Hermann Weinsberg was something of a failure in life, and a total failure in death. This citizen of sixteenth-century Cologne lives on today as a historical figure precisely because of his failure to effect his post-mortem project. At his death, he left over seven thousand pages of writings he had set down in secret over nearly fifty years.

Weinsberg was the eldest son of an upwardly mobile burgher or bourgeois family, and social status was a matter of both pride and concern to him. His grandfather had risen from obscure rural origins through domestic service and a fortunate marriage to become a respectable brewer and grain merchant of Cologne, and had bought a tavern and dwelling house called Weinsberg, which was to give future generations of his family its name.

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