Friday, November 21, 2014

Really early, very small, printed German literature (in the narrow sense)

If you want to look at the literary works that would have been accessible to the broadest range of people in the fifteenth century, then one place to start is with works printed in the vernacular and in smaller formats. In the vernacular, education is less of a barrier, and in the smaller formats (initially defined as broadsides, octavos, and quartos of less than 48 leaves), the economic challenge of acquiring literature is as low as it gets at the time. To look at the market for these works before printing reorganized the market for texts and the medium of the book, it makes sense to look only as late of 1480.

While I'm actually in favor of an expansive definition of literature and an inclusive approach to the objects of literary study, a narrow definition of literature is sometimes pragmatically necessary. We'll eliminate for now saints' lives and other devotional works, and pragmatic and educational texts (including history, current events, and the natural world).

Given those criteria, the resulting bibliography is quite short. It can be succinctly categorized like this:

Narrative works and literary classics
The first two clearly belong together. The Ackermann is an established part of the literary canon, but it's more similar in some ways to the humanist works below. On the other hand, the Ackermann and Pfaffe Amis have a considerable manuscript tradition, while the Pfarrer von Kahlenberg is only known in print.
  • Der Stricker, Pfaffe Amis (ca. 1478, GW M4411)
  • Philipp Frankfurter, Der Pfarrer von Kahlenberg (ca. 1480, GW 10287)
  • Johannes von Tepl, Der Ackermann von Böhmen (1463-1477, GW 193-198)
Humanist translations
These end up being the works of just two translators: Heinrich Steinhöwel and Nikolaus von Wyle.
  • Heinrch Steinhöwel/Fracesco Petrarca, Griseldis (1470-1480, GW M31576-78, M31580-81, M31583, M3158410, M31597)
  • Heinrch Steinhöwel, Apollonius of Tyre (1471, GW 2273)
  • Leonardus Aretinus/Nikolaus von Wyle, Guiscardus et Sigismunda (1476, GW 5643, 564210N)
  • Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini/Nikolaus von Wyle, Euryalus et Lucretia (1478, GW M33548)
  • Lucian/Nikolaus von Wyle, Der goldene Esel (1477-1480, GW M18985, M18988)
Hans Folz
For shorter literary works to 1480, Folz only makes it in by two years, but even in that short time he has too many titles to list.
  • Sixteen titles (in seventeen editions) from 1479-80
Border cases
These are works that might be excluded as devotional or educational works under a narrow definition of literature. As I prefer a broad definition, I'll include them here.
  • Die wunderbare Meerfahrt des hl. Brandan (1476, GW 5004)
  • Sibyllen Weissagung (1452, 1475; GW M41981, M41983)
  • Visio Fulberti (1473, GW 10422)
  • Wie Arent Bosman ein Geist erschien (1479, GW 4944)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Georg Meder reads Wilhelm Friess

File this under "things I wish I had seen two years ago."

When writing about prophecies, prognostications, or other sixteenth-century booklets, one naturally wonders who the readers were. (That was the question Xenia von Tippelskirch asked of me and Courtney Kneupper in June at the conference in London about "Dietrich von Zengg.") Usually the only evidence is indirect - who is the printer, what audiences does that printer usually serve, what kinds of demands does the text make on the reader.

But sometimes we have the good fortune of finding someone in the sixteenth century who quotes or cites the work in question. Here, for example, is what Georg Meder says about the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess in Meder's practica for 1583 (VD16 M 1853, fol. c5r):
Halt auch gentzlich darfür / das derselbige ein gewiser vorbot sein / eines schnellen grossen Kriegsvolcks / so vom Nidergang gegen Mitternacht zuziehen werde / da denn andere mehr Bundsverwandten sich versamlet / und dann mit gemeinem hauffen auff die Berg Israel herein fallen werden. Man lese hievon Wilhelmi Frysii Mastricensis weissagung / so ime von einem Angelo, Anno 77. den 24. Aprilis ist eröffnet worden / und albereit vor lengst in Truck ausgangen ist / und halt hiegegen das 39. und 39. Capitel des Propheten Ezechieleis / und denn auch das 19. und 20. Capitel der Offenbarung Joannis des Evangelisten / so wirdt man endlich befinden / was für jammer sich erheben / und wie Gog und Magog mit all seinem anhang sich wider uns versamlen / und letzlichen nach dem Ezechiele / mit allem solchen grossen hauffen Volcks / vom Himel herab sol nidergelegt und ausgetilget werden. Aber wir Teutschen verachten alle solche warnung / glauben weder den Propheten / noch andern Wunderzeichen / so schier alle tag am Himel und auff Erden sich begeben / ja wol auch den Engeln nicht / und solchs am meisten dise / so andere zu bus vermanen solten. Derhalben wir anders nichts / denn endlichen uberfals Gog und magogs zugewarten haben.
From the date that Meder cites, it's clear that he had read one of the Basel editions printed by Samuel Apiarius, or a copy of one of those editions, probably printed in 1577. Prior editions attribute the vision to 1574, and later ones change the month and year.

For an astrologer, Meder strikes an unusually (but hardly unique) apocalyptic tone. This was not a new development for Meder; one finds similar references in his earlier and alter prognostications. Meder's reading of Wilhelm Friess also appears to begin earlier than 1582. He states in his practica for 1580 (VD16 M 1852, fol. c4r):
[Because of various eclipses and comets,] weiß ich anders nichts zu iudicirn, denn was in fertiger Practica vermeldet / nemlich das ein Occidentischer Potentat / mit hülff etzlicher mitternechtigen und Orientischen Monarhen von mitternacht hero ein unzelich Volck zusammen bringen / und auff die berg Israhel herein fallen / und deß heerlager der heiligen umbringen werden. [Read Ezechiel 38-39 and Revelation 18-19; those who cause this bloodbath will have their reward.] Denn was einmal der liebe Gott von diser grossen und letzten Niderlag und feldschlacht (deren gleiche keine von anfang der welt niemals sich begeben hat) durch seine lieben Propheten und Apostel zuvor verkündiget / wirdt zu diser jetzigen Zeit gewißlich erfüllet werden müssen / wie dann hievon auch neulich ein Prophecey außgangen / in Belgico beschehen / hievon genugsame Zeugniß gibt / und wir gewißlich bessers nichts zu erwarten haben.
The combination of ideas and sources in both practicas is nearly identical, so that it seems that the "Belgian prophecy" is none other than that of Wilhelm Friess of Maastricht. In his practica for 1579 (VD16 M 1851, fol. e4v), Meder explicitly identifies the mountain: "auff den Bergen Israhel / das ist / (wie es denn von allen außgelegt wirdt) in Germania."

Georg Meder is another astrologer about whom not much is known. There are eleven known practicas from him, spanning the years 1577-1599. On the title page, he is described as an astronomer and poet in Kitzingen, and his practica for 1578 (VD16 ZV 22615, fol. a3r) gives Mainbernheim, just south of Kitzingen, as his ancestral origin. The dedications of his practicas suggest a long and difficult search for stable patronage. He dedicated his practica for 1578 to Marggrave Georg Friedrich I of Brandenburg-Ansbach, but for 1579 he dedicated his work to the mayor and city council of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and to the mayor and city council of Kitzingen the year after that. His practica for 1583 was dedicated to the mayor and city council of Windsheim. For 1597, he dedicated his practica to a lesser nobleman, Johann Fuchs von Dornheim, and for 1599, he refers to a lawyer, Johann Büttner, as his lord and patron. One can't escape the impression of a continuous decline in the status of the patrons to which Meder aspired. His location does not change, however. After his practica for 1577 places him in Dettelsbach, the rest of his practicas give his location as Kitzingen. Meder seems to have been a Lutheran of the Philipist variety, with little good to say about Catholics or Calvinists, while also rejecting the followers of Matthias Flacius.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Astrological prognostications and Bildungsniveaulimbo in the sixteenth century

Now that I've had a chance to check about half of the facsimiles that I discovered, have I found anything interesting? Yes, yes I have.

* * *

One of the constitutive features of practicas, or annual astrological prognostic booklets, is how they identify themselves as a reduced version of some other text. The genre as a whole defines itself as the specific and concrete application of theoretical texts, but practicas also describe themselves as reduced versions of other works. Johannes von Glogau, the first German astrologer whose practicas appeared in print, regularly referred the readers of his Latin prognosticastions to another work for the complete astrological argumentation, usually with a phrase such as Horum omnium cause patent in iudicio maiori. Georg Tannstetter made reference to such a work as late as 1523, but by then most astrologers had switched to referring readers not from a smaller to a larger work, but from a German to a Latin work for the complete astrological reasoning. Interestingly, these longer works with more extensive reasoning do not seem to have been published, and one may wonder if they actually existed. While there are many practicas that were published in both Latin and German translation, the astrological argumentation is usually similar in both. So for their authority, practicas often direct the reader to other texts that are nearly unattainable, if they exist at all.

Even eight-leaf vernacular astrological booklets did not constitute the extreme low end of popular versus learned, however. One of the facsimiles I found this week is VD16 H 3291, an extract from the practica for 1548 of Simon Heuring (see the facsimile here). Looking through VD16, this work appears to be unique, as I don't find any other similar extracts from annual prognostications. Comparing its text to Heuring's complete German practica for 1548 (VD16 H 3290), the extract is clearly based on the complete practica, but the text has been radically shortened. Compare the first sections of each; shared material from the complete practica is underlined, while new or added words in the extract are in bold.

VD16 H 3290 VD16 H 3291
Das Erst Capitel / Von den Planeten so diß 48. Jar regieren und herschen werden. Von Regierung der Planeten.
Auß dem Lauff aller Planetenn / Auch eingang der Sonnenn in die 4. Angel. zeichen / Als da sindt der Wider / Kreps / Wag / unnd Steinbock erlernenn wir / Das in disem 48. Jar abermals Saturnus am geweltigsten sein / Und mit hinwegnemen viler waydlichen leut / Das fürnembst Regiment habenn sol / Mit welchem sehr der gütig Jupiter lauffen / Unnd sein wütenn etwas wirdt miltern wöllenn / Das dieweil er so gar / Nicht allein für sich selbest / Sonder auch auß krafft der grossenn Finsternuß /  Darzu der andern Constellation krefftig / Wenig schaffenn / Dieweil der mars das Zaichenn auch darzu thon / Unnd mit Saturno in sterblicher und blutdürstigender art / einreissenn wird / Gott der almechtig wöll ein genediges einsehen haben / das doch nicht so gar grosser unradt / als höhlich zubesorgen / wie und zum teil gantz wol verdient / volge. In disem Acht und viertzigisten Jar / wird abermals Saturnus / das fürnembst Regiment haben / unnd vil tapffere Leütte hinweg nemen. Unnd wiewol der gütig Jupiter / sein wüten etwas zu miltern begert / So wirdt doch der grimmig Mars / dem Saturno zu hilff / mit sterblicher und blůtdürstiger art / einreyssen. 

It's noteworthy that the extract includes two sections, on human fates and on cities or regions, that do not appear as chapters in Heuring's complete practica. The texts are drawn from his chapter on illness, but are moved to new sections following the section on war. This is exactly where human fates and geographical areas would typically be treated in practicas, for example in those of Johannes Virdung. Heuring's preface, on the other hand, disappears entirely.

From the comparison of the text and other features of just these two editions, we can get a sense of steps that sixteenth-century editors took to adapt texts to less educated and less practiced readers:
  • larger type face
  • fewer lines of text per page
  • smaller text blocks
  • clearer distinction between texts and paratexts
  • simpler syntax, reduction in dependent clauses
  • explicit marking of sentence breaks
  • more certainty in statements about the future, less hedging or ambiguity
  • switch from numbered chapters to topical sections
  • more traditional organization of topics
  • reduction of metadiscourse
One thing that isn't missing from the extract is diglossia, however: Unlike the complete practica, the title page and concluding leaf of the extract include the motto "Iusto, et Spem suam in Domino ponenti, secura sunt omnia" ("All things are assured to the just and he who places his hope in the Lord").