Schwächewahrnehmungen und Stadtbucheditionen
City books (Stadtbücher) reflect the practice of urban law and are among the most important records for medieval German urban (legal) history. Since the 19th century, scholars have analysed them extensively and edited several such registers. Studying the intellectual history of three different editorial approaches to these records allows us to analyse the editors' underlying assumptions and the way they reconstructed the working of the law in the past. Fritz Rörig (1882 – 1952), an economic
... 2), an economic historian, viewed the Lübeck urban registers as sources for economic and constitutional history. Consequently, Rörig judged much of the material they contain as 'useless', contaminations which could not be ignored, but had to be presented as briefly as possible in tabular form. Editing the Cologne property registers ("Schreinsbücher") Hans Planitz (1882 – 1954), a legal historian interested in 'German Law' (Deutsches Recht), viewed these registers as records of legal practice which embodied (unwritten) Cologne law. Consequently, he omitted all material not suited to reconstructing that body of law. Wilhelm Ebel (1908 – 1980), a legal historian, was also selective in editing the verdicts of the Lübeck town council. In contrast to Planitz and Rörig, Ebel was convinced that legal practice was derived directly from normative law. Thus, it should be possible to analyse individual verdicts in order to reconstruct the substance of Lübeck law. An analysis of his edition, however, shows that Ebel failed to distinguish between edition and interpretation. If, as he believed, Lübeck law had been a coherent and stable body of law for 700 years, then it was necessary to mold the inchoate verdicts in the sources to fit the model and to nudge readers to reach the 'right' conclusions. All three editorial approaches were governed by the perception that their sources were not quite fit for purpose. These deficits could only be eliminated by selecting, calendering, abridging or visualizing the source material. In consequence, they overlooked the fact that these registers were based on day to day legal practice.