10 Notable 16th Century Writers

The 16th century saw the rise of the novel as a literary genre in Europe. This was due in part to the invention of the printing press, which made it possible to mass-produce books and make them more affordable. The novel also benefited from the Renaissance, which led to a renewed interest in classical literature and mythology. Spanish writers were in the forefront of this new interest in novel writing and the Spaniard, Cervantes, produced the novel, Don Quixote,  that is still widely considered the best novel ever written. The work of Cervantes and his contemporaries throughout Europe helped to shape the development of the novel as a literary genre. Their work is still read and enjoyed today, and it continues to influence writers around the world.

The sixteenth century overflows with poets, some of the finest in literary history, including the likes of Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Edmund Spenser. Creative writers writing in prose were uncommon.

Here are ten of the best of the 16th century writers of prose, including some early novelists:

Thomas More (1478-1535)

Thomas More (1478-1535) was an English statesman, and writer. He served as Lord High Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532. He is best known for his book Utopia, a satirical work that describes an ideal society. It is one of the most important works of Renaissance literature. In Utopia, More describes an ideal society that is free from poverty, war, and crime. The book was a major influence on later thinkers, including Thomas Jefferson and John Locke. More was a devout Catholic and refused to accept Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church. He was imprisoned for treason and executed in 1535.

Matteo Bandello (1485-1561)

Matteo Bandello (1485-1561) was an Italian writer who is best known for his novellas, which were published between 1554 and 1573. The novellas were widely read and translated, and they had a significant influence on the development of the short story in Europe. His stories are characterized by their vivid descriptions, their strong characters, and their dramatic plots. They were also a source of inspiration for many other writers, including William Shakespeare, who used the story of Romeo and Juliet from a Bandello novella as the basis for his play Romeo and Juliet.

François Rabelais (1494-1553)

François Rabelais was a French writer, physician, and monk. He is best known for his satirical novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, which are considered masterpieces of comic literature. Rabelais’s work is characterized by its use of humour, satire, and bawdy language. He was a critic of scholasticism and targeted the abuses of princes and popes. His work was influential on later writers, including James Joyce, Milan Kundera, and Günter Grass. Rabelais’s work is still read and enjoyed today. It is a testament to his genius that his work continues to be relevant and thought-provoking centuries after it was written.

Roger Ascham (1515-1568)

Roger Ascham was an English scholar and didactic writer, famous for his prose style, his promotion of the vernacular, and his theories of education. Ascham’s most famous work is The Scholemaster, a treatise on education that was published posthumously in 1570. In The Scholemaster, Ascham argues that education should be based on the study of classical literature and history, and that it should be designed to produce well-rounded individuals who are capable of both intellectual and practical pursuits. Ascham’s ideas about education were highly influential in the 16th and 17th centuries, and they continue to be relevant today. His work is still read and studied by educators and historians, and his ideas about the importance of education for the individual and for society continue to be debated.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616):

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) was a Spanish writer who is best known for his novel Don Quixote, which is considered to be the first modern novel. Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and he had a varied career that included being a soldier, a sailor, and a writer. He was captured by pirates in 1575 and spent five years in captivity in Algiers. After his release, he returned to Spain and began writing again. Don Quixote was published – the first part in 1605 and the second in 1615. The novel is a satire of the chivalric romances that were popular at the time, and it tells the story of a nobleman who becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming a knight-errant. Don Quixote is a complex and funny novel that has been translated into many languages and is considered to be one of the greatest works of literature ever written. Cervantes also wrote a number of other works, including plays, poems, and short stories. His work has had a profound influence on Western literature.

Mateo Alemán (1547-1614):

Mateo Alemán was a Spanish novelist who is best known for his novel, Guzmán de Alfarache,  which was published in two parts in 1599 and 1604. Alemán was born in Seville, Spain, and studied law at the University of Seville. He worked as a tax collector for a time, but he was eventually imprisoned for debt. After his release from prison, he moved to Mexico City, where he died in 1614. Guzmán de Alfarache is a picaresque novel, that tells the story of a roguish protagonist who lives a life of crime and poverty. The novel is notable for its realism and its insights into the social and political conditions of Spain in the late 16th century.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier, scholar, and soldier who is considered one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan age. He was a gifted writer, and his works include the prose romance The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, and the treatise The Defence of Poesy. Sidney was also a skilled soldier, and fought in the Netherlands against the Spanish. He died in battle at the age of 32. His work reflects his belief in the importance of education, virtue, and the pursuit of excellence. His work has had a lasting influence on English literature. Sidney is considered one of the greatest writers of the Elizabethan age, and his work is still read and enjoyed today.

François Béroalde de Verville (1556 –1626)

François Béroalde de Verville (27 April 1556 – 19–26 October 1626) was a French novelist, poet, and intellectual. His family was Jewish and at the time of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre(1573), they fled to Geneva. Béroalde returned to Paris in 1581. His most famous work is Moyen de parvenir (first published around 1617) — a parody of books of “table talk”, of Rabelais and of Michel de Montaigne’s “The Essays”—in which a group of writers, discuss and joke (with often coarse humour) about serious  matters.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is best known for his essays and philosophical works, but he also wrote several novels. His most famous novel is The New Atlantis, which is a utopian work that describes a fictional island where science and technology are used to improve the lives of its inhabitants. The novel is a thought-provoking exploration of the potential benefits and dangers of scientific progress. His other novels include The History of the Reign of King Henry VII and The Life of Sir Francis Drake. These novels are historical works that are based on real events. The novels are not as well-known as Bacon’s essays and philosophical works, but they are still worth reading. They offer a unique perspective on the world and the potential of human progress.

Lope de Vega (1562–1635)

Lope de Vega was a key figure in the Spanish Golden Age of Baroque literature. He is considered to be one of the most prolific writers in history, with over 2,000 plays in addition to his poems and novels, which included La Arcadia (1598) and the picaresque novel El casamiento en la muerte (1613). Lope de Vega joined the military and fought in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.After the battle, he returned to Madrid and began writing plays. He soon became one of the most popular playwrights in Spain and his plays were performed all over the country while his novels sold well.


And that’s our list of the ten most notable 16th century prose writers. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any writers not on this list that you feel should make the cut?

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