In Alemannische Minuskel, Natalie Maag follows in the footsteps of classic paleographers such as Traube, Lowe, and Bischoff, working within tried-and-true methodologies while also pushing their boundaries. The book is a study of Benedictine scriptoria in the southern Germanic lands, from Murbach to Kremsmünster, with the great Bodensee scriptoria of St. Gall ("Eremus") and Reichenau ("Insula") at the geographic and cultural center of the development and spread of German minuscule--a transitional precursor of the widespread minuscule promulgated by Charlemagne. The chronological parameters are appropriately local, from the earliest appearance of what could be called German minuscule at St. Gall ("Die älteste alemannische Minuskel hat sich in einer St. Galler Urkunde von 744 erhalten..." ) to the death in 846 of the prolific Abbot Reginbert of Reichenau ("Er vergrößerte den Bestand der Bibliothek, inventarisierte die erworbenen Bücher im ersten größeren karolingischen Bibliothekskatalog und versah sie im und wieder mit seinem Exlibris…" [68-69]; for his autograph, see ). Abbot Reginbert's use of the script well into the 840s represents the last gasp of the style, whose latest exemplar at St. Gall is dated 822 (171).
Maag's work is steeped in solid paleographic methodology and bibliographic detail. She begins with a bibliographic survey, reviewing the paleographic historiography of the development of German minuscule, focusing in particular on the various terminologies established by Traube, Bruckner, Bischoff and other, as well as the methodological issues raised by their nomenclatures, highlighted features, and chronological parameters. All agree, for example, that the salient features of the script include the letter [a] written as [cc], pronounced clubbed ascenders and descenders, and a letter [t] whose crossbar loops back at the left to close on the stem (for a typical example, see St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 225: ). Terms for this script vary widely, however, and include Merovingian, Rhaetian, "young type," "old type," and so on.
Unlike her predecessors, who tended to study the development of particular scriptoria, Maag takes a larger view, focusing on the development of German minuscule throughout the region, beginning with a detailed study of the script at St. Gall and Reichenau. She also reviews the dated charters and documents used as baselines, with appropriate caveats, given the acknowledged differences between book-hands and documentary scripts. This section includes a deep-dive into two eighth-century St. Gall hands (the scribe/artist Winithar and Abbot Waldo) as well as that of Abbot Reginbert of Reichenau. Two case studies serve to demonstrate the interactivity of the two scriptoria: a study of Reginbert's contributions to the rubrics of the plan of St. Gall, and the identification of St. Gall copies of Reichenau exemplars. From the Bodensee, Maag then moves outward to consider the development of the script at the abbeys of Freising, Mondsee, Kremsmünster, Kochel (a nunnery), Benediktbeuern, and Murbach, with a nod to Lorsch as well.
The book includes numerous black-and-white details and color plates, and concludes with appendixed handlists of 261 manuscripts written in this style, forty that include Reginbert's hand, and a final list of dated/dateable documents.
In sum, this is an innovative and detailed investigation of script and scribes in the region. There are some weaknesses to the work, however. Art history plays a minor part in the argument (31-32) and codicology none at all. All three components studied together would give an even more detailed sense of the development of book culture in the region. In addition, with the exception of the collection of fragments at Kremsmünster, the vast majority of the manuscripts cited are complete codices. There may very well be other fragments scattered around the world that can be associated with these scriptoria, and such a possibility should at least be acknowledged. Finally, although the black-and-white details and color plates are sufficient for the task at hand, with all of the Swiss manuscripts now having been beautifully digitized by e-Codices (), it seems a lost opportunity to cite these manuscripts without providing footnoted PURLs. Even the Reichenau manuscripts, most of which now belong to the Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe, have been fully digitized (for example, ). The contrast between black-and-white details and full digital images is particularly potent for the great Reichenau evangeliary, St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 367, online here: . In addition, a project sponsored by the UCLA Digital Library (led by Patrick Geary and Barbara Schedl) to reconstruct the early St. Gall and Reichenau libraries online includes links to digitized manuscripts: . I recommend that readers refer to the digitized manuscripts while reading Alemannische Minuskel. Maag's work, while impressive in its own right, is greatly enhanced by reference to these resources.