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Dai margini la memoria: Johannes Hinderbach (1418-86).

Daniela Rando. Dai margini la memoria: Johannes Hinderbach (1418-86).

Annali dell'Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento Monografie 37. Bologna: Societa editrice il Mulino, 2003. 575 pp. + 24 color pls. index. append. illus. tbls. map. chron. [euro]33. ISBN: 88-15-08829-6.

Johannes Hinderbach (1418-86) is a figure known mostly, if at all, for his active pursuit of ritual homicide charges against Jews at Trent in 1475-78 while serving as bishop (1466-86). This new study by Rando, herself now professor of medieval history at Trent, recognizes the importance of that episode, devoting the last thirty-five pages of her massive study to it. But she focuses mostly elsewhere, on the career of this German university man, jurist, imperial counselor, and bishop, and still more particularly on his presumptive interior life as gleaned from hundreds of marginal annotations found in his surviving books, some hundred manuscripts, and forty incunables. Hence this title: the "memory," the person's interior foundation, his resource bank, his cultural ego, painstakingly redrawn from passages in his reading he chose to mark and annotate, the places that elicited an intellectual or emotional response. Rando's is a most ingenious approach, in line with reception history in literary work, which is attempting to trace the reading of a given author by way of annotations made in manuscript copies a generation or two (or more) after composition. Here the issue is not reception history for a given author, but the personal history of a single reader. This presumes of course, contra literary theory of a generation ago, that there was a more-or-less continuous interior and that the annotations reflect moments in its making.

Hinderbach was no ordinary reader, as his book collection (sadly, nowhere listed in its fullness in this monograph), indicates. He attended the University of Vienna (1434-39) and was educated in law at Padua during the 1440s. He learned, as did most medieval university students, by way of making and memorizing glosses on set texts (in law, say) along the way absorbing and making his own the glosses of distinguished predecessors. Rando sets out the ways in which this technique could also come to constitute an ego, in Hinderbach's case reinforced by calendrical observances as a cleric, these too generating apposite notes and a sense of autobiography, and also a short autobiographical testament. This formed the pedagogical and psychological foundations for glossing his own reading throughout his career. In the book Rando uses the glosses throughout, but describes the making of a career before she takes on the forming of a cultural ego. Nearly from the beginning Hinderbach made his way in court circles at Vienna, and in the Council of Basel he became closely associated with Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini as well as Cusanus and others. He aligned himself with imperial views on the great political questions of the day--these, too, visible in his glosses and reading, and wonderfully edited in the notes. From the late 1440s Hinderbach worked at and for the court of Frederick III, a dedicated servant of the Habsburgs, performing chancery work but also important legations with a kind of specialization, as Rando puts it, in matters Italian (whence, for instance, the steady interaction with Piccolomini). But he always felt himself a cleric as well as a jurist, and his views on the fiscality of the papal court--a moderating position, it turns out--Rando is able to draw out specially from his interesting annotations on Piccolomini's Germania. As for the interiority developing in this jurist, imperial cleric, and bishop, toward which the entire study leads, Rando divides it into four dimensions: ideals of the episcopacy (drawing on other contemporary materials), his anguished conscience and attempts to relieve it through saintly interventions and visual pieties--including his patronage of the new cult of the little boy supposedly martyred by Jews--his fervor for ritual prayer both public and private, and finally his fears and terrors, which Rando sees as extending to women, Turks, and Jews. On each of these subjects she finds intriguing annotations, while also drawing upon associated contemporary figures, be they jurists, prelates, or humanists. This, in short, is an important and intriguing study, important for its illumination of the wide fifteenth-century world surrounding this figure, intriguing for its methodological approach, its attempt to reconstruct the interiority of an imperial cleric from hundreds of personal annotations, one man's foundational "memory" from his "marginal glosses." The edited annotations alone, no easy task, are a marvel. Whether or not they yield a persona, and whether or not that persona can be reconstructed historically--the glosses are often hard to date--all this generates important theoretical questions that deserve further discussion.


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Author:Van Engen, John
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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