Friday, September 28, 2012

Abstract: "Johann Fischart alias Wilhelm Friess? Notes on the Authorship of a Horrible and Shocking Prophecy"

This is the abstract I submitted for the paper I'll be giving in October at the Sixteenth Century Society Conference, in which I'm going to argue that the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess should be attributed to Johann Fischart. Attributing anonymous works to Fischart was quite popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but scholars have become much more hesitant about it in recent decades, and recent attempts to attribute anonymous works to Fischart haven't met with much acceptance. So I'm almost embarrassed to claim that Fischart wrote "Friess II," but in this case I think there's some good evidence for it. In any case I'll try to make the argument as forthrightly and convincingly as possible in twenty minutes or less.

Abstract: "Johann Fischart alias Wilhelm Friess? Notes on the Authorship of a Horrible and Shocking Prophecy"

The two prophecies of Wilhelm Friess, first appearing around 1558, were the most popular German prophetic pamphlets of the second half of the sixteenth century, with some fifty total editions. The second prophecy using the same pseudonym is known from booklets printed in Basel beginning in 1577. Despite their popularity, almost no scholarship has addressed these pamphlets, and the connection between the two prophecies has remained obscure.

The first prophecy is a reworking of Johannes de Rupescissa’s 1356 Vademecum, while the second presents a nightmare vision of demonic armies invading Germany from all sides. I argue that this second pamphlet addresses a specific historical, political, and religious context. The text points to an origin not in Basel in 1577, but in Strasbourg in 1574, just as Conrad Dasypodius was completing the Strasbourg cathedral’s astronomical clock. The prophecy’s climactic scene of a cannibalistic perversion of the Eucharist critiques both Catholic and Lutheran sacramental theology from a Calvinist perspective. The prophecy further reflects the particular fears of embattled Strasbourg Calvinists in 1574, who saw enemies on all sides, especially with the coronation of Henry III as king of France. The combination of astrological symbolism and Calvinist outlook in Strasbourg in 1574 is circumstantial evidence for considering as author Johann Fischart, one of the most important German satirists and Reformed propagandists of the time, who understood the at times obscure astrological symbolism found in the prophecy, and who in 1574 wrote an encomium for the new astronomical clock before leaving Strasbourg for Basel.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Digital edition of the week: Sibyllenweissagung (Basel: Martin Flach, 1472-74)

For the history of printing, the fourteenth-century Sibyl's Prophecy is a tremendously important text. It's the earliest vernacular edition from the press of Gutenberg and his associates in Mainz, and some scholars have identified it as earlier than any other edition, Latin or German, still known today. Gutenberg's types were not yet adapted to reproducing vernacular texts, so his edition of the Sibyl's Prophecy represents a fascinating and important early attempt to adapt print technology to different texts and audiences.

I have more to say about the Sibyl's Prophecy - a lot more, otherwise known as chapter one of Printing and Prophecy. I'd better stop here.

The essential scholarly work on the Sibyl's Prophecy is Frieder Schanze, "Wieder einmal das 'Fragment vom Weltgericht' - Bermerkungen und Materialien zur 'Sybillenweissagung,'" Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 75 (2000): 42–63. Schanze's article provides a list of all known manuscripts and printed editions, discusses some of the improbable things that have been asserted about the history and meaning of the text, and points out several important things that remain unknown. We still don't have a critical edition or a complete understanding of how all the printed editions and manuscripts are related.

Schanze's article provides the best accessible facsimile of Gutenberg's edition I know of. I don't know of any digital edition available online. After Gutenberg's edition, the next edition of the Sibyllenweissagung didn't appear until 1472-74 (following Schanze's dating), and then five editions appeared in 1491-93. One of these later incunable editions (ISTC is00492620, GW M41985) is available in facsimile from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. So the release this week of a facsimile from of Flach's edition (ISTC is00492550, GW M41983) fills a notable digital hole in the history of an important text.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Digital edition of the week: Caspar Brunmüller, Geistliche immerwärende Practic auff das M.D. LX. jar (probably) released a new digital edition this week of a calendar for 1560. Usually I don't find calendars interesting, or at least I haven't yet figured out how to read calendars in order to discover what's interesting about them, but sometimes calendars hold a few surprises. Like this one.

The title page isn't promising. It offers only the barest of calendrical information, not even hinting that the basic calendar is followed by an extensive, sixty-leaf religious contrapractica. A quick glance at the usual places doesn't turn up an author, and the entry for VD16 ZV 26458 doesn't list one, either.

Running the title through WorldCat, however, turns up the note that this is listed as an alternate title for Caspar Brunmüller's Geistliche immerwärende Practic auff das M.D. LX. jar (VD16 B 8606). WorldCat entries for sixteenth-century books have to be read with some care, but the identification of the two editions as the same work by Brunmüller might just have something going for it, as they're both 85 printed folios. Silvia Pfister's Parodien astrologisch-prophetischen Schrifttums doesn't mention Brunmüller, so someone should check a copy of Brunmüller's Geistliche immerwärende Practic against the online edition. With any luck a digital copy will come online soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practika (1587)

One of the challenges of working with pamphlets and other short texts is that the same text can circulate under different titles and be cataloged under different authors' names. One example is the Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practika of 1586-87 with various sections ascribed to the "Pilger Ruth" and "Johannes Doleta" among others. The first name refers to extracts from Lichtenberger's Prognosticatio, while the second, as I've mentioned previously, goes along with a version of the "Toledo Letter." The only literature on these pamphlets I find is a brief mention in Dietrich Kurze's book on Johannes Lichtenberger (69). The pamphlets include additional texts besides the extracts from Lichtenberger and the "Toledo Letter," but precisely what they are, and where they're from, isn't yet known.

With the recent release of a digital edition from, I thought it was time to see exactly how many editions are known, and how many are available online. The answer in both cases is "more than you'd think." VD16 doesn't include two of the German editions, or links to any of the online facsimiles.

Of the two editions dated to 1586, facsimiles are available for both, although one is unknown to VD16. A quick scan finds that there are some significant differences between the two texts.

Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practita... Erfurt: Johann Beck, 1586. Not in VD16. Utrecht UB facsimile
Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practika... Cologne: Heinrich Nettessem, [1586]. VD16 ZV 9651. facsimle (Trier StB)
Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practica... Cologne: Heinrich Nettessem, 1587. VD16 ZV 9654

Kurtze / gewisse und warhaffte Propheceyung oder Practica... Lübeck: Johann Balhorn the Younger, 1587 ("Aus einem Cöllenschen Exemplar nach Gedruckt / durch Johann Balhorn / wonhafftig bey der Rostocker Herberg"). Not in VD16. Göttingen SUB facsimile
[NB: After a quick inspection, it looks like the text of this edition closely follows that of Beck's edition rather than the edition of Heinrich Nettessem. Perhaps the text changed significantly between Nettessem's first and second editions.]
Kurtze / Gewisse / vnd Warhaffte Propheceyung oder Practica... [n.p., n.p.], 1587. A reprint of a Nettessem edition. VD16 ZV 22756
Kurtze / gewisse / vnd Warhaffte Propheceyung oder Practica... [n.p., n.p.], 1587. A reprint of a Nettessem edition. VD16 ZV 4633

Another edition added the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess:
Kurtze Propheceyung oder Practica...Sampt einer Ander Prophetzeyung / ist gefunden worden / in Mastrich... Cologne: Nikolaus Schreiber, [1587]. VD16 ZV 28130

This was then translated into Dutch as:
Corte prophetie / van tgene  int iaer M.D.LXXXVIII... Amsterdam: Cornelius Claesz, 1588. TB 4427/NB 27073