Friday, December 30, 2011

Cyriacus Schlichtenberger

Recently I've been interested in the succession of best-selling prophetic pamphlets in the sixteenth century. A good example of what I mean is Josef Grünpeck's Prognosticum, a brief work of a few leaves that went through nine editions in at least six different cities in the space of one year. For the first half of the sixteenth century, I'm familiar with all the authors whose works experience a similarly sudden popularity from my research for Printing and Prophecy: Lichtenberger, Carion, Virdung, Paracelsus, Pürstinger, and Grünpeck. In the second half of the century, however, the best sellers are from an entirely different set of authors: Wilhelm Friess, Paul Severus, Nikolaus Weise, Georg Ursinus, Johann Hilten, Gregor Jordan, and Cyriacus Schlichtenberger.

I had been able to at least look at the texts from all of these except Cyriacus Schlichtenberger, for which no facsimile was available - until earlier this week. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek just digitized a copy of VD16 S 2999.

At first glance, I'm not quite sure I get this one. The text is precisely what the title promises: The report of a simple farmer's daughter who awakens at her own burial and tells about her post-death experiences before she dies again five days later. The signed editions are all from northern Germany rather than the usual major printing cities in southern Germany, so I may be missing something obvious.

Volker Leppin's Antichrist und jüngster Tag mentions Schlichtenberger several times, but notes that the alleged location in "Melwing" is not easily locatable on any map. One possibility that a quick search of Google Books suggests is that this is Elbing, now the Polish town of Elbląg.

* * *

The winter semester starts next week, and I'll be at MLA for a few days, so posting may be light for a bit.

Friday, December 23, 2011

1570, 1580, 1590, and counting

Earlier I mentioned a prophetic list of events for the years 1570-80 that turns up in various forms all over Europe as late as the nineteenth century. All the attestations I found at first were modern editions, mostly of manuscript sources. I still don't know what the prophecy is called, or remember where I first saw it, but I have now come across some printed sources.
  • It shows up as part of the prophecy of Gregor Jordan (itself an unresolved puzzle) in 1591, with predictions for 1591-1600. The BSB has a facsimile (of VD16 ZV 6626) here.
  • It also appears as Eine merckwürdige Prophezeyung / Welche zu Neapolis in eines Benedictiner-Münchs-Grabe in einer bleyern Capsel gefunden worden, published in 1697, with predictions for 1646-1990 in Latin with German translation. A facsimile of this edition, VD17 3:609742P, is available here.
  • A note in a nineteenth-century auction catalog suggests that the prophecy was included in Georg Ursinus's 1576 work on eclipses, VD16 ZV 21550, but I haven't seen a copy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I am fairly certain that Nikolaus Wyse does not exist

Recently I've needed to untangle the works of Nikolaus Weise, who published several astrological prognostications for various periods. Some of these are clearly the same work, although later editions might drop the prognostications for years that had already passed, while some are clearly different texts, even though they may offer a prognostication for the same year.

Weise's most popular work is the Prognosticon astrologicum von dem 1572. bis auf das 1588. Jahr (VD16 W 1568-1575, ZV 18184, 18185, 18260, and W 4700), with ten editions of 1571-72. There are also an eleventh edition of 1573 with prognostications for 1573-88, and a twelfth of 1578 with prognostications for 1578-88. These later editions omit the earlier years, but they include the same dedicatory epistle "An den Christlichen Leser" and the same prognostications for each year, including the quatrain on 1588.

Between 1579 and 1582, Weise's Prognosticon astrologicum was reprinted nine more times in combination with a similar work by Georg Ursinus as Zwo Practiken vom 1580. Jahr bis man schreiben wird 1600. Jahr (VD16 U 267-271, U 273 [and I'd really like to see a copy of U 272, which is supposedly only the prognostication of Ursinus], ZV 18165, 21551, 23699 [VD16 omits Weise's authorship from ZV 21551 and 23699, but based on the titles I think it's almost certain that it contains the same texts as the others]). So altogether 21 editions, which makes it one of the most popular astrological works of the later sixteenth century.

Weise's other prognostications are different works. These include a comet tract of 1575 (VD16 W 1563), but also prognostications for 1574-78 and 1575-80, which are not extracts from the Prognosticon astrologicum or related to each other. There are two editions of a Judicium astrologicum, one for 1574-78 and a later edition for 1577-78 (VD16 W 1565 and 1564, respectively), which begin with a dedicatory epistle to the mayor and city council of Dresden. (I'm not as certain of the identity of these two, and I'd want to check the copy of W 1564 in Wolfenbüttel to be sure.) There are also two editions of a Prognosticon for 1575-80 (VD16 W 1566, 1567), whose dedicatory epistle begins with an appellation to the "Gunstiger lieber Leser." A quick look at the overlapping years in the three prognostic works finds that Weise is considering the same astronomical facts and drawing similar conclusions, but writing three entirely different texts.

I'm counting one edition of the Prognosticon astrologicum (VD16 4700) that VD16 does not attribute to Nikolaus Weise, but instead to Nikolaus Wyse. Wyse's only known work has the following title:
PROGNOSTICON Astrologicum. Van dem 1572. Jare beth vp dat 1588. Jaer warende / darinne gründtlyken vnde gewiß angetöget werdt / wat sick yn bauen gemelden Jaren / thokamende / begeuen vnde thodragen verde ... beschreuen / Dörch Nicolaum VVysen, Mathematicum.
According to VD16, this edition bears the following note:
Erstlyken tho Dreßden Gerücket [I assume Getrücket] / Vnde nu yn vnse Sassesche Sprake gebröcht
There are two Dresden editions of Weise's work. The full title of one (VD16 W 1570) is
PROGNOSTICON || ASTROLOGICVM. Von dem 1572. bis auff das 1588. Jahr wehrende / Darinnen gründtlichen vnd gewis angezeiget wird / was sich in obgemelten Jaren künfftig begeben vnd zutragen werde / alles mit hohem fleis zu trewer warnung gerechnet vnd beschrieben. Durch Nicolaum Weysen / Mathematicum.
So I see two possibilities. Either Nikolaus Weise and Nikolaus Wyse are the same person, or by an amazing coincidence an otherwise unknown author, whose name is the Low German equivalent of Weise's, also published a work in Dresden whose title was the same as Weise's, and then in Lübeck with a title that is the Low German equivalent of Weise's original title.

I haven't been to the Lüneburg Ratsbücherei to see this edition for myself, so perhaps I'm mistaken about this, but I'm pretty sure that Nikolaus Wyse and Nikolaus Weise are the same person.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Research links I need to know about: Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften

Clemens Radl sent me a link to the Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, a database that records scholarly books and articles that discuss manuscripts and early printed books in the BSB's collection. I had heard about this database while I was doing research in Munich in 2008, but my first few tries to find the link to it on the BSB website ended in failure. Now that I know where to find it, I agree with Clemens: "A very valuable, but probably not well known database." I recommend reading through the concise Hinweise zur Recherch, which explains what information each field indexes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

By way of comparison

When discussing an early modern pamphlet, I'll often refer to the work's "popularity," but the question always has to be: Popular compared to what? In Printing and Prophecy, I usually focused on the most popular prophetic pamphlets - that is, compared to other prophecies. But how popular were prophecies, relatively speaking?

It might be useful to compare a few quick searches in VD16 for works of acknowledged cultural significance. (These are quick searches, so I'm undoubtedly missing some editions, particularly later editions that compile shorter works.)
Martin Luther, Ein Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen: 6 editions (1530)
Martin Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen: 8 editions (1520-64)
Martin Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium: 12 editions (1520-24)
This is not at all to say that Johann Carion (30 editions of the Bedeutnus und Offenbarung between 1526 and 1548) or Johannes Lichtenberger (31 editions of the Prognosticatio in Germany from 1521 to 1587) were as influential as Luther. Far from it - there are hundreds of editions of Luther's catechisms, for example. But some prophetic tracts were reprinted in enough editions that one has to consider more than just their relative popularity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Research links you need to know about: USTC

The Universal Short Title Catalogue is now open for searching. This project, hosted at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, combines information from databases of early printing throughout Europe. While VD16/17, ISTC, and GW still provide more thorough bibliographies, copy locations, and links to digital facsimiles for searches limited to German printing or the fifteenth century, the USTC is a major step forward for research in two situations. First, for those authors whose works were printed throughout Europe, the USTC makes a search across national borders much easier that before. Second, the USTC is the first online bibliographic database that covers early printing in the Low Countries after 1500. Although Antwerp was one of the most important early modern printing centers, tracking down editions had previously involved looking through two or three different bibliographies, which was cumbersome even if your library owned copies of these reference works. Fortunately, USTC includes data from Andrew Pettegree and Malcolm Walsby's Netherlandish Books. Hopefully we'll see continued refinements to the interface and inclusion of additional records in USTC over the next several years.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Printing and Prophecy is now in print

Yesterday the University of Michigan Press sent me a link to their online catalog. Printing and Prophecy is in there, on page 49. And they sent me a link to download my author's copy of the e-book edition. The printed copies are, I assume, in the mail. Amazon still lists the book as not yet released, but they also are now providing an extensive preview, as is Google Books. If it's on Google, it must be for real.

The timeline for writing and publication went something like this:

March: I have the initial idea and start background reading.
May: Humboldt application submitted
October: First conference paper about Lichtenberger
November: Notification of successful grant application

August: Archival research commences

October: Writing begins

May: Alpha draft completed

May: Beta draft completed
June-July: Revisions. At the end of July, I'm ready to start querying.
August: The University of Michigan Press wants to see the full manuscript.
October: Initial reactions are positive.

January: Reader reports come back. They recommend publication.
March: The editorial board agrees, and extends a publication contract.
July 1: I submit the final manuscript.

January: The copy edited manuscript is submitted.
July: Page proofs and index are submitted.
November: Printing and Prophecy appears in print.

I think I can see some ways to make the next book go faster.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Research on a fragment

8:35 AM: I check the newly digitized works from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. A newly digitized manuscript, cgm 414, includes a “Schmähschrift auf Kaiser Friedrich III.,” which sounds interesting. I pull it up, then go teach my literature course.

10:05 AM: After I teach my class, I return to the manuscript. For a digitized manuscript from München, my first stop is the BSB’s OPAC, which contains links to Handschriftenkataloge-Online. According to Karin Schneider’s catalog entry, the pastedowns are from a printed calendar - but I’ve already seen that they’re prose, not a tabular calendar. Time for a second look.

10:15 AM: The front pastedown describes weather and moon phases by month. The layout and organization suggest an early practica. The back pastedown confirms it: The text, organized by “Capitel” and then by “Wort,” has a structure I’ve seen in practicas before 1490, and the third chapter describes the fates of various people and cities.

10:25 AM: Practicas are ephemeral. Entire editions can easily get lost. I might just have a previously unknown incunbable edition in front of me. I start thinking about journals where I can publish this discovery, and take a closer look at the text.

10:35 AM: We have one geographic clue, and one chronological clue. The first city described is Leipzig, where Wenzel Faber von Budweis and Martin Polich von Mellerstadt were active in the 1480s. The structure doesn’t look right for other practicas I’ve seen from Polich, but Faber was using “Capitel” and “Wort” (or Latin “Verba”) in the 1480s. Faber’s typical organization also has the fortunes of cities and people following directly after the weather and moon phases. So this looks like one of Wenzel Faber’s practicas. Not surprising - we have more practicas from Faber than from anyone else in the fifteenth century.

10:50 AM: The page with moon phases and weather gives us two solid clues. First, there will be a full moon on the feast of St. Martin (11 November), and there will be a full moon on the Monday after Immaculate Conception (8 December). According to NASA’s Six Millennium Catalog of Phases of the Moon, there are full moons on November 10 or November 11 in 1478, 1486, and 1497. But the full moon after Immaculate Conception fell on a Monday only in 1486. In addition, the prior full moon was on 11 November that year, while it was on 10 November in 1478 and 1497.

11:15 AM: So this looks like Wenzel Faber’s German practica for Leipzig 1486. There are two known editions (GW 9586 and 9587); is this one of them, or an unrecorded third edition?

11:30 AM: I consult the entry for GW 9587. There’s no facsimile available, and the only copies are either missing or defective. But GW includes a few short passages from the practica, and the first line of text on the first leaf of the second gathering as recorded in GW looks familiar: steffani wulk. ā kindlein tag genei. zu feucht. āďſwo auf dē mor-||

It’s more than familiar. It’s exactly the same line at the top of the back pastedown. So I’ve been looking at two leaves (a4v and b1r) from a previously unrecorded copy of GW 9587/ISTC if00005260:
Wenzel Faber von Budweis, Prognostikon für Leipzig auf das Jahr 1486, deutsch. [Nürnberg: Peter Wagner].
The publication plans get shelved in time for me to teach my 101 course.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Digital editions of the week: Europäischer Staats-Wahrsager

There are a few things I've learned not to say in academic writing, including:
  • "Scholars agree that..."
  • "Scholarship on this question has until now failed to notice..."
  • "The popular literature that this article studies dwindled into obscurity soon after the end of the chronological period that limits my study."
You inevitably discover - usually after page proofs have been returned - no, some very important scholar did not agree, and no, someone noticed the same thing a century before you were born, and no, the genre you're studying carried merrily along into centuries where you don't know the literature or the bibliography as well. Some works of German medieval literature (such as the courtly romance) did fade away after the late fifteenth century, but others (such as Melusine) continued into the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.

Such is the case with late medieval prophecy and popular astrology. You might think it would fade away after the Reformation, or at least the Thirty Years War, but it keeps popping up again a century after you thought it was gone for good. I limited Printing and Prophecy to the century between 1450 and 1550, but there would have been no lack of material for the following century (which Robin Bruce Barnes and Volker Leppin addressed in their books), or even for the one after that. The first prophecy of Wilhelm Friess disappears after 1568 - only to reappear in the 1690s.

So the digital editions of the week are two editions of the Europäischer Staats-Wahrsager, a collection of prophecies printed in the mid-1700s. The Uni Göttingen has digitized a 1748 edition, while the Uni Halle has a 1758 edition. While many of the texts are unfamiliar, the contents include some names already well known in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, including Lichtenberger's complete Prognosticatio and the "Hidden Prophecy" of Johann Carion and its interpretation. There are other prophecies attributed to Birgitta of Sweden and Paracelsus, but the relationship to the authentic writings of those two is murky at best. The Europäischer Staats-Wahrsager shows just how long and how tenaciously prophetic texts maintained their place in German culture.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Early modern German prophecy in print: the essential bibliography

While working on Printing and Prophecy, there were many books and articles on early printing, prophecy, and early modern culture that I needed to consult for some aspect of my research. However, there were only a few books where nearly every chapter was directly relevant. For now, I only have four books on the list:
  • Barnes, Robin Bruce. Prophecy and Gnosis: Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Reformation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988.
  • Leppin, Volker. Antichrist und Jüngster Tag: das Profil apokalyptischer Flugschriftenpublizistik im deutschen Luthertum 1548-1618. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1999.
  • Mentgen, Gerd. Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit im Mittelalter. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 2005.
  • Talkenberger, Heike. Sintflut: Prophetie und Zeitgeschehen in Texten und Holzschnitten astrologischer Flugschriften, 1488-1528. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1990.
I might add two honorable mentions:
  • Niccoli, Ottavia. Prophecy and People in Renaissance Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Lerner, Robert. The Powers of Prophecy: The Cedar of Lebanon Vision from the Mongol Onslaught to the Dawn of the Enlightenment. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Niccoli's focus is on Italy up through 1530, while most of Lerner's investigation of the "Cedar of Lebanon" prophecy deals with medieval texts, so these two works don't quite make it onto this list, but they would both be essential reading if the topic weren't so narrow.

Leppin, Mentgen, and Talkenberger all share Publizistik as an area of primary interest. Mentgen and Talkenberger deal with the earlier period (Mentgen actually starts in the 11th century), while Barnes and Leppin are both looking at Lutheran apocalypticism after 1550. Leppin takes pains to distance his work from Barnes, but I think unnecessarily; both books are valuable and complement each other. Leppin has the strongest theological focus, while Barnes, Mentgen, and Talkenberger are historians. Mentgen does an especially nice job refereeing earlier scholarly debates. In addition to a similar chronological and thematic focus, what all these books share is that they work closely with many primary sources. Their appendices and footnotes are invaluable sources for further research.

One consequence is that I spend more time arguing with these books than with most others, but not because the books are bad - they're not, they're fantastic works of scholarship. And that makes them worth arguing with.

Friday, October 28, 2011

1588: On beyond Leowitz

Sometimes the next step in a research question is to find a new primary source. But not this time.

Volker Leppin's Antichrist und Jüngster Tag has an extensive section (pp. 144-49) on the 1588 quatrain which identifies the first source in print as Kaspar Brusch's preface and afterword to the 1553 edition of the De ortu et fine Romani Imperii liber of Engelbertus von Admont (VD16 E 1211). The BSB has digitized this edition, and the page with the quatrain is here, while the Latin verse is here. This appears to be the first recorded appearance of the prophecy in print.

The note on the title page is interesting, however: Accessit eiusdem Bruschij Hodoeporicon Bauaricum, in quo et Regiomontani uaticinium quoddam explicatur, et uaria de die extremo conijciuntur, "Also including Brusch's Bavarian Travels, in which a certain prophecy of Regiomontanus is explicated and various things concerning the Last Day are conjectured." The quatrain appears to have been associated with Regiomontanus and well known enough in 1553 that it merited mention on the title page.

There are similar and competing quatrains for earlier years (and eventually for 1590 and later), and Latin verse for 1560, so we wouldn't expect the 1588 quatrain to get started much earlier than this, but there may yet be earlier witnesses to be found. I'm still curious why someone in 1553 or earlier was focused on the year 1588.

Volker Leppin's book is excellent, by the way. I'm adding it to what has been a very short list of books that are fundamental foundational reading for prophecy and prognostication in early modern Germany.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Theodericus Croata times three

While looking at Volker Leppin's Antichrist und Jüngster Tag, I noticed his reference to a 1612 edition that combined Johann Carion's hidden prophecy and "Dietrich von Zengg," a prophecy found in the mid-fifteenth century in manuscript and then in eleven editions between 1503 and 1542. In 1546, Hans Guldenmund printed Carion and Zengg together in Nuremberg. I wasn't aware of the seventeenth-century edition until I saw Leppin's note, and a quick look at VD16/17 finds two more editions (VD17 1:063153A, 7:707451Q, and VD17 23:327852S). At first glance, it looks like Balthasar Hoffmann of Darmstadt reprinted Guldenmund's edition sixty-six years later, with another edition in 1619 and an anonymous edition following in 1621.

As a prophecy, "Dietrich von Zengg" is a mess, with no obvious structure or historical reference. Hopefully Courtney Kneupper's dissertation will be out soon, as figuring out "Dietrich von Zengg" is one of the projects she was working on. One version of "Wilhelm Friess" includes citations from "Dietrich von Zengg," so it's not a problem I can simply ignore.

The prophecy is also a bibliographic mess. The author's name is all over the place, both in the secondary literature and in the editions themselves. On the title pages, you find Dietrich von "Zeng in Kravaten," von "Zeng in Granaten," "Dieterich bischoff zu Zug in Krocon," and two editions that don't name the author at all. In GW/ISTC and VD16/17, the authors are listed variously as "Theodoricus Croata," "Bruder Dietrich," "Theodoricus [Monachus]," "Theodoricus [Epternacensis]," and "Dietrich [von Zengg]," and the two editions without named authors aren't connect to the rest at all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Shape of Incunable Survival

Jonathan Green, Frank McIntyre, and Paul Needham. “The Shape of Incunable Survival and Statistical Estimation of Lost Editions.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 105.2 (2011): 141-75.
The article I coauthored with Frank McIntyre and Paul Needham is now out in PBSA. The article addresses an old question: How many editions printed in the fifteenth century have disappeared without a trace? A couple of pictures illustrate the problem. If you think of book survival as a coin toss, even with a coin that comes up heads only 3% of the time, then you can plug in reasonable estimates of print runs and come up with something like this:
So you'd expect lots of incunabula to survive in 7-18 copies, relatively few with more or less than that, and not many lost editions at all. If you count up all the copies recorded in the ISTC (using a process like the one I proposed in the third article I ever published), however, the cruel reality looks like this:
In other words, you find thousands and thousands of editions with only one known copy, and a steep drop off to two or more copies, but also a few editions surviving in hundreds of copies (and one, the first Latin edition of Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle, in over a thousand).

So simulating incunable survival as independent coin tosses just won't work. Our approach in this article uses a maximum likelihood estimation for a negative binomial distribution and some reasonable assumptions about how many editions any particular printer might produce, and we find that the number of lost editions is quite a bit higher than most earlier estimates, quite possibly in the range of 40-60%, and 35-50% even if you eliminate broadsides from the analysis.

Between Frank's statistical reasoning and Paul's vast knowledge of early printing, the article proved to be a fascinating project to work on. For German Studies, I think the article serves as a useful caution that what the early modern book world looks like to us is possibly very different from what it looked like at the time. We only have the books that five centuries worth of book owners and librarians have chosen to keep around, which were not the same as the books that people chose to buy and read in the fifteenth century.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Prophecies, like textual allusions, are the kind of thing you don't immediately recognize as significant until you see them again, and then you realize it's not just a bit of speculation but rather a prophecy circulating through early modern society, and you remember that you saw it once before...somewhere.

The following prophecy, for example, records events predicted to occur in the years 1570-80. A quick search finds appearances in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Scotland, with some French versions using a timeline as late as 1755-1999. The model of a list of years and events is older than 1570, but this particular series of events seems to have hung on for a long time and spread throughout Europe. The point of origin is unknown, but the source is variously attributed to Italian diplomats or German scholars.

In a Swiss source (link), the prophecy (where it is placed before July 1572) appears as:
Pronostication ab anno 70 usque ad annum 8o. Ex Italia.
70. Ferrarea tremet.
71. Ciprus deficitur.
72. Pastor non erit.
73. Ira Dei super nos erit.
74. à paucis cognoscitur Christus.
75. Proelium magnum erit in vniuersa terra.
76. Affrica ardebit.
77. Surget maximus vir.
78. Europa trepidabit.
79. Fames erit in vniuersa terra.
80. Erit unum ouile et unus pastor.
The events for 1570-72 appear to be prophecies ex eventu, assuming the events referred to are the 1570 earthquake in Ferrara, the Turkish conquest of Cyprus in 1571, and the death of Pope Pius V in May 1572, so we'll estimate the prophecy's date of origin as May-July 1572.

When I came across this prophecy recently, I recognized it as something I'd seen before...somewhere. I realize now that this prophecy spread all over Europe, but I don't know if it's been recognized as a single textual tradition rather than the individual musings of a particular copyist (as Willem Frijhoff treats it here), and I don't know if the prophecy has a designation in the scholarly literature, and I don't know of any secondary literature on this text (which is not at all to say that there is no secondary literature). If the origin is Italian and Catholic, the original intent is still unclear, and much of the transmission is Protestant and outside of Italy. It's possibly significant for "Wilhelm Friess," so I wish I could remember where I first came across the 1570-80 prophecy or discussions of it in the scholarly literature. Without a name attached to it, searching for it is like wandering in the dark until you bump into a wall.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chapter Six: Fear, Floods, and the Paradox of the Practica teütsch

Because I decided that I couldn't ignore astrological prognostications in Printing and Prophecy, I had to deal with the widespread concern over a predicted second deluge in the year 1524. At first I tried to cover practicas and 1524 in the same chapter, with the result that Chapter Five was twice as long as other chapters. The solution was to split off Chapter Six.

The events leading up to 1524 are often described as a "flood panic," but the reality seems to be quite a bit more complicated, with panic among some people and carnevalesque mockery among others. Mentgen's Ästrologie und Öffentlichkeit im Mittelalter is the best treatment so far, I think.

The clearest indication of widespread concern is still the 160+ booklets printed in the years leading up to 1524. Very few of these works actually predicted a second deluge, however, while even astrologers who scoffed at the idea were quick to point out omens of other disasters. The most complete account of the print response is Talkenberger's Sintflut.

I think the flood pamphlets of 1524 need a second look, however, particularly the idea that an astrological prediction led to a panic. Astrological predictions were always dire. Why panic in 1524? Between the Reformation, the election of a new emperor, Turkish invasions, and ongoing social change, there was enough uncertainty about the course of sixteenth-century society that people were liable to panic and therefore willing to buy books that addressed their panic.

Of course, if the panic was not specifically about planetary conjunctions, then we need to widen our focus to look at other kinds of pamphlets, and there are are several contemporary prophetic pamphlets that address the same fears.

The flood panic of 1524 is also usually treated as a failed prophecy, as no second deluge occurred in 1524. This is mistaken for several reasons, as the effects of planetary conjunctions were not expected to occur instantaneously but rather any time in the following years or decades. No serious astrologers were predicting a world-ending deluge, and in any case they all insisted that prayer and repentance could turn away God's wrath. Finally, the turbulence of the rest of the decade left the most consolatory astrologers looking a bit foolish and their print careers badly damaged, while alarmists like Johann Carion and Johannes Virdung went on to enjoy another 15 years of popularity.

The flood panic of 1524 was also part of a crisis of legitimacy that was afflicting the professional astrologers. By making available multiple theoretical bases for prognostication, and by lowering the barriers to predicting the future from specialized training to mere book ownership, print destabilized the cosmos decades before Copernican ideas found their way into print.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chapter Five: Practica teütsch

When I started working on Printing and Prophecy, I planned to exclude astrology as a fundamentally different kind of thing. That plan didn't last long. There proved to be too many authors who wrote in both modes, or who drew on both astrology and prophecy, that I had to admit that both astrology and prophecy are two different ways of writing about the future in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

So if I was examining prophetic pamphlets, that meant I had to look at astrological booklets as well. And there were hundreds of practicas - astrological prognostications for a single year - published between 1470 and 1550. I managed to look at a few hundred of them.

The practicas belonged to a highly stereotyped genre, but not everything that calls itself a practica actually is one. Up through 1550 (and in many cases for decades beyond that), the prototypical practica is a small quarto booklet of 4-8 leaves, written in the vernacular, divided into something like 8 chapters covering a set of standard topics, identified with an author's name, and illustrated on the title page with a woodcut of anthropomorphic planets. This, at least, is the typical German form. There were Italian and Dutch and French practicas as well, but the German version has a distinctive form that was worked out during the 1480s and early 1490s, initially in the practicas of Wenzel Faber of Budweis, but taking its final form in the practicas of Johannes Virdung from the Nuremberg press of Friedrich Creussner. Virdung published more practicas than any other astrologer over a career that lasted into the late 1530s, but he didn't entirely escape the collapse of the practica market in the decade between 1500 and 1510, when every other practitioner exited the field and the number of editions and authors printed dropped dramatically and recovered only in the 1520s.

Practicas at first glance look like tedious astronomical observations interspersed with astrological mumbo-jumbo, but a second look will reveal that they're actually fascinating microcosms of early modern society. Like prophecies, they distill society's hopes and fears, but the practicas also spend a good deal of time contemplating society's current structure. Most writing about the future, it turns out, is primarily concerned with the present.

At first, there were various competing systems for describing people: nobility, clergy, and commoners, for example; or Christians, Muslims, and Jews. But the structure of society that eventually predominates divided people by occupation according to planets. So soldiers were naturally considered to be children of Mars (but so were iron workers). Merchants and scholars were children of Mercury, while astrologers went back and forth over attributing book printers to Mercury or to Venus (along with women, musicians, and people driven by lust). Categorizing people according to planetary occupations turns out to be an extraordinarily flexible and expandable way to describe a society in the midst of flexing and expanding. Rather than promoting reform or revolution, practicas promoted the stability of the existing order by raising fears of disaster while offering obedience and unity as ways to mitigate or avoid calamity. With a few exceptions, practicas illustrate the printing press as an agent of the status quo.

Friday, September 2, 2011

When paratexts go bad: Vom Michel Juden Tode

While working on Printing and Prophecy, I was interested in everything written by Johannes Lichtenberger, whose 1488 Prognosticatio was the most influential compilation for much of the period I was dealing with. So one particularly interesting edition was VD16 V 2722: Vom Michel Juden Tode (Magdeburg: Michael Lotter, 1549). The VD16 entry lists Lichtenberger as a contributor. Was this a combination of an anti-Semitic tract with some part of the Prognosticatio?

I ordered a facsimile from the Herzog August Bibliothek, and the title page indeed looks like the book will give us something from Lichtenberger.
But after eight leaves, the text just stopped. No Lichtenberger. The facsimile didn't include the verso of the last leaf. Was I missing something important?

Alas, no. A few days ago, the Universität Halle released a digital facsimile of a different copy (shown above), and the last leaf verso is blank.

So now the situation is clear. Despite the printer's use of the same type face for "Vom Michel Juden Tode" and "Johannes Liechtenbergers prophecey," only the first is a title. The second identifies the quotation being used to decorate the title page - which doesn't seem to appear in the Prognosticatio anyway, at least at first glance. Lichtenberger includes prognostications about Meissen and some anti-Semitic material, but the lines "Meissen wirt heydentzen / so wirt die Marck Judentzen / vnd Golt fur Gott anbeten" look like something attributed to Lichtenberger rather than borrowed from him. There are many other texts ranging from a few lines to several pages attributed to Lichtenberger in the sixteenth century and later, and the same thing happens with just about every other prophetic authority, so this isn't surprising.

As Lichtenberger's name is the only one that appears on the title page, authorship of Vom Michel Juden Tode is attributed to Lichtenberger in some older catalogs, however, which has carried forward into WorldCat and Google Books.

The "Michel" referred to in the title, by the way, is Michel von Derenburg; for more about him, see Rotraud Ries, "Individualisierung im Spannungsfeld differenter Kulturen," in Selbstzeugnisse in der Frühen Neuzeit, ed. by Kaspar von Greyerz (2007), 95-96.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hacking Zotero for early modern German Studies

Since April, I've been using Zotero, and the more I use it the more I like it. I'm letting Zotero manage all the bibliography, notes, and citations for the ever-expanding Wilhelm Friess project, and it's helped the writing go very quickly. Just today I discovered that text entered as prefixes and suffixes to citations will recognize some basic HTML tags, so you can italicize text if needed for foreign-language citations or book titles.

I had a few complaints about the available citation styles, however. I prefer Chicago style using short footnotes and bibliography, but no "ibid." For citing early modern editions, I think it's important to include an ISTC or VD16/17 number to unambiguously identify the edition, but there was no easy way to do that within Zotero. You can add it by hand, but that defeats the purpose of Zotero.

Solution: Create a new style by hacking the chicago-note-bibliography.csl file to suppress "ibid." and add ISTC/VD16 numbers to citations.

Suppressing "ibid." only required removing some lines of code. I added VD16 numbers to the "Call number" field of the bibliographic records because I don't see any way for Zotero to actually access the "Extra" field. Then in the CSL file, I added the following in the "macro" section:
<macro name="STC index">

<text variable="note">
(Updated to reflect helpful comments from adam.smith.)

The "bibliography" section was easy. I just added this line before the various "locators" (which means "page numbers" for books):
<text macro="STC index" prefix=". ">

The "citation" section was trickier, because Zotero wants to place commas in between everything. I had to remove the line that set the group delimiter to a comma, and then change the rest of the lines to the following:
<text macro="contributors-short" suffix=", ">

<text macro="title-short">
<text macro="STC index" prefix=" (" suffix=")">
<text macro="point-locators-subsequent" prefix=", ">

It's kind of an ugly hack, but now my footnotes look like this:

Pflaum, Ettlich weissagung (VD16 P 2401), f. b2r.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This just in from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

One of the RSS feeds I regularly follow is the list of newly digitized works from the SB Berlin. Because its focus is on the eighteenth century, I haven't found many new sources for my research. Today, however, the SBPK sent me a link to Die Holländische Sibillen Weissagung von viel wunderbare Zukunften, welche von Anfang bis zum Ende der Welt besagen (VD18 1188259X), which is dated 1750 (I assume "ca. 1750," since I don't see any obvious reasons to date the work to that year).

The title sounded promising, and in fact the content is familiar. The booklet of four leaves contains the prophecy of the Sybil Nichaula, followed by extracts from Birgitta, Methodius, and Reinhard. Nichaula is the "thirteenth Sibyl," which had appeared as a separate booklet as early as 1515 and was then incorporated into the sibylline collections. Christian Egenolff's sibylline collections place Nichaula immediately after Prophecies of the Twelve Sibyls beginning in 1531, and the next year Egenolff added the source of the other texts, the Extract of Various Prophecies (itself going back to Lichtenberger's Prognosticatio and Grünpeck's Speculum) immediately after Nichaula. The newly digitized pamphlet is a descendant of one of Egenolff's prophetic collections.

The edition in question states on the title page that it follows the "Amsterdamer Exemplar," which is an interesting case of Egenolff's collection making its way into the Netherlands (in what form and when still unknown). The text does not appear to be a translation back into German from Dutch, however. The excerpts are shortened quite a bit, so that Nichaula's prophecy omits all of the Antichrist material, and the other bits derived from the Extract of Various Prophecies omit the "Sermon of the Holy Man in 1508 in France."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Abstract: "Reading Fragments: Romantic Philology, Visual Perception, and the Inner History of Reading"

This is the abstract I submitted for the paper I'll be giving in September at the German Studies Association conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in the session "The Cognitive Turn in German Studies (1)." I'll be the official respondent for session (2).

Abstract: "Reading Fragments: Romantic Philology, Visual Perception, and the Inner History of Reading"

While there has been considerable work in recent decades on the social history of reading, the “inner” history of reading has seen little progress or has been declared an impossibility (for example, Bickenbach 1999). This paper proposes one way to approach the cognition of reading diachronically by connecting philological and poetic practices. One of the basic experiments for studying the role of visual perception in reading involves obscuring parts of letters, words, or sentences, and then observing how readers nevertheless successfully decode the text. Such experiments have led to the currently prevailing connectionist models of reading, which see visual, aural, and semantic cognitive structures operating simultaneously in the reading process. These experiments slow down and make conscious acts of decoding that are usually unconscious and automatic. It is therefore noteworthy that the rise of scholarly philology in the 18th and 19th centuries involved much the same exercise in the form of editing manuscript fragments and attempting to reconstruct original texts and codices. Furthermore, this philology coincided with new approaches to reading and literature in the Romantic period, broadly defined. One thinks of Heinrich von Ofterdingen by Novalis, for example, in which the title character’s famous vision of a blue flower functions as a theory of reading: the intense focus on one element of a text leads to a visionary experience that creates a new work. One of the roots of German Romantic literature might be found in an awareness of reading cognition resulting from contemporary philological practice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Research links you need to know about: Regesta Imperii OPAC (and more on Johannes Wolf)

One of the longstanding frustrations of working in German Studies is the fragmented bibliographic indexing of scholarship published in Germany. For secondary literature published in English, the MLA database is a reasonable place to start, but its coverage of German scholarship has always been spotty, and there hasn't been a German equivalent. It's too easy for books and articles published in German to remain invisible to international scholars.

Recently, however, I've been having increasing success with the Regesta Imperii online catalog. It's particularly good at finding chapters in edited volumes, which has been one of the weakest areas of bibliographic indexing.

Here's one recent find: Bergdolt, Klaus, and Walther Ludwig, eds. Zukunftsvoraussagen in der Renaissance. Harrassowitz, 2005.

There are several useful chapters here, but one particularly deserving of note is Sabine Schmolinsky's "Prophetia in der Bibliothek - die Lectiones memorabiles des Johannes Wolf" (pp. 89-130). Wolf's massive collection is an extremely important source for the study of medieval and early modern prophecies including the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus, Johann Hilten, and several others (not to mention many topics outside the realm of prophecy), and Schmolinksky's extensive article puts Wolf's life and his works into their historical context. It's an important article that fills what was a significant gap in the literature.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Judging a book by its cover: Robert S. Westman, The Copernican Question

I put the page proofs of Printing and Prophecy in the mail today. According to the University of Michigan Press's advertisement in the program for the upcoming German Studies Association conference, the book should be out in September.

Also this week, I came across an addition to the very small number of English-language book directly relevant to the topics I cover in Printing and Prophecy, and it was published just this month:

Westman, Robert S.
The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.Hardcover, 704 pages. ISBN: 9780520254817. $95.00.

I'm already envious of the cover. It's gorgeous. I haven't seen the cover design of Printing and Prophecy yet, but I can only hope for something this beautiful.
I haven't had a chance to read The Copernican Question yet, although I'll need to read it soon. After scanning the excerpt on the University of California Press website and as much as Google Books would let me read, The Copernican Question is looking like a major contribution to the field.

I'm not worried about Printing and Prophecy becoming redundant, however. The two books are looking at some similar materials in similar but not identical time periods, and asking very different questions about them. My focus is squarely on the German-speaking regions, while The Copernican Question has a broader European focus. While Westman's book is examining the intellectual history of Renaissance astrology, I'm primarily interested in prophecy as a rhetorical and communicative framework for authors and genres, and in its expression in the medium of print. Consequently, I spend most of my time digging into works and authors that appear only briefly or not at all in The Copernican Question, while I treat superficially or ignore altogether its main themes--such as Nicolaus Copernicus, who gets nothing more than a passing mention in Printing and Prophecy. Where the two books might overlap, such as on the printing of prognostic pamphlets or on the flood panic of 1524, I suspect that they will be complementary rather than redundant.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This prophecy brought to you by Hartmann Schedel, Andreas Osiander, Sebastian Franck, Christian Egenolff, Twelve Sibyls, and Will-Erick Peuckert

Substantial sections of Chapter One and Chapter Four of Printing and Prophecy are devoted to untangling the development and later history of the prophetic compilations that Christian Egenolff printed in Frankfurt. The original sibylline collections that Egenolff started printing in the early 1530s go back to material from Phillip de Barberiis, Jodocus Eichmann, and Jakob Köbel, to which Egenolff began adding other short pieces, including the Extract of Various Prophecies (compiled from from Lichtenberger’s Prognosticatio and Grünpeck’s Speculum), Johann Carion’s “Hidden Prophecy,” “36 Signs of the Last Day,” and others. The collections printed in 1548-1550 were made much more substantial by the addition of the Prognostication for 24 Years of Paracelsus and the complete Prognosticatio of Lichtenberger, as well as adding a few new shorter pieces. Egenolff’s collections led to a number of reprints well into the 17th century.

Late in the process of publishing Printing and Prophecy, I came across an article I hadn’t seen yet: Will-Erich Peuckert, “Zwölff Sybillen Weissagungen,” Mitteilungen der schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 29 (1928): 217-57. Peuckert turns out to be approaching the same question, but from the opposite direction. He starts with a 1677 reprint and attempts to determine its sources, eventually noting the 1549 collection of Egenolff. Peuckert identifies a few sources of the minor works more exactly than I had (but not Grünpeck’s “Reformation of Christendom and the Churches,” whose source I had hoped to find along the way), but at that point it was too late to add more than a footnote to Peuckert.

Peuckert notes that the source for the “36 Signs of the Last Day” is Sebastian Francks Chronica, Zeitbuch und Geschichtsbibel, first published in 1531. Peuckert prints both versions in parallel columns, and the identity of the two is beyond doubt.

Thanks to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, I was recently able to check the digital facsimile of Franck’s Chronica. The “36 Signs of the Last Day” occurs at the end of the eighth and final section of Franck’s chronicle, and it’s preceded by several paraphrases of Lutheran polemic prophetic pamphlets:
  1. Andreas Osiander’s preface to his edition of the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus (1527)
  2. Martin Luther’s preface to the “Brother Claus” letter of Charles de Bouelles (1528)
  3. Martin Luther’s Mönchskalb and Bapstesel interpretation (1523)
  4. A tract on the Antichrist, borrowed (like much of Franck’s Chronica) from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493, itself a compilation of older sources)
  5. “36 Signs of the Last Day”
The interesting thing here is that Sebastian Franck is reading Osiander and other pro-Lutheran prophetic tracts, and that Egenolff drew on Franck for the Antichrist and “36 Signs” sections of his collection, added in 1532.* Franck is not likely to be the original source of the “36 signs,” however, and similar lists of signs were in circulation, including a list of 23 signs printed together with a work by Bullinger in 1541 (VD16 B 9753). Joerg Frell expanded the “36 Signs” with a preface and additional material in 1580 (VD16 ZV 21238).

*Also, while I still disagree that Egenolff’s collections were anti-Roman in tone, Egenolff’s use of Franck makes me 10% less right and Robin Barnes 10% more correct than we were before. Cf. Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis, 145.
* * *
The page proofs of Printing and Prophecy are about two thirds finished, and my semester is about two weeks from its conclusion. Posts will continue to be infrequent for a while yet.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The late, late Toledo Letter (again)

A while back, I ran into a 1629 work that seemed to be arguing against the validity of a recently-published edition of the "Toledo Letter," which was a bit surprising, as that prophecy dates to the late 12th century, and Gerd Mentgen's 2005 book Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit im Mittelalter didn't record any appearances after the early 16th century. I didn't see any likely candidates for the edition in question at the time, but this week I ran into it:
Prognosticon. So mit vornehmer Astronomorum Calculation, auff das 1629. Jahr gerichtet / und der Römischen Key: May: zugesendet worden. Neben einem Prognostico so dem ChnrFürsten von Sachsen/ durch gelartte Leute und Astrologos ist zugesand worden. [n.p.], 1629. VD17 23:332291K
The pamphlet is only two leaves, so the "Schlüsselseiten" include the whole work.

* * *

Title art for Printing and Prophecy has been proposed. The University of Michigan Press marketing department wants some detailed information. Page proofs are on their way. Exciting! But since my semester isn't over until July 21, things could get tricky for a few weeks. Posting may be light.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Prophet Martin Luther

Browsing through Robert Kolb's For all the Saints (1987), I saw that he identifies three writers in the mid-16th century who treat Martin Luther as a foreteller of the future and see Luther's writings as predictions that correspond to their present moment or to the world's end. "How many more examples of Lutheran writers treating Luther as a prophet are there?" I asked myself. So I turned to VD16/17 to see what a quick search would turn up.

I thought it would only take a moment.

Instead, it turns out that there is an explosion of Luther-as-Prophet after 1550 from the most esteemed and the most marginal writers of the time. Even excluding works that merely praise Luther as a prophet, there are several dozen editons. A preliminary search finds the following, in roughly chronological order:

  1. Johannes Timann (Amsterdamus), Prophetiae aliquot verae... (1550, plus another Latin edition and a German translation in 1552)
  2. Georg Buchholzer, Drei Sermon D. Martini Lutheri... (1552)
  3. Anton Otto, Etliche Prophecezsprüche D. Martini Lutheri... (1552)
  4. Andreas Musculus, Weissagung D. Martini Lutheri... (1556)
  5. Martin Glaser, Hundert und zwanzig Propheceyunge oder Weissagung... (1557, with an expansion to 200 prophecies in 1574, and a reprint of the 120 prophecies in 1628)
  6. Georg Walther, Prophezeiungen D. Martini Lutheri (1559)
  7. Ein newes Lied...Prophecey D. Lutheri seligen von dem damals noch verborgenen / numehr aber geoffenbarten Eseln...(1560)
  8. Nicolaus von Amsdorff, Ein Predigt aus den Schrifften Lutheri uber die Propheten gezogen... (1562)
  9. Eyne Prophetische warninge / und gelick alse eyn Testament D. M. Luthers (1562)
  10. Basilius Faber, Allerley Christliche nötige und nützliche unterrichtungen von den letzten Hendeln der Welt... (1564, 1565, 1567)
  11. Cyriacus Spangenberg, Die Vierde Predigt Von dem grossen Propheten Gottes / Doctore Martino Luthero... (1564, and many other sermons that might just be praising Luther as a prophet)
  12. Practica und Prognosticon / Oder Schreckliche Propheceiung D. Martin Luthers... (1578, three 1592 editions, 1593, 1595, 1608)
  13. Johannes Lapaeus, Warhafftige Prophezeiungen des thewren Propheten / und heiligen Manns Gottes / D. Martini Lutheri... (1578, 1592)
  14. Propheceyunge Doctor Martini Lutheri / von hernach gefolgten Irrthumben... (1579)
I'll stop there, but the list keeps going much farther. Quite possibly someone has already collected all this material and figured out how all the works relate to each other. If not, someone should write an article about it.

* * *

[UPDATE] In fact, Robert Kolb wrote a whole book about it: Kolb, Robert. Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620. Baker Academic, 1999.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Digital edition of the week

Earlier this week, the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt (Halle) released a digital facsimile of Hans Lufft's 1527 Wittenberg edition of Johannes Lichtenberger's Prognosticatio. This was the first edition of Stephan Roth's new German translation of the Prognosticatio, and the edition to which Martin Luther contributed a preface, so it's an essential source for the study of Lichtenberger and prophetic texts in the 16th century. There hadn't been a digital version available until now, so even very recent articles had needed to cite Luther's preface from Aby Warburg's edition, which Warburg included as an appendix to his 1919 "Heidnisch-antike Weissagung in Wort und Bild zu Luthers Zeiten."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hunting citations

Last week I discovered that Wilhelm Friess does quote passages from other works after all, as a passage from the Extract of Various Prophecies (a pamphlet drawing on Grünpeck and Lichtenberger) shows up in Friess. Specifically, it's a passage that goes back to Grünpeck's 1508 Speculum, which in turn attributes the passage in question to a prophet who has recently been preaching in France, whom no one has ever been able to track down more specifically. Comparing the passages, however, it seems clear that Friess isn't quoting Grünpeck directly or even the Extract of Various Prophecies, but rather the version of the Extract that gets incorporated into the prophetic compilations that Christian Egenolff prints in Frankfurt in 1548-1550. In other words: Unknown Prophet --> Grünpeck --> Extract --> Egenolff --> Friess.

This has set off a hunt for more citations, so I'm reviewing all my notes and facsimiles. And I've found two more: One passage from "Dietrich von Zengg/Theoderic Croata" and another from "Jakob Pflaum" (not to be confused with the 15/16th-c. astronomer of the same name). "Dietrich von Zeng" is attested in manuscript as early as 1460, with nine printed editions between 1503 and 1542. "Jakob Pflaum" has seven printed editions between 1520 and 1534.

So apparently the Wilhelm Friess redactors had a taste for the odder sort of prophetic pamphlet that disdains clear organization or consistent narrative. Robert Lerner calls the pseudo-Jakob Pflaum pamphlet a "pastiche of of plagiarisms from numerous medieval prophecies...presented in such a helter-skelter fashion that no clear chronological order can be discerned" (Powers of Prophecy 161), which pretty accurately describes "Jakob Pflaum."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kalamazoo 2011

Last week I spent Wednesday through Sunday in Kalamazoo, attending the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University (or "Kalamazoo" for the sake of brevity), the largest gathering of medievalists anywhere. This year there was an abundance of really excellent papers for Germanists and several that intersected with my research in one way or another. Among the many excellent papers:
  • Tomás O'Sullivan, St. Louis U: " 'Sizi uilo stillo, vuirki godes uuillon': The Lorscher Bienensegen as a Call to the Contemplative Life." Not only a convincing argument that the Lorscher Bienensegen is talking about Benedictines rather than bees, but an exemplary presentation.
  • Anna Grotans, Ohio State U: "Ye Olde Hildebrandslied." I'm still trying to wrap my mind around all the implications of this one. If even the Hildebrandslied - a founding document of German literature - is constructing Germanic antiquity, then it really is turtles all the way down.
  • Damian Fleming, Indian U-Purdue U-Fort Wayne: "Unknown Letters: Medieval an Modern Scribal Transmission of Foreign Alphabets." Is there an inner history of reading? I hope so, as I'm supposed to give a paper about it in September. Damian Fleming's paper provided some key insights that will make my own work that much easier.
  • Alana King, Princeton U: "Medievalism and Reformation: Matthias Flacius Illyricus as Medievalist." More key insights for a different project. Now I know I shouldn't have been ignoring Matthias Flacius the whole time.
  • Erik Born, U California-Berkeley: "Hildegard von Bingen, Lexicographer." Even more than a decade after finishing my M.A. thesis on the Lingua ignota, the topic remains near and dear. I was happy to see that my article that eventually resulted from my thesis was useful to someone else who is taking off in a new direction.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A short review: Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance

Andrew Pettegree. The Book in the Renaissance. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. xvi + 421 pp. ISBN 978-030-0110098.
When I saw The Book in the Renaissance on display at MLA, I immediately recognized it as a book I needed to take a close look at. I sent away for it by interlibrary loan as soon as I returned, but the request was canceled - this book is priced so affordably that it was cheaper for the library to buy its own copy. I’m used to academic books on early modern print history costing in the low three digits, not low two.

Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m happy to find that The Book in the Renaissance more than justifies its place on the shelves of university libraries. It is written so clearly that undergraduate students will have no problem understanding it, while its coverage is so broad that even experienced scholars will find many new aspects of their own discipline in it. I approach the history of print from within the discipline of German Studies, and The Book in the Renaissance provided an excellent overview of what was going on elsewhere in Europe.

For the specific areas that I know in greatest detail, including the Nuremberg Chronicle of Hartmann Schedel and the printing of astrological prognostications, I was satisfied with Pettegree’s account. For the printing of the Nuremberg Chronicle I think Christoph Reske’s Die Produktion der Schedelschen Weltchronik in Nürnberg is far superior to the source Pettegree cites, Adrian Wilson’s now dated Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle, but Wilson still remains more accessible to American readers (and above all to undergraduates who don’t read German).

But the real accomplishment of The Book in the Renaissance is how it provides a grand overview of print culture in the sixteenth century. Robert Pinsky’s review in the New York Times calls it “revisionist,” but I would instead say that it accurately represents the current state of the field and the recent contributions of leading scholars. This is not revisionist posing, but rather a fundamental rethinking of the field by its leading practitioners over several years based on a thorough and widespread review of its primary sources. Although The Book in the Renaissance has little to say about prophecies and prognostic booklets, the half-decade I’ve spent scrutinizing hundreds of obscure editions only confirms Andrew Pettegree’s approach to sixteenth-century book history. What we lose in humanist triumphalism is more than made up in the sheer drama of power politics, popular unrest, and religious dissent.

For a one-volume overview of the first 150 years of print culture, The Book in the Renaissance is the new standard.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The last last last emperor

Some intensive searching in VD16/VD17 turned up something interesting this week: the prophecy of Wilhelm Friess published five times between 1686 and 1690 as a "wonderful prophecy concerning the years 1686 to 1691 in which great changes are discovered by a highly learned man well known to the world" (VD17 1:063073H, 1:088281P, 3:600599Z, 12:121140B, and 32:648152). Except the unnamed learned man wasn't well known; the source was a version of a prophecy last published 120 years earlier. The surprising thing is that the few changes in the text don't have anything to do with the Last Emperor or Angelic Pope, figures from the medieval Christian apocalyptic narrative who show up to set Christendom aright at the end of time. Andreas Schoppe had rejected as a clear sign of devilish influence the idea of a Last Emperor already in 1597, so it's surprising to see the idea return unchanged in 1686. Fortunately I'm not giving a paper in two weeks about the last appearance of the Last Emperor in 1558.

Oh, wait...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chapter Four. Visions of Visions: Functions of the Image in Printed Prophecy

Chapter four of Printing and Prophecy is where I finally address the question of what all the woodcuts were doing in the books and pamphlets that I was looking at. In many cases, the woodcuts were not merely summarizing the textual meaning or making it more comprehensible for unskilled readers. For example, the woodcut images in the Prognosticatio of Johannes Lichtenberger tend to dampen the text’s emotional impact rather than heighten it. The combination of prophecy, reading in the vernacular, and images was potent enough to cause government officials - and therefore printers - some concern, and the Prognosticatio woodcuts take pains to keep the audience from getting overheated. But the woodcuts also permit individual participation in prophecy through viewing of the prophetic image. If readers are no longer meant to speak like prophets by copying and preaching the prophetic message (as Johannes Tortsch had foreseen readers of the Onus mundi, his Birgittine collection, doing), the images allow them to see like prophets. Between Lichtenberger and the prognostic works of Paracelsus (1493-1541) lies a continuous tradition in which prophecy becomes identified with images and visual interpretation.

A century after Gutenberg, the prophetic compilations printed by Wolfgang Egenolff in Frankfurt helped establish a prophetic canon (including Paracelsus, Lichtenberger, Carion, sibylline texts, and others) based on a visual approach to prophecy. Egenolff’s compilation represents a development in the history of the printed book where the medium becomes capable of the same kind of antiquity that had previously been the sole domain of manuscripts. Egenolff’s collection was also the means by which the seventeenth century rediscovered the prophetic authorities of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My wish is their demand

As of fifteen minutes ago, the online catalog of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek included searches limited to VD16/VD17, and it supports Zotero. I wish it would add the VD16 number and grab the URL of digitized editions automatically, but it's still huge progress.

I don't know how recent a development this is, as I was misdirected there by a wonky SSL certificate, and as of five minutes ago I'm getting the familiar VD16 search interface again. If this had been in place a few years ago, it might have saved me many hours of copying and pasting individual fields from VD16 searches.

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PS. And Google Books now finds digital copies of both volumes of Johann Wolf's 1600 Lectionum memorabilium, a vast collection of prophecies, chronicle entries, and similarly dubious texts from (what Wolf thought was) sixteen centuries. It's an incredibly important source for many medieval and early modern topics, but it's not widely available, and until now hasn't been digitized. One of the digitized volumes is from the BSB, but the digital edition doesn't turn up in their catalog yet.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I've been experimenting with the Zotero citation and note manager plugin for Firefox. Many people recommend it and it's free, but I've never quite figured out what to do with it yet. So lately I've converted my Printing and Prophecy bibliography to a Zotero database. The idea of a one-click bibliography that switches citation format on demand is appealing, although checking footnotes and bibliographic entries is something I don't really mind doing. There are also extensive note-taking and management features for keeping track of all your good ideas. For Printing and Prophecy, I mostly relied on MS Word documents for this. I made notes with the transcriptions of the primary sources, and then compiled the notes into their own document. It seems like having everything in one database might make things simpler.

So, which of the standard bibliographic databases I use everyday are compatible with Zotero?

Answer: None of them. MLA, WorldCat, JSTOR, and the rest work fine for secondary literature, but ISTC, GW, VDiB, ZVDD do not know about Zotero. Or rather, Zotero doesn't know about them. Someone needs to write a web-scraping plugin for each site, and apparently no techie early modernist has done it yet. I've worked on similar projects before, but I'm not sure when I'll get around to looking at the inner workings of Zotero plugins. For now, Zotero will have to prove itself as a citation manager.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Digitalization just in time: Andreas Schoppe, Christliche und Nötige Warnung für dem erdichten Lügengeist der falschen Propheten (1596)

This week the Universitätsbibliothek Halle released a digital facsimile of Schoppe’s Christliche und Nötige Warnung (and of the 1597 edition of the same work under a different title). This comes at just the right time, as I had been hoping to consult it for my article on Wilhelm Friess ever since seeing a reference to it in Robin Barnes’s Prophecy and Gnosis. I’ve been debating whether I should order a facsimile or if I could wait for Halle’s ongoing digitalization project to make it available.

Halle finally came through, and Schoppe turns out to hold a few surprises. Unsurprisingly, Schoppe thinks that many of Friess’s predictions for 1558-1563 failed to come true. What’s more surprising is that Schoppe sees the devil’s handiwork in Friess’s prediction of a righteous emperor who will suppress all heretics and reconquer the Holy Land before giving up his crown; Schoppe objects that a truly righteous emperor should remain in office and continue to govern effectively. But what Schoppe is objecting to is simply the well-known Last World Emperor motif from the standard medieval End Time narrative. There are both chronological and ideological boundaries between “Wilhelm Friess” in 1558 and Schoppe in 1596. On one side, the Last World Emperor is still firmly a part of the eschatological future; on the other, a Last World Emperor is scarcely imaginable.