Johann Froben

Johann Froben, in Latin: Johannes Frobenius (and combinations), (c. 1460 – 27 October 1527) was a famous printer, publisher and learned Renaissance humanist in Basel. He was a close friend of Erasmus and cooperated closely with Hans Holbein the Younger. He made Basel one of the world's leading centres of the book trade. He passed his printing business on to his son, Hieronymus, and grandson, Ambrosius Frobenius.

Portrait of Johann Froben by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1522–23. Froben commissioned many book illustrations from Holbein.
Printer's device of Johann Froben, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1523


Froben was born in Hammelburg, Franconia. After completing his university career at Basel, where he made the acquaintance of the famous printer Johann Amerbach (c. 1440 — 1513), Froben established a printing house in that city about 1491, and this soon attained a European reputation for accuracy and taste. In 1500, he married the daughter of the bookseller Wolfgang Lachner, who entered into a partnership with him.[1]

Froben was friends with Erasmus, who lived in his house when in Basel, and not only had his own works printed by him from 1514, but superintended Froben's editions of Jerome, Cyprian, Tertullian, Hilary of Poitiers and Ambrose. His printing of Erasmus' Novum Testamentum (1516) was used by Martin Luther for his translation.[1]

Froben employed Hans Holbein the Younger to illustrate his texts as It was part of Froben's plan to print editions of the Greek Fathers.[1] He also employed the formschneiders Jakob Faber (the "Master IF") and Hans Lützelburger.[citation needed] Holbein painted a portrait of Froben (c. 1522–1523), probably as a pair with one of Erasmus; the original has not survived but a number of copies have.[citation needed]

Dying in October 1527, Froben did not, however, live to carry out this work, but it was very creditably executed by his son Hieronymus Froben and his son-in-law Nikolaus Episcopius. Froben died in October 1527 in Basel.[1] His HebrewGreekLatin tombstone is located in the Basel Peterskirche Peterskirche (Basel) which has been used as a reformed church since 1529. [1] Froben is, through his descendant Anna Catharina Bischoff a direct ancestor of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson


Froben's work in Basel made that city in the 16th century the leading center of the Swiss book trade. An existing letter of Erasmus, written in the year of Froben's death, gives an idea of his life and an estimate of his character; and in it Erasmus mentions that his grief for the death of his friend was far more distressing than that which he had felt for the loss of his own brother, adding that "all the apostles of science ought to wear mourning".[1] The epistle concludes with an epitaph in Greek and Latin.[1]

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  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Froben, Joannes". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 237.

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