Wednesday, July 23, 2014

All sheets are not created equal

At the recent Lost Books conference in St Andrews, a topic that came up during discussion was "survival of the fattest": Books with more leaves tend to survive in greater numbers of copies that thinner books. The USTC apparently has plans to include the number of sheets used in the production of each edition.

The number of sheets is useful, but not quite the key information that one would hope it would be. As Frank McIntyre and I were preparing our paper, we originally considered sheet counts as a way to to enable comparison between formats. If you fold a sheet in half for a folio, or in four for a quarto, or in eight for an octavo, should be of no concern: a sheet is a sheet is a sheet.

Alas, it is not so. When it comes to book survival, how that sheet gets folded matters, as format is still the single most important variable in book survival.

For example, consider books of 8-16 sheets, including folios of 17-32 leaves, quartos of 33-64 leaves, and octavos of 65-128 leaves. Those are thin folios, handy quartos, and thick little octavos, but all composed of the same number of sheets. (Ideally, we would also factor in paper sizes, but that will have to wait for another generation of bibliographic databases.)

If we graph the percentage of incunable editions that survive in a given number of copies, this is what we find:


Despite all having 8-16 sheets, 12% of these folios survive in a single copy, while 20% of the quartos and nearly 30% of the octavos are known by just one copy. Book format informed choices about production, use, and survival more than leaf count did, and in a way that can't be reduced to a simple matter of bulk.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess, Chapter Five: A Horrible and Shocking Prophecy

As you can see from the sidebar, The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess is now in print. The book was the result, among other things, of trying to figure out what connected two sets of prophetic pamphlets that appeared to have nothing in common and were separated by two decades, although both claimed to have been found with Wilhelm Friess of Maastricht after his recent death. I answer that question in chapter 5.

The first part of the answer is that the second prophecy ("Friess II"), a desolate vision of utter devastation about to be visited on Germany in the form of demonic armies invading from all sides, shares a few details specifically with the Lübeck editions of "Friess I." Also, I argue that one of the two Lübeck editions has been misdated. While the first of them, VD16 F 2844, is dated in VD16 to 1558, there is strong evidence that it dates to 1566, as nearly all references to years earlier than that have been removed or increased by eight years. In addition, the titles of the Lübeck editions are nearly identical to a lost Dutch edition printed in 1566, last seen at auction over 200 years ago. The best guide to the text it contained is found in the Lübeck editions of Johann Balhorn the Elder.

So not only do we have a version of "Friess I" circulating in the Netherlands and Northern Germany in 1566-68, but it appears to be a specifically Lutheran text. The enemies list that appears in these editions distances itself from Catholics, Anabaptists, and Sacramentarians - that is, from Calvinists. It also condemns insurrection more harshly than other versions of "Friess II," foreseeing that some people will rise up and pillage churches, but the authorities will eradicate them. The setting that gave rise to this version of "Friess I" thus appears to be Dutch Lutheranism at the time of the Dutch Revolt in 1566.

I argue that "Friess II" is a specifically Calvinist reaction to the specifically Lutheran "Friess I" pamphlets circulating in the late 1560s. I suggest that one specific catalyzing even was the Calvinist uprising in Antwerp that ended in a humiliating stand-down after the Calvinists found themselves surrounded on all sides in the city by a force consisting of both Catholics and Lutherans and representatives of Antwerp's merchant community from all the nations of Europe, a source of resentment for many years to come. "Friess II" thus recapitulates as a nightmare vision for Germany the hopeless strategic situation that the Calvinists of Antwerp found themselves in in March 1567.

While the earliest dated editions of "Friess II" were printed by Samuel Apiarius of Basel in 1577, some textual-critical detective work points to an origin in 1574 with a Calvinist sympathizer in Strasbourg, but I treat most of the Strasbourg context in the next chapter.

* * *

Due to conference presentations and summer travel, blog updates may be sporadic for a while.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What centuries did the sixteenth century read?

Suppose that for every book printed in Germany in the sixteenth century - every item in VD16, in other words - it were possible to identify when the author was born. With that information, we could get an impression of how the demand changed over time for ancient, medieval, or contemporary authors.

We can actually do this to a certain extent already thanks to VD16's hooks into the Personennormdatei, which includes birth years for most if not all authors published in VD16. For a periodization, we'll call everything up to 100 AD "classical antiquity," 101-400 will be "late antiquity," 401-800 are "early medieval," 801-1200 are "medieval," and 1200-1400 are "late medieval." For now, instead of strictly counting authors or editions, we'll count the number of editions to which an author makes some kind of contribution (so an edition of both Virgil and Cicero will be counted twice, once for each author).

And this is what we find.
Figure 1: Relative contributions of historical periods to sixteenth-century German printing per decade

The result may not be obvious at first, but it's consistent with what we expect. The largest segment, the light blue line at the top, represents classical antiquity, with a healthy contribution coming from late antiquity. The early and high Middle Ages both supply very modest contributions, while the most recent late medieval authors start strong but fade with the onset of the Reformation. Every segment declines notably in the 1520s except for late antiquity; did patristic literature enjoy a surge of interest thanks to the Reformation? But after the 1520s, every segment except classical antiquity goes into a sustained decline.

What about fifteenth- and sixteenth-century authors? I left them off the graph above because their numbers would swamp the earlier authors. Also, the definition of "recent author" changes each year; a contemporary in 1501 is long dead in 1599. To address the printing of recent authors, I posed a different question: what is the average year of birth for all authors published in a given year? The results are below.

Figure 2: Average difference between year of publication and year of author's births in sixteenth-century German printing per half-decade

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the average birth year lay over 250 years before the year the work appeared in print (which still implies a preponderance of recent authors, thanks to the popularity of authors from classical antiquity). The Reformation sent that figure plummeting to just over 100 years. Although the average recovered somewhat, it experienced a long and consistent decline for the rest of the century as the medium of print was used more frequently for matters of contemporary relevance and less often for the distant voices of classical authors. By the end of the sixteenth century, print was even more strongly oriented toward recent writers than it had been at the height of the Reformation.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess, Chapter Four: From Protest to Propaganda

One of the things I try to show in The Strange and Terrible Visions is that old-fashioned recension criticism has important uses in the twenty-first century. In chapter 4, as in the previous chapter, I try to intersperse textual and cultural history to show how textual changes were responding to cultural concerns in particular places and times.

One of the mysteries about the "Wilhelm Friess" pamphlets is how they could go within a few months from a subversive pamphlet whose publication led to a beheading in Antwerp, to a popular and frequently reprinted booklet whose sale had no apparent repercussions for the printers who openly identified themselves on the title pages of their wares. Chapter 4 examines how the sharper polemical edges were rounded off in subsequent editions, making "Wilhelm Friess" less controversial and more palatable for a wider audience, and argues that geography made a difference, too. In Antwerp, the diabolical tyrant from the west with allies in the east could be all too easily be identified with Habsburg rulers. In Nuremberg, on the other hand, the geography more easily fit the traditional identification of the Habsburg emperor and his French and Turkish rivals with the prophesied Last World Emperor opposed by enemies to the east and west. What started out as a covert anti-Habsburg tract in Antwerp mutated into an overt reaffirmation of imperial narratives in Nuremberg that stabilized traditional end-time ideas at a time following the Schmalkaldic War, Peace of Augsburg, and abdication of Charles V, when the traditional narratives were in considerable doubt.

At least that seems to be the story of the most popular version of the text. Its textual history has some complicated origins, with crossing back and forth with other branches, but the textual history stabilizes in Nuremberg and starts behaving in a more classically Lachmannian fashion. At one point I compare this later and orderly textual history with the profile of a step pyramid, where one recension differs from the next by a handful of differences that are then passed on to the next generation. In case that image isn't entirely clear, this is what I had in mind, with common changes grouped together and editions arranged more or less in order from earliest to latest.

Fig. 1: Well-behaved textual variants, grouped by recension and sorted from earliest to latest recension

The last section of chapter 4 starts laying the groundwork for answering the other mystery of Wilhelm Friess: How did there come to be two completely different prophecies attributed to Wilhelm Friess of Maastricht, and what is the relationship between them?

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Toledo Letter in Print

The "Toledeo Letter" is a medieval prophecy that achieved a broad and long-lasting circulation. It can be surprising just how long the prophecy was still being copied and transmitted. In several posts since 2010, I've noted late editions of the "Toledo Letter" as I have come across them. I came across another one this week and found I didn't have a concise bibliography for the "Toledo Letter," so here it is. By the sixteenth century, the "Toledo Letter" was circulating in several different versions, so the texts listed below are often quite different from one another.

Practica of the Masters of Athens
  • Practica deutsch der hochgelerten Maistern vonn der Hochen schul Athenis practiziert auf sechs iar. [N.p: n.p., 1501]. VD16 P 4549. 
  • Practica der hochgelerten maister der schul Athenis. [Munich: Hans Schobser, 1501]. VD16 P 4550. BSB facsimile.
Johannes Virdung's invective against Lucas
Not the Toledo letter itself, but an attempt to disprove it on astronomical grounds after it appeared in 1512, and including lengthy passages from the prognostication.
  • Invectiva magistri Johannis Virdungi de hasfurt ... Contra somniatum Prognosticon quod delirus ipse Lucas magni regis persarum philosophus et Medicus super Anno millesimo quingentesimo duodecimo edidit. Heidelberg: Jakob Stadelberger, 1512. VD16 V 1265.
  • Invectiva Eyn invectif meyster hansen Virdungs von Hasfurt ... Wider die erdicht Practaca die der Unwissende mensch Lucas des grossenn kungs vonn Persia Philozophus und Artzt uff das funffzehundert und xii jare gemacht hat. Heidelberg: Jakob Stadelberger, 1512. VD16 V 1266
  • Reprint of VD16 V 1265: Melchior Goldast, Politica imperialia... Frankfurt: Bringerus, 1614, 779-82. VD17 1:018471V. HAB facsimile.
News from Calabria
This version of the "Toledo Letter" is recorded in several broadside and booklet editions of the 1580s.
  • Zwo warhafftige Propheceyungen von zukünfftigen dingen. Die erste / von einem newen Propheten / Welcher zu Stettin in Pomern / deß verfloßnen 1585. Jars / den ersten Septembris erschienen. Die Andere Von einem Fewrigen Sternen / welcher in Calabria gesehen worden / und desselbigen bedeutung / was sich ungefabrlich von diser jetzigen zeit an / biß auff das 1587. und 1588. Jar zutragen und verlauffen soll.  [N.p: n.p.,1586]. VD16 V 2659. HAB facsimile.
  • Not seen, but the title and timing are suspicious: NOVA NOVORVM. Ein new Prognosticon aus Calabria / auff das 87. Jar was sich fürnemlich vom verschienen 86. und 87. Jahre / biß ins künfftige 1588. begeben werde. Sampt einer alten Sybillischen / und vor in dieser Sprach nie ausgegangener Weissagung ... Cologne: [N.p., 1587]. VD16 ZV 18232
News from Calabria: Broadsides
  • New Zeyttung auß Calabria: Auff das 1585. Jar Prognostication / was isch ungefahrlich auff das 87. Jar zutragen soll... Augsburg: Valentin Schönigk, [1585]. In Harms and Schilling 2: 314-15.
  • Warhafft Zeitung auß Stettin inn Pomern / Von einem newen Propheten welcher sich den ersten Herbstmonat diß 1585. Jars / erzeigt hat. [Augsburg? Hans Schultes the elder, 1585]. In Harms and Schilling 2:334-35.
  • Neuwe zeitunge aus Calabria, das 1586. Jar Prognosticirt, was sich vngefehrlich auff das 87. Jahr zu tragen wirdt. [N.p: n.p., 1586]. Berlin SBPK Flugschr. 1586/7
  • Translation into Czech: Wýstraha aneb Praktyka ze Wlach z tak řečené Kraginy Calabria. Prague: Burián Valda, 1586. USTC 567367.
Johannes Doleta
Also in the late 1580s, several editions combine the "Toledo Letter," ascribed to Johannes Doleta, with other prophetic material as a "Short Prophecy or Practica."
  • Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practita... Erfurt: Johann Beck, 1586. VD16 ZV 29411. Utrecht UB facsimile
  • Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practika... Cologne: Heinrich Nettessem, [1586]. VD16 ZV 9651. dilibri.de facsimle (Trier StB)
  • Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practica... Cologne: Heinrich Nettessem, 1587. VD16 ZV 9654
  • Kurtze / gewisse und warhaffte Propheceyung oder Practica... Lübeck: Johann Balhorn the Younger, 1587. Not in VD16. Göttingen SUB facsimile
  • Kurtze / Gewisse / vnd Warhaffte Propheceyung oder Practica... [N.p., n.p.], 1587. VD16 ZV 22756
  • Kurtze / gewisse / vnd Warhaffte Propheceyung oder Practica... [N.p., n.p.], 1587. VD16 ZV 4633
  • With the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess: Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practica...Sampt einer Ander Prophetzeyung / ist gefunden worden / in Mastrich... Cologne: Nikolaus Schreiber, [1587]. VD16 ZV 28130. e-rara.ch facsimile
  • With the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess, and translated into Dutch: Corte prophetie / van tgene  int iaer M.D.LXXXVIII... Amsterdam: Cornelius Claesz, 1588. TB 4427/NB 27073
Prognostication for 1629
I only know one edition of this version, but the astronomical disproof went through at least two editions.
  • Prognosticon. So mit vornehmer Astronomorum Calculation, auff das 1629. Jahr gerichtet/ und der Römischen Key: May: zugesendet wordenNeben einem Prognostico so dem ChnrFürsten von Sachsen/ durch gelartte Leute und Astrologos ist zugesand worden. [N.p: n.p., 1629]. VD17 23:332291K. Facsimile ("Schlüsselseiten," but complete).
  • Response: Fröliche Zeitung. Das ist / Grüntliche und Astronomische Widerlegung / zweyer außgesprengten / falscherdichteten Propheceyungen / uber das 1629. Jahr / welche anfänglich dem Bapst zu Rom / hernach von dannen Röm. Keys. Maj. naher Wien sollen seyn uberschickt worden. [N.p: n.p., 1629]. VD17 23:250802M. Schlüsselseiten (same edition as this complete e-rara.ch facsimile?)
  • Response: Fröliche Zeitung. Das ist: Gründtliche und Astronomische Widerlegung/ zweyer außgesprengten/ falscherdichteten Propheceyungen/ uber das 1629. Jahr/ welche anfänglich dem Bapst zu Rom/ hernach von dannen Röm: Keys: Maj: nacher Wien sollen seyn uberschickt wordenDardurch männigklichen hart erschröckt und zaghafft gemacht worden: Jetzund aber durch dise Widerlegung widerumb erfrewet und erquicket wirdt. [N.p: n.p., 1629]. VD17 12:641205M. Facsimile ("Schlüsselseiten," but complete).
Secondary literature
  • Grauert, Hermann. “Meister Johann von Toledo” Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-philologischen und der historischen Klasse (1901) 111–325.
  • Mentgen, Gerd. Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit im Mittelalter. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 2005.

Friday, May 9, 2014

German vs. Latin printing, 1450-1700

As I was looking at an older volume of the De Boor/Newald Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, I came across a claim for the percentage of German-language printing that struck me as a bit off. Now that we have some better data from GW/ISTC, VD16, and VD17 to work with, it should be possible to compare German and Latin printing across two and a half centuries, from 1450 to 1700 - at least with a few caveats. For incunables, I'm including only what the ISTC assigns to the region of Germany. VD16 doesn't include broadsides, so for the sake of consistency we should exclude broadsides from the incunables and seventeenth-century books as well, as the percentage of vernacular broadsides can be surprisingly high at times. Also, VD16 only includes language data for not quite half of its titles, so we'll have to compare percentages rather than title counts, and hope that VD16 has provided language data for a reasonably random sample. We also have to keep in mind that VD16 indexes every title in a volume separately, so one volume including multiple titles will be counted multiple times - which is less of a concern, as we're interested in the overall percentage. Finally, we're ignoring bilingual works.

Here's the graph:


What we find for 1480-1600 is not substantially different than what you can find in Uwe Neddermeyer's Von der Handschrift zum gedruckten Buch (2:698, diagram 12a, Reich/nationalsprachlich), although I find the longer time frame of my graph helpful. Vernacular printing declines after the 1480s, experiences a sharp rise at the time of the reformation, then settles into a slow decline that lasts until the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War. The amount of change between 1530 and 1700 is really quite modest, however.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Regiomontanus, Bishop of Regensburg

When working with late medieval and early modern prophecies, one naturally starts to wonder when prophecy ceased. At what point did leading intellectuals, or socially respectable people, or the broad mass of the population stop putting stock in prophecies? That moment comes later than you might think. I haven't undertaken a systematic search for late prophecies, but I have taken note as I've come across them. There are at least a few examples of what look like earnestly published prophecies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Usually the late prophecies that are published or collected in the eighteenth through twentieth centuries are reminiscent but not obviously identical to late medieval or early modern prophecies, although there are exceptions, sometimes amusingly so. Johann Nepomuk Trülle's Buch der Wahr- und Weissagungen, with editions dated 1849, 1850, and 1854, contains the Latin rendition of the 1588 quatrain, only slightly altered for relevance to the year 1788, and attributed to "Johannes Müller, Bischof von Regensburg, im XV. Jahrhundert." This is recognizable as a distortion of Johannes Müller von Königsberg, the given name of the fifteenth-century astronomer Regiomontanus usually associated with the 1588 quatrain. The appearance in the Buch der Wahr- und Weissagungen gives the 1588 quatrain, first attested in 1553, three full centuries of reception in print. A facsimile of Latin verse in Trülle's 1849 edition is available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.