Gudrun Gleba: Series, Fragments, and Special Books: Regular and Specific Urban Accounting in Late Medieval Town Halls

MEDEA Spring Meeting, Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.
Thursday, April 7, 2016 [return to program overview]

Gudrun Gleba
Universität Rostock

Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg, View of Osnabrück, 1572

Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg, View of Osnabrück, 1572

Decades of uninterrupted accounting, hardly changing in language, style, form and structure, unfold everyday routines as well as special challenges for medieval town hall councilors, some entries garnished with heartbreaking or amusing details. Narrative structures on the one hand and clear cut lists of revenues and expenditure on the other hand suggest neighborly closeness paired with lucid ideas of financial transactions.

Fragments and special books of urban accounting frequently refer to extraordinary city projects of public interest, more often than not to building or rebuilding the town’s fortifications, towers, walls, bridges or even the town hall. They inform about the then valid measurements and currencies, about wages and the processes of organizing work on a construction site. And they show how language develops into specific terminologies as well as how words which once named a certain craft transform to name a man himself.

Hans Weigel, View of Rostock, c. 1550/60

Hans Weigel, View of Rostock, c. 1550/60

Classic editions supported by digital methods should offer ways to present narrative structures, generate lists of all kinds and make a text work for interdisciplinary approaches, i.e. for historians and linguists likewise to form fruitful relationships in mutual exchange.

In my paper I present a series and a fragment of late medieval account books of the cities of Osnabrück (Westphalia) and Rostock at the Baltic Sea which have been transcribed but not been edited so far and are open for experiments in the line of digital editions.


Image credits: Both images public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (Osnabrück) (Rostock).

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