Paper Memory: A Sixteenth-Century Townsman Writes His World by Matthew Lundin

By Matthew Lundin

Paper Memory tells the tale of 1 man’s project to maintain for posterity the reminiscence of daily life in sixteenth-century Germany. Matthew Lundin takes us contained in the brain of an undistinguished German burgher named Hermann Weinsberg, whose own writings let us witness firsthand the nice modifications of early modernity: the hindrance of the Reformation, the increase of an city heart category, and the data explosion of the print revolution. This delicate, devoted portrait finds a guy who sought to make experience of the adjustments that have been unsettling the rules of his world.

Weinsberg’s choice to adopt the enormous activity of documenting his lifestyles was once magnificent, considering he was once neither prince nor bishop, yet a Catholic legal professional from Cologne without distinct declare to popularity or fortune. even if he knew that his contemporaries might contemplate his paintings useless and silly, he dutifully recorded the main points of his lifestyles, from descriptions of favourite foodstuff to catalogs of his slumbering conduct, from the gossip of quarreling pals to confessions of his deepest hopes, fears, and ideology. greater than fifty years—and millions of pages—later, Weinsberg conferred his Gedenkbuch, or Memory Book, to his descendants, charging them to make sure its safekeeping, for with no his cautious chronicle, “it will be as though we had by no means been.”

desirous to keep his previous from oblivion, Weinsberg was hoping to put in writing himself into the historic list. Paper Memory rescues this not-so-ordinary guy from obscurity, as Lundin’s perceptive and swish prose recovers his striking story.

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Additional resources for Paper Memory: A Sixteenth-Century Townsman Writes His World

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At the same time, urban merchants increasingly relied on writing to secure the transmission of the family name and identity in the absence of a landed patrimony. As a money economy and urban mobility dislodged men and women from the customary identities of the village and its overwhelmingly oral culture, growing numbers of laypeople were compelled to secure their identities on paper. It was no coincidence that Western cities came into their own in the fourteenth and fi fteenth centuries, not long after the introduction of paper-making techniques from the East.

During the fourteenth and fi fteenth centuries, the townsmen of Cologne had developed increasingly sophisticated and complex forms of economic and political interdependence. 9 Though hardly democratic, the document nonetheless laid the foundation for a remarkably open and participatory urban culture. Conceived as a contract between the City Council and the “entire community,” the Verbundbrief My Father’s House • 41 attempted to prevent a small circle of families from acquiring exclusive or hereditary power by imposing strict term limits for city-councilors and creating a rudimentary system of checks and balances.

Although Cologne had no great ruling lineages, the city’s leading sixteenth-century families had worked sedulously to consolidate their gains. 100 Such men hoped to turn their achievements into something more lasting. Yet even the wealthiest families in Cologne found it difficult to overcome the city’s churning economic and political forces as well as its deeply entrenched customs of partible inheritance. As a middling man, a commoner, Hermann Weinsberg had even less hope of doing so. ”101 The closest he had come to the Emperor was as a child, when a Spanish A Secret Legacy • 35 gentleman in the Imperial retinue had helped him catch a glimpse of Charles V (r.

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