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Reviewed by:
  • Bernhard von Breydenbach: Peregrinatio in terram sanctam
  • Jonathan Green
Bernhard von Breydenbach: Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. Edited by Isolde Mozer. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010. Pp. xlv + 846; 25 illustrations. $210.

After Bernhard von Breydenbach completed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in January 1484, the publication of his Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, a narration of his journey and description of the Holy Land, found broad interest throughout Europe, with eleven editions in six languages appearing between 1486 and 1505. In this new edition of the first Early New High German print with facing-page modern German translation, Isolde Mozer has made available a resource that will undoubtedly find [End Page 101] a home on the course reserve shelf for seminars on a wide range of topics. The editor specifically had in mind the needs of students in German Studies, where the Peregrinatio in terram sanctam is a landmark of late medieval travel literature, but Breydenbach’s work is also significant for scholars studying pilgrimage, interactions of Christian Europe with the Islamic world, and the history of print. In addition to a complete edition and translation, the editor provides an introduction to Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio; numerous (but mostly brief) textual notes; and an appendix including a list of all forty-four known copies in German libraries, a tabulation of those copies’ completeness with respect to their woodcut illustrations, a Latin-Arabic (as found in the Peregrinatio)-Early New High German-Modern German-Standard Arabic glossary, and facsimile reproductions of the woodcuts.

In the introduction, the editor emphasizes that the medieval experience of pilgrimage cannot be separated from the theology of indulgences (p. xxviii), and that travel to biblical lands could be experienced as the confirmation of received textual authority rather than as the experience of the new (p. xxvi); both points are borne out by a reading of the Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. Close comparison of the Latin and ENHG editions finds numerous surprising discrepancies between them, confirming the editor’s note (p. xxxi) that a careful study of their relationship remains an urgent desiderate for the field of late medieval German Studies. However, the introduction does need to be amended in a few points. The second and third Latin editions (Speyer [1490] and Wittenberg [1536], respectively) are incorrectly referred to as the third and sixth German editions (p. xxxi). Also, despite the editor’s statement to the contrary (p. xxxviii), printed foliation was certainly known in the fifteenth century; the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke identifies over 2700 editions with printed foliation beginning as early as 1470.

It is certainly not due to any oversight on the editor’s part that the bibliography’s list of online facsimile editions is incomplete, as new ones have been added even since this book’s recent publication. The rapid appearance of digital facsimiles is one of the most welcome recent developments in medieval and early modern studies, but it necessarily changes the role of scholarly editions compared to just a few years ago, when a printed edition might have been the only way to make a text available to scholars outside a few research libraries. Today, high-resolution images of most editions of the Peregrinatio in terram sanctam are freely available to anyone with a web browser. The editor, recognizing the new environment for scholarly editions, consciously positioned her edition as a graphical translation from the late medieval page to a modern one for the benefit of those inexperienced in reading fifteenth-century printed books. For this audience, however, the strict fealty to the original printed page seems like a questionable choice as the primary editorial priority. In the edition, abbreviations are not resolved but are rather retained as nasal strokes and similar marks; round and tall s are distinguished, as are dotted and dotless i; and the punctuation dot is printed not on the baseline but at midline. The representation of the original page is such an overriding concern that lines are broken exactly according to the original, including use of a double-stroked hyphen, and the place intended for decorated initials is left as rectangular white space.

The strict fealty to the early modern printed page combined with some poor choices in book...


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