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The Rise of a Burgher – Burkard Zink (1397-1474/75)

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Then I went to Bamberg, where I rented from Johannes Frank, who was a procurator in the episcopal tribunal, and I also boarded with him. I stayed with him for half a year and then went to Würzburg. At the time I was there, a measure of good wine cost 1 penny. [ . . . ] Know that on the day I arrived at Würzburg, the bishop of Würzburg left the city [with his troops] and returned the same day. They went to a large village to punish a nobleman named Seckendorf. He had plundered the village and burned the church and the towers, in which about 400 peasants had taken refuge. This was told to me by two soldiers who were eyewitnesses, one named Zwiffel, the other Liecht. They were lodging with me when this happened. The bishop was a prince of Bavaria (5).

In 1419 I returned to Augsburg and lodged with a rich man, Jos Kramer, a big fellow in the city. He was a builder, though he belonged to the Weavers’ Guild. Yet he didn’t practice this trade, for which he had no use, but was a merchant with business in Styria and also in Venice. He owned at least 100 bales of barchent (6), and I did all his business at Venice, Frankfurt, and Nuremberg. He was truly an honorable man who treated me well. May God in heaven repay him and care for his soul.

I marry my first wife.

When I lived with this master, I married a poor woman, the daughter of a widow named Störkler from Möringen. She was a poor but honorable woman, who brought me [as dowry] nothing more than a small bed, a calf, and a few pans and other poor things, worth no more than ten lbs. altogether. I, too, had little, just a good suit of clothes and not much cash. Yet I was well trained and could earn money, which I would willingly do. Though my master was generous, this is all we possessed, what we’d earned. My wife was named Elizabeth, and she was at that time maid to Jos Kramer, my master, whom I also served (as I’ve already said). We took one another in good friendship. This happened in 1420, eight days after Pentecost Sunday. And after our wedding, I was unsure as to what I should do, for I possessed nothing. I no longer had my master’s favor, for I’d lost it, for he took it badly that I had married my wife without his counsel. So now he would neither advise nor assist me. So I didn’t know what to do. My wife, however, was dear to me, and I liked her company. When I spoke with her of our situation, she was generous and consoling. She said: “My Burkhart, buck up and don’t despair. We will help one another, and we will get out of this situation. I will spin on my wheel and will produce each week a good 4 lbs., that is, 32 pence.” And since my wife was so trusting, I perked up and thought I could do some writing and see if I could find a priest for whom I could write. However much or little you earn, I thought, your wife is earning 32 pence, and all will be well. And perhaps God will grant that we survive. There was a priest at Our Lady’s Church, Sir Conrad Seybolt from Memmingen, who was a curate at Our Lady’s. He liked me, because he was also from Memmingen, where he had taught school, and I had been his pupil. I went to him and said that I had married and didn’t know what I should do. I would gladly write for pay, but I had nothing with which to write. The good man was glad that I wanted to write, for he wanted someone to write for him. He said, “If you write for me, I will employ you for pay for a whole year.” He therefore brought me a large book of parchment, which belonged to Master Rudolph, a cathedral canon and pastor at Our Lady’s Church, and also a graduated doctor. The book was called Compendium of St. Thomas [Aquinas]. He allowed me to take the book home and gave me a gulden, so that I could buy paper and begin to write. So I went home to my wife and told her what I’d done, which made her happy. And so I began to write, and in one week I wrote four twelve-page gatherings of large-sized paper karta regal, and I took the four to my employer. He was pleased with my speedy start, also with my hand, and he promised me four groschen per gathering. Thereafter I wrote fifty gatherings for him and earned a lot of money. My wife and I sat together, and I wrote while she span, and often we earned 3 lbs. in a week. We often sat there together for the whole evening. And all went well for us, for we earned what we needed. As we started our life together, there was a great plague, which began in the fall of the year 1420 and drove down the price of everything. [ . . . ] In the countryside and in town, things were fine and good. Everyone who survived got rich, but there were deaths without measure here in the city and everywhere on the land. [ . . . ]

(5) An error for Bishop Johann von Brunn (1411-40), who was an Alsatian – trans.
(6) Barchent, a cloth woven of wool and cotton, was a specialty of Augsburg and Upper Swabia – trans.

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