The Jewish Book 1400–1600: From Production to Reception
Habent sua fata libelli – Books have their fates. The collector ... interprets this Latin saying differently. For him not only books but also copies of books have their fates.
The study of texts has always been at the core of research in the humanities, but less attention has been paid to the artifacts that contain these texts. For long approached by philologists as an auxiliary science, since the 1960s the study of books has also attracted scholarly attention from other perspectives: the social aspects of reading practices and publication policies and the book and its mediality in terms of communication research. Among these, the materiality of books as objects only slowly gained a place in the methodological arena of the history of book culture.
The workshop entitled The Jewish Book 1400–1600: From Production to Reception will discuss books as artifacts within transitional zones: from the handwritten to the printed medium, a process marked by innovation and social change, but also by disorientation and bewilderment. Books that were transferred from one culture to another (not only in the sense of read texts, but also, and primarily, as handled objects) existed in another such zone. Professionals of the book trade who migrated from one Jewish culture to another operated between different cultural spheres. The journey of a book from production to reproduction was determined by a complex set of factors: communication among authors, makers of books, patrons, and readership; the emergence of publishers; and decisions to be made concerning production and publication. These factors underwent tremendous change during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Specifically, we are interested in discussing what the physical evidence of a book or a fragment, both handwritten and printed, can tell us about its production and its reception.
The workshop is generously funded by a Alexander von Humboldt Professorship held by Katrin Kogman-Appel.