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.

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