Early German Hmanism
Humanism originated in Germany in the 1430s, a century later than in Italy which influence on the German humanist culture was very strong at an early stage. German propagandists of the new culture got acquainted with the Italian humanism in the first humanist societies, established in the South German cities and at courts of princes. To form a clear view of the diversity of relationships that existed between Early German and Italian humanism in the 15th century, let's examine a paper manuscript consisted of two works, coped by the canon of Regensburg Johannes Tröster (†1485).
Tröster belonged to the first generation of German humanists. This predetermined the choice of texts for copying. Known are two manuscripts copied by him. One book with the poems of the Italian poet-humanist Maffeo Vegio was rewritten in Rome in 1452 in the palace of Pope Nicholas V (now stored in Paris). Another, with Apologetics of Tertullian (155/165-220/240) and Dialogue on Free Will by Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457), is kept in the National Library of Russia.
A native of the Bavarian city of Hamburg, Tröster was admitted to the Vienna University in 1442, and became a member of the circle that was formed at Emperor Frederick III's court in Vienna around the Italian humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464), later Pope Pius II. The name of Piccolomini associated with the first steps of German humanism. Tröster's humanist dialogue «Cure for Love» was performed on the stage in Vienna in 1454, in the presence of Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493). Tröster collected books and repeatedly traveled to Italy to buy them.
The manuscript with texts of Tertullian and Lorenzo Valla tells about itself with rare completeness. In his records, Tröster states the reason that caused him to rewrite the book. Notes on the inner covers of the binding informed of the names of its owners, as well as when and under what circumstances the book passed from hand to hand. Moreover, many marginalia, made by Tröster's hand in the fields, show his direct reader's reactions to Tertullian's work in the form of a dialogue of the reader with the author.
Bellow, it was followed by titles of 18 Tertullian's writings.
Wherever they could, humanists sought for manuscripts with texts of ancient authors. Italian humanists have always been interested in the early Christian writers. Northern humanists showed even greater interest in the works of the Church Fathers, due to their characteristic Christian position. In the scribe's record, Tröster stated that he bought a handwritten codex with 18 works of Tertullian in Florence and gives their titles. Tertullian (ca.160 - after 220) belonged to the Church Fathers, but during the second half of his life, he fell into Montanist heresy. Not all of his works have survived, some are known only by name. Tröster reported about his findings with pride: out of 18 writings found by him, 11 works relate to the Montanist period. Fields around the «Apologetics» are covered with notes made by Tröster's hand. The abundance of the notes evidences that after the book had been rewritten, Tröster returned to it as a reader.
The Petersburg manuscript shows at least three "events in the life of the text" of Tertullian. First Tröster copied the text. Then he corrected 33 wrong passages. Then he turned to Tertullian's writing as a thoughtful reader, making 246 notes in the fields and underlining 41 pieces. Most of the margenalia follow the text and help to find the right extracts, this suggests that Tröster repeatedly returned to the work. In few notes, he expressed his attitude toward the course of the author's thoughts and method of the presentation of them. So, against the paragraph in which Tertullian describes universal hate of the pagans to the Christian doctrine that they, however, do not know, Tröster remarks,
'A keen reasoning'.
Otherwhere Tertullian, a lawyer by training, indignantly states that the judicial organs of the Roman Empire did not keep the rules of Roman law in relation to the Christians. Tröster writes aside,
'Beautifully proves it'.
Tröster made no comments to the treatise Dialogue on Free Will by Lorenzo, except for a colophon at the end of the text, 'Completed in 1466 by Johannes Tröster'.
The book contains three possessory recors. Two of them are left on the back cover of the binding, the fist was made by Tröster, the second is by his younger friend Johann Mendel, to whom Tröster presented rewritten codex. Both were born in Amberg and studied at the University of Vienna at the same time. Later, together with Georg Peuerbach, Mendel organized one of the first German humanist societies. Mendel was the chancellor of the two bishops of Eichstätt, Johann von Eich and Wilhelm von Reichenau. It is known that Tröster and Mendel jointly owned books and donate one of them to the Abbey in Tegernsee with a purely humanistic inscription, 'for studying and amending the books'
In the year 1484, the venerable man Johann Mendel from Amberg, Chancellor of the respectable Father and Master Wilhelm, Bishop of Eichstätt, deceased. He had given this book the monastery Rebdorf for the salvation of his own soul and the soul of his brother Johann Mendel, the Regensburg canon and the head of the New Collegium of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Eichstätt.
Below is the owner's record made by a librarian of the Rebdorf Monastery.
The manuscript that helps to trace the direct and indirect relations between the early German humanism with Italian humanistic culture, eventually was found in the South German Rebdorf Monastery. A few years earlier, Tröster brought a gift of the book of Eusebius, bought him in Rome, for the salvation of his soul. The monastery of St. Augustine at Rebdorf was a member of the Congregation of Windesheim, which was in the forefront of the late medieval reforming religious and educational movement "Modern Devotion". During the period of 1503-1553, Prior of the Rebdorf Monastery was the humanist Kilian Leib who, in addition to Latin, knew the Greek and Hebrew languages and conducted an intensive correspondence with the German humanists Jakob Wimpfeling, Johann Reichlin and Willibald Pirckheimer.
Tröster cared about his soul, making dotations to the monasteries in the form of books, and asked them to pray for him. He purposefully collected personal library of the works of the Church Fathers and his fellows on "studia humanitatis". For this, he took trips to Italy, including the Vatican Library, to copied books he needed. Inscriptions in the books specified the year and place of acquisition of one or another manuscript. Notes, made on the fields of Tertullian's writings, show thoughtful and careful work with the text of the book which he rewrote himself and later gave to his friend humanist Johann Mendel.
Scribe's and reader's entries in the manuscripts of the National Library of Russia help to determine when and where the books were written. However, some notes, as in the case of the St. Petersburg manuscript of Tröster, provide unique information on the work of the German humanist with the text. These records made by hand of the cleric-humanist are a kind of cross-section of everyday intellectual life of the era. They contain essential information for understanding of the cultural processes of his time, of which we are accustomed to judge only on the documents and works of famous authors.