Storing, Archiving, Organizing: The Changing Dynamics of Scholarly Information Management in Post-Reformation Zurich

97889Storing, Archiving, Organizing: The Changing Dynamics of Scholarly Information Management in Post-Reformation Zurich is a study of the Lectorium at the Zurich Grossmünster, the earliest of post-Reformation Swiss academies, initiated by the church reformer Huldrych Zwingli in 1523. This institution of higher education was planned in the wake of humanism and according to the demands of the reforming church. Scrutinizing the institutional archival records, Anja-Silvia Goeing shows how the lectorium’s teachers used practices of storing, archiving, and organizing to create an elaborate administrative structure to deal with students and to identify their own didactic and disciplinary methods. She finds techniques developing that we today would consider important to understand the history of information management and knowledge transfer.

It may not sound like the most exciting title but the topic is a really important one and I’m very appreciative of Brill for sending a copy for review which you can read below and be sure to check out the book’s associated webpage.  It is loaded with absolutely fantastic materials and sources.

After illustrating why Zurich is such a fine case study for the dissemination of knowledge in the 16th century, G. moves to a description of European higher education and how Zurich both fits and breaks the mold.  This is followed by a discussion of the Zurich school regulations which is itself followed by a discussion of school governance and record keeping.

The fourth part of the book is, in my mind, the heart of it for here G. describes course lectures and course textbooks.  A conclusion draws together the consequences for historical research of all of these facts and materials.

Important appendices round the volume out.  These include an appendix listing Academic Directors, Teachers and Students at the Lectorium and Documents Pertaining to the Grossmünster Stift’s School Regulations as well as School Minutes and finally, Textbooks.

The volume also contains 18 figures and 4 tables.  And, according to the author, is the first volume of two planned:

A second volume in preparation focused on the students will look closely at matriculation lists and life documents, students’ notebooks and annotations, and their letters. Finally, in the next volume I will also examine their lectures, sermons, and written books as adults, asking what influence the school had on the creation of a knowledge society.

I’m very keen to read that additional material given the very engaging material presented in this volume.

The great benefit of the volume at hand is its enriching provision of primary source materials (as collected in the appendices).  The importance of primary sources need not be repeated here since all know their value.  Suffice it to say, when researchers have the ability to ‘check out’ the materials presented in the body of the text with their own eyes because those primary sources are provided, research past is reinforced and research future is enhanced.  Here’s a short sample:

Acta der schulherren by verwaltung // Josiae Simleri anno 1564 // Aprilis 26. Alß von unseren gnadigen herren … den // 16 aprilis in gmeiner Censur bewilliget worden ettliche // knaben von dem frawenmünster gen wandlen zu schicken // und benamset wurdent Samuel fattlin, Josue Vuaekerling, Hans // heinrich wirt, Joseph Breitenwaeg, Hanß Großman, hatt man // geordnet daß Samuel Fattli und Josue Vuaekerling gen bern // und di übrigen dry gen Losanna zügind, und sol… sij commen, // diavon gen bern herr hansen haller gen Losanna herr Blasio // Marcuardo und den selbigen ir gelt zuschiken, welches auch // von mir beschahen ist. //

Studies based on primary sources are always superior to studies based on the mere collection of secondary sources.  Indeed, a look at most academic work today reveals that many scholars have hardly paid any attention at all to the primary sources and instead are merely arguing with recent discussions on ancient or early modern texts.  G. is of a better spirit.

Persons engaged in study of the 16th century means and methods of higher education will need to get hold of this volume and carefully read it.  Students of the Reformation need to do the same.  And finally, persons who have an interest in the dissemination of knowledge in the early modern period cannot do better than to start here in their in depth research on the topic.  This volume is thoroughly recommend-able.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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