Johannes Honter

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Johannes Honterus

Johannes Honter (also known as Johann Hynter; Latinized as Johann Honterus or Ioannes Honterus; Romanian sources may credit him as Ioan, Hungarian ones as János; 1498 – January 23, 1549) was a Transylvanian Saxon, renaissance humanist and theologian. Honter is best known for his geographic and cartographic publishing activity, as well as for implementing the Lutheran reform in Transylvania.

Education and activity[edit]

Early life[edit]

Born in Braşov (Kronstadt, Brassó), Transylvania, nowadays Romania, he studied at the University of Vienna between 1520 and 1525, graduating with a magister artium title. As the Ottomans approached Vienna in 1529 (see Siege of Vienna), Honter moved first to Regensburg, and, in 1530, he registered at the Kraków's Jagiellonian University (in Poland) as "Johannes Georgii de Corona, artium magister Viennensis" (Corona is medieval Latin for Braşov). It was in Kraków that he published his first books, a Latin grammar and cosmography manual.

Between 1530 and 1532 he lived in Basel and practiced wood engraving, notably designing two star maps that already show his advanced skills in the craft.

In the same time period he often traveled to his native Transylvania, gathering information that was to serve in his design of a map of Transylvania, commonly known as Siebenbuergen,[1] one that he engraved and printed in Basel, and the very first one of the region to be printed. The only known copy of the map survives in the National Library of Hungary. It is known that Honter was not pleased with the map - he tried to get back all copies that he had sent to friends and other scientists. His plan was to improve the map before reprint and distribution. Dedicated to the leadership of Braşov, it was the basic design for all later maps of Transylvania, up to the early 18th century. Abraham Ortelius made the map famous by beautifully engraving it in copper.

Statue of Johannes Honterus in Braşov, by Harro Magnussen

In Braşov[edit]

He returned to Braşov in 1533 and became involved in local events. During his stay in the Holy Roman Empire, Honter had encountered Protestant ideas, and he worked hard to introduce Lutheranism to Siebenbuergen. He attempted to achieve this by informing as many persons as possible. As such, he founded the humanist gymnasium local school (functioning to this day as the "Johannes Honterus" School), set up a printing press (1539), printed a large number of books (some of which he himself authored), such as the Reformationsbuechlein, published the Kirchenordnung aller Deutschen in Siebenbuergen and assisted in the introduction of a paper mill.

In 1542, in Braşov, he printed a new version of his cosmography manual, this time in verse, under the name Rudimenta Cosmographica. He believed that verse would help students remember information contained in the book. Additionally, the book contains 13 maps, engraved by Honter himself. The maps show all known parts of the world. The Rudimenta was so successful that no less than 39 editions of it were printed in Braşov, Zürich, Antwerp, Basel, Rostock, Prague and Cologne. The book was last reprinted in 1602, but sections of it have been included in other books up to 1692. It can be considered the first European-wide manual.

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