Friday, May 11, 2012

Graphs you didn't get to see 2: Vernacularity of German and Italian practicas, 1470-1500

One of the points I emphasize both in Printing and Prophecy and in a forthcoming article is that annual astrological prognostications in booklet form - or practicas, to use the most common contemporary term for them - took on a distinctive appearance and function, which I refer to as the Practica teütsch, in the German language area. One of the many things that distinguishes German and Italian practicas is their preference for the vernacular. In Germany, German quickly achieves parity with Latin and becomes the dominant language by 1495, while Italian remains marginal before 1495 and always remains less common than Latin, at least before 1501. A couple graphs illustrate the difference:

First, here's the German data:


And here's the Italian series:

This is why I see the vernacular prognostications rather than Latin practicas as the driving force behind the development of the genre in Germany. The Latin production  barely increases after 1490 (and declines precipitously in the sixteenth century). Already in 1486-1490, the majority of expansion in production is coming from vernacular editions. Italian vernacular expansion comes later, and doesn't displace Latin. In addition to the differences in format, organizational structure, and content, the different language preferences are one more reason why I think that practicas had different functions north and south of the Alps.

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