Friday, February 6, 2015

Notes on the bibliography of Johannes Rasch

The bibliography of Johannes Rasch's polemical prophetic compilations give us a view of canon formation for prophetic works in the late sixteenth century, a Catholic counterpart to the Egenolff collections of the 1540s. I know the primary sources used by Johannes Rasch for his polemical compilations fairly well, but taking a close look at them turned up a few surprises, including
  • the Onus ecclesie, ostensibly from a Catholic source, seems to have been passing into obscurity just over sixty years after its publication;
  • two editions, one of Birgitta of Sweden's revelations and another compilation of Wolfgang Lazius, that are not listed in VD16 but that can be found in Prague;
  • references to an unknown work of Joseph Grünpeck and three other unknown works; 
  • reference to a sixteenth-century edition of the Bildnuß eines nackenden Kaisers und Bapsts sixty years before the currently known editions; and
  • indications that several editions of Rasch's work currently dated to 1584 need to be re-dated to 1588.
In addition, it's interesting to see where Rasch drew his sources from. Although he was working in Vienna, his sources were most frequently printed in Nuremberg (10), Cologne (9), Strasbourg (5), and Munich (6), compared to five editions printed in Vienna. The number of international editions is low, with just one edition each from Antwerp (plus one lost edition), Bologna, Cracow, and Rome. No place of printing is known for seven editions, of which three are lost.

The dates of Rasch's sources are interesting. Only three are incunabula. One large group of his sources comprises those from recent decades, 1560-1588, with another large group around 50 years old, printed between 1520 and 1540.

Finally, it's interesting to note which editions apparently known to Rasch are lost to us today. The graph below marks the lost editions in red.
All of the editions he mentions up to 1520 can be identified today, and there are only two missing editions before 1550 (the lost work of Grünpeck, and an unknown Latin edition of Lichtenberger's Prognosticatio). The other seven lost editions are all from relatively recent years, with six printed after 1560. This is relevant to how we model the disappearance of printed editions, as it suggests that while there are processes that lead to the loss of editions over the space of several decades or centuries, the most common processes of destruction operate over the space of a few years or decades. It would be interesting to see if a close look at other sixteenth-century book lists would lead to similar results.

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