What is the writing on this woodcut? Nul on Urlaub doesn't seem to make sense, aber mein Deutsch is sehr schlecht.


1 Answer 1


"Nüt on Ursach" (Nichts [ist] ohne Ursache. Nothing [happens] without a reason/cause.)

It's a motto from the popular book "Das Narrenschiff" (ship of fools) by Sebastian Brant that was first published in 1494.

Prints of the book from 1506 and 1512 show the motto prominently on the title page. The original print from 1494 does not have the motto on the title page, but only in the editor's sign by Johann Bergmann von Olpe, who also used it in his sign on other works he edited (sometimes in Latin as nihil sine causa). So I'm not sure about the original relation between the motto and Brant's text.

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    Might be worth mentioning that the idea is older: wikiwand.com/en/Nothing_comes_from_nothing
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 20:28
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    It might be worth mentioning that the language is not Modern German, but Early New High German which is substantially different, just at Shakespeare's English was different from Modern English. @Jason S: I know you mean well, but it's kind of bad form to use Denglisch here. It's language you'd associate with advertising and pop songs, so not really suitable for the general tone used on the site. (Heidi Bachert's rendition of "My Boy Lollipop" comes to mind.)
    – RDBury
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 4:08
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    @RDBury On the contrary: I think Jason S does not yet speak German well enough to write entirely in that language but tries to insert fragments in German out of good will and politeness. The comparison with a Germanophone pop-singer who for some reason mixes German and English is, in my opinion, completely inappropriate. Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 9:56
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    @JasonS Grund und Ursache sind in der Bedeutung sehr ähnlich, teils synonym. Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 13:27
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    @JasonS If understand the (very long) entry in Grimm's "Deutsches Wörterbuch" correctly, it took until the 18th century for the use of "Grund" in the sense of "Ursache" to become widespread.
    – trunklop
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 13:57

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