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A Swabian Cobbler-Farmer Survives the Thirty Years War – Hans Heberle (1597-1677)

Hans Heberle (1597-1677) had attended school before starting an apprenticeship at the age of fourteen. A cobbler by trade, he worked a small farm a few kilometers north of Ulm. His Zeytregister, an account of noteworthy events during the Thirty Years War, is a very rare memoir from his social class. After witnessing the comet of 1618, Heberle was inspired to chronicle his experiences and the great events of his time. From observing events and documenting their consequences, talking to travelers and others, and reading broadsheets, he managed to compile an astonishing mixture of local, regional, and Imperial news. On a personal level, he and his wife suffered hunger, dearth, and exile, and the deaths of seven children. Heberle died at the age of 80 in 1677.

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Chronicle of the Era

This is a memorial book containing many histories and believable matters about conditions during the recent, miserable, disturbed, wicked, bad, perverted, and despicable world, such as we see every day in full course. And whoever wants to know what caused me to write this brief history, can read about it clearly in the preface.

Everything is dutifully recorded, with the greatest brevity, by Johannes Heberle, cobbler at Neenstetten.

In the year of Our Lord 1618.

[ . . . ]

The Great Comet and the Start of the War (1618 and 1619)

In 1618 a great comet appeared in the form of great and terrible rod, which was accorded us by and through God because of our sinful lives, which we have richly earned in the past and continue to earn daily. This comet was visible from autumn until the following spring. Its meaning and consequences should have been greeted with hot tears, as we experience and as we experienced between 1620 and 1630. Such events cannot be adequately described, as this little book richly reveals. [ . . . ]

In 1619 Ferdinand II became Roman emperor, under whom began a great visitation of war, revolts, and the letting of much Christian blood, as many examples show. First of all, he began war in Bohemia, which land he subjugated and forced into his religion, and the same in the following years with the lands of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Lüneburg, Brandenburg, Pomerania, Gotland, Austria, Moravia, the Lands above the Enns [Upper Austria], Silesia, the Rhine Palatinate, yea, almost all of Germany, more than I can tell or describe.

[ . . . ]

The Inflation (1622)

[In 1622] what happened concerning the money I will briefly relate and describe a bit, though no one can comprehend how many kinds of coins there are, because all the emperors and kings, princes and lords, counts and nobles, cities and villages, even tinkers and vagabonds, have coined and are permitted to coin money. For which reason so many and so many kinds of coins exist, that it would take a learned tongue and good vision to be able to see and to read all of the inscriptions. There are many coins which are counterfeit or of light weight, which are not to be accepted. It was fine in the beginning, when the coins were all of pure silver, but later, within three, four, five, or perhaps eight weeks they declined and went red with copper, except for the thaler and the old money. Since the money became bad and worth nothing, no one wanted to be paid off with such crappy coin, because it was worth nothing. This caused great complaint in every land. [ . . . ]

If someone kept money for a quarter of a year, it lost its value and was worth half its former value, or perhaps nothing at all. [ . . . ]

Concerning small copper coins, which are minted everywhere, such as kreutzers, zweyers, and pence, I can say, first of all, that everyone wants to have them, especially the copper coins from Ulm, for in some places the Ulm kreutzer is worth half a batzen. Recently, at Dinckelsbühl I bought a new collection of [Cyriakus] Spangenberg's sermons for 20 batzen in copper kreutzers, which in other money would have cost me three florins. [ . . . ]

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