Friday, January 31, 2014

Publication: Slow Conversations

My latest post is appearing this time at the blog of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

Also, the page proofs of "Wilhelm Friess" have arrived, giving me a lot to do in the next few weeks.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Coverup in the Bavarian State Library

What secrets of Renaissance astral medicine is the Bavarian State Library hiding from us? Keep reading to find out the answer!
* * *

The BSB released a facsimile this week of VD16 M 6547, Kalender / vonn allerhandt artzney durch anzeigung der siben Planeten / zwöff Zeychen / und der XXXVi. Bilder deß himels / sampt iren Figuren und gestirnen (Augsburg: Heinrich Steiner, 1539), attributed to the fifteenth-century astronomer Regiomontanus. I haven't inspected the contents carefully, but I would guess at first sight that relatively little of this compilation is actually derived from the works of Regionmontanus. Rather than a calendar or almanac, the work is most similar to the "planet books," explanations of the principles of astronomy and (mostly) astrology that were popular in the sixteenth century.

Imagine my surprise when I found that the BSB had covered part of one page with a crumpled piece of black paper.
That's odd, I thought. Why would they cover up part of a page while digitizing it? What was the text underneath the paper? I wondered if I could see traces of the obscured text through the paper from the other side.

Then I turned the page and the mystery only deepened.
There was the same irregularly-cut, crumpled black paper! Now I saw that it was not meant to obscure the previous text on fol. 46r, which was incompletely covered, but to completely obscure - censor? - whatever had been on fol.46v.

But I would not so easily be dissuaded. While recovering the secrets of fol. 46r-v in VD16 M 6547 may be beyond my skill, I knew that similar editions of the same work may have already been digitized. How deep did the conspiracy go?

Turning to VD16, I quickly discovered that another edition was available, VD16 M 6545, published in Strasbourg in 1537. I quickly located the arcane knowledge that the BSB did not want me to see:
Um, so, it's the Zodiac Man. I wasn't quite sure why the BSB would need to censor it. Maybe the catalog would help?

And there we find the explanation: "Ex. unvollst.: Blatt XLVI mit starkem Textverlust beschnitten."

In other words, I had been staring at an optical illusion. I wasn't seeing a black piece of paper placed over the page, but a black piece of paper that had been placed behind the page to show where a section had been cut out at some time in the past.
Moral: Sometimes looking at a digital facsimile isn't quite the same as looking at the original book in person. Sometimes the facsimile is much more interesting.

Friday, January 17, 2014

YMAGINA GSA CFP: Sound, Martyrdom, Prophecy

I'm already over-extended on conference presentations this year, so I hadn't planned on attending the German Studies Association conference, but it's in a relatively convenient place, there's a very interesting CFP, and I'm due for another visit to GSA. I've already submitted an abstract.

CALL FOR PAPERS – Medieval/Early Modern 
Thirty-Eighth Annual Conference of the German Studies Association in Kansas City, Missouri, September 18-21, 2014. 
YMAGINA (Young Medievalist Germanists in North America, is pleased to announce a call for papers for the following three sessions at the 2014 GSA conference. 

1. Sensing the Middle Ages and the Early Modern: Sound
From Hildegard of Bingen’s liturgical songs to Petitcreiu’s little bell in Gottfried’s Tristan to Hans Sachs’s Meisterlieder, the presence of sound—expressed as sophisticated music or produced as guttural noises, or anything in between—permeates medieval and early modern literature.  Both within literary texts, where sound can contribute to plot development or serve as symbol, and in the performance of literary texts, where sound is critical to successful aural reception, the presence—or absence—of sound offers yet another approach to medieval and early modern culture. This panel seeks papers that explore the sense of sound—instrumental, human, bestial, mechanical—in medieval or early modern works. Possible questions include: What function(s) does sound have? What types of sound are represented—and how are they represented in text? How is sound understood—if at all? To what extent is sound contrasted with its opposite, silence?

2. Prophecy and Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Germany
In the Biblical texts, the role of the prophet is to call a fallen Israel back to God. Prophecy is addressed to a nation and a people who must unite in order to reform and avoid ruin. In the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, prophets continued to construct their messages as calls to reform, but the nations to which they addressed themselves changed with the rise of Christendom and the development of European nation states. This panel invites papers that address the way in which prophecy in medieval and early modern Germany  constructs the identity of German or religious political unities and of the person charged with the message. From Hildegard of Bingen’s twelfth-century calls for ecclesiastical reform to the seventeenth–century millenialism of Jakob Böhme or Quirinus Kuhlmann to the rise of Hasidism in the eighteenth century, how did the prophecy of a given time respond to its political environment, construct the nation to which it pertained, or present the person of the prophet?  How did prophets understand their own place within the political unity, for example according to their gender, social status, or relationship with the church or other religious authorities? How did prophets and visionaries claim authority and what was the place of divine authority in the secular realm?

3. Martyrdom Medieval and Modern
Sigrid Weigel’s 2008 edited volume Märtyrer-Porträts gathers essays on modern martyrs in order to investigate the continuing influence of martyrdom as a code of action in the modern world from jihad to performance art. This panel seeks to bring modern forms of martyrdom into dialogue with medieval constructions of the martyr. What forms of medieval martyrdom are still practiced or valued in the contemporary world? Are voluntary poverty or self-castigation, for example, still considered forms of martyrdom? How has the place of martyrdom in war changed? Is martyrdom possible in non-religious contexts? Comparative papers that draw on medieval sources will be given preference.
We seek 15- to 20-minute papers, in English or German. Please send an abstract (max. 250 words) and a brief CV that includes institutional affiliation by MONDAY, FEBRUARY 3rd, 2014, to both of the following organizers (e-mail submissions only, please): 

Dr. Claire Taylor Jones, Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame,
Dr. Alison Beringer, Department of Classics and General Humanities, Montclair State University,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Gone fishing: the herring prophecies of 1587

One of the more distinctive forms of prophecy in the late sixteenth century involved letters that fishermen had discovered inside herring they had caught in the Baltic or North Sea. A broadside was published in 1587 with explanations in Latin, French, and Dutch that reproduced and translated one sequence of letters as VICI MALUM, "I have conquered evil." The more extensive interpretation of Ananias Jeraucurius for Frederick II, king of Denmark, followed in 1588. Jeraucurius interpreted the same letters - VICI followed by a few  ominous squiggles - as Venit Iesus Christus iudicare, superbiam mundi peruersi, or "Jesus Christ is coming to judge the arrogance of the corrupt world." In 1598, Raphael Eglin published his interpretation of the same sequence and similar ones that had subsequently been found, first in Latin and then in Latin translation; a reprint of the Latin edition appeared in 1611.

These fish prophecies were popular enough that they inspired an anonymous parody published in 1588. The parody retells the fate suffered by pickled herring as a satirical "Legend of St. Herengus," and it suggests the reading Vici Maximilianum or "I have conquered Maximilian," and sees it as a warning to Austria, but also adds, "Odr was es dir sonst gelten sol / Bistu klüger so triff es wol": "Or whatever it may mean to you; if you’re smarter than I am, it will probably be correct."

If you're curious about prophetic fish, several of the relevant editions are available in online facsimiles.

The broadside edition
Harengus hic piscis captus fuit 21. Novemb. 1587 inter Daniam et Norvegiam. [N.p.: n.p.], 1587. Frankfurt UB facsimile.

Ananias Jeraucurius
Jeraucurius, Ananias. Explicatio characterum qui inventi fuerunt in lateribus duorum halecum quae fuerunt capta, vnum in Dania alterum in Noruuegia, 21. Nouemb. anno Domini 1587. quae iudicium Dei in superbos mundi et eorum caput Antichristum praenunciant. [N.p.: n.p.], 1588. VD16 J 217. BSB facsimile.
The anonymous parody
Erklerung der vermeinten wunderbuchstaben / so uff einem Hering sollen gefunden sein / der in Norwegen gefangen worden. [N.p.: n.p.], 1588. VD16 ZV 5356.

Raphael Eglin
Eglin, Raphael. Prophetia halieutica nova et admiranda, ad Danielis et sacrae Apocalpseos calculum chronographicum, divina ope nunc primum in lucem productum, revocata: Qua et Apocalypseos et totius Ecclesiae militantis status, notis et characteribus ternorum piscium marinorum, ad latera stupendo prodigio insignitorum, praemonstratur. Zürich: [Johann Wolf], 1598. VD16 E 597. facsimile.

Eglin, Raphael. Newe Meerwunderische Prophecey / Auff Danielis unnd der Offenbarung Johannis Zeytrechnung gezogen. Zürich: [n.p.], 1598. VD16 E 598. facsimile. UB Halle facsimile.

Eglin, Raphael. Coniecturae Halieuticae Novae Et Admirandae. Frankfurt a. M.: Biermann, 1611. VD17 39:119154V. Schlüsselseiten.
Secondary literature
Hotson, Howard. Paradise Postponed: Johann Heinrich Alsted and the Birth of Calvinist Millenarianism. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2000. 100-104.

Friday, January 3, 2014

6240 digital editions from Regensburg in one day

On Tuesday, I checked the RSS feeds of newly digitized books from German libraries like I always do.

The BSB feed occasionally has high-output days with over a hundred new editions. But the count of new items ran into the hundreds and kept going.

RSS feeds sometimes have hiccups where dates reset - either on my end or on their end, I'm not sure - and I re-download everything they have available. Recently I've had a couple incidents of this, and ended up with over a thousand new messages, most of them dated to 1 January 1900 or similarly improbable dates. But the BSB count hit four digits and showed no signs of slowing down.

It didn't stop until it hit 6240 new items. I assumed I'd experienced another date hiccup, but the dates all looked recent and well-formed.

Since reading through the whole list wasn't possible, I searched through the titles and found several that sounded interesting. It looks like most of these 6000+ editions are new material from Regensburg libraries but were digitized in connection with and now appear in the catalog of the BSB. Several of the newly digitized works are not listed in VD16, including two practicas.

  • Johann Kandler. Practica Auff das Jar ... M.D.LXXXIII. Regensburg: Hans Burger, [1582]. (catalog entry, facsimile)
  • Winckler, Georg. Summarische Practic auff das Jar, M.D.LXXII. D. Georgij Wincklers, Würtenbergischen bestelten Medici zu Bietikheim. Nuremberg: Valentin Fuhrmann, [1571]. (catalog, facsimile)