Trithemius, Graphic-Minded Historian

Tabulated chronicles have a special place in the history of infographics, since they convert a story into a semi-graph. They tabulate events so that our human vision can make sense of what normally has to be handled by human aural comprehension. A timeline may look natural and obvious to the reader, but is in fact the product of a great deal of research and arranging.

Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), the pioneering literary historian, gets a prized place as the introductory figure at the start of Anthony Grafton's and Megan Hale Williams' Christianity and the transformation of the book: Origen, Eusebius and the library of Caesarea, a book that is a favorite of every classics+graphics reader.

He is important to the evolution of infographics because he thought tables and indices were not just "back-matter" but really do matter. On his outstanding work, I will quote from a Hill exhibition catalog:
The Annales of Hirsau, finished in 1514 ... was Trithemius’ greatest achievement as an historian. The work was commissioned in 1495 by Abbot Blasius of the monastery at Hirsau but proved to be a slow and complex undertaking. [His theory of history was] embraced by the Christian humanists, among whom Trithemius was a major figure [via the Wayback Machine].
Trithemius offered his readers different views of the same material so they could literally "figure it out": a narrative, an index, and an arrangement of all the events in date order in his autograph second recension (1514) which is online at the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Grafton/Hale see it as a modern beacon pointing back to inventions by Eusebius and Origen.

Complementing the Munich codices now is the first recension Trithemius wrote by his own hand 1495-1503, which lacks the tables, but opens with an index:

This famous first edition, Pal. lat. 929, part of the Vatican collection, has arrived online in the last few days thanks to the efforts of a program in Heidelberg, Germany to digitize the Pal. lat. collection. Here is the list of eight novelties (whereby Trithemius was on the tail of the last group, but I overlooked it at first):
  1. Pal. lat. 745 Infortiatum (14. Jh.)
  2. Pal. lat. 746 Infortiatum (13. Jh.)
  3. Pal. lat. 749 Digestum novum (14. Jh.)
  4. Pal. lat. 750 Digestum novum (13.-14. Jh.)
  5. Pal. lat. 751 Digestum novum (13.-14. Jh.)
  6. Pal. lat. 752 Digestum novum (13.-14. Jh.)
  7. Pal. lat. 753 Digestum novum (13. Jh.)
  8. Pal. lat. 929 Trithemius, Johannes: Chronicon insigne monasterii Hirsaugiensis ordinis S. Benedicti (Sponheim, 1495-1503)
This is Piggin's Unofficial List 56. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.

No comments :

Post a Comment