Graeme Dunphy

title.none: Fingernagel and Roland, Mitteleuropaeische Schulen 1 (ca. 1250-1350) (Dunphy)

identifier.other: baj9928.0102.018 01.02.18

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Graeme Dunphy, University of Regensburg,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Fingernagel, Andreas and Martin Roland, eds. Die Illuminierten Handschriften und Inkunabeln der Oesterreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Mitteleuropaeische Schulen 1 (ca. 1250-1350). Vienna: Verlag Der Oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1997. Pp. iv, 350. 2,407 Austrian Sch. ISBN: 3-700-12570-4.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.02.18

Fingernagel, Andreas and Martin Roland, eds. Die Illuminierten Handschriften und Inkunabeln der Oesterreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Mitteleuropaeische Schulen 1 (ca. 1250-1350). Vienna: Verlag Der Oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1997. Pp. iv, 350. 2,407 Austrian Sch. ISBN: 3-700-12570-4.

Reviewed by:

Graeme Dunphy
University of Regensburg

This is the kind of book through which one could browse happily for weeks. Instinctively one reaches first for the volume of plates and peruses its colourful collage of medieval craftsmanship before turning to the text volume to begin serious study. The immediate impression is of a lively yet painstakingly careful presentation of material which in itself is vivid and exciting.

Anyone who works intensively with mediaeval manuscripts will be familiar with the series Die illuminierten Handschriften und Inkunabeln der österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, a post-war continuation of the older Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der illuminierten Handschriften der Nationalbibliothek in Wien. Although the vast manuscript collections of the Austrian National Library are fully catalogued elsewhere, the purpose of this series is to present that part of the Viennese treasure which by virtue of its decorative or illustrative content is of art-historical as well as literary interest, grouping the manuscripts into schools according to chronology and geographical provenance and combining scholarly discussion with visual representation. Previous volumes have dealt with manuscripts of French, Dutch and Flemish origin, and the present authors have been commissioned with the task of producing a similar catalogue for, in the broadest sense, the German material. Because concepts of Germanness are difficult to apply to the Middle Ages, however, and some of the works concerned issue from territories which, though they certainly looked towards the empire, were and are predominantly Slavic, the decision was taken to avoid problematic terminology by entitling the volume "Central European Schools", a term which is perhaps rather too woolly but renders the political pitfalls harmless. This first brace of volumes covers the period 1230-1330; a second on the later period is planned.

The catalogue describes 154 illustrated manuscripts, about two thirds of which are Austrian, the remainder principally from monasteries and workshops throughout southern Germany (as far as Alsace and the Rhineland) and Moravia. The majority contain Latin texts, a significant minority Middle High German. The types of text represented range from devotional to functional to epic. As a result, though this is clearly conceived as a work for the specialist, the Mitteleuropäischen Schulen would be an excellent starting point for anyone beginning their studies in German codicology; samples of very different types and traditions can be found conveniently gathered together in one place for contrastive examination.

The work is divided into two volumes, one containing texts and the other plates of photographic reproductions, though slightly inconsistently there are also photographs at the back of the text volume (the "figures") and the admirably full indexing is to be found at the back of the volume of plates; it may have made more sense to have reversed this. Series editor Gerhard Schmidt's preface surveys the history of the series, and a brief preface by Andreas Fingernagel discusses methodology. Martin Roland's introduction provides a useful preliminary survey. His overview of provenance, style, content and physical characteristics of the manuscripts is very handy, and the discussion of owners is particularly interesting.

The main body of the text volume contains descriptions of the manuscripts in roughly chronological order. In keeping with the art-historical focus of the authors, the accounts of illustrations and illuminations are very full. The coverage varies greatly according to the authors' estimation of the value of the pieces; those with the least interesting art-work receive only cursory attention. There are good discussions of handwriting, as for example in Kat 24, where two scribes worked on the same codex. Manuscripts which fall into groups are discussed together, most obviously multi-volume Bibles, but also Kat 97-102, the manuscripts of Queen Rejcka which preserve a medieval royal library intact. Many of the manuscripts came to Vienna from the Salzburg Cathedral library, and these are discussed in an appendix.

The photographs fall into three groups. The volume of plates has first colour reproductions of the manuscripts in the collection and then black and white, which are kept separate, presumably for technical reasons. It may have been simpler if these had been numbered consecutively throughout the volume, but instead they are placed in separate sequences with the abbreviations Farbabb[ildung] and Abb[ildung]. Each of these sequences lead us through the most important items in the text, giving exemplary visual support to the discussions, sometimes reproducing whole pages, sometimes individual letters or marginal pen-work. The third group of photographs at the back of the text volume, identified with the abbreviation Fig[uren], contains illustrations from other manuscript collections which furnish the text volume with points of comparison and contrast. This distribution of visual material does not serve to make the work more user-friendly. Why do the illustrations to a particular manuscript have to be sought in three different places? If these are to be consulted as they are intended, in tandem with a study of the manuscript descriptions, the reader has to keep a finger in two places in each of two large volumes, which quickly becomes cumbersome. As a further quibble one might ask why the photographs repeat themselves: Farbabb 1 = Abb 2. However, none of this detracts from the fact that the prints we have been given depict relevant, well-chosen details, and the quality of reproduction is very high.

Pride of place in the collection is Kat 94, the spectacular Vienna Willehalm manuscript (Cod 2670), which naturally is dealt with at particular lengths. Nine pages of discussion by Roland explore all the obvious aspects of the codex, with good discussion of colours used, quality of gold leaf and possible reasons for flaws. There follows a complete catalogue of the miniatures, which are then discussed in seven thematic groups: mounted combat, foot combat, conversations, figures seated on benches, naval scenes, banquets, and bed scenes (whereby wedding nights and deathbed scenes fall together), a workable analysis which goes far beyond mere cataloguing. Under the heading "Stil und Einordnung" fall comparisons with other works such as the Munich Willehalm, some of which are then represented at the end of the volume in the four Figures related to this item. The volume of plates contributes a fine colour reproduction of the page containing the miniature of the banquet at Oransche and no less than nine black and white pictures, mostly of single columns of text. Thus this highly significant manuscript, which is of great importance for the history of early German literature, is given a coverage worthy of its status. This alone would make Fingernagel and Roland's work worth recommending beyond the circles of codicologists, as a useful reference point for any study of the Willeram cycle of Ulrich von Türlin, Wolfram von Eschenbach and Ulrich von Türheim.

Obviously, not every manuscript is given such full attention. Sometimes one feels that the contents are somewhat neglected. This is the old problem of literary and art-historical scholarship remaining separated. For example, Kat 6 is described as a "Mittelhochdeutsche Sammelhandschrift", an anthology of sundry pieces in Middle High German. But what are they? Similarly Kat 16, etc. A reference to another catalogue or study which the reader may or may not have to hand is insufficient. Certainly, this information is available to those who really want to look for it, but the normal user of the Mitteleuropäische Schulen is apparently expected to work without it. The balancing act which challenges all authors, how to decide what information to make directly available and what to commute to a reference, is ultimately decided by the interests and priorities of the argument in hand, and in the present case, the authors were clearly so concerned with the artistic merits of the Sammelhandschrift that the texts -- and with them the reasons why the manuscript was made in the first place -- are forgotten along the way. Elsewhere, however, this is dealt with better: for Kat 53, for example, also a Sammelhandschrift, a brief list of contents is provided, and of course in the manuscripts containing epic works, the miniatures are linked with the progression of the narrative. The fact remains, however -- and this is not a criticism only of Fingernagel and Roland -- that the bridge between literary and art-historical interests in codicological research generally is still not fully in place, a complaint I have made often and in a variety of contexts.

Otherwise, a work deserving the highest of praise which I shall dip into again and again.