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Aventinus: Works

Aventin Aventinus


Johannes Turmair (1477-1534), called Aventinus, is still regarded as the "founder of Bavarian historiography" today. His work has left its indelible mark on the image of Bavarian history. Aventinus left a voluminous collection of personal papers which has so far not been evaluated comprehensively. The edition published between 1881 and 1908 took into account only a part of the documents and is furthermore academically debatable. The project presents both the edition and the manuscripts which are essential for scholarly work.




The biography of Aventinus

Johannes Turmaier (1477-1534), the son of a publican from Abensberger called himself Aventinus after his home town following a popular trend of the time. He received his first schooling in the local Carmelite monastery. After studying in Ingolstadt, Vienna, Cracow and Paris he returned to Bavaria. Since his study time in Ingolstadt he was close friends with the universal scholar Konrad Celtis (1451-1509), who encouraged him to learn more about the history of his home country. Between 1509 and 1517 Aventinus was the tutor of the princes Louis (who encouraged him to learn more about the history of his home country. Between 1509 and 1517 Aventinus was the tutor of the princes) and Ernest (1500-1560), the younger brothers of Duke William IV (born in 1493, reigned 1508-1550). Within the framework of this pedagogical assignment he created the "Rudimenta grammaticae", the "Rudimenta musicae" and some smaller works on Bavarian historiography. He was appointed official Bavarian historiographer in 1517 - an office which was established at the Munich court specifically for him. In this context he wrote his "Annales ducum boiariae" from 1517 to 21, and the "Baierische Chronik" from 1522 to 31.

Since the disputatious scholar had made himself increasingly unpopular by criticizing the Catholic Church in the Duchy, he was arrested in October 1528 on orders of the Duke and was released only 11 days later due to the intercession of Leonhard von Eck (1480-1550). From now on he endeavoured to create a future for himself outside Bavaria and wrote letters to the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg (reigned 1519-1540) and to Georg Spalatin (1484-1545), the counsellor of the Elector of Saxony Johann the Steadfast (reigned 1525-1532). Since he could not receive a positive answer, he moved to the imperial city of Regensburg, where he died on 9 January 1534.

The importance of Aventinus

As the first Bavarian historiographer, Aventinus went "ad fontes", i.e. he intensively sought documents and tangible objects which fitted the described events as closely as possible regarding time or space. For this purpose he made extensive use of the rich monastery libraries in the Duchy, where - much to the annoyance of the librarians - he frequently made handwritten entries in their codices.

The humanist from Lower Bavaria was an ardent patriot who stood unconditionally by the idea of a strong, sovereign kingship, regarding Bavaria as part of the complete empire. To describe this ideal state he went far back into the mythical past and thought up an impressive gallery of Bavarian and German kings whose idealized characters were intended to serve as examples for modern rulers. His "Baierische Chronik" in particular is an impressive linguistic monument, a south-German counterpart of Luther's bible, in which glorious and disgraceful acts of past times were presented to the broad public for their moral instruction.

The Edition 1881-1908

None of the great historiographic works of Aventinus was published in his lifetime, however: His sovereigns kept the manuscripts locked away. The "purged" editions and unauthorized prints published from 1554 onward made Aventinus more widely known. Particularly after 1806 Aventinus's glorification of Bavaria's past made him an important principal witness of the traditions and values of the new kingdom, for which reason his 400th anniversary in 1877 was celebrated with the erection of monuments, ceremonial acts and publications.

Members of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences thus also had the idea to dedicate a publication to one of the most outstanding historians, whose judgement had a lasting impact on the country's historiography. The "Sämmtliche Werke" ("complete works") were published in five volumes from 1881 to 1886, however without actually containing all the texts by the humanist. An addendum volume of 1908 represented merely an incomplete supplement. Particularly for the reason that the personal papers are so voluminous, time and again works and fragments appear that are thought to be Aventinus's.

The online edition offered here is intended nonetheless to enable the reader for the first time to get an overview of Turmair's works and to search for quotations in a targeted fashion. Some of the "reading fruit" reaped will show in sufficient clearness how much Aventinus has influenced our idea of Bavarian history until the present.

Annette Pavkovic, Munich

The Aventinus Manuscripts

When all important works by Johannes Aventinus had been published between 1881 and 1886, this edition project of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences was regarded as a flagship project for handling the works of important humanists. However, the printing ink had not yet dried when some harsh criticism was voiced from the Academy's own ranks - which criticism has still not been completely invalidated up to this day. Wilhelm Meyer (1845-1917) criticised in his Academy publication "Philologische Bemerkungen zu Aventins Annalen ..." ("Philological comments on Aventinus's annals…", 1886) that the scholarly work had been too superficial, in particular concerning the edition of the annals.

This inexactness still takes its toll on today's research. Although up to now numerous pieces have been published on the works of the "father of Bavarian historiography", his personality and its development have been treated only cursorily and almost stereotypically. The reason for this is simple: The goal of the "Sämmtliche Werke" was the production of a static, "good" edition. The editors decided what was important and what was unimportant, without actually having to justify their decisions objectively. It is hard to reconstruct the development of a certain mindset, since large parts of the surviving handwritten materials of Aventinus remained unconsidered. One example probably stands for some others: It is not mentioned anywhere that Aventinus entered drafts for the "large" annals in the so-called "small" annals. To put it differently: The "Sämmtliche Werke" convey the impression that the large annals are one single stroke of genius, whereas they were the final result of a development that lasted for much more than one decade. On the other hand the manuscript of the annals found with Aventinus represented the collection notebook for newly obtained results – as was already found out by Meyer. Closer inspection of these manuscripts will surely unearth much information on Aventinus's later works.

A critical consideration of the letters written by our humanist however cannot take place, since no mention is made of the different sources of the surviving letters. Researching the Sodalitas literaria Angilostadensis, which was surely decisively influenced by Aventinus, one even has to resort to the very rare edition of the biography of Emperor Henry IV written by Aventinus himself in 1518 for more detailed information. Some of the mistakes were rectified later through the publication of the addendum in 1908, others still remain today.

Information on the project

Since a new edition seems to be ruled out for financial reasons, the city archive of Regensburg and the city of Abensberg decided in 2008 to cooperate with the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in presenting the handwritten personal papers of Johannes Turmair systematically on the internet within the framework of the Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online. The Bavarian public archives also take part in the project, offering their Aventinus collections in digital form.

As a first step in 2008/ 2009 all "Aventinus manuscripts" of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and the Bavarian Main Public Archives are newly digitized and published on the internet. It is intended to start negotiations with the non-Bavarian holders of manuscripts one after another, so that their Aventinus materials can also be made available on the internet. At the same time work places are created in the city archive of Regensburg and the city administration of Abensberg, at which the complete material, which was digitized at a high resolution, is accessible for scholars. In a further step it is planned to complement the handwritten materials by digitized manuscripts and printed works that were owned by Aventinus or to which he added notes in the margins.

Based on the small work "Herkommen der Stadt Regensburg" ("History of the city of Regensburg"), the city archive of Regensburg will develop a prototype in cooperation with the department of historical information science and documentation (Abteilung Historische Fachinformatik und Dokumentation) at the institute for history of the Karl Franzens University of Graz, Ao. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ingo H. Kropac. The prototype will be developed on the basis of the results of the project "Fontes Civitatis Ratisponensis", using the method of integrated computer-based edition (ICE), and will enable the user to use the digitised version of the "Sämmtliche Werke" together with the matching manuscript.

Heinrich Wanderwitz, Regensburg

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User guide

The texts are available in a browsable version. A full-text version of the "Sämmtliche Werke" is being prepared.

Information on the project

The Aventinus project is realised in cooperation with the city archive of Regensburg, the city of Abensberg, the Bavarian public archives and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The texts were published online in 2008 (edition) or 2009 (manuscripts).






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