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The Executioner's Journal

Meister Frantz Schmidt of the Imperial City of Nuremberg
Frantz Schmidt. Translated by Joel F. Harrington

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813938691 · $55.00 · Sep 2016
BUY Ebook · 240 pp. · ISBN 9780813938714 · $24.50 · Sep 2016
BUY Paper · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813938707 · $24.50 · Sep 2016

During a career lasting nearly half a century, Meister Frantz Schmidt (1554-1634) personally put to death 392 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured hundreds more. The remarkable number of victims, as well as the officially sanctioned context in which they suffered at Schmidt’s hands, was the story of Joel Harrington’s much-discussed book The Faithful Executioner. The foundation of that celebrated work was Schmidt's own journal--notable not only for the shocking story it told but, in an age when people rarely kept diaries, for its mere existence.

Available now in Harrington’s new translation, this fascinating document provides the modern reader with a rare firsthand perspective on the thoughts and experiences of an executioner who routinely carried out acts of state brutality yet remained a revered member of the local community, widely respected for his piety, steadfastness, and popular healing. Based on a long-lost manuscript thought to be the most faithful to the original journal, this modern English translation is fully annotated and includes an introduction providing historical context as well as a biographical portrait of Schmidt himself. The executioner appears to us not as the frightening brute we might expect but as a surprisingly thoughtful, complex person with a unique voice, and in these pages his world emerges as vivid and unforgettable.

Studies in Early Modern German History


Harrington's fluid, inventive translation and his superb introduction take the English reader as close as possible to the original text. This book will be an excellent companion piece to his biography of Schmidt, The Faithful Executioner, which has been widely read and admired.

Joy Wiltenburg, Rowan University, author of, Rowan University, author of Crime and Culture in Early Modern Germany

A fascinating, more or less unique document, the journal of a working executioner. Schmidt’s dramatic narrative and grim humor make for compelling reading. Harrington’s translation is based on the earliest known copy of Schmidt’s diary, and he argues convincingly that it is the closest to Schmidt’s original text.

Kathy Stuart, University of California, Davis, author of, University of California, Davis, author of Defiled Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany

Harrington's The Executioner's Journal reproduces a captivating document: a record of punishments kept over the course of the career of an early modern executioner. Frantz Schmidt, appointed executioner of Nuremberg in 1578, executed nearly four hundred transgressors and corporally punished hundreds more over the course of a career that spanned four decades. Elements of Harrington's own work--monographs like The Faithful Executioner (his 2013 biography of Schmidt) or The Unwanted Child (his 2009 study of early modern orphans and child abandonment)--has been inspired by Schmidt's joural, which demonstrates its high value as source material.

Central European History

The journal of Meister Frantz Schmidt, executioner of Nuremberg, has long been known to scholars of German legal and criminal history as an exceptional source.... Joel Harrington’s excellent translation makes available to students and nonspecialist scholars alike Meister Frantz’s journal and the rich data it contains. Harrington’s sixty-page introduction is a treasure in itself.

Journal of Modern History

About the Author(s): 

Joel F. Harrington is Centennial Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and the author of The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century and The Unwanted Child: The Fate of Foundlings, Orphans, and Juvenile Criminals in Early Modern Germany.

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