Friday, August 31, 2012

Virtual reality versus the real world (early modern practica edition)

One of the many fantastic features of online digital facsimiles is that you can inspect primary sources at length without being tied to the opening hours of a research library that is inconveniently located on another continent. It's important not to let ease of access lead to overstating the significance of online editions, though. What's online right now is not the same as what was printed five hundred years ago.

I've been keeping track of practica facsimiles for some time. I've undoubtedly missed some, while a few I've recorded are not actually available online. Still, the following graph gives a pretty decent overview of the progress that digitalization projects have made, at least for one kind of early modern pamphlet. The red columns show the counts of practica editions per decade (primarily from ISTC and VD16/17), while the blue columns show how many of these have been digitized. The years on the x-axis mark the end of a decade.

As you can see, there's robust growth in the number of editions from 1521 to 1550 that is not reflected by the digital editions. In fact, coverage is pretty meager from 1501 to 1590, but excellent for the decade of 1591-1600. The situation after that is truly mixed: very few are available as complete facsimiles, but VD17 provides Schlüsselseiten for nearly all of them, so you can at least see the title page and incipits.

The average percentage of editions digitized for all 150 years is 17.5%, but coverage is highly variable by decade:

The German incunable digitalization projects have done pretty well. After that, coverage is much lower except for the 1590s. The reason, I suspect, is that the historical transmission of practicas frequently took the form of compilations of dozens or scores of pamphlets that were bound together as a single large volume, and often the pamphlets are mostly drawn from a few years or decades. Half or more of the facsimiles in each decade are from the collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, with the exception of the 1470s and 1550s, where none of the facsimiles are from the BSB. I suspect that the excellent coverage from the 1590s, with some 80% of the facsimiles from München,  is the result of the BSB digitizing one or two compilation volumes at some point. The Stadtbibliothek Trier has recently released several more practica facsimiles from the 1590s via, so the imbalance is only growing at the moment.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ehrismann online

One of the first sessions of my first graduate-level course in medieval German literature at the University of Illinois involved a trip to the library, where Rick Wright showed us the most important research tools for medieval topics. There was an online catalog, but it didn't include everything in the old card catalog, so that had to be searched separately. Upstairs in the Modern Languages Library there was the new Verfasserlexikon, but it was not yet complete, while the old Verfasserlexikon, we were told, still had value as an independent if older summary of research on medieval German authors.

Another one of those older but still important reference works was Gustav Ehrismann's Geschichte der deutschen Literatur bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, which was the best source for accessing older scholarship. For some topics, older scholarship was the only scholarship, and even if it wasn't, older scholarship shouldn't be ignored.

But Ehrismann is only held by around 100 libraries in the U.S. Many American universities, including my own, don't have a copy. Fortunately, the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf just digitized the whole set, so everyone can consult it without having to drive some distance to consult it (in my case, it would be over 100 km). The first place to look for digital editions like this is the Zentrales Verzeichnis Digitalisierter Drucke, but it doesn't list this one yet.

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Uni Augsburg is alive! It released a new digital edition this week, a fourteenth-century fragment of the Roman de la Rose. Still nothing new from Uni München.

Friday, August 17, 2012

RSS feeds for early modern German studies: quality and quantity

After a few weeks away, I returned to my office and started up Thunderbird, which I use to keep track of RSS feeds. This is what I found:

Bayerischer Multimediaserver. This includes two feeds and appears to be quite active. Most of the digitalized works are from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, however. As with many of these RSS feeds, it would be nice if the libraries would provide feeds for specific centuries.

Berlin. August is a slow month. Over twice as many titles will sometimes appear on a single day. Again, most of the items are from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, but some of the World War One-era items are fascinating and unique, and I've used them in teaching, so a little variety can be useful.

BSB München. One of the largest and most active projects, with a large fraction of the digitalized items from the sixteenth century.

Darmstadt Inkunabeln. This came as  a surprise. I had expected this project to be already completed, or to produce only a few items, but it turns out to be quite active. And every single one is from the fifteenth century.

dilibri Rheinland-Pfalz. This is my new favorite project, with nearly all of its digitalizations from the sixteenth century. Like several other RSS feeds, it appears to have a limit of the fifty most recent items. I wish this were set higher. Most of the works here fall within the broad discipline of the history of science, with perhaps a majority from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. RSS limit of fifty.

Halle. What I like about the Uni Halle RSS feed is that it only includes works from the sixteenth century. They provide feeds for later centuries and specific types of material as well. RSS limit of fifty.

Heidelberg - Druckschriften. I've given this one a misleading name, as I also include their RSS feed for manuscripts. The Heidelberg manuscripts are quite interesting, but at the moment the printed works are dominated by auction catalogs and nineteenth-century art historical journals. I assume the focus changes as the digitalization proceeds. I like the high RSS limit.

SLUB Dresden. Like, it also appears to be strong in history of science, and perhaps with an emphasis on the eighteenth century. RSS limit of fifty. One issue with the Dresden RSS feed is that I only get OAI locators through Thunderbird, which doesn't know how to turn them into URLs. A different RSS reader might not have the same problem, but with Thunderbird, I have to check the SLUB Dresden website if I come across a promising title.

ULB Düsseldorf. RSS limit of fifty. At the moment, most of the digitalized works are nineteenth-century Gymnasium programs, which often contain scholarly articles in the humanities. Another recent digitalized item is Bartholomäus Ghotan's 1492 Lübeck edition of Birgitta's Revelationes.

Uni Augsburg, Uni München. Nothing. Either they have both paused work in August, or their digitalization projects are complete, or no longer active.

Wolfenbüttel. It appears to have a low RSS limit of twenty. Wolfebüttel focuses on digitalization of seventeenth-century editions, but works from earlier centuries turn up periodically as well.

Several of these libraries do provide more specific thematic RSS feeds, but I subscribed to the ones that best match my own research interests. People with different interests are going to be more enthusiastic about some RSS feeds and less enthusiastic about others. Compared to the way things were a few years ago, however, every day is Christmas. I can browse as many titles in a few minutes in my office as I could on one of those rare occasions when I had physical access to the card catalog of a major German research library.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pamphilus Gengenbach: Der Nollhart (Updated)

The Universität Halle just released a digital edition of Gengenbach's other edition of Der Nollhart, so I've updated the post below with a link. A quick comparison suggests that there are minimal differences between the two editions. Hopefully the BSB will digitalize one of the later Augsburg editions before too long.

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One reason to keep track of smaller digitialization projects is that they will occasionally provide access to editions that are otherwise unavailable, such as the digital facsimile of Der alt und neu Bruder Nollhart made available by the Universität München.

Pamphilus Gengenbach wrote his Shrovetide play Der Nollhart in 1515 and published two editions of it in 1517, with three more editions from other presses by 1525. The essential study of Gengenbach's play is
Violanta Werren-Uffer, Der Nollhart von Pamphilus Gengenbach (1983). As Gengenbach's primary sources were Lichtenberger's Prognosticatio of 1488 and Wolfgang Aytinger's tract on pseudo-Methodius first printed in 1496, Der Nollhart is significant for transferring late fifteenth-century prophetic texts onto the stage and into the sixteenth century. In 1544 and 1545, Jakob Cammerlander published two editions of a revised version of the play, Der alt und neu Bruder Nollhar. Gengenbach's original play reappears in 1700, so it might be interesting to see if Der Nollhart appeared anywhere between 1550 and 1700, or what the context of the 1700 edition was.

Pamphilus Gengenbach: Der Nollhart
[Basel: Pamphilus Gengenbach, 1517]. VD16 G 1205. Facsimiles: BSB München,, HAB Wolfenbüttel
[Basel: Pamphilus Gengenbach, 1517]. VD16 ZV 6498. Facsimile: Universität Halle
[Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger the Younger, 1520]. VD16 G 1206
[Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger the Younger], 1522. VD16 G 1207
[Erfurt: Johann Loersfeld], 1525. VD16 G 1208
[n.p., n.p., ca. 1700]. VD17 12:638169C. Facsimile: Google Books (Peter Marteau confirms that this is the BSB copy with the shelf mark P.o.germ. 108. The BSB OPAC links to the Google Books scan.)

Der alt und neu Bruder Nolhard
[Strasbourg: Jakob Cammerlander], 1544. VD16 G 1209. Facsimile: LMU München
[Strasbourg: Jakob Cammerlander, 1545]. VD16 G 1210