One of the projects my fellow interns and I have been working on is making a list of names in Arthurian literature and finding relevant manuscripts. A couple weeks ago, my fellow intern Adelia made a post about the website arthurianfiction.org. This website has been invaluable when we’re looking for manuscripts. However, the information isn’t always the most up-to-date. However, when it comes to German manuscripts, I found the website handschriftencensus.de. Unfortunately, the website is entirely in German.
Now, if you’re like me and don’t speak a lick of German, that might be discouraging. But not to worry! I’m going to go through how I’ve been using it to find manuscripts. A huge perk of learning how to use this site is that you don’t have to look through a bunch of German-language websites to find the manuscript you want. If you can find the manuscript on the Handschriftencensus website (literally “manuscript census”), it often includes a link to any digitization.
On the front page of the website, you will see the following header:
You’ll see that I’ve highlighted the section titled “Verzeichnisse” (“Directories”). If you hover over this, you’ll see the following options:
Here you want to click on the option “Autoren/Werke” (“Authors/Works”). This will bring you to a long page that has all works in alphabetical order. The title of each is often in the format Author’s name: Name of work. Next to each title is a number in parentheses followed by the word “Eintrag” or “Einträge” (“Entry”/”Entries”). This tells you how many manuscripts the Handschriftencensus has on record for each work. As an example, we’re going to look at Gottfried von Straßburg’s Tristan.
Since I knew the title of the work that I was looking for, I used Ctrl+F to search for the word “tristan.” If you are using a Mac, this might be Command+F instead. In parentheses next to the title, it says “30 Einträge,” which lets us know that there are 30 entries on the site. When we click on the name of the work, it brings us to a page with all the manuscripts listed.
The entries are color-coded depending on if they are a more complete manuscript or a fragment of one. From here, I’m clicking on the entry “Berlin, Staatsbibl., mgf 640” to go to the information page. The information page appears as follows:
As you can see, I have certain words highlighted. The first of these, Aufbewahrungsort, tells us where the manuscript is located and under what shelf mark.
The next, Inhalt, tells us what the manuscript contains. In the case of this manuscript, there are several different works within it. When there are multiple works, the Handschriftencensus lists in which part of the manuscript each work can be found. I’ve underlined in red the relevant portion of this manuscript.
The third, Entstehungszeit, tells us when the manuscript was written. This manuscript has a specific year, 1461, but often the year is an approximation. You might see something like “2. Hälfte 14. Jh.,” “2. Drittel 13. Jh.,” or “um 1300.” If the entry says “um 1300,” this means it was written around the year 1300. If it says “13. Jh.,” this means it was written in the 13th century. “Hälfte,” “Drittel,” and “Viertel” mean “half,” “third,” and “quarter,” respectively. Put this together and you get that “2. Hälfte 14. Jh.” means the second half of the 14th century, or 1350-1400.
The final one, Abbildung, is where any relevant links are put. For this manuscript there is a hyperlink on the word “Codex,” which will bring us to a digitization of the manuscript.
All screenshots and highlights are my own.
Busch, Nathanael, and Jürgen Wolf. Handschriftencensus, Philipps-Universität Marburg, 2017, http://www.handschriftencensus.de/.