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Commissioned Review

Commissioning Editor: Rebecca Welzenbach, MPublishing, University of Michigan Library.
Accepting Editor: Rebecca Welzenbach, MPublishing, University of Michigan Library.
Received: 2010-12-03
Revised: 2011-01-24
Published: 2011-03-03

Keywords: Hofmeister, Wernfried; Hofmeister-Winter, Andrea; review.


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§ 1    In September 2008, a colloquium was held in Graz to discuss future-oriented creation, distribution, and storage of editions of medieval texts. The volume reviewed here, Wege zum Text. Überlegungen zur Verfügbarkeit mediävistischer Editionen, is the product of this colloquium and consists of 19 articles, 16 of which are also accessible as podcasts on the colloquium's homepage (<http://www.uni-graz.at/wernfried.hofmeister/wegezumtext/>). For many, the option to listen to the talks as well as read the papers might not be more than a nifty extra. However, the site shines by providing access to many of the documents that were given out at the colloquium and by linking to some of the projects' homepages. With the exception of the podcast of the medieval buffet held at the 2008 colloquium, the podcasts work flawlessly.

§ 2    This work, which lacks an extended preface introducing the specific features of individual articles, represents quite a heterogeneous mix of basic overviews, case studies, project descriptions, and articles envisioning future developments. It might have been better to organize the book's articles by building sections combining articles with shared topics, rather than alphabetically by author's last name. Thematic arrangement works rather well, although not intentionally so, with the articles of both editors, Wernfried Hofmeister and Andrea Hofmeister-Winter. The former, while giving basic information on the availability, longevity, and distribution of editions, also treats one problem specific to some of the classics of medieval text-editions, such as Minnesangs Frühling: as editions are updated, it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain all previous editions. The above-mentioned Minnesangs Frühling, for example, is currently available in its 38th edition. Digital conservation of all the editions of one text is certainly a matter of increasing importance.

§ 3    Connecting closely to the article above, Andrea Hofmeister-Winter shows in a case study that all the problems of availability and sustainability of digital texts mentioned by Wernfried Hofmeister are lively and current, giving an example of how an edition of a medieval text disappeared from the Internet, leaving behind broken links and no alternative means of finding the edition. As these issues could have been solved by giving the text resource a digital object identifier (DOI), the article shows plainly that much remains to be done about the future of digital infrastructure and the sharing of knowledge about this infrastructure. It is a common problem in present-day university life that editors, computer scientists, and computing centers work closely together to fulfill the obligations put upon them by a funder such as the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), and must learn to understand one another's work. One of the book's merits is to heighten the reader's awareness that these problems exist and must be solved.

§ 4     While the articles themselves cover quite a lot of ground concerning basic questions about medieval editions on the Internet, a student reading this book is likely to derive the most benefit from the many references to places where he or she might actually find medieval editions. All prominent reference books or sites (e.g. the Verfasserlexikon), medieval dictionaries (e.g. Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch [MWB] [1] , Mittelhochdeutsche Begriffsdatenbank [MHDBDB] [2] ), and text catalogues (e.g. Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialien [TITUS] [3] , Handschriftencencus [4] ) are mentioned, some more often than once, and some of them are even main themes of the case studies. The reader learns about the background of these institutions and how to work with them.

§ 5    As instances of digital editions are growing in size and scope, printed facsimiles of medieval manuscripts are in decline. A strong point of the colloquium at Graz was obviously to invite editors of publishing companies to give rare insights into their work, discuss how and why richly illustrated printed facsimiles are declining in number, and that – sadly – even libraries dedicated to collecting every available book on the market no longer have the funds to do so. The one article on this theme that really stands out is by Ferdinand Melichar, who talks about points of law concerning copyright for texts and pictures. As a member of the management of the VG Wort, he addresses questions on different aspects of open access and how editors can protect the hard-earned fruits of their labor from becoming everyone's data. Every editor who, in addition to publishing, also wants to protect his or her intellectual property should read this article.

§ 6    From the high number of case studies and articles about single projects, one might gain the impression of a diffuse field of medieval studies, one that is no longer connected, that becomes a place of each man for himself. However, all of the projects are trying to commune with each other, and presenting them together in a book already works to counteract this sense of splitting. Only by knowing about each other and exchanging knowledge can ideas like Helmut Klug's vision of an internet portal that provides controlled access to all available medieval editions be realized. The goal of all medievalists should be to observe the planned and ongoing projects of their fellow scientists by reading books like this volume, by attending colloquiums, and by generally being well-connected to the ideas and concepts that are being realized right now. The time has never been better.

§ 7    To conclude, the Wege Zum Text might be most helpful to current students of medieval studies. From it, they will learn the basic foundations of medieval editions, where to look for them, and how to work with the data they present. Editors might want to take a look at the articles written by the representatives of the publishing companies to learn more about the outside world of book publishing and its legal concerns. Readers who are more interested in the technical aspects of working with data to create digital editions of medieval texts must look elsewhere, for the technical information contained in this book is more or less common knowledge among practitioners.

Notes:

[1] . Dictionary of Middle-High German: http://www.mhdwb-online.de/

[2] . Middle-High German Conceptual Database: http://mhdbdb.sbg.ac.at:8000/

[3] . Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialien: http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/