by a short poem in rhyming couplets and provides a fascinating insight into the diverse trades and crafts practised in 16th-century Nuremberg.

 

Hans Sachs was born in Nuremburg in 1494. A cobbler by trade, he had also learnt the art of the Meistersinger (master singer). This enabled him to compose poetry and music. When he died, in 1576, his works numbered more than 1700. They included comedies, topical poetry and short plays to celebrate religious festivals.

In the 'Book of Trades', Sachs emphasises the importance of hard work and modest living to achieve a pious existence and a harmonious society. His views reflected the Protestant doctrines of Martin Luther, whose beliefs had been rejected by the Catholic Church at Nuremberg in 1522.

Sachs's descriptions are not an entirely faithful reflection of Nuremberg society. He makes derogatory and anti-Semitic references to the Jewish community, even though the town had expelled the Jews in 1499. His attitude to pilgrims reflects his Protestant sympathies.