In 1856, Johann Friedrich Böhmer, the director of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, wrote Julius Ficker that he had handed over to Jean-Louis-Alphonse Huillard-Bréholles, the editor of the Historia diplomatica Friderici secundi (Paris, 1852-61), unedited charters of Frederick II because it was not possible to wait for the MGH to publish the material. This volume testifies to how long the wait has been. Until recently, scholars have relied primarily on Huillard-Bréholles' edition of the emperor's charters even though it contains only about 60% of the relevant items about Frederick listed in the fifth volume of the Regesta Imperii(1881-1901), which Böhmer, Ficker, and Eduard Winkelmann assembled and Paul Zinsmaier revised (1983). Winkelmann, who wrote the volumes on Philip of Swabia, Otto IV, and the reign of Frederick II until 1233 in the Jahrbücher der Deutschen Geschichte (1873-97), published additional charters in the Acta imperii inedita saeculi XIII et XIV: Urkunden und Briefe zur Geschichte des Kaiserreichs und des Königreichs Sicilien in den Jahren 1198-1273 (1881-85); but even with this supplement, approximately 30% of Frederick's charters remain unpublished, or at least not in fairly accessible places. The need for a modern complete edition of his charters is readily apparent.
The Monumenta was almost as slow in publishing the charters of Frederick's Staufen predecessors. Paul Scheffer-Boichorst began preliminary work on an edition of the charters of Frederick's grandfather in the 1880s but made little progress on the project. The MGH decided in 1904, therefore, to turn over to the Institute for Austrian Historical Investigation at the University of Vienna responsibility for producing editions of the charters of Lothar III and the Staufer. At the same time, Paul Fridolin Kehr, the director of the Prussian Historical Institute in Rome, determined, at the prompting of Kaiser Wilhelm II, to prepare an edition of Frederick II's charters in conjunction with the Italian Historical Institute; and the Monumenta agreed to this sensible division of labor. Unfortunately, political and economic conditions in Austria, Germany, and Italy were not conducive after 1914 to such massive undertakings. The relatively small volume on Lothar and his wife Richenza--135 items--appeared in 1927. The MGH announced in 1931 that there were no further obstacles to publishing the charters of Conrad III--except, it turned out, for a complete lack of money--and that volume finally saw the light of day in 1969. Serious work on Barbarossa's charters commenced only with the appointment of Heinrich Appelt as the editor-in-chief in 1956, and the five massive volumes, containing 1259 charters, letters, and mandates, appeared between 1975 and 1990.
The MGH decided in 1978 to sponsor an edition of Frederick II's charters and appointed Walter Koch, a student of Appelt, who had worked on the Barbarossa collection, as the editor-in-chief. Understandably, he has modeled this edition after the edition of Barbarossa's charters. Koch's student, Klaus Höflinger began work on the project immediately and Joachim Spiegel joined the team in 1989. The latter two started visiting hundreds of archives and libraries throughout Europe in the late 1980s to locate, transcribe, photograph, and collate originals and later copies, a task that was still going on when the first volume appeared in print in 2002. Christian Friedl, another of Koch's students, who prepared the index and bibliography for the first volume and who published in 2013 an edition of Manfred's charters under the auspices of the MGH, now serves as Koch's chief assistant. Work on the project was facilitated by the publication of the charters of Frederick's Norman predecessors in the Codex diplomaticus regni Siciliae (1982-96) and, separately, of his mother Constance by the MGH in 1990. Philip of Swabia's charters have just appeared in print as well (2014). Since more than twice as much material survives about Frederick than his grandfather, the Koch edition includes only Frederick II's charters and mandates, including falsified documents and outright forgeries, but not his circulars and letters. (The Appelt edition includes some but not all of Barbarossa's letters.) When it is finished, the edition is projected to have eight volumes.
The first volume covers the period until Frederick's arrival in Germany in 1212; the next two deal with the eight years he spent in Germany. This volume begins with Frederick's return to Italy (no. 658, September 13, 1220) and ends with the siege of Jato (no. 929, August 19, 1222). Each of the volumes is a freestanding entity with its own index, concordance of words, list of recipients, list of depositories, bibliography, and a table of concordance between the documents in this volume and the earlier listings in Huillard-Bréholles, Winkelmann, and the Regesta Imperii. This scholarly apparatus, pages 637 through 1098, is published separately as the second part of volume four. The original plan was to include also in each volume a discussion of the operation of the chancery during the period under consideration and plates of some representative charters, but the material for this two-year period will appear in the next volume. Each entry cites the current location of the original and/or later copies, previous printed editions, and a head note that provides information about such things as the format of the document, the reasons for identifying it as authentic, falsified, or a forgery, and background historical information. Variants are listed in the footnotes.
Needless to say, this edition exhibits the customary high scholarly standards of the MGH, and only individuals who delve into individual entries will be in a position to spot any possible errors. I made extensive use of Barbarossa's charters while writing a biography that Yale will publish in 2016, but I caught only a single slip in that collection. A Count Sigiboto of Niuwenburc, who witnessed a charter in Regensburg in 1180 (no. 798), is identified in the index as coming from Neuburg on the Inn near Passau (p. 431); but the Neuburg in question was almost certainly situated on the Mangfall near Rosenheim. Sigiboto is, in fact, Sigiboto IV of Falkenstein, an almost exact contemporary of Barbarossa, who commissioned the oldest German family archive, the Codex Falkensteinensis. Although it is highly likely that Sigiboto accompanied Barbarossa on the Second Crusade and his fourth Italian campaign, this charter documents for the first time that Sigiboto attended a major assembly.
As a German medievalist, I was curious how many of the 272 charters in this volume concerned Germany, very broadly conceived. Since Frederick spent these two years mainly in Sicily, I did not expect to find a large number because recipients usually procured such documents when the emperor was in their vicinity. Seven charters concerned various German monasteries and collegiate churches: the Benedictines of Wessobrunn in Bavaria (nos. 735 and 736); the collegiate churches of St. Mary in Aachen (the coronation church) and St. Servatius in Maastricht, which were freed from the payment of tolls on grain and wine and which shared the same provost (nos. 762 and 763); the Cistercians of Volkenroda in Thuringia (no. 895); the transfer, at Frederick's instigation, of a convent of Cistercian nuns near Aachen to the defunct Benedictine abbey of Burtscheid by Archbishop Engelbert I of Cologne, the regent for Frederick's son, King Henry (VII) (no. 897); and the Cistercians of Raitenhaslach in Bavaria (no. 911). In four instances, Frederick had a dynastic connection to the house: the Premonstratensian convent of Schäftersheim, which had been established by Duke Frederick of Rothenburg, but intriguingly the charter does not indicate that the founder, the son of King Conrad III, was Frederick's kinsman (no. 803); the Alsatian Cistercian nunnery of Königsbrück, which numbered the emperor's great-grandfather, Duke Frederick II (no. 878), among its founders; the Benedictines of St. Mang at Füssen in the diocese of Augsburg, where the emperor reserved all rights that pertained to him and his heirs (no. 909); and the Augustinian canons of Rottenbuch, which the Welf grandparents of Barbarossa's mother had founded and where Frederick retained the advocacy for himself and Henry (VII) (no. 910).
Another four documents deal with more specific issues. At the request of his beloved kinsman, Count Henry of Eberstein, Frederick freed the abbess of Fischbeck, an imperial house of secular canonesses in Westphalia, from the obligation to come to his court in the Regno to be enfeoffed with the regalia on account of the poverty of her house (no. 887). He prohibited the landgrave of Thuringia and the margravine of Meissen, at the request of the bishop of Meissen, from seizing the silver mines near Freiberg and the tithes that pertained to them (no. 899). The emperor confirmed for the count of Guelders the permanent transfer of a toll from Arnheim to Lobith on the Rhine (no. 904), and he intervened in the dispute between the canons of Bremen and Hamburg about which church was the cathedral chapter of the archbishopric of Bremen-Hamburg (no. 907). Frederick issued eighteen charters for the Teutonic Knights, but only three of these concerned Germany, one of which is a forgery (nos. 819, 923, and 924). Finally, three more charters can be classified as pertaining to the medieval kingdom of Germany: a falsified charter for the lords of Arco in the Trentino (no. 799); the exemption of the Swiss Benedictine abbey of Pfäfers in the diocese of Chur, a suffragan of the archbishop of Mainz, from the jurisdiction of its advocates, the lords of Sax (no. 800); and a falsified charter for Henry II of Sax (no. 734). So only 21 charters, eight percent of the 272 entries, can even remotely be described as German, a statistic that underscores how much Frederick was an absentee ruler. I can offer only one slight emendation. It might have been helpful to indicate that the saltpan Raitenhaslach received in Mühlbach is situated in Hallein, south of Salzburg.
The preparation and publication of Barbarossa's charters led to the writing of a number of invaluable monographs: for example, Heinz Krieg, Herrscherdarstellung in der Stauferzeit: Friedrich Barbarossa im Spiegel seiner Urkunden und der staufischen Geschichtsschreiburg (2003); Ferdinand Opll, Das Itinerar Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossas (1152-1190) (1978); Opll, Stadt und Reich im 12. Jahrhundert (1125-1190) (1986); and Alheydis Plassmann, Die Struktur des Hofes unter Friedrich I. Barbarossa nach den deutschen Zeugen seiner Urkunden (1998). I hope that the publication of his grandson's charters will result in similar transformative inquiries about Frederick II. For instance, following Plassmann's lead, who were the Germans who witnessed Frederick's charters in Italy? How, for example, was Henry of Eberstein, who was with Frederick from November 1221 to July 1225, related to him? I am especially curious about Margrave Diepold VII of Vohburg (d. 1225), the nephew of Barbarossa's repudiated first wife Adela of Vohburg, who witnessed numerous charters during this time period. Upon the death of Diepold's cousin, Berthold III, in 1204, his wife's brother, Duke Louis I of Bavaria, acquired the Vohburgs' chief lordships, Cham and Vohburg. Tobias Küss mentions Diepold only in passing in his new book Die älteren Diepoldinger als Markgrafen in Bayern (1077-1204) (2013), pp. 60-61. Louis' acquisition of the margraves' rights in the Bavarian Nordmark was a major step in the Wittelsbachs' consolidation of power, but what did Diepold gain in Italy that made the loss of his Bavarian lordships acceptable? In short, Koch and his colleagues are opening up new opportunities for investigating Frederick's reign; and every student of the medieval Empire is in their debt.