My research and teaching centre on early modern history, with a special interest in economic and social developments. I have worked in leading research projects on the history of early printed books (both in the UK and Italy) and was able to build a strong international network within the academic community by presenting my work in the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.

In the past years, I was involved with research groups on Digital Humanities (developing OCR for pre-eighteenth-century documents) the History of Science as well as Legal History. In fact, my monograph 'Government Use of Print' was published by the MPI for Legal History and Legal Thought.

As I strive to bridge the gap between academia and wider audiences, my published work includes more general publications such as newspaper articles and contributions to exhibitions.





2021 - Current

Postdoctoral Researcher

Faculty of Theology, University of Göttingen, Germany
2020 – 2021

Postdoctoral Researcher at the EMoBookTrade project (ERC 694476)

Dipartimento di Economia, Management e Metodi Quantitativi, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy
2018 – 2020

Postdoctoral Researcher at the OCR-D project

Institute of Book Studies, University of Mainz, Germany
2012 – 2016

Associated Editor of the USTC project

School of History, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom



PhD in Early Modern History

University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

Thesis: Government Use of Print in the Holy Roman Empire in the Sixteenth Century.

Awarded with the Prize in Humanities by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities


Magistra Artium (combined BA&MA degree)

University of Cologne, Germany

in History, English studies and German studies


Widows in the Growing Print Industry, c. 1550-1700 (WidowsPrint)

funded by the European Research Council (Starting Grant)

The advent of the printing press spurred crucial intellectual, economic and social developments in early modern Europe. Widows of master printers could also have played a key role in this, especially in the Holy Roman Empire, as it was then home to one of the fastest-growing print industries with a conspicuously high number of women printers. Yet the exact nature of the industry’s growth, and women’s contribution to it, is extremely difficult to reconstruct as a key variable - the print runs of editions - has remained elusive.

WidowsPrint will break significantly new ground by addressing this deficiency. Based on a large array of different archival sources, the project will record systematically all known print runs to create a diverse and representative dataset for early modern Germany. Thus, we can establish which factors determined the size of an edition, survey the total output of individual print shops and highlight gender aspects of book production. In a second step, the project will show how widows pursued economic advantages from powerful institutions (such as universities) and it will analyse how widows' economic agency changed in the 16th and 17th century as book production progressively moved from single workshops to larger family enterprises. Finally, WidowsPrint will use image recognition software to trace the exchange of printing material. This will reveal to what extent widows collaborated with other producers, allowing the professional networks of women printers, hitherto hidden from view, to be reconstructed.

WidowsPrint will radically reappraise the role of widows in the German print industry and analyse how economic developments influenced their rights and their agency. Concurrently, the project will provide a model to estimate the actual size of the output of early modern print shops. This will lead to a substantial change in our understanding of the availability of these important commodities when major transformations were taking place in Europe.


SLUB Dresden, digital.slub-dresden.de/id2737423379 (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

Awards & Fellowships

2022 Academy Prize in Humanities for monograph Government Use of Print

awarded by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities

2022 Research award

awarded by the Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, Germany (Sep-Oct)

2020 Mercator-Fellowship

at the Collaborative Research Centre 933 ‘Material Text Cultures’, University of Heidelberg, Germany

2019 Research Fellowship

at the Reformationsgeschichtliche Forschungsbibliothek (Reformation History Research Library), Wittenberg, Germany (Sep-Dec)

2016 Visiting Fellow

at Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Oct-Dec)

2016 Major Research Fellowship

at the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Jan-Sep)

2012-2016 Studentship

Arts and Humanities Research Council, United Kingdom (4 years’ tuition fees for the duration of PhD)

2012-2015 Studentship

Holbeck Charitable Trust, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom (3 years to cover living costs during PhD)

2015 Innovation Grant

from the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD), University of St Andrews, United Kingdom (for the workshop ‘Illuminating Incunabula’)

Books & Articles

Government Use of Print. Official Publications in the Holy Roman Empire, 1500–1600
Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte 326, 2021


Presenting the most comprehensive account of official print in the Holy Roman Empire during the sixteenth century, this study investigates the use of the printing press as an increasingly important instrument in the expansion of authority. By comparing and contrasting publications printed in the Duchy of Württemberg and in the Free Imperial City of Cologne, the author traces the tentative beginnings of collaboration between rulers and printers. Making use of hitherto unexplored legal and business records, the study offers a sophisticated analysis of the early modern print trade which allows us to ascertain the business and market conditions that shaped the production of administrative and legal documents, such as police ordinances and announcements.

Awarded the Academy Prize in Humanities 2022 by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Read the first 30 pages here:

And a review in Sehepunkte here:

„Darzu mancher Mann sich viel zu schwach unnd zu wenig Befinden wu‍[e]‌rde“. Buchdruckerinnen und ihre Tätigkeiten im Alten Reich, ca. 1550–1700
Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, 2022


“For which some men would have been considered far too weak and too meagre”. Women Printers and Their Activities in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 1550-1700

Between 1550 and 1700 no less than 170 women ran a print shop on their own. Almost all of them were widows who had inherited a business and who continued it without ever remarrying. This study traces their activities by investigating women’s roles within print workshops as well as their legal status, their production, and their reputation. The study finds that the complex nature of the print business enabled women to play key roles in the trade already from an early age onwards. They could, for instance, help with the correction of texts, oversee the finances of the shop and make extensive business journeys. Once in charge of the whole shop, women could also build strong relationships to powerful institutions, like local governments, universities or the church, which valued a reliable print shop. In addition, women printers could acquire privileges for certain publications to defend their market shares. As funeral sermons and other publications suggest, the activities of these women were wide-ranging and also much appreciated by contemporaries.


Möglichkeiten und Grenzen konfessioneller Koexistenz. Briefwechsel, Studien- und Druckorte Oberlausitzer Geistlicher in der zweiten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts
Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 2022


This essay explores connections of clerics in Upper Lusatia focusing on three factors: their correspondence, which universities they attended, and where they published their works. On the one hand, the network of correspondence reflects the region's character as a center of confessional coexistence. Confessional divisions, on the other hand, are clearly visible with regard to the places the clerics chose for their studies and those they chose for their publications. This posed particular challenges for Catholic authors, who had to find a suitable printer to reproduce their texts in distant territories.


Gedruckte Rechtsordnungen im Köln des 16. Jahrhunderts. Neue Kommunikationsformen für die städtische Obrigkeit
Geschichte in Köln, 2022


Die Geschichtswissenschaft beschäftigt sich seit geraumer Zeit mit der äußerst komplexen Interaktion zwischen Herrschenden und Beherrschten in der Frühen Neuzeit. Dabei wird neben vielen anderen Aspekten auch der Ausbau der Staatlichkeit tiefgreifend untersucht. Dieser manifestierte sich vor allem in der verstärkten Verabschiedung der sogenannten Policeyordnungen, also Rechtsordnungen, die im Namen des Gemeinwohls viele wirtschaftliche, politische und rechtliche Aspekte des frühneuzeitlichen Lebens reglementierten. Für die sich immer weiter intensivierenden Verwaltungstätigkeiten war eine effektive Kommunikation neuer Gesetze eine wichtige Voraussetzung. Nach Gutenbergs Erfindung verwendete man den Buchdruck vermehrt für die Publikation von Verordnungen beziehungsweise Edikten, sodass im Laufe der Zeit Druckoffizine eine wachsende Bedeutung für frühneuzeitliche Regierungen erlangten.

Lässt sich diese allgemeine Tendenz auch für das Kommunikationszentrum, das die Reichsstadt Köln im 16. Jahrhundert war, nachweisen? Und wie gestaltete sich die Verbindung zwischen Rat und Buchdruckern? Um diese Fragen zu beantworten, wird zunächst die Art und Intensität der obrigkeitlichen Nutzung des Buchdrucks untersucht. Wann wurde das neue Medium zur Herstellung von Verordnungen im städtischen Auftrag benutzt und wozu genau? Welche anderen Kommunikationskanäle standen der Obrigkeit zur Verfügung? Und wer waren die Drucker, die für den Rat arbeiteten? Zunächst soll auf die Quellenlage eingegangen werden, vor allem da die Forschung zu Drucken aus dem 16. Jahrhundert in Bezug auf Kölner Verordnungen einige Schwierigkeiten birgt.


‘‘Let it be known’. New perspectives on broadsheets and political communication at the time of Maximilian I
troJa Trossinger Jahrbuch für Renaissancemusik, 2021


As a patron of the arts, Maximilian I was fond of printing – the so-called “black art”. His ambitious projects, such as the Triumphal Arch made entirely out of paper, attracted much attention in the past. The emperor also instructed a printer to create a new, majestic font which would present a stark difference to Roman fonts. Later this font would become the well-known Fraktur, which was from then on used for German text and survived well into the twentieth century. Maximilian’s ambitions regarding print stretched beyond illustrated works as he also supported the production of books. He and his court gave many privileges to printers for certain publications. Often only the privilege itself reminds us that even after centuries of scholarship we still do not know the full extent of Maximilian’s
involvement with the print business.

Despite Maximilian’s frequent use of the press, scholars have paid little attention to the many official documents, especially those published in the later years of his reign. Analysing the production and distribution of these intriguing documents, however, provides us with great insights into political communication around 1500. On the following pages, I will present interesting findings for official print, focussing in particular on broadsheets (broadsides). A close examination of these documents as well as other contemporary sources shows, for instance, how long it took to inform subjects about Maximilian’s orders. It also reveals that Maximilian, his court and his chancellery had sometimes little to do with the print production of these documents. This study will therefore shed more light on those illusive figures in the background that were actually involved in the production of the documents. Similarly, it is a mistake to assume that all documents were printed immediately after they had been issued. In some cases, years or even decades could pass until a document under Maximilian’s name actually appeared in print.


Life and Production of Magdalena Morhart. A Successful Business Woman in Sixteenth-Century Germany
Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 2019


In early modern Europe many widows continued the print shops of their deceased husbands. Yet, little is known about these women: who were they? How were they able to run a business despite many restrictions on women’s work? And were they successful as business owners? This study addresses these questions by focussing on one woman printer: Magdalena Morhart. When she inherited her husband’s press in Tübingen in 1554, she turned the print shop into a thriving business and ran it for almost two decades on her own. During these years she printed for two high-end clients – the university and the ducal administration – and completed numerous complex orders. This study will reveal unknown details about Magdalena Morhart’s background and examine the obstacles she faced when assuming control of the print shop, especially at the beginning of her career. Then the study will take a closer look at her production, with a particular emphasis on the books she sold to the local government. Thanks to a meticulously-kept government account that details the number of sheets, the payment and delivery dates as well as the money she received in return, it becomes clear just how valuable Magdalena Morhart’s work was for the Duke of Württemberg.

Chapters (selected)

‘Doing Men’s Work’. Katharina Rebart, Her Life and Her Activities in Context
The Book World of Early Modern Europe (ed. der Weduwen/Walsby), 2022


The existence of women in the early modern book business has long been acknowledged, especially after Natalie Zemon Davis’s illustrious study on women workers in Lyon. Yet only recently the topic experienced a surge of interest as seen with the extraordinary high attendance of over 300 participants at the USTC conference in 2021 on ‘Gender and the Book Trades’. The books, articles and essays that have already been published show vividly that women played a major role in the early modern book trade: in many parts of Europe women contributed significantly to the production, sale and distribution of books. In Spain, England, France and the Low Countries numerous women headed printing or publishing businesses although female labour could be much more restricted than that of males. One of the best-known examples is Charlotte Guillard, who ran a print shop on her own in Paris for two entire decades (1537–1557) and has most recently been the subject of an in-depth study.

The Holy Roman Empire was no exception, yet we still hardly know anything about these women. In many cases, widows continued the business under their husband’s name, as creating a brand became more and more important in the business with books. Therefore, in the colophon of their publications women frequently did not include their given names but instead used the more generic expression ‘widow of’. We therefore have to look beyond the printed books for further evidence if we want to uncover more about these important female entrepreneurs in the early modern world.

An insightful document in this context is the funeral sermon for the printer Katharina Rebart. It is one of the few contemporary publications (currently known) about women printers and has not received any scholarly attention. The pamphlet was printed in 1606 and includes significant details about Rebart’s life and her work as printer in Jena, bookseller in Frankfurt and even paper mill owner in the vicinity of Strasbourg. In the following I will reconstruct Rebart’s biography and compare it to other women producers in the book business at that time. Focussing in particular on the women’s lives, their families and their socio-economic position, this analysis will clear up some misconceptions about the work of women printers in the Holy Roman Empire.


Scholars, Printers, and the Sphere: New Evidence for the Challenging Production of Academic Books in Wittenberg, 1531–1550
Publishing Sacrobosco’s De sphaera in Early Modern Europe (eds. Valleriani/Ottone), 2022


This chapter introduces those printers and publishers who were involved in the process and considers the economics of the local print industry, which was, at the time, the fastest-growing in the entire Holy Roman Empire. By analyzing the university’s interactions with book producers, especially with respect to Melanchthon’s letters, which reveal his close ties to the book industry, I argue that even in this dominant center of printing, the relationship between academics and printers/publishers could be rather fraught; authors and editors even referred to the producers of their books as “beasts,” “harpies,” and “men of iron.” Drawing on hitherto unexplored sources, I also shed light on the prices of academic books, their print runs, and the reuse of illustrations in different editions. Finally, I establish how students in sixteenth-century Wittenberg could obtain academic books for their studies and how expensive the Sphaera was in comparison to other books and commodities.

https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86600-6_5 (OPEN ACCESS)

Medien bzw. Medialität der Konfliktlösung in der Frühen Neuzeit
Geschichte der Konfliktregulierung - Ein Handbuch (eds. Decock), 2020


Dieses Kapitel gibt einen Überblick über Medien und Medialität zur Konfliktlösung in der Frühen Neuzeit


Advertising Medical Studies in Sixteenth-Century Basel: Function and Use of Academic Disputations
Broadsheets. Single-sheet Publishing in the first age of Print (ed. Pettegree), 2017


Disputations and lectures were the twin pillars of academic teaching in the early modern period. In sixteenth-century Europe students and professors of all subjects defended their theses in public disputations. These academic events were usually chaired by a praeses who sat at a lectern slightly higher than the others. In the German university system, the dean of the candidate’s faculty as well as two professors joined the praeses, and together the scholars challenged the candidate by asking him questions. In addition, professors and students in the audience were permitted to contradict the candidate.

In Basel, medical disputations had to follow a tight protocol which defined the
respondent’s behaviour in great detail. At the start of the disputation the candidate had to welcome the audience and briefly present his theses. He then had to listen to the contra arguments and refute them respectfully. At the end of the disputation, usually no later than eleven o’clock in the morning, the respondent had to thank the audience. If the candidate failed to obey any of these rules, it was the duty of the dean to intervene.

In his journal, Felix Platter, the renowned sixteenth-century physician, offers us a more personal recollection of a mid-sixteenth-century disputation in Basel. During the debate the candidate faced several professors who contradicted his statements. Among them were the dean of the medical faculty, Oswald Baer, and the professors of practical and theoretical medicine respectively, Johann Huber and Isaak Keller. They were joined by Heinrich Pantaleon, Philipp Bech and Johann Jacob Huggelin who also challenged Platter’s theses.

To invite scholars like Huber, Keller and Huggelin to such events, documents - also called disputations - were produced prior to the event. These documents were given to potential visitors as well as pasted on doors and walls to announce the event. Towards the end of the century, such printed disputations were increasingly used as advertisement to praise the medical education in Basel. Produced in dozens of copies, the documents could easily be sent to friends, family members but also to scholars outside the university town. This additional function of printed medical disputation becomes obvious in their design. It changes significantly over the course of the sixteenth century. The survival of over five hundred medical disputations from the sixteenth century indicates just how important a role they played in the corporate life of the university.

Despite their abundance, however, these numerous medical disputations have received almost no attention from scholars, in particular from historians. Previous studies, carried out by doctoral students of medicine, primarily focussed on the topics of disputations. These studies were also essentially limited to those disputations in which a student defended his theses to obtain a degree. This was not, however, the only motivation for scholars to dispute in public. Debates were often undertaken as practice – students could improve their rhetorical skills before they moved on to obtaining their degree. Professors who had obtained their doctoral degree at a foreign institution and wanted to work or teach in Basel also had to defend theses in public.
The seemingly dry documents reveal much more information than just the topics discussed in the sixteenth century. A close study of these disputations reveals details about the methods of teaching, the organisation, and the reasons why professors attended medical disputations. Some visitors even used the broadsheets for their own academic purposes – either to take notes or to prepare their arguments.

https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004340312_017 (OPEN ACCESS)

Newspaper Articles

Fake News vor 500 Jahren
Stuttgarter Zeitung 18/19 January 2020

Neben grausamen Verbrechen schildern sie wunderbare Geburten und Himmelserscheinungen: Flugblätter mit Sensationsnachrichten von einst.

Conferences & Presentations

Conference Papers (selected)

2022 Milan (IT)

Reshaping the Early Modern Book World: Competition, Protection, Consumption

Title: Paying for Frankfurt Books: Sigmund Feyerabend and the prices of his legal publications
2022 Amsterdam (NL)

SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing)

Title: Rewards and Punishments: Collaborations of Governments and Printers in Sixteenth-century Germany
2021 London (UK)

German History Society Annual Meeting

Title: 'Produced by his widow': printing widows, their economic position and their products in early modern Germany
2021 Heidelberg (DE)

Handschrift im Druck: Annotieren, Korrigieren, Weiterschreiben 1500-1800, organisiert von Sylvia Brockstieger und Rebecca Hirt (Sonderforschungsbereich Materiale Textkulturen)

Title: Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Die Bedeutung der Handschrift in amtlichen Drucken 1450-1600
2019 Leuven (BE)

Working Women in Pre-Industrial Europe. Perspectives on the gendering of urban labour markets, organised by Nena Vandeweert & Heleen Wyffels

Title: Working Women in Germany's Print Industry
2019 Frankfurt a.M. (DE)

Digital Humanities: Multimedial & Multimodal

Title: Automatic Font Group Recognition in Early Printed Books

Invited Presentations (selected)

2023 Dresden (DE)

Technische Universität

2021 Berlin (DE)

Humboldt Universität

2021 Mainz (DE)

Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG)

2019 London (UK)

British Library

Conference Organisation

2022 Milan (IT)

Together with Angela Nuovo, Andrea Ottone and Joran Proot, I have organised the conference "Reshaping the Early Modern Book World: Competition, Protection, Consumption" in Milan (Italy)


Digital Humanities

New Approaches to OCR for Early Printed Books
2020, DigItalia, Rivista Del Digitale Nei Beni Culturali (with Nikolaus Weichselbaumer et. al.)


Books printed before 1800 present major problems for OCR. One of the main obstacles is the lack of diversity of historical fonts in training data. This project, consisting of book historians and computer scientists, aimed to address this deficiency by focussing on three major issues. Our first target was to create a tool that identifies font groups automatically in images of historical documents. We concentrated on Gothic font groups that were commonly used in German texts printed in the 15th and 16th century: the well-known Fraktur and the lesser known Bastarda, Rotunda, Textura und Schwabacher. The tool was trained with 35,000 images and reaches an accuracy level of 98%. It cannot only differentiate between the above-mentioned font groups but also Hebrew, Greek, Antiqua and Italic. Furthermore it can identify woodcut images and irrelevant data (book covers, empty pages, etc.). In a second step, we created an online training infrastructure (okralact). It facilitates the use of various open source OCR engines such as Tesseract, OCRopus, Kraken and Calamari. At the same time, it facilitates training for font group specific models. The high accuracy of the recognition tool paves the way for the unprecedented opportunity to differentiate between the fonts used by individual printers. With more training data and further adjustments, the tool could help to fill a major gap in historical research.

https://doi.org/10.36181/digitalia-00015 (OPEN ACCESS)

Dataset of Pages from Early Printed Books with Multiple Font Groups
2019, HIP ‘19. Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Historical Document Imaging and Processing (with Nikolaus Weichselbaumer et. al.)


Based on contemporary scripts, early printers developed a large variety of different fonts. While fonts may slightly differ from one printer to another, they can be divided into font groups, such as Textura, Antiqua, or Fraktur. The recognition of font groups is important for computer scientists to select adequate OCR models, and of high interest to humanities scholars studying early printed books and the history of fonts. In this paper, we introduce a new, public dataset for the recognition of font groups in early printed books, and evaluate several state-of-the-art CNNs for the font group recognition task. The dataset consists of more than 35 600 page images, each page showing up to five different font groups, of which ten are considered in this dataset.

https://doi.org/10.1145/3352631.3352640 (OPEN ACCESS)

The rapid rise of Fraktur
2020, DHd 2020 Spielräume: Digital Humanities zwischen Modellierung und Interpretation


From the first experiments in 1513, Fraktur quickly became the most successful gothic font in print history. Whereas gothic fonts in most other countries went out of use in the 16th and 17th centuries, Fraktur became by far the most used font for German texts in the early modern period. The font also made it to modernity and was used frequently, almost unchanged, until the middle of the 20th century. Even today the font is often used especially when a design should appear ‘historical’. Despite its importance, fairly little is known about the famous font. The origins of Fraktur at the beginning of the 16th century and the possible creators Vincenz Rockner and Johann Neudörffer have been the subjects of several studies (Kautzsch
1922, Kapr 1993: 24, Hessel 1937). Apart from this, however, we know remarkably little about its development over the following centuries. Only the Antiqua-Fraktur dispute around 1800 gained the interest of book historians again when German intellectuals discussed which of the two fonts is more appropriate for German texts (Lühmann 1981, Killius 1999). Yet the emergence of Fraktur and its leading role in font history remains understudied.

Tracing the emergence of Fraktur is complicated by two facts: On the one hand, contemporary evidence, such as invoices, letters and type specimens, is at best fragmentary and nearly impossible to contextualise without an analysis of the books themselves. On the other hand, researchers are simply overwhelmed by the amount of material available. For the 16th century alone, the German national bibliography VD16 (www.vd16.de) lists over 100,000 titles. This makes it impractical to look at every book individually and determine its fonts or even only its main text font.

Recent research presents a solution to this problem. With the help of a newly developed pattern recognition tool, large amounts of digitised book pages can be categorised into font groups. This tool was developed in the context of a project on font-specific OCR (Weichselbaumer et al. 2019, Seuret et al. 2019) and was then used for a large dataset of digitised books from BSB Munich. This paper will present the results and provide new insights into the rapid rise of Fraktur.

https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3666690 (OPEN ACCESS)