November 12, 2014

The Occult Diary

Ockulta dagboken (The occult diary) is a diary kept intermittently for 12 years by the Swedish author and playwright August Strindberg (1849−1912). It comprises more than 300 folio leaves, from the first written in Paris in 1896 to the last entry from Stockholm in 1908. When Strindberg began the diary, his intention was to record characters and incidents that, although seemingly trivial, appeared to him to be significant, as well as strange coincidences, dreams, clairvoyant experiences, Bible quotations, and extracts from other books, usually without any comment. He gradually began to include items of a type more commensurate with that of a documentary diary: social and professional contacts, comments on day-to-day occurrences, references to books that he had read, and so forth. He pasted into the pages of the diary newspaper clippings that had caught his attention, and which often dealt with supernatural occurrences and experiences as well as with public events that interested him. The diary is an important source for any study of the composition of Strindberg’s works during the years he kept it, including the autobiographical novel written in French entitled Inferno (1896−97), the dramatic trilogy Till Damaskus (To Damascus, 1898−1904), and the play Spöksonaten (The ghost sonata, 1907).

On Time; On Divine Ideas; On Matter and Form; Reply on the Universals; On Universals

This codex contains four philosophical treatises by the English theologian and reformer John Wycliffe (also seen as John Wyclif,) (circa 1330−84). The works are The works are De tempore (also called De individuatio temporis) (On time); De ydeis [De ideis] (On divine ideas); De materia et forma (On matter and form); and De universalibus (On universals); as well as a work by an unidentified author entitled Replicacio de universalibus (Reply on the universals). According to the colophon, the manuscript was written by Jan Hus, an early proponent of ecclesiastical reform, and completed on Saint Jerome’s Day, September 30, 1398, the year Hus began his career as a professor at Prague University. The codex is the only extant large work of Hus in his own hand. It was annotated by Hus, partly in Czech, and some of the notes have a strong polemical character and are critical of the Germans. Bound in limp vellum with a reinforced spine, the manuscript is a fine example of a rapidly written and abbreviated university manuscript. Jan Hus (John Huss) was born circa 1370 in Husinec in southern Bohemia (in the present-day Czech Republic). As a preacher of the Bethlehem Chapel and rector of the philosophical faculty at the Prague University at the beginning of the 15th century, he propounded the need for a national church and the importance of the Bible as a unique authority for the belief and life of Christians. He was much influenced by Wycliffe. Hus received strong support for his ideas from Czech university students, but not from their German counterparts. Consequently, the German students left Prague and started a new university in Leipzig. Hus was convicted of heresy at the Council of Constance and burned at the stake in 1415. The manuscript was confiscated by the Swedish army in 1648, during its occupation of Prague at the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War, and taken to Sweden.

Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden

The Revelations of Saint Birgitta (or Bridget) of Sweden (circa 1303–73) is one of the most important and influential works of Swedish medieval literature. According to contemporary sources, Birgitta received her revelations in the form of visions, beginning in the 1340s and continuing until close to her death. Although her revelations related mostly to spiritual matters, they included some messages of a practical and political character, one of which was the command to found a new religious order, which resulted in the establishment of the Order of the Most Holy Savior, or what came to known as the Birgittines. Birgitta first wrote down her revelations in Swedish. One of her two confessors then translated them into Latin. The final redaction of the Revelations was made after her death by her last confessor, the bishop of Jaén (Spain), Alfonso Pecha. In addition to the eight books of the Revelations proper, a few other minor texts usually are included in the Birgittine textual corpus. Birgitta enjoyed a significant international reputation in her own lifetime, and her Revelations were quickly translated into a number of European vernaculars. A Swedish version was required for devotional use by the newly professed nuns of the Birgittine order, and the main part of the Old Swedish text probably was translated from the standard Latin version in the early 1380s. However, there is no extant manuscript containing a full version of this translation. This manuscript, written before 1452 in the Birgittine mother house in Vadstena, is incomplete, but it has considerable textual importance. It contains parts of the first four books of the Revelations in the oldest Old Swedish translation. The codex comprises 69 parchment leaves in a contemporary binding. The manuscript was bought by the Swedish Archive of Antiquities at an auction in 1717. In 1780 it was acquired from the archive by the National Library of Sweden, which also holds other early copies of the Revelations.

Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden

The Revelations of Saint Birgitta (or Bridget) of Sweden (circa 1303–73) is one of the most important and influential works of Swedish medieval literature. According to contemporary sources, Birgitta received her revelations in the form of visions, beginning in the 1340s and continuing until close to her death. Although her revelations related mostly to spiritual matters, they included some messages of a practical and political character, one of which was the command to found a new religious order, which resulted in the establishment of the Order of the Most Holy Savior, or what came to be known as the Birgittines. Birgitta first wrote down her revelations in Swedish. One of her two confessors then translated them into Latin. The final redaction of the Revelations was made after her death by her last confessor, the bishop of Jaén (Spain), Alfonso Pecha. In addition to the eight books of the Revelations proper, a few other minor texts usually are included in the Birgittine textual corpus. Birgitta enjoyed a significant international reputation in her own lifetime, and her Revelations were quickly translated into a number of European vernaculars. A Swedish version was required for devotional use by the newly professed nuns of the Birgittine order, and the main part of the Old Swedish text probably was translated from the standard Latin version in the early 1380s. However, there is no extant manuscript containing a full version of this translation. This manuscript is from the middle of the 15th century and contains parts of the first three books, as well as the legend of Saint Birgitta, known as the “Vita abbreviata," and an exposition on the Ten Commandments. This text of the Revelations is of special interest as it contains stylistic adaptations and amplifications not found in the earlier manuscript of about 1400 also in the National Library of Sweden (shelfmark A 5a). It was written in the Swedish Birgittine mother house in Vadstena and is comprised of 171 parchment leaves in a contemporary binding. The manuscript was acquired in 1780 by the National Library of Sweden from the Swedish Archive of Antiquities.

The Cradle of the War: The Near East and Pan-Germanism

The Cradle of the War: The Near East and Pan-Germanism is a study of the origins of World War I. The author, Henry Charles Woods (1881−1939), argues that the main cause of the conflict was “the Pan-German desire for domination from Hamburg to the Persian Gulf.” The book offers an overview of political and military developments in the Near East (defined as the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor), with chapters on Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Albania. Later chapters cover military highways in the Balkans, the Dardanelles campaign, the port of Salonica (present-day Thessaloniki, Greece) and its hinterland, and the attempt by the German Empire to build a Berlin-to-Baghdad railroad in the period before World War I. The final chapter, entitled “Mittel-Europa” (Central Europe), deals with German policy toward the region, based in part on writings by Prince Karl Max von Lichnowsky (1860−1928), the former German ambassador to Great Britain. In a privately circulated pamphlet of 1916, Lichnowsky claimed that his efforts from London to prevent war had not been supported by the German government. Lichnowsky’s pamphlet was published in January 1918 under the title Revelations of Prince Lichnowsky and widely circulated by the allies as proof of Germany’s responsibility for the war. Woods’s book, which is based on a series of lectures at the Lowell Institute in Boston in 1916−17, reflects British and American thinking of the time. Historians have since concluded that many countries besides Germany played a role in Europe’s slide toward war.

Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis

Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis (The Stockholm papyrus) is a codex consisting of 15 leaves containing 154 recipes for the manufacture of dyes and colors used in fashioning artificial stones. Written in Greek around AD 300, it is one of the earliest complete treatises of its kind and an important vehicle for the transmission of practical information from the Alexandrian (Old Egyptian) world to Byzantium and Western Europe. The manuscript appears to have been written by the same scribe as a similar codex in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, also containing different recipes for the manufacture of materials. Both texts clearly include the recipes of practitioners. Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis was presented to the Swedish Royal Academy of Antiquities in 1832 by the consul general of Sweden and Norway at Alexandria. It most likely had been discovered shortly before that date, possibly at Thebes.