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Monday, April 7, 2014

Handschriften in der Hill Museum & Manuscript Library - German Manuscripts at HMML

Even bookbindings can be enlightening! One of the earliest manuscripts in German at HMML--a recycled scrap of parchment in the binding of Barton Williams Ms. 2.

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library has provided access to other people's manuscripts for almost 50 years now. The Library's focus has always been on photographic preservation of manuscripts elsewhere in the world -- far from the edge of the prairie in Minnesota. Indeed, the largest single group of these manuscripts is still the 30,000 microfilmed in Austria (along with about 14,000 from Germany and 1000 from Switzerland, and you have nearly 50,000 manuscripts from Central Europe in one library!).

However, during that same time, the library has also received numerous gifts of rare books and manuscripts (the vast majority of our rare collections have come as gifts), which today are kept with the rare books and manuscripts that had come to Saint John's Abbey and University since the nineteenth century.  There are three main collections: Saint John's Rare Books, Arca Artium Rare Books, and HMML Rare Books. Among these books are a number of manuscripts which are in the German language, dating from the 15th century (above) to the 20th century. These are mostly codex manuscripts, with a couple archival documents thrown in.

Ironically, while a large part of our films come from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, our original manuscripts are not very well represented. Aside from the few listed here, there are manuscripts in larger numbers in Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic.


Barton Williams Ms. 2 - pastedown leaves (recycled)

Charter used as a pastedown to help the late medieval binding.

Charter dated 1442 inside the cover of Barton Williams Ms. 2

Contemporary cover on Barton Williams Ms. 2.

The earliest German-language manuscripts in the HMML collections appear to be recycled charters that were used for pastedowns in a 15th century manuscript called a "preacher's manual." The texts themselves are in Latin, but the contemporary binding is falling apart and the pastedowns have come loose, which make it possible to study the binding structure! Neither of these scraps has been identified or described fully, to my knowledge, but one seems to indicate a date of 1442!


Individual letters in the James Kritzeck Collection:
  • Emperor Maximilian I
  • Emperor Ferdinand I
  • Emperor Rudolph II
  • Emperor Matthias
  • Emperor Ferdinand II
  • Emperor Ferdinand III
  • Emperor Joseph I
  • Empress Maria Theresia (2x)
Letter from Emperor Joseph I (1705-1711).
The James Kritzek Collection of autographed documents from popes, kings, emperors, queens, empresses, and presidents, includes a number of items signed by Holy Roman emperors (and one empress). Not all of these are in German, but several of them are. The collection is more representational than deep, as there is generally only one signed document per ruler.


SJU Ms. 16 - Catholic Prayer book (1872)

A colorful title page from the 19th century.

The Saint John's Rare Books Collection includes two codex manuscripts in German. Both of these are prayer books from the 18th and 19th centuries. On its rather colorful title page, SJU Ms.16 is dated 1872. While the title page is in Gothic script, the bulk of the text is copied in Kurrent.


SJU Ms. 17 - Prayer book (18th or 19th century?)

Water damage to the first page of the manuscript. Note the use of both Gothic and Kurrent scripts.

This manuscript comes with a handy little protective leather pouch, which opens in the middle.

Once upon a time, this manuscript was shelved with the print books in the Abbey Library collection.
Another prayer book, this one undated, but likely from the 18th or early 19th century. This manuscript features its own little carrying case, as well as a circulation card in the back! A few decades ago the manuscript was cataloged and processed as any print book would be -- with call number, cataloging record, and a pocket for the circulation card. This book no longer circulates! There is a Dewey classification number on the pouch, indicating that the book was once in the Abbey Library and came to the University Library later.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 13 - Prayer book with engravings (1622)

Deutsch Passional (copied in Vienna, Austria, by Daniel Meltzer, in 1622)

The Passional starts with an engraving of the Last Supper. Printed on paper and pasted onto a parchment leaf.
First page of text in Kacmarcik Ms. 13.

Kacmarcik Ms. 13 (from the Arca Artium Rare Collection) is an unusual little book of prayers to remember the Passion of Jesus. Only about 3 inches tall, it is written on parchment (most of these later manuscripts are on paper), and has engravings of the Passion bound in with the prayers. The basic structure is to have one engraving (on the verso of the leaf), followed by 3 leaves of prayers. Unlike the other codices listed here, the script in this small volume is entirely in Gothic.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 14 - Prayer book with engravings ("Geistliches Hand-Buechel," 1778)

Engraving facing the opening page of the codex.

Geistliches Hand-Buechl.
Colophon identifying the scribe and for whom the manuscript was copied;
as well as giving a date of copying as 1778.

Kacmarcik Ms. 14 is also a prayer book with engravings, although this is not specifically tied to the Passion. As with many of these codices, the titles and headings are copied in Gothic script, while the contents are all in Kurrent. I hope to compile a list of the prayers in each of the prayer books soon.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 15 - Catholic Prayer book with engravings (18th century?)

Title page is in a different script from most of the rest of the codex.

One of several engravings bound into the book. Saint Michael slaying the dragon.
Note the hierarchy of scripts (Gothic for headings, Kurrent for text). Most of the text looks more like this.

Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 24 - modern calligraphy - essay by Friedrich Nietzsche (1944?)

Completed in Frankfurt, Germany, during World War II, this volume is largely noteworthy for the carefully prepared calligraphy


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 35 - Recessionale (1700)

Of a completely different nature is a very large and thick volume called the Recessionale, and dated 1700. So far, no research on this volume has been done, so we know very little about its contents.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 36 - Lectures on Architecture with architectural drawings (18th century?)

This codex features a very new, modern bookbinding, along with several pages of architectural drawings. Some pages even have flaps to life. Referred to in our documentation as Architectural Lectures, There appear to be many references in other languages--most notably French.


Are there other German manuscripts in the Saint John's/HMML collections? Quite possibly, yes. However, the collections are still being cataloged, and new adventures always await those who are traversing these handwritten paths for the first time (in many years)!

Perhaps there are students out there who would be interested in helping to decipher and describe these manuscripts for us?


Matt Heintzelman


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