The Medieval Review 11.06.13

Koller, Heinrich, Paul-Joachim Heinig, and Alois Niederstätter. Regesten Kaiser Friedrichs III (1440-1493) nach Archiven und Bibliotheken geordnet, vol. 25, Die Urkunden und Briefe aus den Kurmainzer Beständen des Staatsarchivs Würzburg sowie den Archiven und Bibliotheken in der Stadt Mainz. Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2010. Pp. 217. . EUR42 42 978-3-205-78527-7.

Reviewed by:

David Nicholas
Clemson University (emeritus)

This collection is part of an ongoing reappraisal of the reign and personal achievement of Frederick III, for which the studies and personal initiative of the general editors are largely responsible. Some 30,000 of Frederick's charters survive and are in a data base that is being made available on-line as well as through printed volumes. The 284 documents inventoried here extend from May 14, 1440, five weeks after Frederick III's election as King of the Romans, through February 27, 1492, six months before his death. The chronological spread of the texts is comparable throughout the reign, although some groupings are discernible. Of the 65 charters (23 per cent) from 1440-1450, most are from 1440-1442, when the new king was trying to gain legitimacy. For 1451-1460 the number drops to 37 charters (13 per cent). The 1460s are a high point, with 87 charters (31 per cent), probably because of the political complications of the Mainz Stiftsfehde (1461-1463). The 1470s have 40 charters, the 1480s 55.

The arrangement of the volumes by archive/depository is unusual. It amounts in most cases to publication by home region of the recipients(s) and his/her/their descendants. Yet it fosters duplication: 92 of the 284 texts have been published in other volumes in this collection, 40 in volume 8 alone. Regesta of another 64 were printed in Joseph Chmel's collection of 1838. Of the 284 documents 105 were edited from original charters, 81 from copies. Some editorial conventions exaggerate the breadth of the collection: a text of December 1, 1466 was issued at Graz appointing the Archbishop of Mainz protector of the clergy of his archdiocese; on the same day Frederick issued separate letters to the Count Palatine, various other counts, officials in towns, and the other bishops of the area, concluding this list with the landgrave of Hesse, the count of Hanau, and the burgomaster and council of Worms; each of these individuals and groups received the same charge to protect the Mainz clergy that was given to the archbishop (Regesten nos. 120-172).

The fact that these texts include less than 1 per cent of the total output of Frederick's chancery suggests that the Main region and adjacent parts of the Rhineland were not among the monarch's greatest concerns. However, this is negated to some extent by the consideration that the book does not include all of Frederick III's charters that are located in the libraries and archives in question, but only those concerning electoral Mainz. The editors admit that this volume does not give a comprehensive picture of imperial activity in electoral Mainz, for which charters in other archives--most already published in the series--are necessary.

The Regesten follow a standard format, keyed to an abbreviation list (7-10). The basic content summary is given in modern German except when questions might arise about the meaning of key words, which the editor leaves in the original High German. The date is given in the original language in italics. The second paragraph of the entry reproduces in italics chancery annotations that are written on recto and/or verso of the document; editorial explanations of the annotations are in Roman type. Typically those on the recto give the name of the person at whose orders the document was redacted, while the verso has those of the recipient(s). The third paragraph describes and gives locations of the original charter (if extant) and of copies, and provides information about any seals still attached to them. A few are noted as deperditum; in these cases the editor makes brief summaries based on references in other contemporary or nearly contemporary sources. The fourth paragraph indicates the place(s) where the document has been published, while the fifth lists previous Regesten. The sixth paragraph gives documents related to this one that are not included here because they are not in the archives being surveyed, and the seventh provides any previous references to the document in secondary literature. Each text is also given a scholarly apparatus discussing its historical circumstances and identifying the major characters, specifically the addressee(s) of the charter.

These texts include confirmations of land grants, rights, enfeoffments and pawnings, new grants and confirmations of privileges (which are involved in 173 charters, approximately 60 per cent), appointments, grants of safe conduct, commands, permissions, administrative and judicial decrees (such as imposing outlawry, ordering executions, and remitting punishments), and a few that are purely informational. Roughly one-fifth (61 charters) concern political affairs, particularly the Mainz Stiftsfehde, the conflict of the city of Erfurt with the archbishop of Mainz, the feud of Swicker von Sickingen against the city of Cologne, and the release of Frederick's son Maximilian from prison in Flanders in 1488. The most consistent theme in these texts is the emperor's dealings with the archbishop of Mainz, who in various contexts and times was elector and imperial chancellor in addition to having responsibilities for the spiritual care of his diocese. The importance of Mainz involved Frederick with the Counts Palatine of the Rhine and with second-tier lords whose archives would fall to the archbishopric between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries: the Herren of Eppstein, Königstein, Kronberg, Falkenstein, Hirschhorn, and Rieneck.

Several charters have broader political or judicial implications. A case of 1477 (Regesten, no. 221) shows the king insisting on his right to try a case involving violation of the peace of a royal highway along the Main. In 1447 (Regesten no. 56) he confirmed the exemption of the Archbishop of Mainz from secular courts, specifically mentioning the secret Westphalian Fehmgerichte. On December 4, 1488, shortly after founding the Swabian League, Frederick III ordered Archbishop Berthold of Mainz to join it and annulled the prelate's prior agreements in contravention; his stated reason was that although the bishopric and electorate of Mainz were not in the Land of Swabia, they were its neighbors, and this action would help secure the Frankfurt Public Peace. The archbishop forwarded this missive with a sarcastic note to his own prelates, nobles, and cities (Regesten no. 276).

The chancery annotations on 147 documents show Frederick III personally involved in considerable business. Although the documents are in High German, the chancery marks are in Latin and inform the reader whether the text was composed at the order of Frederick as king or as emperor, of the king/emperor in council, or at the personal directive of the king/emperor (with the word proprium added for emphasis after mandatum).

I have reservations about the decision to organize this massive undertaking by archive, but this is an important series of texts that is already enabling a more positive appreciation of the statecraft of Frederick III. As is true of the other volumes, the scholarship is impeccable. The editorial standards are high, and the format facilitates scholars' use of the texts. Anyone working on fifteenth- century Germany will find important information here.