Digital Humanities Showcase Report: Footprints in Frankfurt: Tracing the Circulation of Early Hebrew Books
Dr Kerstin von der Krone, Head of Judaica Division, University Library Frankfurt am Main
Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place (https://footprints.ctl.columbia.edu) is a database project that documents information on the circulation of Jewish books. Established in 2014 by Michelle Chesner, Majorie Lehmann, Adam Shear and Joshua Teplinsky Footprints brings together Jewish Studies scholars and dedicated librarians with a shared interest in Book History and Digital Humanities.
Image information: Footprints record for פלאן אונד איינריכטונג איינר הייאראטש גזעללשאפט(Plan und Einrichtung einer Heiratsgesellschaft), Berlin 1776, Call number: Jud. Germ. 765.
Footprints database (https://footprints.ctl.columbia.edu/footprint/19594/)
https://footprints.ctl.columbia.edu/help/) as “a moment in time when we can place a book-copy in a particular place and/or with a particular person (an owner, a librarian, someone seeing the book, a giver, a subscriber, a censor [expurgator], etc.).“ Data is collected based on a defined set of evidence types and actors roles using controlled vocabularies. Footprint entries of a respective individual copy are linked to each other and to the work title. The database integrates information from the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book (BHB, https://www.nli.org.il/en/research-and-teach/catalogs#hebrew). The BHB number serves as the permanent identifier. Footprints is an open source project (Github https://github.com/ccnmtl/footprints). A key feature of the Footprints project are collaborations – with researchers and projects with shared interests in book history. In addition, Footprints has established collaborative projects with institutions that host significant collection of Jewish books. One of those projects Footprints in Frankfurt: Provenance of Early Hebraica in the University Library Frankfurt am Main aimed to survey Hebrew and Yiddish books from Frankfurt’s outstanding Judaica Division, the largest of its kind in Germany. Its significant historical holdings – manuscripts, incunabula, old prints – were gifted to the Stadtbibliothek Frankfurt am Main, the predecessor of the University Library, by Frankfurt Jews in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From September 2019 to November 2020 Dr. Lucia Raspe as scholar in residence for Footprints in Frankfurt, supported by library staff, examined two distinct collections: the Hebrew Incunabula with 72 items and the Yiddish Prints prints collection with 626 items, and was able to identify and record more than 1.100 footprints. The project added a significant amount of data on Yiddish works and on footprint locations in German-speaking lands, including smaller places beyond the centers of Hebrew printing. Moreover, the collection of Yiddish Prints produced about 30 footprints from religious and literary works, most significantly Tze’ena uRe’ena Bibles and Yiddish prayer books, that give evidence of women as book owners and readers as well as benefactors. And finally, the project provided significant insights into the history of the Frankfurt collection, identifying former owners for about 60% of books surveyed. Adding new data with unique features something requires adjusting the database itself. Through Footprints in Frankfurt records on Yiddish works were to be added that are not listed in the BHB. Since creating the Footprints database the BHB number is used as the permanent identifier. An alternate identifier was needed and found in through the newly established Yiddish Union Catalogue of the National Library of Israel (https://merhav.nli.org.il/primo-explore/search?search_scope=ULY&vid=ULY&lang=en_US&offset=0&fromRedirectFilter=true). With Footprints in Frankfurt the University Library aimed as well to enrich catalog data on its old Hebraica with information on provenance and circulation. At the beginning of the project librarians created a spreadsheet combining the Footprints data model with additional data fields, i.e. to record authority data following German standards (GND, https://gnd.network/Webs/gnd/EN) and add a controlled vocabulary for provenance information used in Frankfurt. As part of the project, catalogue records for more than 700 Hebraica were revised and if necessary corrected. Adding Footprints data to the catalogue, however, required an additional processing step. Data of all footprints related to an individual title had to be compiled into one singly entry which is added to the respective catalog record as provenance information (“Details zum Vorbesitz“). This data field was the most practical way to add footprints data in accordance with local cataloguing regulations. However, footprints data reaches beyond provenance information and includes a broader spectrum of evidence types on the circulation of Jewish books. Librarians at the University Libraries Judaica Division will continue to document footprints as part of their cataloguing routine, and create additional records for the footprints database.The Footprints database records information on the circulation of individual copies of Jewish books from the inception of the printing press in the 15th century until ca. 1800. A footprint is defined (