Right down to the text
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Kaiserchronik and Kaiserchronik – digital

KaiserchronikThe Kaiserchronik comprises a grand narrative of the reigns of thirty-six Roman and nineteen German kings and emperors filling a timespan of twelve centuries. From Gaius Julius Caesar (d. 44 BCE) to Conrad III (d. 1152), it throws the spotlight on ethnicity, religion and cultural identity, and on the relationship between church and empire, as these issues play out on the various stages of Rome, Germany and their territorial outposts in the Mediterranean basin.

The author—or authors—of the Kaiserchronik are unknown, but scholarly consensus still assumes it to have been composed by a cleric in or in the environs of Regensburg. Contemporary interest in the work was certainly intense, and did not wane with the passing of time. By 1200, it was known across the whole of Germany, and thereafter its transmission (50 known or still extant manuscripts, of which 11 transmit the entire text of the chronicle) dwarfs that of most of the works which dominate the canon of medieval German literature today.

Twice in the thirteenth century, the original version (A) was reworked to conform to modern stylistic and linguistic conventions: recension B (c.1200) and recension C (c.1250). The latter recension also continues the chronicle of events down to 1250; one of its manuscripts (Schloss Zeil bei Leutkirch, Fürstl. Waldburg-Zeil und Trauchburgsches Gesamtarchiv, ZAMs 30) has a further continuation down to 1278. All three verse recensions were being copied from the mid thirteenth century; prose versions spread via the Saxon World Chronicle (recension C1) and even ended up as a preface to the Swabian lawcode; sections were translated into Latin.

Kaiserchronik digital provides scholars with different ways to approach the text. First, it gives access to all three recensions of the work. These can now be viewed—for the first time—in parallel and in any combination. Second, its complete facsimiles allow for extensive codicological analysis. And third, it furnishes unmediated access to the variant texts of the Kaiserchronik as these were transmitted in manuscripts from all over the High German-speaking regions from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. For the literary scholar, the transcriptions provide insight into processes of retextualization and recension on a level beneath that of the three major versions of the chronicle. Language historians are able to observe phenomena of diatopic and diachronic micro-variance that are too small to capture in the traditional apparatus criticus of an edition.

Kaiserchronik – digital is therefore not merely a back-up to the full critical print edition, which will appear in 2020 (see Project Description), but an edition in its own right—one that does not replace the traditional form of publication but complements it by providing information that would otherwise be obscured.

Two major results from the project team’s initial analysis have shown the power of a digital edition in this form: (1) that later manuscripts within the A recension display similar tendencies of reformulation as those normally associated with the C recension; and (2) that much of the scribal labour in all three recensions is devoted to metrical alteration. These facts would be difficult to capture in a traditional edition, their further exploration by future scholars almost impossible. (For further details, see forthcoming articles to be published in the Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum in 2018 and 2019.)