Pirkheimer, Wilibald

Pirkheimer, Wilibald a celebrated German humanist, was born at Eichstadt, Dec. 5, 1470, of an old patrician Nuremberg family. He enjoyed a most refined education; he was at the age of eighteen introduced to the court of the bishop of Eichstadt, where he soon became proficient in every kind of knightly pursuit, and carefully cultivated his fine native talent for music. Though interrupted by several military expeditions, his literary studies, in which he was guided by Georges von Tegen and the canon Adelmann, were not neglected. In 1490 he went to the University of Padua, where he studied jurisprudence, and got familiar with the Greek language, in which he was taught by Musurus. Three years afterwards he completed his study of jurisprudence at Pavia, under Maino, Lancelot and Philip Decius. At his return to Nuremberg, 1497, he married Crescentia Rietter, whose influential family soon opened to him the doors of the senate. This assembly soon acknowledged his merit, and, in spite of his youth, entrusted him with several important negotiations. In 1499 he obtained the command of the contingent sent by the city to the emperor Maximilian I against the Swiss cantons, when his brilliant conduct during this campaign, of which he afterwards published an account won him the favor of the sovereign, who made him his counselor. Disgusted by the envious attacks of which the imperial favor was fruitful, he resigned in 1501 his functions as senator, but resumed them three years afterwards, when he was again entrusted with the most delicate negotiations, his amiable disposition and persuasive eloquence fitting him especially for this kind of affairs. In 1511 or 1512 he was sent as deputy to the diets of Treves and Cologne. In 1522 Pirkheimer retired into private life, devoting himself to study, and encouraging with all his power throughout Germany the cultivation of literature and science. His library, rich in rare manuscripts, was at the disposition of the public; his opulent mansion became the favorite resort of a chosen phalanx of literati, artists, and other persons of merit. He helped many a poor savant with his purse and his influence. He entertained friendly relations with Erasmus, Conrad Cettes, Reuchlin. Tritheme, Albert Durer, Pico de la Mirandola, etc. Unfortunately the greater part of his correspondence is lost; but what remains of it proves the truth of the words of Cochlaeus in a letter to Pirkheimer, "Eo enim hactenus in eruditos fuisti animo, ut communi studiosorum judicio habitus fueris et literarum decus et eruditionis varise atque adeo omnigene princeps." After greatly improving the condition of the schools of Nuremberg, he made that city one of the most active centers of intellectual culture. Hutten likens his influence to that of Erasmus and Reuchlin. His predilection for the classical, especially for the Greek writers, some of which he translated into Latin and German, did not lessen his interest for the history of his own country. Some parts of it he treated with a judicious criticism remarkable for that time. He also endeavored to encourage the study of mathematics and of astronomy, and finally took a most lively interest in all attempts made to reform the Church and its discipline, writing against the degenerated scholastics, and taking the part of Reuchlin against his persecutors in an eloquent pamphlet. He at first enlisted among the partisans of Luther, but soon changed his mind, being, like Erasmus, fearful lest the success of reformation might prove obnoxious to his favorite pursuits. He died at Nuremberg Dec. 22,1530. His works are Eccius dedotatus (1520, 4to), under the pseudonym of T. Fr. Cottalambergius: — Apologia seu laus podagree (Nuremb. 1522, 4to; Strasb. 1529, 1570; Amberg, 1604, 1611, 4to); this humorous pamphlet was translated into German (Nuremb. 1831, 8vo): — De vera Christi carne, ad AEcolampadium responsio (ibid. 1526, 8vo); followed by a second answer, and a pamphlet with the title De convitiis monachi illius qui AEcomlapadius nuncupatur (1527, 8vo): — Germaniae ex vatriis Scriptoribus perbrevis explicatio (ibid. 1530, 1532, 8vo): — Priscorum num morum cestimatio (Tübing. 1533; Nuremb. 1541, 4to): — Translations of several Opuscula of Plutarch, Lucian, St. Nilus, St. Gregory Nazianzenus, etc. The complete works of Pirkheimer have been collected by Goldast (Frankf. 1610, fol.); among them we find printed for the first time his Bellum Suitense seu Helveticum anno 1490, translated into German by Munch, who added thereto a life of the author (Nuremb. 1826). Pirkheimer gave the first edition of Fulgentius (ibid. 1519, 8vo); he also wrote the text to the splendid woodcuts of Albert Dilrer's Triumphal Chariot of the Emperor Maximilian. Some of his letters are to be found in Strobel's Beitrige and Miscellanea, in Waldau's Beitrage, and other collections.

His sister, Charitas Pirkheimer, born 1464, after enjoying a most liberal education, entered very young the monastery of Santa Clara at Nuremberg, of which she became abbess in 1504. She read Greek, and wrote in Latin with elegance. Some of her letters in that language to Erasmus and others have been preserved. She died in 1532. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, 40, 304.

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