Sunday, November 28, 2010

The germ of an article

While looking through Andreas Engel's 1597 Bericht von Johann Hilten, I noticed that Engel describes Hilten as Martin Luther's teacher, and has Hilten prophesying various dramatic things for the years 1516, 1546, 1584, 1600, and 1606. It struck me as curious that Hilten didn't appear in print before 1550 if he had any connection to Luther, so I started searching for other editions. Caspar Füger published a compilation of prophecies for the years 1584-1588 attributed to Hilten, Lactantius, and various biblical passages, and in Füger, Hilten's prophecies are for the years 1580, 1582, 1584, and 1588. In addition to the divergent dates, Engel and Füger attribute different prophecies to Hilten. Several pamphlets attributed to Hilten were later published in 1628-1629 that update the relevant time period but otherwise follow Füger.

So: There's a widely divergent prophetic tradition attributed to someone who had died nearly a century earlier. This seems a bit curious. That's ingredient one.

A first pass through the bibliography finds several references to Johann Hilten in secondary literature, but the most recent article about him looks to be from 1928. Marjorie Reeves has a note referring to Hilten as obscure. The go-to source on 16th and 17th-century Lutheran apocalypticism, Robin Barnes's Prophecy and Gnosis, also mentions Hilten only briefly.

So: Hilten is relevant to studies of Martin Luther and apocalypticism, but there doesn't appear to be significant literature about him. There might be a need for a fresh look at Hilten. That's ingredient two.

Ingredients three and four are luck and time. To untangle the textual history of Johann Hilten, you'd need to find some more sources, and there's no guarantee that they exist. Hunting them down will take some time looking in all the usual places (and, inevitably, some unusual ones as well).

Of course, the place to start is Interlibrary Loan. It's entirely possible that the article from 1928 answers every question anyone might have. It wouldn't be the first time that I've been 80 years late to the game. The other possibility is that the article I can imagine writing was published in 2008. That also wouldn't be the first time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The utraquist reverse sacramental martyrdom

The UB Halle delivered a new miracle this morning in the form of Andreas Engel's 1597 Kurtzer / Jedoch gewisser vnd gruendtlicher Bericht / von Johan Hilten / vnd seinen Weissagungen (VD16 ZV 5013). I've come across Hilten's name before, but the works in question were too late to be relevant to Printing and Prophecy, so I hadn't taken a close look at him yet.

There's a lot of great material here, including a note that Johann Hilten (died ca. 1500, here transformed into Luther's teacher) died of hunger in prison because he refused to take only the sacramental wafer - apparently living saints can sustain themselves from the eucharist alone, but Reformation martyrs would rather die than partake of the eucharist in diminished form.

And Engel's note about his reading prophetic pamphlets as school assignments, and translating them into Latin as an exercise in style, has a ton of implications for how popular literature was disseminated.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Toledo, Toledo Letter, am Toledosten

I thought I was just asking for a book, but Interlibrary Loan brought two gigantic folio volumes to my office this week, Wolfgang Harms and Michael Schilling's commented edition of broadside prints from the Wickiana collection in Zürich (thank you, Berkeley).

And immediately a whole new set of Toledo Letters show up. In vol. 2, pp. 314-15 and 334-35 (VII, 156 and 166 for the entire series), two broadsides are reproduced in facsimile that turn out to contain the Scandinavian version of the Toledo Letter (see Mentgen, Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit 111), printed in Augsburg in 1585 and 1585. The footnotes point to further editions, including a translation into Czech. (To my knowledge, broadside prints are not indexed in VD16, unfortunately, or at least not uniformly, so that these broadsides have no VD16 entry.)

These broadsides attribute the prognostication to Johannes Doleta, whose name was already familiar to me. Two editions combine Doleta's prognostication with that of Wilhelm de Friess, while others stylize Doleta as the "Pilgrim Ruth, hidden in the forest," recycling the woodland prophetic identity created a century earlier by and for Johannes Lichtenberger. There are at least five editions of Doleta's prophecy in booklet form known from the years 1586-88 (VD16 ZV 4633 and ZV 22756, as well as two others not recorded in VD16, and one Dutch edition,TB 4427). The Utrecht pamphlets collection has a digital facsimile of one of the unrecorded editions here.

And now it turns out that Doleta is none other than "Johannes of Toledo," at least in a very late and highly modified version (the pamphlets add a foreword and prognostications for the years 1587-1588 and other material that is not part of the older Toledo Letter). So now it appears that the Toledo Letter really did enjoy renewed popular interest in the 1580s with at least 5 pamphlets and 4 broadside editions, and appeared at least once more in the 1620s. Not bad for a prophecy that was already 400 years old.