Maria Stieglecker (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften)

With books in hands. Travelling books, scribes, and paper

Recording and analyzing the watermarks of a manuscript in their entirety, and relating them to the marks of other manuscripts or documents, can reveal astonishing things about the history of the ‘object codex’. This will be illustrated by two examples.

The first example names a group of manuscripts of the library of Melk Abbey. They were not —as assumed up to now —all written in one place. A scribe who decided to change his life and, instead of being a priest in Speyer, support the reform movement of the Benedictine order in Melk Abbey, brought codices he wrote in Heidelberg to the Melk library. Other volumes in the library show that this Johannes of Speyer continued his scribal activity in the spirit of the reform—as copyist, author, and translator. The analysis of the watermarks in the paper used shows us which volumes he wrote before and after he came to Melk.

Another example is a group of manuscripts from the library of Klosterneuburg Abbey, which is closely connected to the Council of Basel (1431-1449). The necessity to write things down is immense at a Council, which also functions well as a book market. Clericals, politicians, and intellectuals met in town for talks, debates, and trials and the results were written down in documents, minutes, and sermons. These were then copied many times during the Council. Delegates to the Council wrote the documents themselves, brought their own scribes to town, or hired scribes—but the necessary paper was bought locally. The writing of Koloman Knapp de Hipplein, a delegate of Klosterneuburg Abbey, can be found in manuscripts, along with the handwriting of his servant and of paid scribes. Returning home, Koloman Knapp de Hipplein and other envoys took a large amount of volumes and documents back with them and, in this way, spread ideas all over Europe. This can be traced through paper with identical watermarks. Nowadays, with a glance at the paper, one can see which volumes of a library were written in Basel and which were copied after the return home of delegates—on local paper by local scribes.

This paper will show how we can follow the journey of a book from its origin to the place where it is kept nowadays. The journey starts with the material, the paper with its identifying watermarks. It continues with the biography of the scribes involved and thus gives new insights in the history of the ‘object codex’: In the history of a single volume as well as the history of groups of books and libraries.

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