Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Research links you need to know about: All things VD16 edition

For a very insightful discussion forum about early modern German literature and the development of VD16, take a look at Walter Behrendt's discussion forum. It's hosted at, a one-stop source for links to nearly everything related to the German Middle Ages. It's resources for relevant primary and secondary literature and links to digitized manuscripts really shouldn't be missed.

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Six months after sending the final manuscript of Printing and Prophecy to Michigan, I have now received the copy edited manuscript for my review. I'm excited to see the book starting to move into the production process, but I need to respond to the copy editing in the next few weeks, which also coincides with Christmas, prepping two new courses for next semester, and MLA. Posting may be light for a bit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Going meta

So a little bit of research - namely, following up on the footnotes in Barnes's Prophecy and Gnosis - finds that the history and historiography of Johann Hilten has been untangled to a large degree by Hans-Ulrich Hofmann in an excursus (pp. 662-672) in his Luther und die Johannes-Apokalypse (Tübingen: Mohr, 1982). Hofmann admits that the picture is still murky and more remains to be done, but I don't know if there's enough left for a viable article on Hilten.

And that's good! If Hofmann has already taken care of the philological heavy lifting, then it's much easier to use Hilten as one of the leading examples of another phenomenon I've noticed lately, namely the pronounced interest in early 16th-century prophets in the late 16th and 17th centuries. I've run across several examples of prophecies allegedly first written before 1550 which don't appear in print until 60 or 100 years later. Another is the vision of Sigismund Gratman/Gartanar/Gadaner, supposedly from the year 1526, but with no edition earlier than 1621. There are several others as well. Early Lutheranism apparently becomes a preferred setting for prophecies in the late 16th century, and again during the 30 Years War. At least that's my first impression. Someone should write an article about it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chapter One: The Sibyl’s Book

I wrote earlier that my upcoming MLA paper is based on the central argument of Chapter Two in Printing and Prophecy. What about Chapter One? My central concern there is the Sibyl's Prophecy, a fourteenth-century poem that combines the Legend of the True Cross and a narrative of the End Time, and the earliest vernacular work printed by Gutenberg. While his edition of the Sibyl’s Prophecy is preserved in just a single fragment, the text is known from several fifteenth-century manuscripts. (By far the best scholarship on the Sibyl's Prophecy is Frieder Schanze, “Wieder einmal das ‘Fragment vom Weltgericht’ – Bemerkungen und Materialien zur ‘Sibyllenweissagung,’” Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 75 [2000]: 42-63.) I argue that, in addition to popular interest in devotional aspects, the manuscript context of the Sibyl’s Prophecy suggests that the work could function as a narrative legitimation for chronicles and prognostications. The manuscript context is admittedly allusive, but the typographic context—comprised of the vernacular editions printed by Gutenberg in Mainz—is unambiguous: all these early editions are related to prophecy and prognostication. While this fact was noted by the print historian Carl Wehmer over 60 years ago, it has been overlooked in cultural and literary studies of early printed texts. Chapter One places Gutenberg's printing of the Sibyl’s Prophecy in the context of fifteenth-century debates about literacy, and suggests that Gutenberg was influenced not only by technological and mercantile concerns but also by the cultural and intellectual currents of his time.