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. (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. (OPEN ACCESS)