phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"ship of fools?"

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 17, 2006

In Reply to: "Ship of fools?" posted by Theresa on April 17, 2006

: What is the origin of the phrase "ship of fools?" I've been told it was from the Middle Ages, when some city states in Italy had ships of crazy people going from harbor to harbor to help them come to their senses.

I believe the first to use the phrase "Ship of Fools" was Sebastian Brant, who used it as the title of a book. It was published in 1494 in Basel as "Das Narrenschiff", which soon became the most widely read German literary work of its century. Like "Pilgrim's Progress" (or tp sp,e degree "The Narnia Chronicles") it used situations from worldly life to illustrate the path to salvation─and the path NOT to salvation. It was a popular book, and was soon translated into [email protected] and into other European languages.
Among the more famous works inspired by Brant's book, or at least by its title, were a painting by Hieronymus Bosch (not later than 1500), and Katharine Anne Porter's 1945 book of the same title.

For a short essay about the book, see:

♪ SS ♬