Johnna L. Sturgeon reports on research in Munich

August 10, 2016
Johnna L. Sturgeon

Johnna L. Sturgeon

by Johnna L. Sturgeon

The American Catholic Historical Association Graduate Student Summer Research Grant I received allowed me to complete manuscript research critical to completion of my doctoral dissertation, which explores several theorized changes in late medieval manuscript culture through the career of Portuguese theologian Andreas de Escobar (1348-ca. 1450). Several of his works have never been printed, while others were printed centuries ago based on a single manuscript. Just one has received the attention of a modern editor. Furthermore, I could answer questions about the means by which Escobar’s works were circulated and copied only by examining original manuscripts. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich is the largest single repository of copies of Escobar’s works, possessing about one-quarter of all those known worldwide. The ACHA grant helped fund my one-month research trip to Munich, where I studied manuscripts at the Bavarian State Library and University Library for three and one-half weeks, completing all research planned. Because I completed work in Munich earlier than estimated, I also made an unplanned overnight trip to work at the university library in nearby Eichstätt. In all three libraries, I collected both textual and codicological information for my dissertation.

I identified important textual variations, collected evidence about reader reception, and ordered digital images of those manuscripts I found to be most critical to my research. I identified two distinct versions of Escobar’s treatise on tithes (his most widely distributed theological work) that differed from the text as found in the early published edition. I obtained images of representative examples of these versions for further study. Based on the marginal annotations I studied, I identified two schools of reception of Escobar’s treatise on tithes: one treating it as an aid for preachers and another as a canon law reference. I requested high-quality digital images of two unpublished treatises for transcription and study. In the manuscripts of one of Escobar’s most studied works, the conciliarist treatise Gubernaculum conciliorum, I found a surprising lack of evidence for his authorship. If this finding agrees with other evidence, our entire understanding of Escobar’s career will require substantial revision.

I conducted codicological research on a total of fifty-one manuscripts for evidence related to the manner and means of circulation and copying. I checked for the absence or presence of eight different traits that characterize manuscript “booklets” that once circulated independently, only later being bound with other material to form a codex. I found that while there were only a couple manuscripts, and those late, that consisted solely of one of Escobar’s works, many copies of his short treatise on tithes had clearly once circulated independently. From scribal colophons, I also learned the date and provenance of many of the manuscript copies, which after further analysis and collation will allow me to prove or disprove the hypothesis that reformed Benedictine monasteries constituted an important network for transmitting Escobar’s theological works. At Eichstätt I found unexpectedly one copy that had been reinforced with strips cut from a Hebrew manuscript. The significance, if any, of this discovery is yet to be explored.