Rhenanus was born in Schlettstadt (Sélestat) in Alsace. His father, Antoine Bild, was a prosperous butcher from Rhinau (the source of his name "Rhenanus", which Beatus Latinised from his father, who was known as the "Rhinauer", the "man from Rheinau"). Antoine emigrated to Sélestat and eventually became one of its Burgermeisters. He was able to provide his son with an excellent education. Rhenanus attended the famous Latin school of Schlettstadt, and in 1503, went to the University of Paris, where he came under the influence of Jacobus Faber Stapulensis, an eminent Aristotelian.
In 1507, he returned to Sélestat and then moved to Strasbourg, where he worked for the printer Mathias Schurer and made the acquaintance of the great Alsatian humanists, including Jakob Wimpfeling, Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg and Sebastian Brant.
In 1511, he relocated to Basel, where he befriended Desiderius Erasmus and played an active role in the publishing enterprises of Johann Froben. He returned to Schlettstadt in 1526 to devote himself to a life of learned leisure. He continued a lively correspondence with many contemporary scholars, including his friend Erasmus, and supervised the printing of many of Erasmus's most important works. Rhenanus died in Strassburg (Strasbourg).
Rhenanus's own publications include a biography of Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg (1510), the Rerum Germanicarum Libri III (1531), and editions of Velleius Paterculus (Froben, Basel, 1520), based on the sole surviving manuscript, which he discovered in the Benedictine monastery at Murbach, Alsace. He also wrote works on Tacitus (1519), Livy (1522), and a nine-volume work on his friend Erasmus (1540-1541).
Beatus Rhenanus invaluable collection of books went into the ownership of his hometown by his death and is still to be seen in its entirety in the Humanist Library of Sélestat.
- The modern monograph is John F. D'Amico, Theory and Practice in Renaissance Textual Criticism. Beatus Rhenanus Between Conjecture and History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
- Konstantinos Staikos (2012), History of the Library in Western Civilization: From Petrarch to Michelangelo, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, ISBN 9781584561828
- A.J. Woodman, ed., Paterculus: The Tiberian Narrative 2004:3ff.