1st Edition

Theuerdank The Illustrated Epic of a Renaissance Knight

Edited By Howard Louthan Copyright 2022
    324 Pages 124 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    324 Pages 124 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Now appearing in its first English translation, Theuerdank introduces readers to the fascinating world of the Renaissance. A forerunner of the graphic novel, Theuerdank , first published in 1517, includes more than 100 woodcuts executed by leading artists of Central Europe.

    Long hailed by scholars as a masterpiece of German literature, Theuerdank is a fictional account of Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I (1508– 19) and his journey to wed one of the most influential princesses of Europe, the wealthy heiress Mary of Burgundy. Through word and image, this epic poem, which casts Maximilian as Knight Theuerdank, recounts his adventures overcoming a series of challenges to reach his goal: avalanches, lightning strikes, shipwrecks, murder plots, duels, and pitched battles. From politics and propaganda to the environment and the natural world, from intimate glimpses of daily life to revolutionary innovations in warfare, Theuerdank sheds light on those critical changes transforming European society and culture in this period.

    With the inclusion of an introductory essay, chronology, genealogical tables, maps, translator’s note, and discussion questions, this volume is a useful tool for students of history, art history, German, and Renaissance studies.


    A. Historical background (biographical sketch of Emperor Maximilian and assessment of Habsburg family in the early 16th century)

    B. Development of print media and its propagandistic use by Maximilian

    C. Theuerdank—a text between the medieval and modern


    Glossary of Terms and Names

    Habsburg Genealogy

    Chronological Chart


    Discussion Questions 

    Suggestions for Further Readings





    Howard Louthan is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota. His scholarship focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of Central Europe. His publications include Print Culture at the Crossroads (2021) and Converting Bohemia (2009).

    Jonathan Green teaches German in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at the University of North Dakota. His books include Printing and Prophecy: Prognostication and Media Change, 1450– 1550 (2011) and The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess: Paths of Prophecy in Reformation Europe (2014).

    PRIZE - The Modern Language Association of America Scaglione Prize 2023 - Honorable Mention. 

    "Jonathan Green daringly and convincingly presents Emperor Maximilian’s 1517 narrative poem Theuerdank—about a knight who must overcome myriad moral obstacles to reach his beloved Princess Ehrenrich—as a protographic novel. It is an especially rich edition, with reproductions of more than one hundred intricate woodcuts and with many supporting materials (maps, chronology, a key to the characters and narrative, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading). Only in Green’s meticulous and pioneeringly readable prose version of the Early New High German poem does “the greatest German book of the Renaissance” come alive as a work that can be compared with Machiavelli’s Prince or Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso."

    ‘This vivid translation of one of the most important sources to understand innovation in early modern print culture and Habsburg power politics. A ground-breaking achievement, this authoritative edition makes the Theuerdank fully accessible to readers and students of the Renaissance.’

    Ulinka C. Rublack

    , University of Cambridge, UK

    ‘The massive 1517 publication of Emperor Maximilian’s Theuerdank (Augsburg: Hans Schönsperger) remains one of the great books of the early age of printing, renowned not only for its brilliant woodcut illustrations but also for its pioneering use of printed Gothic script. Yet the German verses that narrate this remarkable late medieval chivalric quest romance have remained opaque to English speakers. This welcome new prose translation and illuminating introduction by Howard Louthan and Jonathan Green should restore this important work to its rightful place in early sixteenth-century literature alongside more familiar and celebrated works by Erasmus, More, Castiglione, and Machiavelli.’

    Larry Silver,

    University of Pennsylvania, USA

    ‘Louthan and Green offer an excellent prose translation of the entire poem and position all 118 of the woodcuts where they appeared in the text of the 1517 first edition. Jonathan Green translates the challenging Early New High German Knittelvers of the poem skillfully and with an attention to detail that evokes the elevated tone of the original while sparing readers the clumsier features of its jingling rhymes and leaky allegory. Howard Louthan’s introduction encourages readers to discover Central European manifestations of the Renaissance that are often overshadowed in the anglophone world by those of Italy, France, and Britain. It is sure to become a staple for introductory courses on early modern Europe and an indispensable research tool for historians, art historians, Germanists, historians of the book, and more.’

    Elaine Tennant, University of California, Berkeley, USA

    'The interdisciplinary nature of Theuerdank: The Illustrated Epic of a Renaissance Knight makes it an ideal work around which to build a course on the Renaissance. This readable and student-friendly edition will lead any reader into the world of sixteenth-century Central Europe, its history and its legends.'

    Alison L. Beringer, Montclair State University, USA in TMLR