News | 20. Jan. 2021

"I like editing" – a conversation with Katharina Gutermuth

Katharina Gutermuth, who celebrates her 40th birthday this year, studied Auxiliary Sciences of History in Munich with Prof. Dr. Walter Koch. In 2020, her academic achievements won her two prizes, the Michael Doeberl Prize of the Society of Munich Regional Historians and the Academy Prize of the Karl Thiemig Foundation. Gutermuth has been working on an edition of the charters of Frederick II since 2004, first as a student assistant and since 2015 as a research associate. Successive volumes of this edition, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, appear regularly in the MGH-Diplomata series. During Corona, Gutermuth juggles home office and home schooling for her 9-year-old son.

How did you come to edit medieval sources?

I stumbled across the “Auxiliary Sciences of History " by accident in a list of courses of study. I was intrigued, here was a subject with content that sounded really interesting! After I met with the chair directly I signed up for the program. After only two weeks I was allowed to work as an assistant and gained experience with the different areas of editing, all of which “came together” in the department under Prof. Dr. Walter Koch. I edited my first medieval charter in my first semester as part of the proseminar, and in 2005 I edited my charter of Frederick II as a seminar paper.

What is your core task in the Frederick II edition project?

I compile the prior editions and registers and am responsible for the bibliography. For the 6th volume of the edition, which is currently in press, I proofed the collation of individual charters, compiled lists of predecessor documents, and put together accounts of the historical context. For a few missing pieces I went to archives myself and did the collation on site.

On which topic did you do your doctorate?

I edited the Traditionsbuch of Obermünster Abbey in Regensburg, which will be published as part of the series Quellen und Erörterungen zur Bayerischen Geschichte (“Sources and Commentary on Bavarian History”). In addition to the critical edition of individual entries, including codicological, palaeographic, and research into social and legal history, I was primarily interested in telling the history of people who lived many centuries ago. I succeeded in gaining new knowledge about well-known people from the entries, for example about the counts of Ebersberg, the cathedral advocates of Regensburg, about the counts of Bogen and thus ultimately also about the Wittelsbach dynasty.

You have been editing documents for more than 15 years - what does this work mean to you?

I like editing. The many different kinds of work it involves, not to mention the sources themselves. For example, my Traditionsbuch, a codex more than 850 years old; or Frederick’s charters, documents that were drawn up in the imperial chancellery under the auspices of a personality who fascinates and polarizes to this day. I am one of the few people who gets to see the originals! And the textual traditions themselves are exciting. To uncover and research them in such a way that anyone interested can understand them, is simply wonderful! It sometimes takes a lot of time and brain cells to find manuscripts and even early printings. When you succeed, it’s all the more beautiful. Editing charters is simply my favourite activity.

The interview with award winner Katharina Gutermuth was conducted by Annette Marquard-Mois.