On 20 February the Burgh Records Project was pleased to welcome Prof. Dr Jörg Rogge (JGU Mainz), to Aberdeen, to give a paper on “The town hall of medieval Augsburg – a material expression of communal self-concept”.
Jörg’s paper explored the administrative functions of the Town House (Rathaus), its upkeep and renovation (works detailed in the BMB Baumeisterbücher), and the symbolic aspects of the building.
He addressed the medieval Town House as – foremost – a functional space. As a secure building it was the place where the council met, where peace-breakers were imprisoned, where taxes were paid until the 1470s and where financial officials, including the Baumeister, conducted their transactions (in a dedicated chamber known as the Baumeisterstube), and stored their records. It was the focal point in Augsburg for demonstration of a consensus between the governing council and wider civic community of burghers, and the Town Hall itself expressed the idea of a ‘cooperative community’.
All the same, Jörg argued, such a consensus came to be replaced by a less participatory civic culture in the decades from the 1470s-1490s, and onwards. In this regard the paper examined how the same building came to be more exclusively focused on the urban elite, asserting their position as rulers of the city and exercising their collective power in way that adopted the forms used by the nobility.
The elaborate model of the medieval townhouse pictured above is in the Maximilian Museum in Augsburg. It was made by craftsmen in the early seventeenth century, when the medieval building was demolished to make way for the new construction designed by Elias Holl, in 1615, which survives today.
Jörg remained in Aberdeen for the week and collaborated in person in FLAG-related writing projects, and managed to catch a Dons match.
Late medieval urban government was under discussion through the main project themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’.
On 6 and 7 October FLAG hosted its second international workshop, a gathering in person at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. The main purpose of the workshop was for the project team to share working drafts of publications, and to hear insights and input from a panel of commentators and round-table participants. Following the event a group of FLAG team members visited Augsburg – long overdue as we had originally hoped a team meeting there would have been a first gathering back in 2020!
The papers presented in advance for discussion addressed FLAG’s examination of urbanitas as a focus for comparison between Augsburg and Aberdeen, and explored the digital methods we are using. The discussions around the papers highlighted the importance of bringing Scottish and German historiography into new dialogue, which is also one of the goals of FLAG.
On the morning of the 6th we were treated to a guided tour by excavation director Dr. Guido Faccani of Mainz’s ‘Old Cathedral’ (today’s Lutheran Johanniskirche). This is the only cathedral building originating in the early middle ages in Germany, and it is the predecessor building of the Romanesque cathedral of St Martin.
On 6 October the programme included the following sessions:
Welcome and introduction – Professor Jörg Rogge and Dr. Jackson Armstrong
Dr. Regina Schäfer: On administrative structures and terminology in Augsburg (1368 to 1466). Commentators: Dr. Mathias Kluge, Augsburg; Dr. Dominique Adrian, Nancy.
Dr. William Hepburn: Compt, rekning and payment: The Economic Ideal of Urban Government in Late Medieval Aberdeen. Commentators: Dr. Eliza Hartrich, University of East Anglia; Professor Graeme Small, Durham.
Dr. Wim Peters & Dr. William Hepburn: Evaluation of digitised sources – digital hermeneutics. Commentators: Professor Jessica Nowak, Leipzig/Mainz; Dr. Benjamin Hitz, Basel.
Above: Images of Augsburg Cathedral (L), effigy of Abbot Heinrich Friess (d.1482), in the Basilica of SS. Ulrich and Afra (C), and the Perlachturm (R)
On 7 October the programme included the following sessions:
Professor Jörg Rogge & Dr. Jackson Armstrong: Urbanitas – Augsburg and Aberdeen in Comparison. Commentators: Prof. Gabriel Zeilinger, Erlangen-Nürnberg; Dr. Alan MacDonald, Dundee.
Roundtable: Professor Michael Brown, St. Andrews; Professor Edda Frankot, Universität Nord; Professor Jelle Haemers, Leuven; Professor Steffen Krieb, Akademie der Wissenschaften in Mainz.
On 8 and 9 October members of the FLAG team visited Augsburg, and included a visit to the Maximilian Museum which holds the fifteenth-century archive chest, and early modern wooden models of the medieval town house.
Above: detailed images of the model of the medieval town house of Augsburg, in the Maximilian Museum.
History Scotland magazine, Strange Sickness on Mac, and more
A few quick highlights to draw attention to this summer from the burgh records project!
In June Strange Sickness was released for MacOS, to join the version already available on PC. Find out more at strangesickness.com
Jackson Armstrong wrote a short piece on the voices of medieval people in History Scotland’s special issue on the middle ages (Sep/Oct 2022 issue). This article explores how the written words and spoken words can be recovered from the Aberdeen council registers. The special issue also features articles on towns, women, plague, and more, by great contributors.
The Strange Sickness team gathered with backers and supporters for an evening of live music and celebration at The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on Friday 13th May 2022.
To mark the completion of the game William, Katharine, Alana and Jackson came together in person for the first time and met over thirty supporters who were able to be there. The event had generous support from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.
There was a Q&A session with the game creators, followed by a cracking performance by Songs from Medieval Aberdeen, who provided the track for the game’s credits.
Later in the evening the organisers held a raffle draw for a special bottle of Chivas Regal 25 Year Old, kindly gifted by Chivas Brothers, and three game download keys.
‘Order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’ were among the themes explored in the first FLAG workshop on the topic of New perspectives on civic administration in fifteenth-century towns.
On 5 and 6 November FLAG hosted its first international workshop, a ‘hybrid’ in-person and online gathering in Aberdeen. This brought the project team together, alongside participants invited to share perspectives from their own work.
The FLAG team presented the project’s challenge to identify shared aspects of ‘urbanitas’ in towns as different as Augsburg and Aberdeen. The themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’, and the digital tools and methods deployed in FLAG, were explored in the first two papers given by the project researchers.
The invitees then presented work-in-progress papers on their own work, covering aspects of medieval urban record keeping, and the interlinked themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’. An important goal of FLAG is to bring Scottish and German historiography into closer dialogue, and this was evident in the rich discussions that followed each paper. We were also treated to a display of Aberdeen council register volume one, by Phil Astley (City Archivist). Our hybrid format was a success, with the kind assistance of PhD student Ebba Strutzenbladh as facilitator. All participants followed the current measures for covid-19 mitigation. The programme outline follows below.
The meeting also allowed for some excursions around the formal planned sessions, including to Dunottar Castle, and Huntly Castle.
On 5 November the programme included the following sessions:
Welcome and introduction – Jörg Rogge (Mainz) and Jackson Armstrong (Aberdeen)
Wim Peters (Mainz) and William Hepburn (Aberdeen), Digital hermeneutics: methodology and first results from the Aberdeen ARO corpus
Regina Schäfer (Mainz), Talking about Law and Order in Augsburg
Amy Blakeway (St Andrews), War and the burghs, 1528–1550
Julia Bruch (Köln), Accounting Practices in Monasteries, Towns and Courts. Methodological Reflections
Elizabeth Gemmill (Oxford), The language of things: descriptions of objects and consumables in the burgh court records of late medieval Aberdeen
Jessica Bruns (Halle), Knowledge between pages. Book usage as a new form of administrative practice in late medieval Soest
Eliza Hartrich (UEA, Norwich), For the Comene Wele? Languages of Unity and Division in English and Irish Municipal Records, c. 1450-1500
Phil Astley (Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives) – viewing of Aberdeen Council Register volume from City Archives
On 6 November the programme included the following sessions:
Jens Klingner (ISGV, Dresden), Texts and transmission. City books and account books from late medieval Dresden
Andrew Simpson (Edinburgh), Brieves in the Burgh Records of Aberdeen, ca.1400-1500: Some Preliminary Thoughts
Christian Speer (Halle), Are town books reliable witnesses of the past? Critical considerations on the categories “note“, “transcript” and “fair copy” based on the Libri civitatis and Libri obligationum of Görlitz in the 14th and 15th century
The workshop was held in the Craig Suite at the Sir Duncan C. Rice Library, University of Aberdeen. The crisp November weather offered a sunny treat to participants, some of whom who also took up the kind offer of a visit to see the Kirk of St Nicholas.
Following the end of the workshop the sun came out for a visit to King’s College Chapel, and St Machar’s Cathedral, while others went to see the Dons lose to the Steelmen, before carrying on to hear Public Service Broadcasting play at the Music Hall!
With members of the current FLAG project, it will present the digital humanities work which is currently underway, investigating the ARO alongside a comparable digital resource from medieval Augsburg.
And, with Dr Claire Hawes, it will showcase creative responses to the themes and language in the ARO, in the form of contemporary song-writing and musical performance.
Claire will discuss the process by which she and Aberdeen-based musicians collaborated to write a set of songs which were performed at the Scottish Parliament in early 2020. These songs have now been recorded for the first time and they will be included in the session!
Last evening ‘Songs of Medieval Aberdeen’ went to Holyrood, for a reception, presentations and performance of the new music written by Dr Claire Hawes and Aberdeen-based musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan. The three were joined by percussionist Craig Spink.
L-R: Senior Vice Principal Karl Leydecker, Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Dr Claire Hawes, Lewis Macdonald MSP
The performance, held within the Scottish Parliament’s Garden Lobby, was hosted by Lewis Macdonald MSP and introduced by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP. Senior Vice-Principal Professor Karl Leydecker spoke on behalf of the University of Aberdeen which is celebrating its 525th anniversary this year.
City Archivist Phil Astley transported council register volumes seven and eight from Aberdeen to Parliament, so that they could be displayed for guests. The volumes were open to the pages containing the 1505 ‘aquavite’ entry, and the 1499 entry mentioning ‘brokin folkis’. The latter inspired the musicians to write a song with that title.
Dr Claire Hawes addressing guests
Fiona Hyslop MSP addressing guests
The performance involved a set of five songs, each introduced by Dr Hawes who explained the creative process behind their composition.
It was an exciting evening, demonstrating on a national stage the rich creative work that has been derived from the Aberdeen burgh records!
On the evening of 14 June a special event was held in the Town House to mark the completion of the Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers project.
L-R: Vice-Principal Professor Marion Campbell, Dr Andrew Simpson, Dr Edda Frankot, Dr William Hepburn, Lord Provost Barney Crockett, Dr Jackson Armstrong, Dr Claire Hawes, City Archivist Mr Phil Astley. Photo Credit: Norman Adams / Copyright Aberdeen City Council.
The eight earliest-surviving council register volumes were on display, and music and talks highlighted vignettes from the new resource created by this project, Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398–1511. Lord Provost Barney Crockett spoke on behalf of the City of Aberdeen, and Vice-Principal Professor Marion Campbell on behalf of the University of Aberdeen.
The event opened with a performance on recorder by Ruaraidh Wishart, Ed Friday, Kate Friday, and Marie McLean of a special composition entitled Fantasia for a Doric Fishman. The piece drew inspiration from the so-called ‘Fishman’, one of the most well-known decorations in the registers (see ARO-2-0102-01). Until recently moving to Abertay University, Ruaraidh Wishart was a senior archivist with the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives.
Short talks and highlights were given by LACR members, including Jackson Armstrong, Phil Astley, Edda Frankot, Andrew Simpson, and Claire Hawes. The evening also showcased some creative follow-on projects in response to the registers.
William Hepburn introduced Playing in the Archives, his Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Economies Engagement Fellowship, which investigates how Aberdeen’s registers could provide the inspiration for video game development. William explained how he is assessing the effectiveness of video games as a scholarly medium for examining the burgh records and the historical subjects they inform.
Claire Hawes and musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan performed four Songs from Medieval Aberdeen. Claire’s introduction to their music explained that their composition project was made possible with a 2018 Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council. The trio set out to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. These original songs were the result, inspired by stories and themes from the records, and the Scots language of the registers.
There was also a special cake, decorated by Aberdeen cake makers O’Caykx, which displayed some of the information about the words and languages of the registers in icing.
ARO Infographic Cake: Showing proportions of Latin and vernacular words in each register through the scrumptious medium of icing. Photo credit: Jackson Armstrong.
The cake icing depicted the proportion of words in each register in Latin (dark icing) and Scots (light icing). The small amount of orange marked in registers five and six reflects the appearance of a small amount of Dutch (or Middle Low German) in those volumes. The later registers have a greater proportion of content in Scots, and a greater number of words overall. It was a delicious way to mark the completion of the project!
Dr Claire Hawes has collaborated with musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. As part of the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival the trio performed today a set of original songs composed in response to the contents of the Aberdeen council registers.
The performance included an introduction by Claire into the nature of the collaboration, its steps and dialogues, and the question of how historians can contribute to the creative process. Claire, Davy and Paddy set out to answer the question by writing songs based on Aberdeen’s medieval town records. The introduction explained how the group encountered some expected differences between historical research and song writing, but also found some similarities.
The Songs from Medieval Aberdeen experiment was a success – resulting in composition of four songs, entitled Balingar, Kervel, Candilmas Time, The Brokin Folkis, and The Fisher Folk of Futy. Each song tells its own story from the Aberdeen registers, and was performed on guitar and bodhran with vocals in Scots. Claire’s introduction examined how the lyrics were crafted neither in Middle Scots nor Modern Scots (nor Doric), but still drew from the language of the registers.
A full audience in the Linklater Rooms at King’s College was given a special treat to hear these songs performed as a set for the first time. The trio said they were keen to record the songs when time allows!
The project was made possible with a Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council.
In 2017 I designed an event called ‘Who Killed David Dun?’ at the first Granite Noir festival. At the event I presented a fictional murder mystery narrative based on historical evidence from the Aberdeen Council Registers. The twist was that the narrative was a piece of fiction where audience choices, decided by majority vote, guided the story, a bit like the recent ‘Bandersnatch’ episode of Black Mirror on Netflix and sharing one of its sources of inspiration – the interactive adventure books of the 1980s and 1990s such as the Fighting Fantasy series.
The story was built using the interactive fiction tool Twine. However, the game was made in a bespoke fashion for a live setting and consisted of a framework of choices on Twine shown on a projector, a script of the all the narrative branches read by me as the audience progressed through the story and paper handouts for the audience containing extracts from the medieval Aberdeen Council Registers. I have now integrated these elements so that the story can be played on a computer or (hopefully!) mobile device. The only element of the original event not carried over is a series of transcription challenges the audience had to pass to progress the narrative.