Responsible Philology. Editing the 'Kaiserchronik' in the Digital Age

24 Jul 2017

This essay considers the problem of normalized orthography in critical editions of Middle High German texts. Whether the orthographical conventions that crystallized in nineteenth-century philology present a reliable picture of medieval manuscript spelling is a question that has long been debated by editors and historians of the German language. It becomes all the more urgent, however, now that digital reproductions afford direct access to manuscripts. Drawing on their experience of producing both a digital and an analog print edition of the Kaiserchronik, the authors of this essay advocate a print spelling from which a certain amount of scribal variation is filtered out, but always in such a way as to respect and reflect the writing system of the medieval manuscript. They also suggest that this practice, although its results and emphases are very different from the orthographies of Lachmann, Benecke, and Grimm in the nineteenth century, nonetheless shares with its predecessors the conviction that any representation of scribal writing practices in the typographical medium of print must bring its readers into contact with some aspect of the historical linguistic reality. This, the authors contend, is one of the main tasks for a responsible editorial philology in the digital age.