St. Galler Nibelungenhandschrift (Cod. Sang. 857)

By Yeandle, David | Medium Aevum, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

St. Galler Nibelungenhandschrift (Cod. Sang. 857)


Yeandle, David, Medium Aevum


St. Galler Nibelungenhandschrift (Cod. Sang. 857) (CD-Rom for Windows and Mac), ed. Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen, Basler Parzival-Projekt, introd. Michael Stolz, software by Rafael Schwemmer, Codices Electronici Sangallenses I (St. Gall: Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen, 2003). 30.00 [euro]. Although individual elements of the Codex Sangallensis 857, the most important compendium of 'classical' Middle High German texts, dating from c.1260, have been available for some time in various different facsimile editions, this is the first time that the whole manuscript, including some fragments now detached from the original codex, has been published in its entirety. The medium of publication is CD-ROM, which is ideal for such an enterprise. Not only does it make the dissemination of high-quality colour images exceptionally inexpensive, whereas the equivalent paper volumes have been generally exceptionally expensive; the new medium provides a hitherto unparalleled flexibility for searching and manipulating data.

The CD-ROM for Windows or Macintosh provides a clear interface via a web browser. The database is started by loading Start.html into one's chosen browser (both Internet Explorer, version 5.00 onwards, and Netscape, version 7 onwards, are supported for Windows; Camino and Netscape, version 7 onwards, for Macintosh). From the start page, hyperlinks lead to individual texts, introduction, notes, and other relevant material (including a transcription of the Nibelungenlied beside the facsimile). Not having the opportunity to experiment with the CD-ROM in a Macintosh, I restrict my comments below to the Windows version. Users with autoplay activated who simply insert the CD-ROM into the drive may at first be confused, but need to choose the appropriate action ('Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer'). In order to see the MHG special characters correctly, it is necessary to have installed the font Mediaevum, which is provided on the CD-ROM. The essence of the database is very simple: HTML files point to JPEG images of each page of the manuscript, which are stored in three 'sizes' in three separate directories. The user can choose to view the pages at nominal sizes of 150%, 100%, and 50%. The highest resolution gives a very legible view of the detail, and on a typical display of 1024 by 768 pixels (with the browser window maximized) about half the text on a page is visible at one time. It is often necessary to scroll horizontally in order to locate the text in the readable portion of the window. This resolution produces for the first page of Parzival (D005.jpg) a picture of 1211x1821 pixels and a file size of 388 kilobytes. The 100% resolution (which is not identical to the actual size of the page, which is 31.5x21.5 cm), but slightly larger, using the screen display referred to, above, produces a picture of 807x1214 pixels for the equivalent page (184 KB) and allows one to see the whole width of the page and about three-quarters of the length of the text at any one time (this varies somewhat according to text, scribe, etc.). This is quite legible, though somewhat dark in places. The 'normal' size with which one is presented on starting to view a text is 50% (404x607 pixels = 60KB). In this case, two facing pages are shown, allowing one to see the full opening of the codex; however, the text is not really legible at this resolution.

The producers of this fine CD-ROM have provided the user with a number of useful devices for orientation. On each screen of the facsimile, one is told the page number of the codex (according to the partly faulty pagination in the manuscript), the folio number, the work, the lines covered in the section being viewed, the scribe, and the fascicle number; a symbol shows the 'quaternio' openings within each fascicle. …

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