Pit-bull Professor

One of the fiercest fights in the history of scholarship opposed two very different men: on the one side a charismatic school science teacher - on the other, a university professor with a grudge.

A polymath who got his high school students to help in his research, Konrad Miller (1844-1933) introduced the German public to mappae mundi and the Tabula Peutingeriana, a Roman-era world chart. His celebrity seems to have personally offended Wilhelm Kubitschek (1858-1936), a numismatist and professor of ancient history at the University of Vienna, Austria. (Does anyone have photographs of them?)

Today, Miller is recognized as a founding father of cartographic history studies. He is still famed for a lithographic reproduction of the Tabula and Itineraria Romana, a massive 1916 handbook of its content. Both are now in the public domain (but you need to go to Russia to get a copy of IR). Kubitschek's assault on Miller's oeuvre is almost forgotten, so over the past few days I have been digging up and annotating the two main reviews.

Miller had been a smart farm boy who obtained both holy orders and a science doctorate in geology. Living in an era when the Catholic Church had too many, not few priests, he earned his living from age 37 on the staff of a public school in Stuttgart, Germany and in retirement ran a pilgrimage-tourism business.

Kubitschek, a student of Gustav Hirschfeld, had also been a schoolteacher before becoming chief of the royal Austrian coin collection and gaining his chair. In his pit-bull attack on Miller, it's possible to read habitual spite, or the defensive attitude of many old-time institutional academics towards amateurs and popularizers, but I suspect some kind of personal disappointment was the real driver of his feud, which went on for decades, according to Gerhard Winkler's biographical  note.

In 1902, Kubitschek had published Eine römische Straßenkarte, (DOI 10.11588/diglit.31257.7), a speculative analysis of the Tabula that was partly dire and partly ahead of its time, arguing the Tabula had nothing to do with an imperial frieze in Rome, the Agrippa Mural, and was possibly created as a private project. Perhaps he had vainly hoped for a commission to produce a new Tabula edition.

As it happens, the Peutinger Chart section of his mature 1919 article on ancient maps for the Pauly-Wissowa encyclopaedia was finally digitized just two weeks ago by Wikisource: read it now, though it still needs a second proof-read by a German-speaker.

It would have angered Kubitschek that outdated ideas were gaining fresh currency through Miller's best-selling publications. Miller, on the other hand, also had his work and a public life and was clearly not interested in avante garde theory: he thought entrepreneur-style and wanted to get a cheap facsimile and handbook on the market before his health declined.

He does reply to the fulminations of Kubitschek and other opponents, but gives them little space. Kubitschek, on the other hand, must have spent months marshaling his arguments against Miller in two enormous infinitely detailed reviews totalling 160 pages and complains he was denied more space that he needed to list Miller's failings.

I have annotated the two articles in English for those who don't read German or value a quick guide to what the feud was about. The title is: Explained: Kubitschek's Feud with Konrad Miller: A Manual. I have just uploaded this compilation to Academia.edu as one of my series of manuals.

The two texts are in the public domain. I thank the institutions which provided them and have made only fair use of them in my manual.

While much of Kubitschek's 1917 assault now seems petty, overblown and nasty, he is a century ahead of his time when he lays out what a proper new edition of the Tabula ought to provide (in addition to the best possible imaging, a transcription to the highest standards and a palaeographical analysis):
  1. It should convert all TP labels to modern script (a desideratum first achieved 100 years later in my own digital edition, 2017), minutely showing where all vignettes and rivers are placed;
  2. A critical analysis must be devoted to the scribal omissions of lines and the TP duplications (a difficult topic where we are not quite there yet);
  3. A graphic reconstruction is needed: he apparently means a geographical visualization of TP routes with a scale map as basis, a need only met in the 21st century by the Barrington Atlas, the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire and OmnesViae;
  4. Good indexes (i.e. search tools) are required, a need met since 2010 by the Talbert Database.
There's one more thing. The best news we could have would be the rediscovery of the Michael Hummelberg drawings of the Tabula as it was in 1526. They were last seen a century ago in the Museo San Martino in Naples (Codex R 35). Will they ever be found?

Hirschfeld, Gustav. Review of Weltkarte des Castorius, by Konrad Miller. Berliner Philologische Wochenschrift 8 (1888): 624–34.
Kubitschek, Wilhelm. ‘Bemerkungen zu Konrad Millers Itineraria Romana’. Zeitschrift für die Österreichischen Gymnasien 68 (1917): 740–54, 865–93.
———. ‘Eine römische Straßenkarte’. Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts in Wien 5 (1902): 20–96.
———. Review of: Konrad Miller, Itineraria Romana, etc., by Konrad Miller. Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen 179, no. 1–2 (1917): 1-.
———. ‘Karten’. 1, X, 1919. https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/RE:Karten.
Miller, Konrad. ‘Die Weltkarte des Castorius genannt die Peutingersche Tafel (= Castori Romanorum cosmographi tabula quae dicitur Peutingeriana)’. Ravensburg: Otto Maier, 1887. http://archive.org/details/Tabula_Peutingeriana_complete.
———. Itineraria romana. Stuttgart: Strecker und Schröder, 1916. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000968347.
———. Rekonstruierte Karten. Vol. 6. 6 vols. Mappaemundi: die ältesten Weltkarten. Stuttgart: Roth, 1898.

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