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.


  1. Hi Jonathan,
    Just found your blog - very interesting! This finding will go straight to the GW database. Keep on going!
    Best, Falk

    Dr. Falk Eisermann
    Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
    Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke / Inkunabelsammlung
    Unter den Linden 8
    D-10117 Berlin (Mitte)
    Tel. +49 (0)30 266 435 150
    Fax +49 (0)30 266 335 155

  2. > For a digitized manuscript from München, my first stop is the BSB’s OPAC ...

    Another good resource regarding manuscripts of the BSB is the "Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften" (just click on the button "Recherche starten" in the center of the page). Here you will find references to all scholarly literature (knwon to the department for manuscripts of the BSB) that used or at least mentioned any given manuscript of the BSB. Sometimes they even record a short note which allows you to judge if the manuscript is just mentioned in a footnote or dealt with extensively. A very valuable, but probably not well known database.

  3. Thanks! I'll add a link to "Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften" soon.