Updated January 17, 2009.




A Wandering Scholar of the Fifteenth Century”

Translated from the German by

Robert Francis Seybolt and Paul Monroe

"Well, you now have before you all the misery that I had to endure under the rod of the schoolmaster, from my seventh to my twelfth year, and what kind of loyalty that ass of a scholar exhibited toward me, among strangers, after the solicitous recommendations of my parents. May God forgive him the evil he did me. Amen!"

Johannes Butzbach, c. 1506.

That should be enough to tell you why this book might be an interesting read. It is also free.

Go straight to the text now.

For some reasons why not reading this now — or for never being able to read this book before — could explain how some great and present crimes against children exist today, consider reading the rest of this page. Please.

Ever wonder how people got an education in the Middle Ages?

Why one would somebody wish to become a monk?

Would you like to read a true story by a monk who lived 600 years ago?

Interested in a closer look at the history of child abuse and exploitation under the pretense of education?

All these questions are addressed in this book, The Autobiography of Johannes Butzbach. This is the story of the student years of a famous monk, in Germany in the 1400's. He grew up to become one of the best scholars of his time.

It was a nightmare childhood, too. His parents weren't the problem. Many, many tutors, teachers and professors physically and mentally abused John for years during his education. But it is not just about that. It is about all the adventures of a boy who was lured from his home for the best of reasons: to go to school. That his trust was betrayed for years, that he suffered terribly by those hired to teach him, did not stop him from finally achieving his goal.

Butzbach relates the facts of his victimization simply (for the time), clearly (considering the usual style of the period), and without excessive self-pity, but enough to prove that he did suffer. He wrote this book in his later years, long after he had reached safety as an adult. The emotions and memories he had long suppressed had to be faced at long last, and he did so reluctantly. In his preface he tells us that he is writing about his childhood for his young brother, at his request.

The translators, Seybolt and Monroe, add a few brief footnotes, a bibliography and an Appendix. The Appendix describes, in addition, a German wandering scholar's training 75 years earlier, that of Burkhard Zink. He had a pretty awful time of it, too.

Why the online version in English, may be better than some university copies.

Any copy of this book in English is hard to find. [At least it was when this book was first put online. It is still the only free copy.] It is only in a few university libraries in the United States. There was only one German translation by Becker of the Latin manuscript. There is only one copy of the Latin manuscript in the world, at the University Library of Bonn, in Germany.

Frustratingly, in the copy of the library book that I used, the printers managed to lose 5 pages and substitute earlier pages. That is a fault that wasn't corrected by a later edition, because there wasn't one. How many other books are also flawed, I don't know. Luckily, I had great luck in correcting this. Thanks to kind and generous John Mark Ockerbloom, the error is corrected in these pages. He sent me images of the missing pages from the correct copy in the library at the University of Pennsylvania. With his help, I could provide the original text. What a good man he is! He is also providing a fabulous resource as well, being the author and mastermind behind The Online Books Page.

Having such few copies, even flawed ones, of this book is a shame. This book is a crucial and rare document, by an adult survivor of prolonged abuse. It is primary source evidence, a first-hand account, that shows the long-standing history of the abuse, exploitation and socially-sanctioned violence to children. That this powerful work, and others of its kind, have been so neglected is disgraceful.

Is it long, boring and dull like most old books?

Absolutely not!

Well, maybe that was a trifle over-emphatic.

John, the Monk, wrote his story for his little brother in simple Latin, because he was studying Latin in school at the time. He was asked by him to do so: to console this young relative who was dear to him and to give him the strength, courage, and motivation to continue his lessons. It was purposely not too hard for a young college student to understand, and enjoy, back then. The other books on the medieval student's reading list were a lot less fun.

Is it simple and enjoyable enough for us to read today, though?

Okay, it ain't Disney, or Harry Potter. The sentences are a little tricky. The style is convoluted at times, and the words are a challenge at first to our dummied-down one- and two-syllable brains. But it is easier than Physics is for non-math types. It's more interesting than, say, 'New Age epic-length free unpunctuated verse in metaphysical stanzas' is to unimaginative types like me. Even better, it is free! Despite that attraction, it is still more interesting than many a pricey history book. It is certainly more honest and unforgettable — by far — than most Ethics classes that our current merchant and government moguls appeared to have taken in school. And it outclasses in honest emotion and honest self-reporting just about every autobiography by famous people in any age.

Plus: it is easier going once you get past the first pages.

Double Plus: you will learn to recognize child abuse patterns and behaviors and the tactics of child predators.

Plus Plus Plus: John, and a great many other children in the same plight, were abused in full site of thousands of normal people, who didn't recognize abuse when they saw it, or they condoned it by their silence. Few people tried to stop the abuse or helped John. Most people believed that it must be right, because the abusers, were the 'Learned' Men, their educators, who told them so. You don't ever want to be like them and say, "I didn't know!" The more examples you read, no matter when it occurred, the smarter you get.

So who were the ones that did save John, and how did he manage to free himself without help? That is definitely worth reading. How Johannes Butzbach grew to be a kind and wise man of deep faith, despite everything, is the biggest miracle of all.

Why the book was finally translated into English in 1930, after 600 years.

How did this book ever make it into English by the American teacher-translators, Seybolt and Monroe?

Perhaps these professors were intrigued by the work of an earlier literary dilettante who recognized the worth of this story. Maybe they also knew it was time to bring into the open the ugly side of the history of ancient education and the reality of its persistence in modern days. The popular Ivory Tower Fairy Tale has censored the fact that in its true history and in its current annals exist some very real goblins, ogres and demons, indeed!

Forty-three years before their English translation, somebody else had discovered the only German translation by D. J. Becker. He, was the first to translate the only Latin manuscript called the Hodoporicon, The Book of Travels, by Johannes Butzbach. This man was J. K. Paulding, a very popular American writer in the 19th century. He wrote an abridged version of Butzbach's work for the Atlantic Monthly, in 1890. The present authors acknowledge his work in the bibliography.

Thousands of interested people in America read John's life in this magazine long before a scholarly translation was done, thanks to Paulding. How the story of Butzbach's childhood was received by the American public back then would make a great essay or thesis for somebody.

The full translation is here on this site. You can also read Paulding's original English abridgement online, too, if you want to. Once again, we can thank Cornell for this. Their wonderful Project, The Making of America includes this article. Anybody can read thousands of early American magazines on their site at no cost. Here's the link : A Wandering Scholar of the Sixteenth Century, by J. Kirke Paulding, from The Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 1890.

Why does this book matter to anybody today?

The loss of monasteries, a sure place of safety for the abused, (again, in its best form), is distressing and tragic in many ways. Especially since there has been no replacement in these "advanced", "modern", "oh-so-civilized" times for a great many people who are suffering, just as John suffered throughout his youth and early adulthood. The fact that John might have easily faired in exactly the same manner today in "progressive" Christian countries just exactly as he did in the society, and educational sytem of the Middle Ages — without reaching the happy ending he found back then — is the biggest tragedy of all.

Fortunately, much progress has been made. Far, far more is needed, though.

Germany, has learned many painful lessons in its time, but the most important one it has learned is that violence to children is unacceptable. In the year 2000 they became one of the 25 countries who have made it illegal to use corporal punishment on children anywhere in their land.

Modern Education is better than in the old days! True or False.

(With Outside Commentary from the P. G.)

Answer. It depends on where you live.

I like to think that Robert Francis Seybolt purposely did not renew the copyright to this book. Only by placing it in the public domain in this way could he hope that the significance and value of his translation would continue to be used to inspire a positive change in the world's treatment of their children. He probably knew that nobody would ever re-publish it in the United States of America, his own land.

[Peanut Gallery.]   Why not?

Because the U.S. has laws that permit violation of the rights of children and legalize physical abuse of students in school by teachers. Nobody would have the nerve to reprint it here, in this country.

[Peanut Gallery.]   Wait, what did you just say??? Hold your horses! What in tarnation are you talking about???

I am very glad you asked that question and doubly glad and relieved that you share my shock at discovering this dreadful truth.

[Peanut Gallery.]   “The proof is in the pudding,” you know!

We are in perfect agreement!

Dear, dear Peanut Gallery, your gasps, anger, dismay and tears will not be noted when you read on, but I am confident in assuming that they exist and that you feel as I do. So here you go:

Horrifyingly, over 200,000 American children were beaten in schools in 2008 alone. Those are only the reported instances. Do not ever believe that number accurately reflects the true number of cases. The teachers have legal permission to engage in child abuse in schools, public and private, in 21 states in this country. The children of the poor are the most likely recipients but not always. This includes children in foster care and pre-schools, as well as schools for kids with special needs, like the mentally ill and physically challenged children!

Many doctors are never made aware of these laws in medical school. College kids who dream of being teachers can't conceive of it either, I expect. This is a good guess, but I suspect that there is no course in any curriculum addressing the proper methods of physically harming a child in the best educational style to enable learning, the love of knowledge and admiration for authority. An online search for Flogging 101 or, Introduction to Flagellation in Accredited Institutions of Higher Education, would probably prove unhelpful. (Putting this to the test will have to wait until I have a stronger stomach, should I be wrong.)

Many of us assumed confidently that no such barbarity could still exist today. It is the ultimate dirty little secret of the American medical and educational governing bodies of their failure to inform. There is no other reason but guilt and shame that laws exist that cause intentional harm in our country and remain unspoken. I know, I am one of the long ignorant doctors who believed that it had been eradicated. Now I know better and so do you.

[Peanut Gallery.]   Who's trying to stop this?

Please, please, see the pioneering work of Jordan Riak, who founded and directs PTAVE, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, Inc., began the website www.nospank.net. He has information and resources that will enlighten you, and other links for the massive body of evidence that John Butzbach would not have been safe as a child in a large portion of modern America.

Jordan Riak, still wonderful, still committed at 74, has created, printed and personally sends thousands and thousands of pamphlets and stickers on request to those who are trying to stop child abuse across America and around the world. Despite the clear need for such education, 33 major foundations have not sent him a dime to help with the cost of printing.

Should you desire to help in your own way, any of the items on Elfinspell might be a gratifying reward for your right thinking. Pick something you like and from 50 - 100% of your donation can go to support Jordan's printing and postage costs. Our working motto is 'Don't just donate, do good, get something cool!' Just let me know, see The Garden of Maecenas.

Now, wouldn't you rather support Jordan and his goodhearted gang's work instead of any of the big foundations who have not felt it important, in even the tiniest way, to stop the legalized child abuse that is touted as a learning tool in this land? Or your land?

I can bet you that Jordan Riak will thank you himself personally and promptly, too. He'll even know your name because I will tell him. Elfinspell will pay for and include a postage paid envelope, too, so he can pop in his thank you note, without cutting into his budget for printing educating materials.

[Peanut Gallery.]   That sure beats a "Dear Donor" letter — that patronizing, dehumanizing, hurtful, usually tardy, dismissive response from most dot.orgs. What a pitiful excuse for a thank you! Their covert disappointment is clear because you did not give them a gazillion bucks and only sent them what you could spare. Those types don't think that hurting your feelings, by not even bothering to call you by your name is any big deal. Pah! Ptui!      [... followed by snot rocket if outdoors.]

You said it, Peanut Gallery, and again, we are of like minds and hearts. It might also explain why they are not interested in the feelings and health of these children who are too young or incapable of donating anyhow.

Okay, my fellow ostriches, bring your heads out of the sand that has been heaped on it by a great many of our experts, those 'fonts of wisdom and humanity.' Get start reading what too many of them didn't want you to know:

Title Pages and Preface


Copyright © by Elfinspell 2008

No part of this page or the online version of this text may be reproduced in any form without permission.

If you believe that hurting children should be illegal, permission is very easy to get, but you still have to ask.


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