Friday, March 25, 2011

Digitalization just in time: Andreas Schoppe, Christliche und Nötige Warnung für dem erdichten Lügengeist der falschen Propheten (1596)

This week the Universitätsbibliothek Halle released a digital facsimile of Schoppe’s Christliche und Nötige Warnung (and of the 1597 edition of the same work under a different title). This comes at just the right time, as I had been hoping to consult it for my article on Wilhelm Friess ever since seeing a reference to it in Robin Barnes’s Prophecy and Gnosis. I’ve been debating whether I should order a facsimile or if I could wait for Halle’s ongoing digitalization project to make it available.

Halle finally came through, and Schoppe turns out to hold a few surprises. Unsurprisingly, Schoppe thinks that many of Friess’s predictions for 1558-1563 failed to come true. What’s more surprising is that Schoppe sees the devil’s handiwork in Friess’s prediction of a righteous emperor who will suppress all heretics and reconquer the Holy Land before giving up his crown; Schoppe objects that a truly righteous emperor should remain in office and continue to govern effectively. But what Schoppe is objecting to is simply the well-known Last World Emperor motif from the standard medieval End Time narrative. There are both chronological and ideological boundaries between “Wilhelm Friess” in 1558 and Schoppe in 1596. On one side, the Last World Emperor is still firmly a part of the eschatological future; on the other, a Last World Emperor is scarcely imaginable.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chasing Paracelsus

Or, how I spent my morning.

The Herzog-August-Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel just released a new Paracelsus facsimile. Many of Paracelsus's works were printed in the late 16th century, but this was a copy of Paracelsus's Prognostication for 24 Years, one of the most intriguing treatments of prophecy in word and image in the 16th century (which therefore plays a starring role in Chapter 4 of Printing and Prophecy). Heinrich Steiner printed two Latin and one German editions in Augsburg in 1536. According to the HAB, their Latin edition was also from 1536, so I assumed I would find another facsimile of one of Steiner's Latin editions.

I didn't. The HAB copy, place and publisher unknown, has an entirely different title formulation and text layout, and copper etchings rather than woodcuts. I couldn't find any trace of this edition in VD16. Could this possibly be a third Latin edition that had escaped my notice?

Alas, no. A quick look at the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog found two more copies in Germany (BSB München, SBPK Berlin) and one in Austria (UB Salzburg), and Salzburg and Munich date this edition as ca. 1580. That would make much more sense, considering the quality of the images and the boom in publication of Paracelsus's works after 1560.

Extending the search in the KVK outside of German libraries turns up even more copies: University College London and the Wellcome Library in the UK, Toulouse (with a PDF facsimile) and six more copies in France. WorldCat finds 11 copies in U.S. libraries (but I'd treat that figure with some caution, as some American libraries don't always distinguish between originals and facsimiles in their catalogs). This isn't a distribution of copies that points strongly to Germany as the place of origin, by the way.

The record from the Wellcome Library catalog provides to the answer: "Referenced by: Sudhoff, K. Bibliographia Paracelsica 504." The fundamental bibliographic work on the editions of Paracelsus is still Karl Sudhoff's Versuch einer Kritik der echtheit der Paracelsischen Schriften (1894). For this edition, Sudhoff ignores the date of 1536 on the title page and treats this edition as undated. Sudhoff notes that the duration of the prognostication is twice changed from 24 to 44 years and suspects that it was printed, perhaps in France, around 1580 (=1536 + 44). The relatively high number of copies in France suggest that Sudhoff was on the right track.

As usual, I've needed a few hours and access to several different computer databases and digital facsimiles to get up to speed on the state of the art from 117 years ago.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Abstract: “The Last Last Emperor and the Birth of the Death of the Author: The Prophecies of Wilhelm de Friess”

This is the paper I'll be giving at Kalamazoo in May in the session on German literature sponsored by Fifteenth Century Studies. The article on Wilhelm Friess is nearly ready to submit, but I'll wait to see what kind of feedback I get on the conference paper.

Abstract: “The Last Last Emperor and the Birth of the Death of the Author: The Prophecies of Wilhelm de Friess”

With more than 30 attested editions between 1557 and 1587, the prophecy attributed to “Wilhelm de Friess of Maastricht,” allegedly found after his death, stands out as one of the most popular German prophetic tracts of the sixteenth century. Although several recent scholarly works have taken note of these pamphlets, secondary literature on Friess is virtually non-existent. A comprehensive survey reveals that the prophecy is in fact two entirely separate texts: the first summarizes long-established End Time tropes including false prophets, an Angelic Pope, and the Last Emperor, while the later version is anti-imperial and pessimistic, describing the invasion of German lands by a diabolical “Destroyer” and drawing motifs from the medieval “Gamaleon” prophecy. Despite an alleged Dutch origin, evidence of popular resonance in the Netherlands is scant. In contrast, printers of Nuremberg and Basel enjoyed great success with German audiences. Both versions of the prophecy appeared during times of religious transition and imperial succession, but the radical differences between the two versions result from their appearance on opposite sides of national and chronological borders. Where the earlier version attempts to reinforce traditional imperial and religious mythologies with the Netherlands at the center of Hapsburg Europe, the latter versions challenge those same mythologies with the Netherlands as part of the Reformed margin. The prophecies of “Wilhelm de Friess” illustrate how current concepts in textual criticism such as Roland Barthes’s “Death of the Author” arise from the historical context and material conditions of early printing.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The second article I ever published (III)

For manuscript fragments, the worst case scenario looks something like this:

You can see just enough text to know you’re looking at a medieval German text, and what you can see doesn’t seem to be devotional. You can try to imagine the rest of the words, but you don’t have much to work with. If all you had were a few letters from a vertical column of words, you’d probably give up, but the ends of two lines are visible, so you know you’re dealing with verse. It might even be from one of the Middle High German classics. So you start checking. Does in kurtzen tagen ever rhyme with wurden derslagen in the Nibelungenlied? No, it does not. Somewhere in Hartmann von Aue, maybe, or Wolfram von Eschenbach? No and no. And then you discover that the corpus of Middle High German literature is much larger than you had ever thought, and your only option for figuring out what your fragment is appears to be reading all of it.

However, scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries produced a great number of scholarly aids that are not often used today, including indices of rhymes for all the major and many minor authors. Rhyming indices are very helpful for trying to determine the dialect of the original version if it seems that the text rarely or never rhymes words that would rhyme in some dialects but not in others – and also for finding instances of poets who rhyme tagen with derslagen.

If you check enough rhyming indices in your library or ordered via interlibrary loan, you will eventually discover such a passage in Hugo von Trimberg’s Renner (thanks to Franz Diel’s 1926 Reimwörterbuch zum Renner des Hugo von Trimberg), and the following text will match up with the visible portion of the remaining lines. And there will be much rejoicing.

In the published article, the section on Der Renner was just a few pages, but that page took months of following up on dead ends before I found the text I was looking for. As for the fragment, it proved to derive either from the lost first volume of the Hausbuch of Michael de Leone, one of the most important fourteenth-century collections of German literature, or from a similar manuscript by the Hausbuch copyist.