Friday, June 29, 2012

Only in Augsburg

A recent e-mail discussion reminded me that if I could choose only one new library to start digitizing its holdings, my first choice without question would be the Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Augsburg. It not only has a large collection of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century printed books, but a relatively large percentage are also unique items unavailable anywhere else, at least to judge by what I found while working on Printing and Prophecy. The great thing about it is that you can go to Augsburg and find editions no one else has looked at in decades or centuries, if ever, and discover fresh material that no one else has written about. The frustrating thing is that it's only in Augsburg, and if you don't have money for airfare, you're out of luck.

To give just one example, following the multi-generational, long-distance dispute between Johannes Virdung, Georg Tannstetter, Aegidius Camillus,  Johann Carion, and Andreas Perlach that played out between 1520 and the early 1530s requires a visit to Augsburg because it is the only library with copies of some of the prognostications and invectives in which it was carried out.

Unique Augsburg items include:

VD16 ZV 13593. Georg Tannstetter, Practica for 1519.
VD16 T 171. Georg Tannstetter, Practica for1524.
VD16 ZV 24183.  Georg Tannstetter, Practica for1525.
VD16 ZV 24181. Johann Carion, Practica for 1519.
VD16 ZV 25789. Johann Carion, Bedeutnüs und Offenbarung, 1531.
Not in VD16: Johann Carion, Bedeutnüs und Offenbarung, 1534.
Not in VD16: Aegidius Camillus, Practica for 1531(Vienna: Hieronymus Vietor; cf. VD16 ZV 24784)

For any major research project, I just assume I'll need to visit Augsburg at some point.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The price of a pamphlet

Early modern book prices are an interesting topic, as the price says a lot about which segments of society could have purchased and read a book. This post is not about early modern book prices, however, but rather a more practical problem: How much will you have to pay for a facsimile of one of those books?

One of the great things about working on early modern topics is that many facsimiles are already free and online, thanks to the digitalization projects linked in the sidebar and many others. But if there's a primary source that's absolutely necessary for your work and not available in another form, you have to contact the library and order a facsimile. The great thing about working with pamphlets is that facsimiles are much cheaper than they would be if you were working on, say, novels, where obtaining a facsimile might require the support of a sizable research grant.

Still, it can be surprising how much prices and processing times differ. My latest facsimile spending spree is drawing to a close. Based on the total price, including both per-scan charges and processing fees, these are the prices I paid per scan.

Library Price/scan Wait (days)
Anonymous UB[1] 0.00 € 2
Dresden SLUB 0.35 € 35
Leipzig UB 0.50 € 14
Wolfenbüttel HAB[2] 0.56 € 68
München BSB 0.71 € 16
Stuttgart WLB 1.00 € 8
Berlin SBPK 1.46 € 36
Anonymous StB[3] 4.38 € 10
Anonymous Benelux SB[4] 17.50 € 21
Anonymous Benelux StB 31.50 € 27

In other words, all the major German libraries are fairly similar. The average price would be different if I had ordered color scans, high-quality TIFs, delivery on CD, or a different number of images. For facsimiles from smaller libraries or outside of Germany, prices can vary considerably.

[1] Yes, one university library just snapped the pictures, sent them to me the next day, and didn't charge me a thing "wegen Geringfügigkeit." I am forever in your debt and will thank you profusely in the acknowledgments.
[2] Estimated waiting time. The invoice came last week, and I'm hoping to receive the images within a week or so. I will still thank you profusely in the acknowledgments.
[3] To be fair, they weren't set up for digitalizations and had to refer me to a local photographer. Their policy on reproduction rights is quite generous, on the other hand, for which I will thank them profusely in the acknowledgments.
[4] Fortunately, I only needed broadsides from these two libraries. The first time I tried to order a pamphlet, the price would have come to nearly 200 €, but the librarian kindly mentioned that the edition I was interested in would be digitalized and freely available online within the week. For that kind assistance, I will thank them profusely in the acknowledgments.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Graphs you didn't get to see 4: Timeline of German practica authors

While I was working on Printing and Prophecy, I spent some time trying to visualize the publication history of the prophetic and prognostic texts I was working with. It turns out that timelines are not easy to create as Excel graphs, but after hunting around for a while I found a workable approach.

The preservation of practicas and other early modern ephemeral printed texts is pretty spotty. We have to assume a large number of missing editions. It's not too much of a stretch to assume that authors published one practica annually (although some surely skipped years), and that the career of a practica author spanned the years between the first and last known edition (although there were undoubtedly earlier and later editions that are unknown today). With those assumptions and caveats in mind, we can place the careers of German astrologers who published practicas in order from earliest to latest up to 1550. We get the following picture (which ends up being totally unworkable as an illustration for a printed book, unfortunately).

View the image above by itself for a slightly larger and clearer version.

What I like about this graph is that it illustrates quite clearly the significance of Johannes Virdung. His career overlapped with every earlier German practica author and with younger colleagues who continued publishing into the 1560s. Only with Simon Heuring, Joachim Heller, and Christoph Statmion do we get a generation of astrologers who knew not Virdung. Not coincidentally, I think, the German practica format remains exceedingly stable until after 1550, when the calendrical material gets moved again to the beginning chapters in many practicas. Virdung ensured his lasting influence by outlasting all his contemporaries and most of the next generation.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Not in VD 17

VD 16, the bibliographic database of sixteenth-century German printing, is older and more complete than VD 17, the equivalent project for the seventeenth century. One thing I very much like about VD 17, however, is that Schlüsselseiten, or facsimiles of important pages, are available for the majority of editions. Sometimes an entire pamphlet is available. I love that.

In the late "Wilhelm Friess" editions, there is a defective passage. I've looked at several of the late editions, and they all have the same defect. For one edition, the passage is, frustratingly, just a few words past the end of the last of the Schlüsselseiten. I could order a facsimile to see the reset, but I'm not sure if it's necessary.

Microfilm is a much more limited medium than digital facsimiles, but microfilm or copies made from it are sometimes available without charge by interlibrary loan. Searching on WorldCat, it looks like a copy of the edition I'd like to see made it into a microfilm collection owned by a dozen American libraries. It can't hurt to ask, so I put in a request.

The copy came yesterday. It's not the same edition. Comparing the title page and other Schlüsselseiten from other editions, it's clearly an edition that isn't recorded in VD 17. It still has the defective passage, but at least I can add another item to my list of "Wilhelm Friess" editions, now up around fifty entries.

With WorldCat and other bibliographies, you often have little more evidence than extremely slight differences in title formulas to decide if two editions are the same or not. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren't. By the time an American bibliographer who may not know German has decided what to do with superscript vowels, early modern capitalization, and non-standard punctuation, all possibilities for distinguishing two editions may have been destroyed. This is one more reason that I remain at least somewhat skeptical until I see something with my own eyes, at least in facsimile.