Reports from Nijhoff Award Recipients

WESS Newsletter

Vol. 19, No. 2 (Spring, 1996)

1994 Award Winner

Stephen Lehmann
University of Pennsylvania

I appreciate this opportunity for a final wrap-up of my 1994 Nijhoff trip, encompassing not only the trip itself, but also the articles and activities it has spawned.

My project-to investigate and report on journal publishing in German academic librarianship-was motivated by the wish to give these journals, whose existence is largely unknown on this side of the Atlantic, a higher profile among American librarians. It was based largely on interviews with the editors of the six major journals and research in two library science libraries (Cologne and Berlin). Except for a desperate, fruitless search for herring in Nordwijk with Nijhoff president Bas Guyt-more than compensated for by an eleventh hour triumph at a stand in front of the Leyden train station the next day-the trip went without a hitch. Upon my return, I wrote an article on German library journals, placing them in the institutional context of German academic librarianship. It was published in College & Research Libraries (July 1995); a shorter and somewhat reworked version was published in German in the journal Bibliotheksdienst (June 1995).

Another series of publications that resulted from the Nijhoff project came out of an exchange agreement between College & Research Libraries and its German counterpart, Zeitschrift fur Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie. Again, the intention was to create a greater awareness between German and American academic librarians of the work of the other. The first of the ZfBB articles (actually two articles that were melded together in the English version) was on secret dissertations in the GDR. It was translated by John Cullars and appeared in the September 1995 C&RL. The second-on the difficult questions involving German cultural property in the former Soviet Union-will be published in the September 1996 C&RL in a translation by Nancy Boerner. The ZfBB published its first C&RL article in their January 1996 issue.

The most ambitious of these Nijhoff-generated projects was the founding of Reference Reviews Europe/IFB Abstracts, a Web-accessible journal which abstracts reviews of European reference works from the German review quarterly, Informationsmittel fur Bibliotheken (IFB). Some thirty-plus librarians (most of them WESS members) contribute the translated abstracts, which are then edited and prepared for the Web by Jeff Garrett, Heidi Hutchinson and me. We have also begun to commission reviews of selected additional titles, the first written by ex-WESS Newsletter editor Jeffry Larson. The enthusiastic response to RRE/IFBA suggests that it does indeed fill a long-time need.

Meanwhile, the world of German library journal publishing has also changed since 1994. Two of the six journals that I examined-Bibliotheksdienst and Bibliothek: Forschung und Praxis-are now available on the Web, thus accessible to an extent unthinkable at the time of my project. The Mitteilungsblatt of the library association of Nordrhein-Westfalen, on the other hand, ceased publication following the death of its long-time editor, Hartwig Lohse, in August 1995, less than a year after I saw him in Bonn.

The Nijhoff grant is treasured by WESS members for the unique opportunity it offers us. And unique here means unique: for western European librarianship there is nothing else like it. For this we owe those in Martinus Nijhoff International who have made the grant possible our deep and enduring gratitude.

1995 Award Winner

Barbara Halporn
Harvard University

I received the Martin Nijhoff International West European Specialist Study Grant in order to complete the research on a book, The World of Johann Amerbach: Early Printing in its Social Context. The book examines the early period of printing and the development of the book trade through the correspondence of the fifteen-century Swiss printer, Johann Amerbach and the books his firm produced. The correspondence constitutes a unique contemporary source for the daily activities of an early printer and the development of markets for the printed book.

The Nijhoff award enabled me to travel last fall to Basel to work with primary sources at the University Library. The value of the trip to Basel to examine original documents, manuscripts, and incunabula is inseparable from the work that I did in advance to prepare for my time there. It is no exaggeration to say that receiving the Nijhoff award brought new energy and momentum to the project. During the spring and summer, I completed a chapter on the scholarly network within which Amerbach worked and began the fundamental work for the chapter on Amerbach’s publishing alliance with Anton Koberger of Nuremberg. As I worked on these chapters, I added to my file of questions to be pursued in the Basel collections. I looked at manuscripts and printed books that served or might have served as printer’s copy; tried to understand cryptic passages in the letters in the light of the printed texts they referred to; looked for the use of humanistic script among the correspondents. In addition to the manuscript materials, the Basel University Library offered me rich collections in the output of early Basel printers and local history publications. Finding these all located together enabled me to work very productively in the thirteen days of my stay. I came away with many questions answered, others clearly unanswerable, a list of illustrations for the book, and photocopies of materials not available in the United States.

Although the final product of this research will appear in the book on Amerbach, I plan to submit to ACRL an article-length version of the chapter on the Amerbach-Koberger partnership. This chapter, which deals with the workings of the early book trade, seems a particularly fitting first return on my use of the Martinus Nijhoff award.