My principal motivation to apply for the MWW research internship at the Herzog August library in Wolfenbüttel was firmly founded in my interest in the Digital Humanities. Currently working on my MPhil in Roman History at Oxford, my forays into the early modern period (in which the collections at the HAB are rivalled by only a very few other institutions) have been rather limited. Nevertheless, the examples of manuscript traditions, transcriptions of ancient inscriptions, and the huge pool of secondary resources were reason enough to visit Wolfenbüttel; paired with a strong focus in digitalisation and a desire to make their collections available to the wider international community, I simply could not forgo the opportunity.
I applied to the Manuscript and Special Collections department, hoping not only to get to work with their early modern manuscripts, but also to gain insights into the coding and cataloguing standards in place at a modern research institution; thankfully, my wish was granted. I received the opportunity to work under Dr. Heitzmann, head of the department, and, during the last week of my internship, under Mr. Schaßan, who oversees the department’s digital editions.
Upon arrival, Ms. Janke provided a warm welcome and led me through the various departments of the library, introducing me to the staff and the director, Dr. Burschel. I was provided with a whole range of information about the library, its available resources, as well as the events and opportunities in Wolfenbüttel and the surrounding area that would be available during my stay. The combination of an international group of scholars, first-rate access to any sources I might require, in addition to the gorgeous cultural setting was to ensure that every day offered a myriad of engaging opportunities, within the confines of the reading rooms and in the town proper.
After settling in and receiving an introduction to the manuscript collections and digitalization guidelines of the DFG, I started with my project for the next month: to assist in the compiling and formatting of the information contained in the Cod. Guelf. 197 Gud. Lat. The manuscript, a collection of transcriptions of ancient Greek and Roman inscriptions collected by the antiquarian Marquard Gude in the 17th century, was exactly what I had hoped for. With my own background in Latin epigraphy, it was captivating to explore their relevance to, and reception by the scholarly community of the early modern period. By comparing modern readings of the inscriptions with Gude’s own notes, I was not only exposed to the varying historiographic trends that emerged over the centuries, but also to the networks of communication and travel, which integrated the great antiquarians of the period into the larger academic community. From Mommsen to Gruter, Gude and his research touched upon them all, revealing how the foundation of my own research (and so much of classical scholarship) depended on the travels, letters, and scientific rigour of these individuals.
I greatly enjoyed my days in the manuscript reading-room and the vast collections available at the Zeughaus, where I was at liberty to pursue my own studies, which were greatly enhanced by my contact with Gude and his contemporaries. The significance of mobility, the connectivity of individual communities with the greater, European scholarly arena, and the ongoing transfer of knowledge are all themes which play central roles in all areas of historical scholarship, and it was a fascinating experience to see how the interplay between ancient and (early) modern sources could weave new, exciting narratives.
Not even the state-of-emergency-inducing flash floods, which engulfed the town centre (and made a trip to the grocery shop one best undertaken with a raft or a total disregard for dry footwear) could dampen the mood. We still met daily at 1.30pm for our essential “Kaffeerunde,” at which interns, post-docs, and professors all came together and eagerly exchanged their newest discoveries from the (thankfully dry) treasures of the HAB.
To conclude, my four weeks in Wolfenbüttel were challenging, exciting, eye-opening, and filled with (albeit unexpected) adventures. I hope that I will be able to return in the not-too-distant future!
Constantin Pietschmann was born in Stuttgart. He received a Double-Major in Political Sciences and Classical Studies at the University of British Columbia. Currently he studies Old History at the Oxford University. His major interests are presentations of travelling and mobility in epigraphic legacies of Roman settlements.