Friday, June 23, 2017

A very short review: Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (1998)

McGinn, Bernard, John Joseph Collins, and Stephen J. Stein, eds. The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism. 3 vols. New York: Continuum, 1998. ISBN 978-0826412522.

I usually save short reviews for academic work that is of the highest quality or makes a substantial impact on my own work. So this review is about 20 years late, but well deserved. I came across the three-volume Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism while browsing in the university library last fall and ended up reading it from cover to cover, from cover to cover, and from cover to cover - for all three volumes, from ancient Persia to the late twentieth century.

The articles were on the whole well written, authoritative, and thoroughly documented. I thought there were only two real clunkers; the rest ranged from highly informative to truly excellent. Now matter how distant any article seemed at first, I found that almost every article was relevant to my research on early modern Germany and helped me see my work in a much broader context, while the best articles motivated me to rethink and redefine what I research and how I go about it. When I first started the research project that turned into Printing and Prophecy, I planned to look only at prophecy as a communicative act in late medieval and early modern Germany, but soon found I couldn't avoid dealing with astrology and the Reformation. Now I see that I can't avoid dealing with apocalypticism as well. The Encyclopedia of Apocalytpicism is going to be one of those reference works that stays near my desk for just about any research project.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Vanished booklets of the 1560s: a few core samples

When talking about printing, literature, or anything having to do with medieval and early modern texts, it is easy to overlook something that must not be overlooked: how much of what was once written or printed has now vanished. For practicas, annual astrological prognostic booklets, which were by nature ephemeral, we can assume that many editions have left no surviving copies, but pinning down how many or characterizing the relationship of the known to the unknown is tricky.

One source of evidence are book lists that can be compared to known editions. For practicas in the 1560s, we have two interesting sources in practica compilations, one printed in Frankfurt for the year 1565 (VD16 ZV 29072) and the other printed in Basel for 1569 (VD16 P 4544), both of which claim to reprint all the astrologers who have made prognostications for that year.

The first collection, for 1565, includes sections from the practicas of ten astrologers: Johannes Huldrich Ragor, Nikolaus Neodomus, Johannes Hebenstreit, Andreas Rosa, Christoph Statmion, Sebastian Brelochs, Gregor Fabricius, Nicolaus Winckler, Simon Heuring, and Moritz Steinmetz. Of these, nine are known from printed editions of practicas for 1565; only Ragor's is otherwise unknown. (This is an interesting list of astrologers. Six are well known practica authors, while four are sparsely attested: Ragor [otherwise attested only for 1581], Neodomus [attested only for 1565], Sebastian Brelochs [only attested for 1565 and 1568-69, in contrast to his widely published predecessor Anton Brelochs], and Moritz Steinmetz [only attested for 1565]. But the editor also omits a few astrologers with practicas for 1565, including Valentin Engelhart, Georg Holsthen, and the well-known Joachim Heller.) In comparison, VD16 records 16 practica editions from 12 authors, but lacks Johannes Ragor's.

The second collection, for 1569, includes chapters from eight astrologers: Nicolaus Winckler, Johannes Hebenstreit, Victorinus Schönfeld, Simon Heuring, Valentin Butzlin, Erasmus Reinhold, Sebastian Brelochs, and Hieronymus Wilhelm. Again, half of the authors are well known, while the other four are more obscure (Sebastian Brelochs again, Valentin Butzlin, Erasmus Rehinhold, and Hieronymus Wilhelm). The editor again omitted some well-known astrologers with known practicas for 1569, including Georg Caesius, Andreas Rosa, and Christoph Statmion. The included chapters are drawn from four practicas that are unattested in VD16.

So to sum up: The collection for 1565 tells us that VD16 misses 1 out of 13 authors (7.7%). The collection for 1569 tells us that VD16 misses 4 out of 11 authors (36.4%). For both years, VD16 records 23 editions from 14 authors. The two collections suggest that VD16 misses at least 4 out of 18 authors (22.2%). This isn't an answer to the question of missing editions, but it does give us some interesting core samples to think about.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A prognostication for Valentine's Day 1469 from the desk of Hartmann Schedel

Bettina Wagner's work on letters, notes, and other miscellanea from Hartmann Schedel has uncovered quite a few interesting things, including this cataclysmic prognostication for 1469 copied onto a loose leaf. It's an interesting text that I haven't seen before. An attempt at a transcription and translation follow. Punctuation has been added and capitalization has been altered for sense and abbreviations have been resolved silently.
Anno Mo cccco lxviiiio quartadecima die mensis Januraii incipietur delusio mundi, evacuatio cleri, derisio christianitatis, deposit[i]o potentiarum scilicet Imperatoris et regum. Insuper quartadecima die mensis februarii circa[?] meridiem eclipsabitur sol et quasi omnino emittet formam sue dispositionis. Et significat iiiior mala. Primum quod deus movebit celum et terram in suo empisperio quasi mundum subverteret. Secundum quod virtutes superiorum movebuntur scilicet ordo contra[?] ordinem. Tercium de magna et in audita sangwinis effusione qualis numquam fuit a mundi origine timendum est. Quartum fames magna ita quod maritus non curabit uxorem nec uxor maritum nec pater et mater prolem curabit, quia quasi unanimiter desperabunt. Post hec sequitur pestis in audita de uno in alterum precedens et pauci effugient. Sed qui superstites manebunt bene habebunt et in cunctis prosperabuntur.

Dicitur quod hanc prenostica Scola Parisiensium fecit que missa dicitur magistro Johanne Gerstman.

On the fourteenth day of January 1469 will begin the deception of the world, the purging of the clergy, the mockery of Christendom, and the cessation of power, namely of the emperor and of kings. And then on the fourteenth day of February around noon, the sun will be eclipsed and almost entirely expel the form of its disposition. [NB. Is the thought that the sun will lose its light and weaken, or shine out its entire force at once?] And this signifies four evils. First, that God will move heaven and earth in their orbits ["hemispheres"] as if to overturn the world. Second, that the powers of the superior [planets] will be moved, namely one order against the other. Third, one must fear a great and unprecedented outpouring of blood the likes of which have never been from the beginning of the world. Fourth, so great a famine that a husband will not provide for his wife, nor a wife for her husband, neither father and mother for them children, because almost all will be united in despair. After these things, an unheard of plague will follow, advancing from one side to the other, and few will escape it. But what survivors will remain will be well and prosper in all things.

It is said that the school of Paris made this prognostication, which is said to have been sent to Master Johannes Gerstman.

The text, an amalgamation of astrology and catastrophic prophecies, bears some resemblance to the "Toledo Letter" and to the prognostication of "Meister Theobertus von England" printed around 1470 both in their construction and in their attributions to foreign astrologers. According to the NASA catalog of solar eclipses, there was a solar eclipse on 13 January 1469, which approximately matches one of the dates in the prognostication, but that eclipse was not visible in Europe. The eclipse of 9 July 1469 would have been much more dramatic. The closing note that anyone who survives will experience marvelous things is a motif that appears many times, particularly in the lead up to 1588.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Simon Eyssenmann: bibliography v 0.13

Simon Eyssenmann was a Leipzig professor and author of astrological prognostications following in the footsteps of Wenzel Faber and Conrad Tockler. He is all but forgotten today, but there may be some interesting things going on with his work. So here is the start of a bibliography for him, beginning with his practicas and the few relevant items of secondary literature.

Update 0.13
I've added the one non-practica found in VD16 and the two additional contributions to other works.

Update 0.11: Klaus Graf has come up with many additional links for Eyssenmann over at Archivalia. Otherwise, for now I only have time to add one work to which Eyssenmann was a contributor.

  1. Practica for 1514. Latin. N.p., n.p. VD16 E 4756.
    Title page only preserved in Zwickau, Ratschulbibliothek.
  2. Practica for 1514. German. Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger. VD16 E 4757.
    Copy in Erlangen UB
  3. Practica for 1514. Low German. Lübeck: Georg Richolff the Elder. VD16 E 4758.
    Described only in BC 551 A.
  4. Practica for 1515. Latin. Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel. Not in VD16.
    Wroclaw UB (facsimile)
  5. Practica for 1517. Latin. N.p., n.p. VD16 E 4759.
    Title page only preserved in Zwickau, Ratschulbibliothek.
  6. Practica for 1516. German. Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel. Not in VD16.
    Wroclaw UB (facsimile)
  7. Practica for 1516. German. Landshut: Johann Weißenburger. VD16 E 4760.
    If the copy in the British Library is E 4760, then this edition is [8] rather than [4] leaves.
  8. Practica for 1516. German. Nuremberg: Jobst Gutknecht. VD16 E 4761.
  9. Practica for 1517. German. Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel. VD16 E 4762.
    Title page only preserved in Zwickau, Ratschulbibliothek.
  10. Practica for 1518. Latin. Leipzig: Jakob Thanner. VD16 ZV 5648.
    Halle ULB (facsimile)
  11. Practica for 1518. German. N.p., n.p. VD16 E 4763. 
  12. Practica for 1519. German. Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel. VD16 E 4764.
    Title page only preserved in Zwickau, Ratschulbibliothek.
  13. Practica for 1520. German. Nuremberg: Jobst Gutknecht. VD16 E 4766.
    Munich BSB (facsimile)
  14. Practica for 1520. German. Augsburg: Erhard Oeglin. VD16 E 4765.
    Munich BSB (facsimile)
Others: A Latin practica for 1520 listed in WorldCat (link), with the title "Juditium Lipsense ad annum currentem vigesimum supra millesimum quingentesimum," but with no additional information about a printer or location.

Other works
  1. Euchiridion Arithmetices. Leipzig: Jakob Thanner, 1511. VD16 E 4755.
    Munich BSB (facsimile) and Leipzig UB. This brief treatise on arithmetic begins with a dedication to Conrad Tockler, another Leipzig academic who published practicas for 1504-1514, whom Eyssenmann describes as his teacher. It closes with two additional texts, addressed to Wolfgang Christophorus Udalriuch, son of Udalrich LIndacher of Leipzig, and Conrad Funck of Leipzig, son of Andreas Funck.

Contributions to additional works
  1. Dedication (to Conrad Funck of Leipzig, son of Andreas Funck) in a Latin edition of excerpts from Plutarch's De viris clarissimis liber. Leipzig: Jakob Thanner, 1509. VD16 ZV 12591.
  2. Dedication (to "Simperto Widenman de Schretzen") in an edition of Petrus Gaszowiec's Computus novus. Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel, 1514. VD16 P 1863.
  3. Six lines of Latin verse contributed (along with verses from eighteen other intellectuals) to Hieronymous Dungersheim's Confutatio apologetici cuiusdam sacre scripture falso inscripti ad illustrissimum principem Georgium Saxonie ducem. Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel, 1514. VD16 D 2947.
    The Munich BSB copy is from the library of Hartmann Schedel.

Secondary literature
  • Eis, Gerhard. "Beiträge zur Spätmittelalterlichen deutschen Prosa aus Handschriften und Frühdrucken." Journal of English and Germanic Philology 52 (1953): 76–89.
  • Zoepfl, Friedrich. "Der Mathematiker und Astrologe Simon Eyssenmann aus Dillingen." Jahrbuch des Historischen Vereins Dillingen an der Donau 61/63 (1961 1959): 86–88.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sanctus Columbanus fecit hos caracteres

Well, that's weird.

In another Vatican manuscript (Pal. lat. 482) available in digital facsimile from the Heidelberg UB, there is a series of alphabetic signs in an otherwise empty column on f. 15v (click to see the whole leaf on the Heidelberg UB site): 

At first glance, this looks like a secret alphabet. In that case, the secondary literature probably starts with Bernhard Bischoff, "Übersicht über die nichtdiplomatischen Geheimschriften des Mittelalters," Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung 62 (1954): 1-27. I don't find other examples associating Columbanus with secret writing, but Bishoff notes several attributions of secret writing to Irish clerics.

But several of the letters look quite normal. Is the series rather an initialism, with each letter standing for a word in some devotional passage? If that is the case, the secondary literature one needs is entirely different.

And one can't help but notice that there's a certain symmetry between the haloed "q" and the "p" signs at the beginning and end of the fourth line, or the "Christmas trees" on the left and right side, or the forwards uncial e in the third line and the backwards uncial e in the first line. Was there some kind of mirror-image game at the basis of these characters?

Who knows? It's weird. When you browse through manuscripts, you find weird things.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

BAV Pal. lat. 461: "Prophetia Sibille conscripta per Ioachim prophetam" = Gallorum levitas

For the last few months at least, volumes formerly held in Heidelberg and now in the Vatican library have been appearing in the digitalization project of the Heidelberg Universitätsbibliothek. I try to take at least a quick look at each miscellany as it appears, and one of them, Pal. lat. 461, included a "Prophetia Sibille conscripta per Ioachim prophetam," which sounded promising. The first few words quickly revealed this to be a garbled fifteenth-century copy of the "Gallorum levitas" prophecy:
Gallorum levitas / germanis iustificabit /
Ytalie gravitas / gallus confuse negabit /
Annis millenis tricentis novagenis /
Ter denis adiunctis / consurgit aquila grandis
Constantina cadet et equi de marmore facti
Et lapis erectus et erunt victricia signa
Gallus succumbit / vix erit urbs presule digna
Papa cito moritur / Cesar ubique regnabit
Sub quo cuncta vana / cessabit gloria cleri

This looked interesting, so I checked the secondary literature. Here's Robert Lerner (Powers of Prophecy 191 n. 11): "Unpublished MS copies of this text, which underwent numerous alterations, are so numerous as to be virtually beyond surveying."

Oh, well. But here's another one!

* * *

I've moved again. The new semester has already started, so posting will resume, but may be sporadic for a while.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A very short review: Sandra Rühr and Axel Kuhn, eds. Sinn und Unsinn des Lesens (2013)

Sandra Rühr and Axel Kuhn, eds. Sinn und Unsinn des Lesens: Gegenstände, Darstellungen und Argumente aus Geschichte und Gegenwart. Göttingen: V & R Unipress, 2013. 246 pp. 978-3847-101284.

Ceci n'est pas une Festschrift

This book is not a Festschrift. It is instead a volume of well-executed, thematically coherent essays with real scholarly merit published in honor of Ursula Rautenberg's sixtieth birthday. As the editors and authors have taken pains to avoid the defects often found in Feschschriften, the collected volume is a fitting tribute to the honoree.

The essays are arranged in order of their chronological focus, which spans the range from medieval manuscript practice to contemporary book marketing and the future of reading. These include the following:
  • Siegfried Grosse, "Versmaß, Reim  und Syntax: Überlegungen zur oralen Poesie" examines the significance of early twentieth-century recordings of story-telling during women's down-plucking circles for our understanding of medieval literature as oral performance.
  • Anro Mentzel-Reuters, "'Wer hat mich guoter uf getan?' Studien zur volkssprachlichen höfischen Lesekultur des Hochmittelalters" presents empirical evidence (based on page size, book weight, letter height, and internal lighting conditions) for the practical use of medieval manuscripts for individual or group reading. I'm already beginning to cite this chapter.
  • Nikolaus Weichselbaumer, "'Sie solllen lesen bei Tag und bei Nacht': Akzeptanz und Funktion scholastische Leseformen" treats the transition from monastic to scholastic modes of reading with exceptional concreteness and clarity.
  • Edoardo Barbierei, "A Peculiarity of the 'Glossae' by Salomon III. of Constance" suggests that a 1474 edition of the Glossae went to press before the actual extent of another included text was known.
  • Oliver Duntze, "'The sound of silence': Eine unbekannte 'Ars punctandi' als Quelle zur Geschichte des Lesens in der Frühen Neuzeit" provides a wide-ranging overview of punctuation manuals as sources for the history of reading practices.
  • Mechhild Habermann, "Lesenlernen in der Frühen Neuzeit: Zum Erkenntniswert der ersten volkssprachlichen Lehrbücher" finds in sixteenth-century didactic works on reading evidence for a new approach to reading based on meaning rather than letters, and for an increased regard for the value of reading.
  • Hans-Jörg Künast, "Lesen macht krank und kann tödlich sein: Lesesuch und Selbstmord um 1800" investigates medical treatises as a new source for the reading revolution of the late eighteenth century and official concerns about it.
  • Ute Schneider, "Anomie der Moderne: Soziale Norm und Kulturelle Praxis des Lesens" considers the formation of a literary canon and the codification of reading practices in the context of the formation of a German national identity during the nineteenth century. 
  • Heinz Bonfadelli, "Zur Konstruktion des (Buch-)Lesers: Universitäre Kommunikationswissenschaft und angewandte Medienforschung" treats a seemingly simple yet consequential question: how does academic study of media and communication differ from the study of media markets and usage within the industry, and how does the treatment of books and reading compare to approaches to other media in each sphere? A serious course about the German media should include this chapter on its reading list.
  • Lilian Streblow and Anke Schöning, "Lesemotivation: Dimensionen, Befunde, Förderung" reviews studies of reading education in Germany in the aftermath of the PISA-test debates.
  • Sven Grampp, "Kindle's Abstinence Porn: Über Sinn und Sinnlichkeit digitaler Lesegeräte in der Werbung" performs a close reading of a televised Kindle advertisement and dissects its use of gender roles.
  • Axel Kuhn, "Das Ende des Lesens? Zur Einordnung medialer Diskurse über die schwindende Bedeutung des Lesens in einer sich ausdifferenzierenden Medienlandschaft" surveys twentieth- and twenty-first century discourses in which predictions of doom for literacy, books, printed books as opposed to e-books, and reading as a primary cultural technique have been made; at the end, Kuhn remains optimistic for the future of reading and skeptical of the prophets of doom.
These are well-written, thought-provoking essays which together add up to more than the sum of their parts. Es lebe die nicht-Feschschrift!