03.12.29, Plechl, ed., Die Tegernseer Briefsammlung

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Anna Grotans

The Medieval Review baj9928.0312.029


Plechl, Helmut, ed.. Die Tegernseer Briefsammlung Des 12. Jahrhunderts. Series: Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Die Briefe Der Deutschen Kaiserzeit, vol. 8. Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2002. Pp. xl, 414. ISBN: 3-7752-1811-4.

Reviewed by:
Anna Grotans
Ohio State University

This edition contains 306 official and private letters and several documents and, in a separate appendix, 11 love letters preserved in the twelfth-century manuscript, Clm 19411, originally from the Abbey of Tegernsee in Bavaria. Because of the wide range of themes it encompasses, the collection will be of interest to historians, literary scholars, as well as historians of rhetoric and pedagogy. The volume, which is the eighth in the MGH Epistolae series covering correspondence from the German Empire, has been a long time in the making. It is based on Plechl's extensive background research, which appeared in Deutsches Archiv zur Erforschung des Mittelalters between 1955 and 1962. Most of the texts have previously been published, but in often difficult to obtain works, e.g., Pez' eighteenth-century Thesaurus, where 208 of the letters can be found. The present volume includes 40 hitherto unedited epistles, including numerous letters with a very personal or everyday content. Only ten of the love letters have previously been edited, most recently and completely by Jurgen Kuhnel in a 1977 Goppinger Litterae study, where they appear with facsimiles and German translations.

Parts of Clm 19411 clearly served instruction in the ars dictaminis, and the letters of the Tegernsee corpus augment the rhetorical treatises by Alberic of Montecassino and Adalbert Samaritanus as well as the model letter collection of Henricus Francigena also found in the manuscript. In addition to the rhetorical texts, the codex contains various poems, the Ludus de Antichristo, historical pieces, including excerpts from the Gesta Friderici, and short works dealing with the trivium. The manuscript was compiled sometime in the second half of the twelfth century (ca. 1160-1186). Most of the letters in question were composed under the rule of Abbot Rupert (1155-1186), the youngest between 1178 and 1180, and were copied at different times sometime between 1178 and 1186. Plechl suggests that the Tegernsee collection was assembled from originals, copies and rough drafts on location. Only seven of the 306 letters are preserved elsewhere, among them correspondence by Bernhard of Clairvaux and Emperor Frederick I. Seven of the letters are duplicates.

In the introduction, the editors provide a content overview and roughly group the letters according to authors, addressees, political events, and themes, of which several main groups can be discerned. First, the correspondence of Abbot Rupert (ruled 1155-1186) and his predecessor Conrad I (1126-1155); a majority of these letters are addressed to the Freising Bishops Otto I and Albert as well as Andech's steward Berthold III and involve invitations to diocese synods, quarrels over the membership of various parishes, the construction of churches, and legal cases. Correspondence with Rupert's brother, Provost Otto of Raitenbuch, is also included. Second, correspondence concerning the 1177 Peace of Venice, the majority having been written by Provost Otto of Raitenbuch, Udalrich II of Aquileja, and Duke Welf IV. Third, correspondence concerning events surrounding the Third Lateran Council in 1179. Fourth, abbey correspondence and letters dealing with house and regional issues, including reforms, the neighboring Abbeys of Dietramzell and Benediktbeuern, and the history of the Tegernsee area. Fifth, letters and documents from King Conrad III, Emperor Frederic I, and the Popes Innocent II, Eugene III, and Alexander III. A sixth group can be labeled "personal" letters and includes themes such as friendship, personal welfare, requests for material or emotional support, letters of recommendation, defenses against accusations, letters of advice and warning, and letters describing daily life in the school and the library holdings. So, for example, we read in letter no. 157 about an exchange of money, a belt and scissors for ink, parchment and a pumice stone. In no. 186 the author requests a much-needed shirt; the writer of no. 186 affirms his love for a male (or female?) friend; in no. 207 a woman found guilty of infanticide requests protection on her pilgrimage of penance to St. Gilles; in no. 245 a monk pleads to Provost B. for the forgiveness of a penitent girl; in no. 249 Bishop Albert reports to Abbot Rupert that the messenger of the letter has misused the host as fishing bait. Most of the epistles in the last group were never actually dispatched, but functioned as teaching models.

The seventh group, traditionally treated as a separate corpus, encompasses the 'love' letters and appears in an appendix to the volume. In the manuscript, love letters 1 through 8 follow Adelbert's Praecepta dictaminum. The hitherto unedited letter no. 5, written from X. to his spiritual father H. thanking him for his support and requesting to be made a priest, does not thematically fit into the group, but is placed here by the editors because of its position in the manuscript and its stylistic similarities to the surrounding texts. Letters 6-8 have in recent years come under the limelight because they were written by women to women, a point often gently glossed over, ignored, or edited out by previous scholarship. John Boswell (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, p. 220) considers no. 7 one of the foremost examples of medieval lesbian literature, and already Dronke pointed out that its contents presuppose a "passionate physical relationship" (Medieval Latin and the Rise of the European Love Lyric, p.482). Letters 9-11 appear toward the end of the codex mixed in with other models. They contain passages in Middle High German, including the famous poem "Du bist min," printed already by Lachmann in his Des Minnesangs Fruhling.

The original function of the love letters--whether they were meant as literature, epistolary models or represent actual correspondence--remains open to debate. Plechl suggests that letters 1-8 served a purely exemplary function (cf. also Kuhnel) and are of a foreign provenance, perhaps Upper German, whereas Dronke and Ruhe (De amasio ad amasiam. Zur Gattungsgeschichte des mittelalterlichen Liebesbriefes, p. 89) have argued for their authenticity. Schaller, in a vehemently critical review article of Kuhnel's edition (ZfdPh 101 [1982]: 104-121), points out that although letters 1-8 follow the ars dictaminis treatises, these treatises in no way treat private letters; the letters themselves are followed by several poetic texts. Plechl (as others before him) maintains that letters 9, 10 and 11 were composed in Tegernsee and reflect actual correspondence. Why were such letters included in the collection? Schaller suggests that they, along with the other texts, may have simply have been collected for Abbot Ruprecht for his personal use. French translations of letters 1-4 and 6-11 can be found in Etienne Wolff's La lettre d'amour au moyen age; English translations (along with the Latin originals) of letters 1-4 and 6-8 appear in Dronke's study.

Except for the love letters, the texts appear in the same order as they are found in the manuscript. Following the guidelines of the MGH, texts are reproduced in a modified diplomatic edition. Manuscript orthography is retained, but abbreviations are silently expanded and manuscript lineation and word division is not retained. A critical apparatus provides manuscript readings when these have been corrected in the text and a second apparatus references previous editor's emendations. Modern German punctuation is applied and capitalization is used at the beginning of a sentence and for proper names. A brief content summary in German precedes each piece along with an approximate dating, location in the manuscript, background information on content, and very helpful cross-references to other letters in this collection and elsewhere. The volume contains several useful indices, including senders and addressees, incipits, names, as well as words and subjects.

The editors are to be lauded for publishing the letters in one volume based upon the medieval codex in which they are preserved. Regardless of their original function-- whether authentic or not-- most were probably collected for their exemplary purpose (a fact that is further strengthened by the presence of dictaminis treatises in the codex). The segregation of the love letters, however, is not unproblematic. Indeed, it appears that Plechl originally had no intention of including this corpus in the present volume (cf. his comments in DA 18.2 (1962): 482), and this makes for some confusing cross-references between texts in the Tegernsee collection proper and the appendix. Letter No. 5, although it does not deal with 'love,' is included for stylistic reasons and manuscript evidence. Other letters in the collection proper, e.g., no. 275, are clearly love letters, but are not included in the appendix. The 'love letter' genre is a difficult one to define for the Middle Ages, especially since numerous sub-genres exist, e.g. literary epistle, poetry, billet-doux, original letter, and form letter. Schaller argues that an umbrella category 'personal letter' may be more useful, under which heterosexual love letters would be only one subgroup among many, including love between related persons, friendship, devotional letters, requests for advice and assistance, etc. Hopefully, the accessibility of the texts provided by this volume will prompt scholars to look more closely at such questions of genre, as well as at the content of the letters and aspects of social reality that they may reflect.

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Anna Grotans

Ohio State University