Sigmund von Birken

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Sigmund von Birken, honorary gift from Jacob von Sandrart

Sigmund von Birken (also Sigismund von Birken ; born April 25, 1626 in Wildstein near Eger ; † June 12, 1681 in Nuremberg ) was a Protestant German poet, writer and translator of the Baroque , member of the Pegnesian Order of Flowers in Nuremberg and the Fruitful Society , the so-called Palm Order.



Birken was the son of Daniel Betulius, the local pastor of Wildstein near Eger in Bohemia . In 1629 the Protestant family was expelled from there for reasons of faith and fled to Nuremberg, their mother's hometown. Until his ennoblement in 1654, the poet was called Sigmund (or Sigismundus) Betulius.

Early years of poetry

After attending the Latin school of the Heilig-Geist-Spital in Nuremberg, Birken studied law in Jena from 1643 to 1644 . At the turn of the year 1644/45 he broke off his studies without a degree and went back to Nuremberg. There he wrote his first major work in the spring of 1645, the continuation of the Pegnitz sheep farm and became a member of the Pegnesian Flower Order under the pseudonym "Floridan" . From the end of the year to October 1646 he worked as court master (teacher and educator) of Princes Anton Ulrich and Ferdinand Albrecht and their sisters Sibylle Ursula , Clara Augusta and Maria Elisabeth at the court in Wolfenbüttel . After he was released there - probably involuntarily - a two-year hike through northern Germany followed. a. Johann Rist got to know and which led him to Rostock .

Birken earned his money again as court master. In November 1648 he returned to Nuremberg. In the following two years he became known as a poet beyond the borders of his homeland: in 1649 and 1650 envoys from all over Germany and Sweden met in Nuremberg to negotiate the provisions for the implementation of the Peace of Westphalia . Birken made a name for himself as a poet with verses of praise for the head of the imperial delegation, Octavio Piccolomini , and performed his peace play Teutscher Kriegs Ab- und Friedens-Einzug with Nuremberg students .

Birken also worked as a poet and educator in the following years. He tried to establish himself as a freelance writer, but could not make a living from this activity. In Gottlieb Amadeus von Windisch-Graetz , with whom he had made friends in Nuremberg, he found an influential supporter at the court in Vienna . In May 1654 he was with his support from Emperor Ferdinand III. Elevated to the nobility and appointed imperial court palatinate count . Since then he has called himself "von Birken".

Social activity

The acquaintance with Windischgrätz in 1658 led to the fact that Birken was accepted into the Fruit-Bringing Society by Duke Wilhelm IV of Saxony-Weimar . Birken was given the company name “the adult” and the motto “in greater honor”. The “white double violet” was given to him as an emblem. Birken is registered as the 681st member in the Köthen Society Register of the Fruit Bringing Society. As early as 1644, Birken was accepted into the German-minded cooperative by Philipp von Zesen - probably without his knowledge.

In 1662 he became president of the " Pegnese Flower Order ". The poet society was founded in 1644 by Georg Philipp Harsdörffer and Johann Klaj , both of whom had died in the meantime. Under Birken as the "chief shepherd" the number of members increased many times over. It is thanks to him that he was the first to include women in a group of poets. Up until Birken's death, the members of the order wrote hundreds of shepherd poems on births, weddings and deaths, which were published in small fonts as so-called occasional poems .

Artistic creation

Birken, one of the most diverse and productive authors of the 17th century, emerged as a shepherd poet as well as a writer of devotional hymns , historical writings and historical dramas.

With the Danube beach , a 1664 on the occasion of the Turkish wars published descriptions of historical sites along the Danube course , he landed a real bestseller in the book market: All 2,000 copies of the book were sold out within a few weeks, followed by about 20 more runs.

His most extensive writing is the mirror of the honors of the Archaeological House of Austria from 1668, illustrated with hundreds of copperplate engravings , in which the history of the Habsburgs from the Middle Ages to Emperor Maximilian I is retold on 1,500 pages . In similar writings, Birken glorified the Welfenhaus ( Guelfis , 1669) and the Saxon electors ( Sächsischer Heldensaal , 1677).

In his foreword to Anton Ulrich's Aramena von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, he was the first author in German to deal theoretically with the literary genre of the novel .

Birken is less known as a translator of Latin and French texts and an anonymous “ ghostwriter ” for other authors and publishers. A good example of this activity is the Orbis sensualium pictus by Johann Amos Comenius , a textbook for learning foreign languages ​​that was used until the 19th century and that Birken not only worked on but also completely redesigned. The German vocabulary was significantly influenced by birch trees.

Over the years, Birken created a close-knit network of contacts and had connections to prominent Baroque writers such as Johann Wilhelm von Stubenberg , Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg , Georg Neumark and Justus Georg Schottel . He acted as a contact point for all kinds of literary services and was highly respected by his contemporaries. Together with the Nuremberg theologian Johann Michael Dilherr he created several emblematic edification books , together with composers like Johann Erasmus Kindermann many sacred songs. Birken also worked with the best artists of his time, such as Jacob and Joachim von Sandrart . He supported him as a background author in his art theoretical work Teutsche Akademie der Noble Bau-, Bild- und Malereikünste (1675 and 1679) and in his adaptation of Vincenzo Cartaris Le imagini colla sposizione degli dei degli antichi (German title: Iconologia Deorum or Illustration of the gods worshiped by the ancients ) (1680).


Towards the end of his life, Birken published the Teutsche Rede-bind- und Dicht-Kunst as the sum of his experiences . In this work, one of the last typical Baroque poetics , he quotes hundreds of his own poems as exemplary for the poet's student. In the 17th century, this was not seen as a matter of genius , as it is today , but as a craft that could be learned. Accordingly, hundreds of rules are demonstrated which the poetry student should learn in order to be able to write “good” poems.

Sigmund von Birken died on June 12, 1681 in Nuremberg and was buried in the Johannisfriedhof . After his death the Pegnese Flower Order soon went downhill. It still exists today as an association of Nuremberg citizens who proudly refer to their literary past.

Birken's legacy is of great value for further research into Baroque literature : he left around 10,000 manuscript pages and around 2,000 letters from 400 correspondents for posterity. Today they are kept in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg. The manuscripts show that Birken was also a talented draftsman and was able to compose. On this as yet untapped basis, one will have to reassess Birken's central role in 17th century literature.

Of his numerous sacred songs, two can still be found in the Evangelical Hymn book : the Passion Song of Jesus, I want to consider your Passion now (EG 88, also used by Johann Sebastian Bach in BWV 5 and in a version of the St. John Passion ) and Let us with Jesus pull (EG 384).

His grave is in the Johannisfriedhof (Nuremberg) (grave no. D 54b).

Works (selection)

  • German war withdrawal and peace entry , peace game, 1650
  • The fried-delighted Teutonie , historical publication , 1652 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Spiritual incense , devotional poems, 1652
  • Eastern laurel grove. A poem of honor from the most laudable ore house of Austria , 1657
  • The Danube Beach , geographical work, 1664
  • Pegnesian conversation game society , shepherd poems, 1665 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Spiegel der Ehren des Erzhaus Austria , historical publication, 1668 together with Johann Jakob Fugger (Ed.)
  • Thoughts of death and mementos of the dead , devotional poems, 1670
  • Pegnesis , two volume collection of shepherd seals, 1673 and 1679A
  • Teutsche Rede-bind- und Dicht-Kunst , Poetics, 1679
  • Margenis , Peace Game , 1679
  • Holy Sunday trade and church walk , sacred songs, 1681

Modern editions

  • Klaus Garber et al. (Ed.): Sigmund von Birken: Works and correspondence. Niemeyer, Tübingen, ISBN 3-484-10584-4
    • Volume 11: The correspondence between Sigmund von Birken and Johann Michael Dilherr, Daniel Wülfer and Caspar von Lilien . Edited by Almut and Hartmut Laufhütte . De Gruyter, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-029181-0
      • Volume 1: Texts
      • Volume 2: Apparatus and Commentaries
    • Volume 14: Prosapia / Biographia . Edited by Dietrich Jöns, Hartmut Laufhütte. 1988, ISBN 3-484-28041-7 ( online )
  • Karl Pörnbacher (ed.): Sigmund von Birken: Die Truckene drunkenness. Kösel, Munich 1967
  • Joachim Kröll (Ed.): The diaries of Sigmund von Birken . 2 volumes, Würzburg 1971–1974
  • John Roger Paas (ed.): Unknown poems and songs by Sigmund von Birken (= Chloe , Vol. 11). Amsterdam 1990


  • Friedrich Wilhelm BautzBirches (Betulius), Sigmund von. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 600-601.
  • Joachim Kröll: Sigmund von Birken depicted from his diaries . In: Yearbook for Franconian State Research Vol. 32 (1972), pp. 111-150
  • Joachim Kröll: Sigmund Birken (1626–1681) . In: Franconian pictures of life . New series of CVs from Franconia. Vol. 9. Commission publisher Degener. Neustadt / Aisch 1980. ISBN 3-7686-9057-1 , pp. 187-203.
  • Hartmut Laufhütte: Sigmund von Birken. Life, work and afterlife. Collected Studies . Passau 2007.
  • Richard Mai: The sacred song of Sigmund von Birkens . Diss. Munich 1968
  • Thomas Neukirchen: Inscriptio. Rhetoric and Poetics of the Shrewd Inscription in the Baroque Age. Tübingen 1999 (Studies on German Literature, Vol. 152)
  • Elisabeth Renner: The shepherd and historical poems Sigmund von Birkens . Diss. Prague 1937
  • Hellmut Rosenfeld:  Birken, Sigmund v .. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 256 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Hermann Stauffer: Research on the chronology of the works of Sigmund von Birkens . In: Daphnis. Journal for Middle German Literature , Vol. 28 (1999), pp. 137-186
  • Hermann Stauffer: Sigmund von Birken (1626–1681). Morphology of his work . Two volumes. Tübingen: Niemeyer 2007. ISBN 978-3-484-10867-7
  • Mara R. Wade: The German Baroque Pastoral Singspiel . Bern 1990 (originally Diss. Ann Arbor 1984)
  • Konrad Wieland: Solid as a rock. Constant thinking and images of stability in the corpus of the poems of Sigmund von Birken. Diss. Berlin 2006.

Work and bibliography

  • Gerhard Dünnhaupt : Sigmund von Birken (1626–1681) (= personal bibliographies for Baroque prints , vol. 1). Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-7772-9013-0 , pp. 582-671.
  • Richard Mai: Bibliography on the work of Sigmund von Birkens. In: Yearbook of the German Schiller Society 13 (1969), pp. 577-640

Web links

Commons : Sigmund von Birken  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Sigmund von Birken  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Digital mirror of the honors of the ore house of Austria from Heidelberg University Library