Friday, November 25, 2011

Research links you need to know about: USTC

The Universal Short Title Catalogue is now open for searching. This project, hosted at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, combines information from databases of early printing throughout Europe. While VD16/17, ISTC, and GW still provide more thorough bibliographies, copy locations, and links to digital facsimiles for searches limited to German printing or the fifteenth century, the USTC is a major step forward for research in two situations. First, for those authors whose works were printed throughout Europe, the USTC makes a search across national borders much easier that before. Second, the USTC is the first online bibliographic database that covers early printing in the Low Countries after 1500. Although Antwerp was one of the most important early modern printing centers, tracking down editions had previously involved looking through two or three different bibliographies, which was cumbersome even if your library owned copies of these reference works. Fortunately, USTC includes data from Andrew Pettegree and Malcolm Walsby's Netherlandish Books. Hopefully we'll see continued refinements to the interface and inclusion of additional records in USTC over the next several years.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Printing and Prophecy is now in print

Yesterday the University of Michigan Press sent me a link to their online catalog. Printing and Prophecy is in there, on page 49. And they sent me a link to download my author's copy of the e-book edition. The printed copies are, I assume, in the mail. Amazon still lists the book as not yet released, but they also are now providing an extensive preview, as is Google Books. If it's on Google, it must be for real.

The timeline for writing and publication went something like this:

March: I have the initial idea and start background reading.
May: Humboldt application submitted
October: First conference paper about Lichtenberger
November: Notification of successful grant application

August: Archival research commences

October: Writing begins

May: Alpha draft completed

May: Beta draft completed
June-July: Revisions. At the end of July, I'm ready to start querying.
August: The University of Michigan Press wants to see the full manuscript.
October: Initial reactions are positive.

January: Reader reports come back. They recommend publication.
March: The editorial board agrees, and extends a publication contract.
July 1: I submit the final manuscript.

January: The copy edited manuscript is submitted.
July: Page proofs and index are submitted.
November: Printing and Prophecy appears in print.

I think I can see some ways to make the next book go faster.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Research on a fragment

8:35 AM: I check the newly digitized works from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. A newly digitized manuscript, cgm 414, includes a “Schmähschrift auf Kaiser Friedrich III.,” which sounds interesting. I pull it up, then go teach my literature course.

10:05 AM: After I teach my class, I return to the manuscript. For a digitized manuscript from München, my first stop is the BSB’s OPAC, which contains links to Handschriftenkataloge-Online. According to Karin Schneider’s catalog entry, the pastedowns are from a printed calendar - but I’ve already seen that they’re prose, not a tabular calendar. Time for a second look.

10:15 AM: The front pastedown describes weather and moon phases by month. The layout and organization suggest an early practica. The back pastedown confirms it: The text, organized by “Capitel” and then by “Wort,” has a structure I’ve seen in practicas before 1490, and the third chapter describes the fates of various people and cities.

10:25 AM: Practicas are ephemeral. Entire editions can easily get lost. I might just have a previously unknown incunbable edition in front of me. I start thinking about journals where I can publish this discovery, and take a closer look at the text.

10:35 AM: We have one geographic clue, and one chronological clue. The first city described is Leipzig, where Wenzel Faber von Budweis and Martin Polich von Mellerstadt were active in the 1480s. The structure doesn’t look right for other practicas I’ve seen from Polich, but Faber was using “Capitel” and “Wort” (or Latin “Verba”) in the 1480s. Faber’s typical organization also has the fortunes of cities and people following directly after the weather and moon phases. So this looks like one of Wenzel Faber’s practicas. Not surprising - we have more practicas from Faber than from anyone else in the fifteenth century.

10:50 AM: The page with moon phases and weather gives us two solid clues. First, there will be a full moon on the feast of St. Martin (11 November), and there will be a full moon on the Monday after Immaculate Conception (8 December). According to NASA’s Six Millennium Catalog of Phases of the Moon, there are full moons on November 10 or November 11 in 1478, 1486, and 1497. But the full moon after Immaculate Conception fell on a Monday only in 1486. In addition, the prior full moon was on 11 November that year, while it was on 10 November in 1478 and 1497.

11:15 AM: So this looks like Wenzel Faber’s German practica for Leipzig 1486. There are two known editions (GW 9586 and 9587); is this one of them, or an unrecorded third edition?

11:30 AM: I consult the entry for GW 9587. There’s no facsimile available, and the only copies are either missing or defective. But GW includes a few short passages from the practica, and the first line of text on the first leaf of the second gathering as recorded in GW looks familiar: steffani wulk. ā kindlein tag genei. zu feucht. āďſwo auf dē mor-||

It’s more than familiar. It’s exactly the same line at the top of the back pastedown. So I’ve been looking at two leaves (a4v and b1r) from a previously unrecorded copy of GW 9587/ISTC if00005260:
Wenzel Faber von Budweis, Prognostikon für Leipzig auf das Jahr 1486, deutsch. [Nürnberg: Peter Wagner].
The publication plans get shelved in time for me to teach my 101 course.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Digital editions of the week: Europäischer Staats-Wahrsager

There are a few things I've learned not to say in academic writing, including:
  • "Scholars agree that..."
  • "Scholarship on this question has until now failed to notice..."
  • "The popular literature that this article studies dwindled into obscurity soon after the end of the chronological period that limits my study."
You inevitably discover - usually after page proofs have been returned - no, some very important scholar did not agree, and no, someone noticed the same thing a century before you were born, and no, the genre you're studying carried merrily along into centuries where you don't know the literature or the bibliography as well. Some works of German medieval literature (such as the courtly romance) did fade away after the late fifteenth century, but others (such as Melusine) continued into the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.

Such is the case with late medieval prophecy and popular astrology. You might think it would fade away after the Reformation, or at least the Thirty Years War, but it keeps popping up again a century after you thought it was gone for good. I limited Printing and Prophecy to the century between 1450 and 1550, but there would have been no lack of material for the following century (which Robin Bruce Barnes and Volker Leppin addressed in their books), or even for the one after that. The first prophecy of Wilhelm Friess disappears after 1568 - only to reappear in the 1690s.

So the digital editions of the week are two editions of the Europäischer Staats-Wahrsager, a collection of prophecies printed in the mid-1700s. The Uni Göttingen has digitized a 1748 edition, while the Uni Halle has a 1758 edition. While many of the texts are unfamiliar, the contents include some names already well known in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, including Lichtenberger's complete Prognosticatio and the "Hidden Prophecy" of Johann Carion and its interpretation. There are other prophecies attributed to Birgitta of Sweden and Paracelsus, but the relationship to the authentic writings of those two is murky at best. The Europäischer Staats-Wahrsager shows just how long and how tenaciously prophetic texts maintained their place in German culture.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Early modern German prophecy in print: the essential bibliography

While working on Printing and Prophecy, there were many books and articles on early printing, prophecy, and early modern culture that I needed to consult for some aspect of my research. However, there were only a few books where nearly every chapter was directly relevant. For now, I only have four books on the list:
  • Barnes, Robin Bruce. Prophecy and Gnosis: Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Reformation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988.
  • Leppin, Volker. Antichrist und Jüngster Tag: das Profil apokalyptischer Flugschriftenpublizistik im deutschen Luthertum 1548-1618. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1999.
  • Mentgen, Gerd. Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit im Mittelalter. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 2005.
  • Talkenberger, Heike. Sintflut: Prophetie und Zeitgeschehen in Texten und Holzschnitten astrologischer Flugschriften, 1488-1528. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1990.
I might add two honorable mentions:
  • Niccoli, Ottavia. Prophecy and People in Renaissance Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Lerner, Robert. The Powers of Prophecy: The Cedar of Lebanon Vision from the Mongol Onslaught to the Dawn of the Enlightenment. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Niccoli's focus is on Italy up through 1530, while most of Lerner's investigation of the "Cedar of Lebanon" prophecy deals with medieval texts, so these two works don't quite make it onto this list, but they would both be essential reading if the topic weren't so narrow.

Leppin, Mentgen, and Talkenberger all share Publizistik as an area of primary interest. Mentgen and Talkenberger deal with the earlier period (Mentgen actually starts in the 11th century), while Barnes and Leppin are both looking at Lutheran apocalypticism after 1550. Leppin takes pains to distance his work from Barnes, but I think unnecessarily; both books are valuable and complement each other. Leppin has the strongest theological focus, while Barnes, Mentgen, and Talkenberger are historians. Mentgen does an especially nice job refereeing earlier scholarly debates. In addition to a similar chronological and thematic focus, what all these books share is that they work closely with many primary sources. Their appendices and footnotes are invaluable sources for further research.

One consequence is that I spend more time arguing with these books than with most others, but not because the books are bad - they're not, they're fantastic works of scholarship. And that makes them worth arguing with.