Today I had only a few hours in the late morning – and tonight I do not have to work: Jausa! I spent the afternoon in the sunny city walking and windowshopping. I should work on some transscriptions, but I do enjoy more to have to do nothing, idling along. And the copies of the documents are of bad quality, too.
Actually they are no copies of the originals. One should handle original materials very careful – and slamming it on a copy-machine does not describe the careful attitude. Organizations always had a problem with records – the material grows too much, takes too much space! So miniaturizing was an idea and the microfiches – which slowly get out of fashion in the digitized world – were invented. Early as the 1940s by the way, Goebbel’s diaries (he had at least two, an official and a semi-private) were micro’d and survived on glass plates. After all it is a photographic kind of process. Later the glass plates were changed to plastic sheets, but basically its all based on silver. Sometimes in the fifties I guess the Americans started to film European medieval sources, manuscripts etc. to have the texts available without moving the books, and the European libraries got copies of these films – it was the 36mm “Kleinbildfilm”.
I have to deal with church books mainly. And because of the interest in genealogy the churches deceided to collect their books in a central archive and give the users films or microfiches. So one uses usually a reader-printer-machine; that’s nothing else but a kind of screen with an optic, different lenses and a simple printing device, where the choosen part drops out after having pushed the button. In some archives the user is allowed to do it himself, in others not.
The quality of the print depends of the quality of the film – it’s the copy of a copy. The material I have to work with now is really bad, because the film is bad: They did not put it plain when they made the photograph. That means that it is only possible to have a part of the sheet sharp and readable, other parts become diffus, blurred.
Normally one puts a kind of unreflective glassplate over a kind of written source. But here they did not. Obviously the bound volume was too large and there must have been a kind of damage, water I guess. Old paper, before 1820, is very strong and stands a lot of impacts. Only the ink can do real harm, if they used a cheap or selfmade one that over time gets acidic. New paper becomes acidid in itself and dissolves over time, a big problem for the archives of any kind. For churchbooks normally good quality was used, but if the volume drowned, there is not much to do about it.
Digitization is another game. Modern scanners work without contact to the object and modern programs can minimize such flaws as mentioned above – even in the middle of a very large book they get very good results without braking the book’s back. But this is a development of the last ten years or so, and it’s used by the libraries for the exceptional manuscripts, books and cimelia. The average run-of-the-mill-church-book-film-copy you get is made in the seventies or eighties by a Netherlandish company without too much care and you are happy when the registers work and you find what you need. After that it is looking glass and patience. And hopefully the handwriting is good and the priest was not too drunk, ill, tired, careless …
By the way it is interesting to see the development of the handwritings. I find that the older ones from the 18th century or 17th are far more individual than the modern ones. And in the 19th you find a kind of unification. That helps a lot regarding the readability and for the registers, but it’s a kind of miss too.
The registers are another capitel. Some are absolutely reliable, others are a waste of time. Best are the Protestant from the 1930s, well … there are family-sheets / trees too. What I very much like to find in a church or parish – if the books are still on location – is the 1930s family-register on cards. That’s a great tool. In the parish always the “Durchschrift”, the copy, was kept. The originals – as I remember from some article about it – went to Berlin. Wonder where they ended.

18 thoughts on “Lazy

  1. And yes – after all it’s something I love to do. Not as much the reading and painfully deciphering, but the search, the combination, and the contacts and travelling involved. You are right Amanda. What is yours?

  2. I actually liked researching things on individual microfiche sheets.

    The film strip format did bother me. When scrolling it would make me motion sick!

  3. People have been on earth for 40,000 years or more, but didn’t start keeping tangible records until about three or four thousand years ago. Before that it was passed by word of mouth by special persons with good memories. Imagine what a magnificant idea it was when someone thought of solidifying the word for posterity.

  4. I wonder where all the original church cards went…hundreds upon thousands of them…

    Sounds like intricate work, and all the patience in the world. Must be so satisfying to unravel the details.

  5. Europe has had so much conflict, it’s a wonder as many parchments of history remain as they do.

    I’m currently watching a series called “Tudors” a new retelling of King Henry the 8th. Having more time to work with the story, I think they try to be more historically accurate, maybe try to define the individuals of the courts and politics of the times better.

    Right now in the series, they mention Luthernism taking over Germany, riots, famine and plaque are in excess. The Holy Roman Pope is in exile in Spain. He currently trying to divorce Queen Catherine to marry Anne Bolin.

    I am glad I was not alive in those times. If the plague didn’t kill you, the doctors remedies would!

    Have fun with the micro-fishies. :)


  6. XL
    Yes, it moves so damn fast! And even when one can move it slow it’s always like standing next to amoving train or something. The eyes want to grab and keep a fixed point, one gets dizzy and “schwirbulant”.

    Yes, it is a fundamental invention and work of genius. With all pros and cons.

    Bucket please!

    Yes, an interesting thing. I guess they burned up in some cellar.
    The details are fascinating. If you follow a family you get an image of them, a picture. You see them come and go. Sometimes the priest writes down notes or something he wants to be remembered.

    The 16th century was pretty tough in the Reich. War against the Turcs, plague, the peasants uprising – those were the days …

    Because I was and am lazy. A genuine problem.

    I am amazed! Yes, my birthday will come round in a few days … the big FIVE is in sight!

  7. SCarlet
    In all the years there were only two pages written very carefully and for special porposes. The most entries are fast scribbeled.
    For my birthday there are no special arrangements but nightshift and boredom, sorry my dear.

  8. I think every hobby/job has some nasty aspect – probably the reason why it’s a good idea to love something about it in the first place.

    My current “loves” are economics and teaching.

    So it’s five-oh soon?! Mensch, time flies… :)

  9. Dear Mago,

    I wish you a very happy birthday today, health and luck and success in everything you undertake! Especially I wish you a new, satisfying job – offering sense, “normal” life times, money and “security” in another meaning ;-)

    Above all I wish you peace in your heart and in your mind, being beloved by the people around you, and blessed by God, Holy Mary and all the Saints!

    Happy, happy birthday to you!

    With all my best wishes,


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