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Creating the Reichenau-St. Gall virtual library

The original goal of this project was to provide a means for exploring the intellectual context for the creation and use of the Plan of St. Gall by digitally reconstructing the ninth-century library holdings of Reichenau and St. Gall. The value in this project lies not only in digitizing manuscripts not yet available online, but also in bringing together manuscripts that are geographically scattered and enabling them to be conveniently studied. The following narrative outlines the rationales and priorities that shaped the selection of both the manuscripts included in the project and the metadata to accompany them.

The Manuscripts

Ninth-century library catalogs from both Reichenau and St. Gall are extant; in the case of St. Gall, the originals survive. The catalogs of both monasteries are edited in Paul Lehmann's Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Deutschlands und der Schweiz, which served as the starting point for identifying the contents of the libraries. In some instances, the catalog's description of a manuscript is sufficiently distinctive and detailed that specific manuscripts can be identified (most famously, Csg 914, but see also Vienna, Lat. 397). Most of the time, however, the catalog entry is too generic to support linking it with a specific extant manuscript. As a result, the selection of manuscripts for inclusion in the digital library sought to achieve a representative range of material rather than the specific manuscripts to which the catalog had referred. In addition to this goal, secondary factors shaping the selection of material included the availability of the manuscript online and the interest level of the current owners of a manuscript in participating in the project. The digital library was shaped by the following selection principles:

  1. Manuscripts identified by Lehmann to be those from specific catalog entries. Those which subsequent research determined to be not Carolingian or not from Reichenau and/or St. Gall were omitted.
  2. Manuscripts identified in Bernhard Bischoff's Katalog der festländischen Handschriften des neunten Jahrhunderts as coming from Reichenau or St. Gall.
  3. Manuscripts identified in Anton von Euw's Die St. Galler Buchkunst as coming from St. Gall.
  4. Priority was given to the Reichenau manuscripts held at the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe as they represented the largest single collection of manuscripts from either monastery that was not yet available online.
  5. Some priority was given to institutions which only possess one or two ninth-century manuscripts from Reichenau and/or St. Gall to make comparative work easier.
  6. Where preservation concerns prevented the digitization of a manuscript, equivalent alternatives were selected. Ideally this was another copy of the same text, but when that was not possible others of the same genre were selected.
  7. The prior work and ongoing assistance of Dr. Christoph Flüeler and the rest of the team at e-Codices made it possible for our project to include many more manuscript than would have otherwise been possible.
  8. Finally, given the generous number of manuscripts extant from Carolingian Reichenau and St. Gall, time constraints and financial limits prevented the inclusion of every eligible manuscript and limited us to 169.

The Metadata

The primary goal of the metadata was to provide scholars with a basic summary of information about a manuscript. For each manuscript, we provide a list of contents and a codicological description. Where available, the most recent edition and/or translation of a text has been identified; further bibliography on the manuscripts and their contents can be pursued via links to the IMB and the Lexikon des Mittelalters (n.b.: these are external sites with subscription requirements). During the feasibility study, we experimented with providing transcriptions of the texts. As a result, for some manuscripts, a standard edition text for a work within the codex has been provided, and for a very small portion, there are also English translations. Please note that in most instances these are not transcriptions of the manuscript. This element of the project was determined to be a low priority and was not pursued during Phase 2 of the project.

For the contents of each manuscript, published descriptions were checked against the manuscript images. Published descriptions were also the basis for creating the codicological descriptions; since we were unable to check much of this information against the manuscripts themselves, the source of disputable or disputed information has been indicated in parentheses. Every effort has been made to present scholarly concensus as it stands rather than introduce new interpretations, but as every manuscript scholar has learned, establishing the relationship among texts in some manuscripts can require critical judgements. We have endevoured to make them as modest as possible.

For more information on our procedures, please see the Editorial Conventions page.