Melchior Goldast ab Haiminsfeld (6 January 1576 or 1578 - Gießen, 1635) was a Swiss writer and an industrious though uncritical collector of documents relating to the medieval history and constitution of Germany.
He was born of poor Protestant parents near Bischofszell, in the Swiss canton of Thurgau. His university career, first at Ingolstadt (1595‑1596), then at Altdorf near Nuremberg (1597‑1598), was cut short by his poverty, from which he suffered all his life, and which was the main cause of his wanderings. In 1598 he found a rich protector in the person of Bartholomaeus Schobinger, of St Gall, by whose liberality he was enabled to study at St Gall (where he first became interested in medieval documents, which abound in the Abbey of St. Gall) and elsewhere in Switzerland. The year before his patron's death in 1604, he became secretary to Henri, duc de Bouillon, with whom he went to Heidelberg and Frankfurt. But in 1604 he entered the service of the Baron von Hohensax, the possessor of the Codex Manesse, the precious manuscript volume of old German Minnesänger of which Goldast published excerpts. Soon he was back in Switzerland, and by 1606 in Frankfurt, earning his living by preparing and correcting books for the press. In 1611 he was appointed councillor at the court of Saxe-Weimar, and in 1615 he entered the service of Graf Ernst von Schaumburg at Buckeburg. In 1624 he was forced by developments in the Thirty Years War to retire to Bremen; there in 1625 he deposited his library in that of the town, he himself returning to Frankfurt. In 1627 he became councillor to the Emperor Ferdinand II and to the archbishop-elector of Trier, and in 1633 passed to the service of the landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. He died at Gießen early in 1635.
His immense industry is shown by the fact that his biographer, Heinrich Christian Senckenberg, gives a list of 65 works published or written by him, some extending to several substantial volumes. Among the more important are his Paraeneticorum veterum pars i. (1604), which contained the old German tales of Kunig Tyrol von Schotten, the Winsbeke and the Winsbekin; Suevicarum rerum scriptores (Frankfurt, 1605, new edition, 1727); Rerum Alamannicarum scriptores (Frankfurt, 1606, new edition by Senckenburg, 1730); Constitutiones imperiales (Frankfurt, 1607‑1613, 4 vols.); Monarchia sacri Romani imperii (Hanover and Frankfurt, 1612‑1614, 3 vols.); Commentarii de regni Bohemiae juribus (Frankfurt, 1627, new edition by Schmink, 1719). He also edited Jacques Auguste de Thou's Historia sui temporis (1609‑1610) and the works of Willibald Pirckheimer (1610).
In 1688 a volume of letters addressed to him by his learned friends was published.
- Heinrich Christian Senckenberg, Life prefixed to his 1730 edition of Goldast's Works.
- Graeme Dunphy: "Melchior Goldast und Martin Opitz. Humanistische Mittelalter-Rezeption um 1600" in Nicola McLelland, Hans-Jochen Schiewer & Stefanie Schmitt, Humanismus in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit, Niemeyer 2008, 105-121.
- R. von Raumer, Geschichte der germanischen Philologie (Munich, 1870).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.