Dies natalis

Even if I would really want to avoid him – because he is simply too big for me, because everything had been already written on him, name all possible reservations you want – he comes out from nearly every corner I visit. Starting from the writings on calendar reform, to the mid-sixteenth-century obscure astrological manuscripts I studied recently, to even more obscure chronological manuscripts I have studied for the past year and am going to study for a while longer, to the marginalia of a bunch of Central European scholars who are important for me due to their activities at the intersection of astronomy and history – there is always a 99% chance that I will end up with him. Everything – at least in my scholarly world – seems to revolve around him. Well, I should have seen this coming.

I guess you already know who that is. And since he was born on February 19, 1473, as his reader and a citizen of Toruń since 2013, I can’t say nothing else but: Happy birthday, old chap, we’re gonna spend some time together.

As a birthday card, for obvious reasons of greater interest to modern readers than to Copernicus himself, I would like to present a page from Astronomia instaurata, the third, 1617 edition of De revolutionibus, prepared by Nicholaus Müller’s and published in Amsterdam. Here we come back to Joannes Broscius and his annotations. Broscius used all three early modern editions, the Nuremberg 1543 edition, which belonged actually to the university, the Basel 1566 one and the Astronomia instaurata, and all of them bring some interesting materials on the reception of Copernican ideas in Kraków (as well as the way Broscius incorporated Copernicus’s claims into his own research). If you have access to the famous Owen Gingerich’s Census (which nowadays seems to be more rare than Copernicus), you can check it on your own and/or have a look at the digitized Nuremberg edition at the Jagiellonian Digital Library (and when you get bored with Broscius’s notes, check out the Jag. Lib. MS 10000 – the autograph of De revolutionibus!). As to the birthday card: Broscius, as a vigilant reader and one of the first biographers of Copernicus simply decided to join the discussion about Copernicus’s date of birth and the annotation’s he left on the first page of Müller’s Life of Copernicus testify that.

Kraków, Jagiellonian Library, shelfmark Mag. St. Dr. 311204-311205 II

Kraków, Jagiellonian Library, shelfmark Mag. St. Dr. 311204-311205 II

P.S. In one of my tweets I sent earlier this month I included a photo of a title page of Rheticus’s Narratio prima.

This copy belongs to the Copernicus House Museum in Torun and from the annotations it is clear that this reader of Rheticus confused his date of death. In the light of the discussion’s summarized by Müller and notes left in Rheticus, it seems that Copernicus and early Copernicans were out of luck as far as the daiting of their lives was concerned…

P.P.S. Those of you who are still hoping to read part 2 of the new cycle on the manuscript of Jan Latosz I inaugurated in January, rest assured it will appear shortly. I am still buried in the edition and creating commentary and as soon as I dig myself out, I will be able to tell something more (and general) about the MS. As for now, I can say it is even more interesting now than it was when I read it for the first time and it has some Copernican elements too!

Serendipity in provenance research, part 1

As the readers of this blog already know, my interest in Central European discussions on calendar reform and technical chronology was inspired by the fact that among the books owned by Joannes Broscius, there is a considerable number of volumes related to these issues and these volumes contain Broscius’s marginalia, notes on endleafs and underlinings. Broscius was a careful yet chaotic reader and I already learned this when I studied his marginalia related to the doctrine of Ramus. This irregularity was confirmed when it came to the chase of astronomical and chronological volumes he might have owned. A number of possible titles got confirmed but they did not reveal any notes left by him besides his ownership marks, while some other titles turned out an incredibly helpful source of information about his general reading strategies as well as the way he filtered and digested the astronomical and historical volumes trying to formulate an argument supporting the acknowledgement of Gregorian calendar by the Uniates.

While I still have a long list of titles and names I need to check on the next occasion of visit to Cracow, I am fully aware that the to date research related to Broscius’s reading methods do not exhaust all the possibilities. Thanks to the studies published by Janusz Gruchała and Elżbieta Pytlarz we know a lot about the way he read classical literature and studied his copy of Vitruvius’ De architectura and I hope that my studies on Broscius Ramist and chronological reading lists can also be counted as a modest share in research dedicated to his scholarly workshop.

However, there is still a number of threads that are awaiting scholars who would like to follow them and broaden thus our knowledge about the way Broscius worked with texts and how he transformed his reader’s findings into his own work. I believe that almost every book or brochure published by Broscius can be linked to and collated with a corpus of annotated books from his library and the only basic problem is the lack of a map that would lead the scholars to these volumes. Historians of the book and reading as well as historians of early modern science are awaiting the publication of the catalogue of Broscius’s library which is being prepared by Dr. Marian Malicki from the Old Prints Department of the Jagiellonian Library. However, untill the catalogue sees the daylight, every scholar who would be interested in reconstructing the web spun by Broscius between particular volumes, has to order, let’s say, five copies of the same title held at the Jagiellonian Library or all books of one author in order to verify if any of these copies bears any marks of Broscius’s works.

Although my life and life of other scholars who share the interested in Broscius would be easier if we had this catalogue on our bookshelves, this situation has some obvious advantages and one of them is the pleasure of discovering everything on one’s own. Until now, I carried out my provenance research related to Broscius only at the Jagiellonian Library, although I knew that few volumes he owned can be found at the University Library in Warsaw and the Ossolineum in Wrocław. I also knew that there is a number of titles from his library, which, at some point in the 19th century, disappeared from the Jagiellonian Library and are now considered to be lost or dissolved in some private collections.

Until last Thursday, I assumed that these research procedures are site-specific and that my research regarding Broscius is forever connected to the collections of the Jagiellonian Library and the list of minor exceptions mentioned above only confirms this. On Thursday it turned out that this list should be extended and that I should keep my eyes open.

Due to personal and scholarly reasons, my life spreads between two cities – Warsaw where I work and Toruń where most of my personal life takes place. From the scholarly point of view, this gives me an opportunity for crop-rotating as I have regular access to special collections in both cities, with the University Library, the National Library and few other institutions in Warsaw and the Nicolaus Copernicus University Library and the Copernicus Regional Library in Toruń. Since the special collections at the latter will remain closed until early 2015 due to the major renovation, my attention turned on the first library. The collection of manuscripts and early modern books at the University Library is a product of a process which took place after the WWII and the main body of the collection was created from the manuscripts and books which were brought in to Toruń from such cities as Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland) and Greifswald. But the collection of rare prints was developed even after the postwar process of ‘securing’ the historical collections ended and the librarians kept buying the books at the antiquarian market.

Besides the opportunity to have the material access to the titles of my interest instead of reading the PDF’s on the screen or from the printout, I am also visiting the Toruń University Library quite regularly out of pure curiosity. I have got my checklist of titles related to the subject of my research and I am torturing the librarians with order slips in hope that I will find some annotated volumes that could shed some light on the reception of the chronological and calendrical discussions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Last Thursday, I filled in a next bundle of order slips and that’s how the proper part of the story, to be told in the next post, began. And it began with a mistake, a simple one yet fraught in consequences.


Publish or perish!

Among ca. 2,000 titles that belonged to Joannes Broscius‘s private library and wich are now dissolved in the rich collection of old prints of the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków, one can find a small Polish brochure published in 1644 at the Vilnius print shop of the Basilian order. This book is titled Kalendarz prawdziwy Cerkwi Chrystusowej (‘The True Calendar of the Church of Christ), it was written by Father Jan Dubowicz, an archimandrite of an Orthodox monastery in Derman in Volhynia and survived until nowadays only in three (or four*) copies. Apart from the rarity of this print, I believe it is worth-mentioning for at least three reasons.

Publish or perish!

The first one is the obvious fact that it was a property of Broscius. Although he used to sign his books, in this case he did not leave a signature, most likely because of the fact that the book was by the 19th century a part of a larger sammelband that could bear other marks of Broscius’s ownership. Despite this lack of an autograph, the book has several other interventions in Broscius’s hand, among them a brief note on the bottom of the title page, which commemorates the fact that the book was a gift from the author: “Dono ipsius authoris”. Along with the extant part of Broscius’s library it creates a marvellous constellation which until now have been explored only partially and which still awaits a proper catalogue and further research based on Broscius’s notes and marginalia.

donoThe second reason is the fact that Dubowicz’s book makes yet another link in the long chain of Latin, Polish and Ruthenian texts whose authors have been dealing with the issue of the introduction of the reform of calendar and its possible reception by the Uniates. This time we are having a text by an Uniate priest but we would not have chance to read it without Kasjan Sakowicz, a Dubno-based Uniate priest whose brochures, published in 1640 and 1644, kindled the debate over the approval of the Gregorian calendar once again. Dubowicz’s text expands and strengthens the arguments for the Gregorian reform which appeared in previous publications but it also brings some new ones and as such it is important as one of these elements which made the whole debate intense and fiery.

Finally, the third reason up to a point synthesises the first two. Let’s get back to the title page of this particular copy of Dubowicz’s work (Kraków, Jagiellonian Library, Mag. St. Dr. 36408 I). Apart from the information that Broscius’s copy was a gift received from Dubowicz, we find a marginal note with a series of page numbers. marg title pageThis annotation, or actually two separate ones, was slightly damaged due to the cutting of the entire volume, but we can certainly say that what Broscius had in mind were the errors of the Julian calendar (“błędy Kale[ndarza]”). After spending some time with books annotated by Broscius, I can say that he quite often limited his handwritten interventions to such lists which served the purpose of indexing the issues and passages important but weren’t necessarily followed by an extensive notes next to the actual fragment of printed text. In this case, references to pages 56, 64, 68 and 72 leave us only with Dubowicz’s text, while in case of a reference to p. 45, which was added in black ink, we find a Latin-Polish marginal note which says that the passage in question is treating about the “errores od Moskwy pokazowane”, “the demonstration of Moscow’s errors”.


But the fun part (at least for lovers of libri annotati) is brought to us by the lower annotation that contains references to three pages: one which was torn out and to pages 68 and 72 and which is accompanied by, again fragmentary, note which reads: “mentio [?] Apologiae”. In the text on p. 72 we find a direct reference to Broscius which reads that “Venerabilis P. Broscius ślicznie a prawie demonstratiuje, ten błąd ukazuje w pełni a tymi słowy …” (“Venerable father Broscius beautifully and justly shows this error in its fullness and in the following words …”).  Four pages earlier, however, Dubowicz also included a larger quotation from Broscius (cf. p. 68: “położę słowa Wieleb[nego] X. Broscjusza” – “I will put here the words of the Reverend Father Broscius”) haec ex Apologia

and this time the source of the quotation, however quite obvious in the context of the subject matter of the whole text, has been confirmed by Broscius in a marginal note he had left on the next page: “haec ex Apologia”.


In all these cases both Dubowicz’s and Broscius’s references are going to the latter’s two Apologies of the reformed calendar, two brochures published in Kraków and Warsaw in 1641 which were aimed at giving some additional support in the struggle of Uniate priests with their fellow believers for the introduction of the Gregorian calendar within the Greek Catholic Church. Dubowicz made a good use of Broscius’s works and in this passage he focuses on repeating arguments employed by the Kraków scholar, but what is the most interesting here is the fact that he failed to quote his source properly. Hence the second note left by Broscius on p. 69, which is a correction of the citation of his own text. While the original reads that Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler created their astronomical tables during the reign of three Holy Roman Emperors, Rudolph II, Matthias and Ferdinand II, Dubowicz misquoted Broscius’s text and demoted these rulers calling them “great kings” (“wielkich królów”). Hence the marginal note “Cesarzów” – “Emperors”.

Although the nowadays standards of indexing of academic publications and providing precise references to the sources of quotations used in one’s text were quite alien to Dubowicz, Broscius and other scholars of their generation and the footnote as a powerful scholarly instrument was still embryonic at that time, we can treat these marginalia as an early evidence of the “publish or perish” way of thinking. One’s scholarship is important if one’s works are being cited and one’s position inside and outside the acedemia depends on the number and frequency of such references, in this particular case: Broscius’s position within the community of fellow astronomers as well as among men who were in various ways involved in the debate on the calendar reform. Yet the quotations and references are as much important as their exactitute and correctness and it is not only that the number of citations that counts but their quality is important too. If somebody cites an extensive passage of someone elses’s work he should avoid confusing a regular king with the Holy Roman Emperor. If such an error appears in print, perhaps he should consider hiring a better editor or proofreader when it comes to the next publication.



* The Estreicher’s bibliography lists three copies of Kalendarz prawdziwy: two in Kraków (Jagiellonian Library and Prince Czartoryski Library) and one in Ossolineum. The KVK search, however, brings yet another record of a copy unknown to Estreicher, which is located in the Moscow Museum of the Book of the Russian State Library.

Source of images: Kraków, Jagiellonian Library, Mag. St. Dr. 36408 I