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The Early Life of a Nuremberg Tailor’s Son in the Second Half of the 18th Century (Retrospective Account)

Born in 1744 to a master tailor and his wife, Johann Christoph Händler drew intellectual inspiration from his early tutoring and schooling, but unwillingly followed in his father’s professional footsteps for lack of financial support for higher studies. He endured the loveless marriage his parents forced on him, but his later life took happier turns. This text illuminates the material conditions and psychology of lesser artisans, whose exposure to higher culture through literacy often inspired unrealizable ambitions and rebelliousness.

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Biography of a Living Tailor Written by Himself

Johann Christoph Händler

I was born on April 24 in the year of our Lord 1744, the son of lowly yet honorable and Christian parents, right here in Nuremberg [ . . . ]. My father was the late respectable sexton Johann Christoph Händler, citizen and master tailor, respectively, right here in Nuremberg, my mother was Mrs. Anna Barbara, née Meyrin from Oberhochstatt near the Prince of Onolzbach’s fortress of Wülzburg. [ . . . ] As soon as they noticed that some features of reason revealed themselves in me, my parents did not fail in teaching me the fear of God; as the years passed, a private tutor was hired for me who taught me the necessary knowledge both in Christianity and in reading, writing, and arithmetic. The theology candidate at the time and subsequent militia clergyman, Parson Hofmann, gave me lessons in the elements of the Latin and Greek languages; in music, my teacher was the late organist at the Church of Our Blessed Lady, also ‘malt and barley clerk’ [Malz- und Gerstenschreiber], Mr. Gottfried Roth, who remains a blessed remembrance to me.

God, the Rewarder of all Good, will also not leave my teachers unrewarded for the work they have done unto me.

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