Medieval manuscript fragments of Teutonic Prussia
Full Title: Medieval manuscript fragments of Teutonic Prussia in collections of the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, the C. Norwid Library in Elbląg, and the University Library in Toruń as evidence in reconstructing history of collections
Participating Institutions: L. & A. Birkenmajer Institute for the History of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw; C. Norwid Research Library in Elbląg; Nicolaus Copernicus University Library in Toruń
Financed by: Fragmentarium; C. Norwid Research Library in Elbląg; Nicolaus Copernicus University Library in Toruń; and L. & A. Birkenmajer Institute for the History of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
Fellow: Dr. Paulina Pludra Żuk, L. & A. Birkenmajer Institute for the History of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
Collaborators: Dr. Marta Czyżak, Nicholaus Copernicus University Library in Toruń; Ewa Chlebus, MA, C. Norwid Research Library in Elbląg
The bindings of manuscripts and old printed books have hidden in them information on the cultural and intellectual history of the region of their production. In the case of medieval Prussia, these unobserved sources promise to illuminate aspects of its history that are both understudied and important complements to the research already undertaken, revealing the specificity of the local intellectual environments and the relations between them, to the point of documenting how books functioned in Prussia.
Three related collections holding manuscripts and fragments of local provenance have been chosen as a point of departure. The first one encompasses 39 manuscripts held at the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge originating from Elbląg. These manuscripts found their way to England in the 1620s with an Anglican priest, Roger Pernham, who came to Elbląg to provide spiritual guidance to the personnel of the local English trading post. The collection was probably purchased from the local gymnasium founded in the former Brigittine property, which, in turn, presumably took over (at least partially) the library of the local Teutonic castle. So far very little has been established about the earlier history of these manuscripts. The second collection consists of in situ fragments contained in the bindings of the incunabula and old printed books held at the C. Norwid Library in Elbląg and historically connected to the territory. The third collection comprises the fragments stored at the Nicolaus Copernicus University Library in Toruń, containing in situ fragments in medieval and early modern manuscripts and sixteenth-century printed books as well as several loose fragments detached from bindings. This collection formed a part of the former Königsberg State and University Library, which in 1525 absorbed the collections from the secularized Teutonic libraries and monasteries located on the territory of the State of the Teutonic Order.
The project aims primarily at entering these manuscript fragments, until now unknown, into broader scholarly discourse and bringing to a wider audience of scholars information on a neglected part of Prussian intellectual history. The project furthermore seeks to find new evidence on the functioning of local intellectual centers with respect to book production as well as book circulation. Such findings could be used for further studies on local paleography and bookbinding. Moreover, such detailed research on fragments will help to establish connections between the Elbląg manuscripts from Corpus Christi College and other local collections, and provide valuable insights into their individual and shared histories.