Johann Froben was a famous printer and publisher in Basel. He passed his printing business on to his son Hieronymus, and grandson Ambrosius Frobenius.
Froben was born in Hammelburg, Franconia. After completing his university career at Basel, where he made the acquaintance of the famous printer Johann Amerbach (circa 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.
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.
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. He also employed the formschneiders Jakob Faber (the "Master IF") and Hans Lützelburger. 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.
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.
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". The epistle concludes with an epitaph in Greek and Latin.