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In 1851, the Committee of the Moravian Estates (der Mährische Landesausschuss) decided to send an expert, the Benedictine scholar Beda Dudík, to Sweden in order to examine the literary treasures that had been taken from Moravia during the Thirty Years’ War.[1] During the Swedish journey, and after a long day at Uppsala University Library, Dudík wrote the following in his journal: “Upsala. Worked hard until exhaustion. Went through many manuscripts from the 13th century and from the 14th century. There are no Bohemica in the whole country. I am completely convinced of this.”[2] Time, however, would prove him wrong. What Dudík did not come across in Uppsala he eventually found among the printed books at libraries in Strängnäs, Västerås, Linköping, and Lund. He also located a number of Bohemian manuscripts at the Swedish Royal Library in Stockholm, some already known due to previous investigations. A few of them were later restituted to the Austrian government, an event I will describe at the conclusion of this article. After his Swedish sojourn, Dudík continued his mission by going through the manuscript collection of the Swedish Queen Christina, preserved at the Vatican Library in Rome. The following analysis examines the implications of Dudík’s inquiries in terms of tracing manuscripts of certain origins as well as proving their derivation.[3]

In book history, provenance refers to previous ownership.[4] However, this exact word—Provenienz in German—was not used by Dudík in his diary or notes, nor in the publications connected to his Swedish and Roman research sojourns.[5] Still, I argue that this case is an example of the scholarly practice that we today define as provenance research. I ultimately demonstrate that Dudík’s investigations illuminate provenance as a certain way of perceiving historical matter, and thus the past, in the nineteenth century. While the Moravian case might be less well known outside Central Europe, it is relevant in a wider context because of its implications for our understanding of the concept of provenance. Moravia (Mähren) was one of the Austrian crownlands and was thus subject to the Habsburg monarchy. This case illuminates just how crucial historical discovery could be to people of marginal lands. I will show that Moravian history was dependent on scholars locating historiographical sources in foreign collections, as Dudík was sent to do in Sweden and Rome. It was the past trauma of material loss during the Thirty Years’ War, in combination with the general social instability circa 1848 and Moravian scholars feeling that they had fallen behind their European peers, that made every single Moravian source valuable and important to track down.

While I deal exclusively with Moravian inquiries into provenance here, it should be emphasized that several scholars from the present‑day Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, and Germany have researched Swedish collections in order to locate plundered manuscripts of certain provenances.[6] This research has been done from the eighteenth century up to the present day, and over the centuries, the motives behind inquiries into provenance have shifted. Still, drawing on the particularities of the Moravian case, I will suggest some general conclusions regarding regionally motivated provenance research and the rise of this epistemic category in the nineteenth century. Methodologically speaking, I set out to combine some analytical strategies of book history with those of the history of historiography and the history of ideas and science. While it might seem obvious to examine manuscript research through the lens of book history, historians of historiography seldom view texts as objects and can therefore learn this perspective from book history.[7] I also do the reverse, by inflecting manuscript science with an understanding of nineteenth‑century source fetishization, a phenomenaon that is studied by historians of historiography and of ideas and science.

Analytical Premises: Manuscript Classification and Source Fetishization

The analytical premises of this article centre on classification, source fetishization, and scientificity around 1850. Leslie Howsam has defined book history as an “interdiscipline” that first and foremost offers a specific way of thinking about the past. Drawing on her own research of history books, she has argued that book history has the capacity to offer novel perspectives on historiography in particular “as a practice embedded in a book culture.”[8] Central to Howsam’s analytical viewpoint is that the book, in whatever physical shape it takes, is mutable and mobile, and that the agency for change lies not with technological innovation but rather with the actors who participate in book culture in different ways.[9] Following Howsam’s definition, I set out to trace manifestations of mutability in the case of provenance research that I analyze here—changes which were indeed caused by the mobility of books and scholars, past and present. I explore these changes through careful consideration of Dudík’s classifications and descriptions of manuscripts in Stockholm and Rome, which were primarily based on properties such as language and geographical origin.

By focusing on classification, my study follows a fundamental premise of library history as well as the history of ideas and science, which posits that classification reflects epistemological hierarchies and the ideological inclinations of the setting in which it came into being.[10] Practices of classification are not constant: their processes evolve over time and geographical location: while some elements of classification systems endure, others transform or are abandoned.[11] Lynn Nichols has recently defined provenance as “the total body of verifiable knowledge that can be attached to a particular object at a particular moment.”[12] It has also been argued that provenance should be understood as a process, determined through practices of authentication.[13] Drawing on these processual understandings of both classification and provenance, I understand the latter as a context‑dependent epistemic category that is determined through practices of classification. The making and interpretation of provenance is thus historically contingent, as are the objects it describes.[14]

Howsam emphasizes the individual agency of participants in print culture, but such agency can also be collective. By this, I mean that it is important to remember that Dudík’s enquiries in Stockholm and Rome were a commissioned enterprise, and as such should not be viewed as the result of one scholar’s personal passion or taste. Rather, the mission represented a strong general interest among Moravian politicians and scholars in recovering manuscripts and other sources of Moravian history. The Moravian desire for historical records is related to the new discipline of national history, and the nineteenth‑century fetishization of archives, libraries, and their objects among European scholars that has been analyzed by Bonnie G. Smith. The establishment of history as an empirical science in nineteenth‑century Europe is a well‑researched subject, as is the nationalization of the discipline.[15] Source collecting and source publications became important scholarly practices to scientific historiography, the most famous example being the Prussian Monumenta Germaniae Historica.[16] In her pioneering study of gender and the practices of scientific history, Smith has brought archive and source fetishization to the fore. She argues that this widespread phenomenon was caused by the threat of destruction posed to archives during the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic plundering campaigns. To nineteenth‑century professional historians like Leopold Ranke, archives became sites of contest and intrigue infused with passion and sex. Both historical accounts and fictional works of the period implied that pursuing archival records and rare books was an activity that could possibly entail unreasonableness, lunacy, and even perversion. Smith’s point, however, is that the language of obsession and fetishism in archival research contributed to the development of historical science just as much as the ideal of objectivity did.[17] Since Smith’s book, many historiographical studies have followed her example in focusing on archival practices,[18] but her observation of erotic metaphors and fetishism in historiography has seldom been recognized. It is likely that fetishistic or sexual expressions have been ignored simply because they are considered to be the opposite of rational science and at odds with the idea of discipline professionalization. In relation to book studies, Jessica Brantley has acknowledged that manuscript research often, and undesirably, has turned towards mere fetishization.[19] To understand the strong appeal of provenance in history, however, collective source fetishization is a fruitful avenue of investigation.[20]

As agency ultimately lies with those actors whose work, creativity, and knowledge shape book culture, I finally turn to Dudík, who produced the provenance research in question.[21] His expertise in manuscripts would today be considered codicological, but given the broadness of his research activities in general, it is productive to view them outside of disciplinary boundaries.[22] While previous scholarship dedicated to the new scientific history of the nineteenth century has proven that it was indebted to classical philology and Renaissance humanism, I will explore the reverse – how nineteenth-century philology was influenced by other and new scientific practices and ideals.[23] With this in view, I will address the details of Dudík’s research methodology, more precisely, his thorough dissection of historiographical specimens.

The Emergence of an Epistemic Category

In David Pearson’s manual on provenance research in book history, he rightly points out that interest in the previous ownership of books dates back to the early modern period.[24] Without denying that premodern collectors were interested in the histories of their possessions, I argue that there were several circumstances around the beginning of the nineteenth century that made provenance emerge in a novel manner. This growing attention to origin is indicated by the word “provenance” itself entering several Germanic languages during the course of the nineteenth century. The establishment of the word, together with the developments mentioned above—the geographical displacement of collections, the threat of their destruction, and most importantly, heritage becoming of public concern—are key factors that inform the following analysis.

Recent years have seen an increased interest in and problematization of the concept of provenance, and provenance research has even been declared a science in its own right.[25] Although provenance is a well‑established epistemic category within object‑oriented disciplines such as art and book history, there are some variations in what the concept entails. To the book historian, provenance is a question of previous ownership; to the art historian, it means proof of artistic authenticity; to the archaeologist and anthropologist, it offers context and chronology for object findings.[26] To archive institutions, the provenance principle has been fundamental since the nineteenth century, serving as the general order that archivists follow when organizing collections.[27] As previously stated, historiographical practice has been fully dependent on evidence in archives and libraries since the nineteenth century as well. Despite this, historians of historiography have, with a few exceptions, paid little attention to provenance and its effects on historical thought.[28]

The word provenance entered English in 1785. This occurred through the French provenir, meaning “the history of ownership of a valued object, or work of art or literature.”[29] Sophie Raux has observed that the earliest provenance indexes for paintings were published in France in the 1780s. She argues that the notion of provenance in relation to the art market ought to be connected with developments in collecting and promoting art during the late eighteenth century, as provenance could serve as a guarantee of originality.[30] Originally, provenir comes from the Latin verb provenire, which means “to come forward” or “to originate.” Provenir has been used in French since the early thirteenth century in the same sense as in Latin, and from the end of that same century to describe more specifically the origin of objects. During the early modern period, provenir came to be used in more of a legal context, in relation to goods and income. Around 1800, the word resurfaced in modern French to refer to the origin of an object.[31]Provenienz was established in German in the first half of the nineteenth century, initially referring to economic income and profit, thus echoing the French early modern use. From the 1850s onward—when Beda Dudík carried out his Swedish and Roman research—Provenienz was used to indicate the origin of valuable goods,[32] thus coinciding with the connotation of provenance in English and French. In Swedish, the word proveniens was only introduced as late as 1895.[33] Remarkably, its establishment was closely connected to research by foreign scholars like Dudík, who travelled abroad to locate items previously looted from their home countries.[34] Together with Swedish officials and scholars, foreign researchers defined early modern spoils of war as a specific category within collections.[35] In time, this introduced proveniens that later became an ordering principle in the Swedish archives.[36] When the chapter library in Strängnäs, Sweden, held a book duplet auction in 1765, the provenances of Prague and Olmütz (Olomouc) were promoted in the auction catalogue’s title.[37] The emphasis on origins was obviously a marketing strategy in this case, an attempt to attract foreign buyers. Also, this might be one of the earliest promotions of provenance in an auction catalogue in Europe.

Kristian Jensen has argued that French cultural plundering of the German lands caused a radical reinterpretation of incunabula, which in turn generated new interest by public institutions in both France and Britain in collecting early printed works. These works were not valued for the knowledge they contained but rather for the way they supported the narrative of history as progress and technological development. It is significant that public institutions felt an obligation to collect and preserve books of historical value, and to make what used to be an aristocratic privilege accessible to the public. These objects were also relatively cheap, as they were rejected by private collectors.[38]

So, how are the Napoleonic looting campaigns and the reinterpretation of incunabula connected to the concept of provenance? Most importantly, through the restitutions that followed the grand‑scale plundering of collections in the German and Italian lands, including the Pope’s archive and library at the Vatican. As shown by Bénédicte Savoy, these restitutions transformed the identity of the looted art. When returned to the places from which they had been taken, they were often deposited in newly established museums and regarded as national objects of public interest.[39] These national, collective acts of object interpretation and classification, which Savoy observed in the early 1800s, were an early expression of the nationalization of history and its collections that Europe underwent in the nineteenth century.[40] This new notion of ownership, where heritage went from being a private to a public matter, seems to be what caused the practice of provenance to emerge, and why it was eventually established as an epistemic category in archives, libraries, and museums.

Moravian History at Risk

In Habsburg Moravia, sources concerning the region’s history began to be mapped intensively in the 1830s.[41] The region’s first research archive, the MährischesLandesarchiv, was established in 1839. It was to be filled with historical records that had been preserved in different settings across the region: private archives as well as ecclesial institutions.[42] The archive’s initial chief archivist was also Moravia’s first official historiographer, Antonin Boček. Boček was extremely concerned about the state of Moravian historical scholarship. He argued that the region lacked both adequate sources and a decent historiographical tradition, especially compared to the neighboring region of Bohemia. For these reasons, Moravia was treated like terra incognita within European historiography.[43] During the dramatic year of 1848, uprisings in the Habsburg Empire pushed for independence, which directly affected historiography.[44] In Moravia, representatives of all classes came together in an advisory parliament, which agreed that preserving Moravian history was a central issue requiring urgent attention.[45] Simultaneously, a leading figure of the Czech nationalist movement—Frantisek Palacký, a Bohemian historian of Moravian origin—clearly saw Moravia as part of the Czech nation and thus did not acknowledge the idea of an independent Moravian past.[46] Moravian scholars and politicians were painfully aware that their history was at great risk: not only from a lack of scholarship and knowledge about the past but from the more violent threats of political turbulence and material destruction.

These circumstances set the scene for Dudík’s Swedish and Roman journeys. Boček had indeed brought attention in the past to the many sources on Moravian history that had been pilfered and dispersed, ending up in the archives of other nations and regions.[47] In 1850, new information was published in the Brünner Zeitung stating that as many as 7,000–8,000 volumes of printed books and manuscripts, along with other valuable objects plundered from Moravia and Bohemia, were still to be found in Sweden. The Committee of the Moravian Estates took interest in this, stating that the material in question had previously “belonged to the Moravian land.”[48] In other words, the Diet claimed that the plunder had once been Moravian property rather than the property of certain individuals or institutions, which had actually been the case. The Diet’s argument demonstrates the concept of heritage previously discussed in relation to the works of Jensen and Savoy: heritage as a matter of public interest.

Dudík was sent to Stockholm to investigate the veracity of these rumours, to map the location of the plundered objects, to judge their historical value, and to try to negotiate their return, or at least making them more available to non‑Swedish scholars.[49] It was also known that Queen Christina had taken valuable manuscripts with her when she left the Kingdom of Sweden after her abdication in 1654 to settle in Rome. Her book collection was eventually housed in the Vatican Library.[50] Consequently, Dudík was sent there in 1852 to complete the investigation that had started in Stockholm. For many reasons, Dudík was ideal for the task. Benedictine scholars were generally seen as experts in collecting, organizing, verifying, and copying historical sources.[51] His monastery, Raigern (Rajhrad), was highly regarded for its historiographical research, and Dudík had taught Slavic philology in Brünn and published several works, including an inventory and guide to the Moravian manuscript collection of J. P. Ceroni.[52]

The results of Dudík’s two journeys were documented in the publications Forschungen in Schweden für Mährens Geschichte (1852) and Iter Romanum 1–2 (1855). The two works follow basically the same pattern. As an introduction, Dudík describes his preparatory research on the subject, his journey to the libraries and archives, and his networking there. In other words, the beginning functions as a travel narrative in which Dudík contextualizes his research.[53] Then he describes the institutions at which he conducted his research, and their history. In the body of the work, Dudík carefully classifies and describes the manuscripts he found—39 works at the Royal Library in Stockholm and 64 in the Queen’s collection at the Vatican Library. His publications therefore functioned as catalogues of his findings. Both works ended with the reproduction of selected source texts that Dudík considered to be of particular interest to the public. The catalogue and source reproductions were important mediation tools, intended to help the reader understand the loss of what had once been coherent collections, recognize their scientific value, and peruse certain sources in full.[54]

The restitution of Napoleonic loot in the early nineteenth century had a somewhat unexpected impact, making European scholars more aware of cultural plundering in the past—for instance, during the Thirty Years’ War.[55] Beda Dudík refers to this at the beginning of Forschungen in Schweden. He stresses that Moravia in particular had suffered from destruction and looting throughout history, and therefore had few objects that could bear witness to the region’s rich scientific past.[56] It should be noted, however, that despite unrest in the region, and long before Dudík’s time, scholars had travelled from the Habsburg Empire to Sweden in search of artefacts taken as the spoils of war. From the end of the seventeenth century on, the repatriation of looted objects had been frequently attempted, with occasional success.[57] Locating the plunder was easier said than done, though, as Swedish officials seemed to have little knowledge about the specific content of the collections they managed. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, archives and libraries in Sweden were inventoried and reorganized, which meant that their curators became more aware of their content.[58] A fair number of Slavic manuscripts and printed books were recognized during this process; even so, they were not classified by their language or geographical provenance but rather by their subject.[59] At the Royal Library in Stockholm, for instance, the classification of manuscripts has basically remained unchanged since the eighteenth century, when Slavic languages were not considered a distinct category.[60]

Two significant Bohemian scholars who preceded Dudík should be mentioned: Slavic philologist Josef Dobrovský, who travelled to Sweden on his way to Russia in 1792;[61] and medical doctor Josef Pečirka, who visited the Royal Library in Stockholm just a year before Dudík.[62] Dobrovský was driven by Bohemian Landespatriotismus, or region‑based patriotism. While his research did confirm the existence of Slavic manuscripts in Sweden, the results did not meet the high expectations of many Bohemian intellectuals.[63] Myths about seventeenth‑century plunder and its staggering amounts are a common feature in the history of these particular objects.[64] Dudík’s research also illustrates this: he visited the former Swedish town of Stralsund on his way back to Moravia, only to conclude that a rumour claiming that there were still unpacked chests filled with plunder waiting there was false.[65] Consequently, the Committee of the Moravian Estates was influenced by both recent and past events when financing Dudík’s journey, and this time the expectations were high: would thousands of misplaced Moravian treasures finally be retrieved?

Uncovering the Bohemian Language in Stockholm

Beda Dudík arrived in Stockholm on June 1, 1851, and spent four months in Sweden, locating historical objects of all kinds. From the outset, he stated that it was the Royal Library and the Swedish National Archives that were his main “objects of desire” and, in the end, the collections in Stockholm proved to be the most important ones.[66] But he also consulted other collections, such as the chapter libraries of Västerås and Strängnäs, Skokloster Castle, and Uppsala University Library. Besides manuscripts and books, he examined coins, furniture, paintings, and statues. This means that his inquiries into provenance combined historiographic, philological, and antiquarian research, an interdisciplinary approach that is also noticeable in his treatment of the manuscripts.[67] It was the manuscripts at the Royal Library to which Dudík gave most of his attention and praise, which is why I have chosen to focus on his work with them.

Dudík was introduced by Royal Librarian Adolf Iwar Arvidsson to the collections at the Royal Library, which at the time of his visit was located in one of the grand rooms of the Royal Palace in Stockholm.[68] The manuscript collection held 4,000 items at the time, while printed books amounted to over 90,000 volumes.[69] Notably, several Swedish officials offered Dudík guidance during his stay, and he was allowed to take manuscripts from the Royal Library back to his rented flat, which allowed him to extend his workdays.[70] Most importantly, he became friends and collaborated with library assistant Gustav Edward Klemming, who later became Royal Librarian, and they maintained contact until Dudík died in 1890.[71] Dudík also met with members of the royal family on several occasions, who officially supported his mission.[72] Overall, his research seems to have been accepted, even welcomed, by most of his Swedish colleagues, and accessing the collections was not an issue.

At the Royal Library, Dudík focused primarily on language: he located, classified, and described in detail a total of 39 sources based on language.[73] It was here that he found manuscripts he identified as “Bohemian,” and I will eventually return to what “Bohemian” signified, although he did locate Bohemian print books at other Swedish libraries, despite what he believed when he was in Uppsala.[74] Dudík made the Bohemian manuscripts the superior category “a” of his source catalogue in Forschungen in Schweden. Category “a” consisted of 21 items, which he further divided into subcategories: theology (nine), history (six), medicine (three), and miscellanea (three). This categorization follows a traditional and well‑established pattern within European libraries whereby theology usually comes first.[75] Category “b” was comprised of Latin manuscripts with Bohemian words or lines, and consisted of three volumes. Category “c” consisted of Latin manuscripts, five items in eight volumes, while category “d” indicated Italian documents (one), and, lastly, category “e” signified manuscripts written in German (nine).

Looking more closely at Dudík’s work with the first 21 items of Bohemian manuscripts, it is clear that he focused on their value as both linguistic and historical sources, since he also recorded the individual history of the manuscripts when possible. He gave samples of the language in almost every case, commented on the legibility of the script, and assessed the value of the manuscript’s source. For instance, he claimed that Items 7 and 21 had neither historical nor linguistic value, while Item 20 had little historical value.[76] Even though the first 21 items were classified as Bohemian, they were not always entirely written in that language.[77] And most interestingly, when describing an important historical chronical, Dudík pointed out a passage that was “most likely” written in Bohemian when the scribe had mixed Latin and the vernacular.[78] This illustrates that languages have a tendency to intermingle, and are not entirely easy to delimit into discrete categories. Eventually, I will show that the same applies to provenance.

It is noteworthy that Dudík listed the German manuscripts at the end of his publication, even though there were nine of them, outnumbering the preceding Italian documents which only comprised one entry, or the Latin manuscripts, of which there were only five.[79] At the time, German was the scientific language of the Habsburg lands, and Dudík even wrote his diary in German. But this language was also strongly mistrusted within the Bohemia‑centred Czech nationalist movement.[80] While Moravia did not experience the same divide between its German ‑ and Slavic ‑ speaking populations, the Bohemian manuscripts were still solid evidence of a learned Moravian culture pre‑Habsburg rule, and Dudík continuously referred to them as “treasures.”[81] What “Bohemian” was, then, is more complicated than it might seem. Dudík used the term when referring to texts that had (mainly) been written in medieval Czech. However, at this point in history, Czech was not fully established as a term or as an official language in either Bohemia or Moravia. Moravia’s Slavic language was known as Moravian or Moravian Slavic. When the crownlands came under Habsburg rule in 1526, chancery Bohemian/Czech gradually disappeared from the public sphere, moving instead into the private life of the area’s inhabitants. It was Joseph Dobrovský’s research that began the re‑establishment and standardization of Czech, but the language was still only partly integrated with everyday life.[82] This was also reflected in the fact that Bohemian scholars and administrators were not certain whether to call their language Bohemian or Czech.[83]

Considering the important part language played in nationalistic thinking, as the medium that gave a nation its unique character, Dudík’s attention to and hierarchical division of languages is not surprising.[84] Language was moreover an important property in determining a manuscript’s origin, serving as solid proof of provenance when owner’s notes or other identifying features were lacking.[85] And the existence of material in Slavic languages had been confirmed beforehand by Swedish librarians and other researchers from the Habsburg realm. Dudík’s work even further highlighted the great historical value and appeal of the Bohemian manuscripts and printed texts. In the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, he suggests that the Bohemian prints he had located at the libraries of Västerås, Strängnäs, Linköping, and Lund be moved to the Royal Library in Stockholm. Together with the Bohemian manuscripts there, they would form a specific scientific collection based on their language and geographical origin. Not only would this make them more accessible and bring much joy to Dudík and his countrymen, he argued, but the collection would also testify to Sweden’s glorious past.[86] This idea was never realized, but as I discuss below, many years later the first 21 Bohemian manuscripts that Dudík had classified in the Royal Library were donated to the Austrian government.

Unraveling Moravian History in Rome

I now move from Dudík’s classification of Bohemian manuscripts and printed texts in Sweden to his work with Queen Christina’s manuscripts in the Vatican Library. Dudík arrived in Rome in October of 1852 and stayed for eight months, eventually publishing his findings in the two‑part work Iter Romanum (1855). During this journey, he contributed to a vital scholarly tradition among historians in which both sacred and profane scholars, Catholics as well as Protestants, were drawn to and sought to work with the collections of Rome.[87] Conducting research in Rome, however, proved to be more difficult than in Stockholm, where several librarians and archivists gladly facilitated Dudík’s work and his friendship with Klemming turned into a lifelong correspondence. No similar aid was forthcoming in Rome, even though Dudík was also well‑connected there, primarily through his host Count Robert Lichnovský, the Honorary Prelate of His Holiness. Although Lichnovský offered him access to his network, Dudík openly complained that his research had suffered due to the restricted opening hours of the Roman collections. He was also annoyed at the Roman archivists’ and librarians’ suspicion of foreign scholars. At the same time, however, he claimed to understand this, also having witnessed and been disturbed by the carelessness with which many researchers treated the treasures of Rome.[88]

Dudík began his work with Christina’s manuscripts in 1853. At this point, the Vatican Library was open to scholars 94 days a year, between 9 a.m. and noon, which explains why Dudík could not start his research there earlier.[89] The nineteenth century began turbulently for the Vatican Library and other papal collections, due to Napoleonic looting. This upheaval was followed by a long period of reconstruction and reorganization, which was still underway when Dudík visited. It was not until the end of the century that the library was organized and opened with the intention of serving scholars.[90] Unlike the Royal Library in Stockholm, the Vatican Library respected the previous ownership of its acquisitions in several cases, and Queen Christina’s codices were, and still are, stored together in the so‑called Bibliotheca Reginae.[91] Dudík carefully described the history of the collection and its placement in the library: the manuscripts were arranged according to format, standing in 16 chests, each the size of a man. The chests held four rows of manuscripts each, and were placed in a sumptuous corridor that faced the first hall of the library itself. In Dudík’s search for Moravian sources, he examined every manuscript in these chests – 2,322 manuscripts – and admitted that it had indeed been an exhausting task.[92]

Just as he had done in Stockholm, Dudík recorded the individual history of each manuscript, described its material properties, and judged its source value when summarizing his results. Compared to his Stockholm work, though, there was a difference in his system of classification. In Rome, the key to Dudík’s catalogue was geographical provenance, as he organized the manuscripts based on where they had been taken from. Manuscripts with the Moravian provenances of Nikolsburg (Mikulov) and Olmütz (Olomouc), looted in 1645 and 1642 respectively, were described first, 10 and eight items respectively, followed by manuscripts taken from the Bohemian capital of Prague in 1648, of which he noted 10 items. He asked whether the manuscript was of assured Moravian or Bohemian origin, or if it was merely likely that it was Moravian or Bohemian, or if it was a source that could serve Moravian‑Bohemian history, regardless of its origin. He concluded that 28 items were of certain Moravian or Bohemian origin, 19 were likely, and 17 could serve the regions’ histories.[93]

Consequently, while Dudík’s research in Stockholm and Rome was part of the same mission, he chose different approaches when classifying and evaluating the manuscripts at the Royal Library and at the Vatican. How, then, can the shift from language to geographical origins be understood? The most obvious explanation lies in the fact that, to some extent, the different collections contained different kinds of manuscripts. It was expected that Dudík would find Bohemian manuscripts in Stockholm, but at the Vatican Library he only came across two; here, Latin manuscripts were in the majority.[94] Thus, in Rome geographic provenances were taken as the most obvious proof of a manuscript’s origin.

Still, Dudík distinguished Moravian from Bohemian history more explicitly in his Roman work, even if some of the sources he examined illustrated the opposite: that Bohemian and Moravian histories were intertwined through the manuscripts’ provenance history. For instance, a gospel that had once belonged to the Bohemian Saint Wenceslaus, discussed below, had been taken by Swedish commanders from the Moravian town of Nikolsburg, and the same had likely happened with a journal of the Bohemian Baron Waldstein. While Dudík indeed acknowledged in Iter Romanum that Moravia and Bohemia shared a history, it was always Moravia that was mentioned first, as finding Moravian sources was Dudík’s mission and main concern. In neither Iter Romanum nor Forschungen in Schweden did Dudík explicitly comment on the historiographical competition between Bohemia and Moravia that Antonin Boček foregrounded in his work. Nonetheless, it was the reason why the Committee of the Moravian Estates sent him abroad in the first place, and thus it implicitly affected his research. While Bohemian nationalism that also encompassed Moravia had taken an ethnic turn in the 1820s, the Landespatriotismus of the late eighteenth century still made sense to most Moravian intellectuals. Its foundations were reliant on the actual geographical Moravian land, but also on the region’s ancient Catholic heritage.[95] When Dudík became Moravia’s official historiographer in 1859, he strictly adhered to Moravian Landespatriotismus in his national history Mährens allgemeine Geschichte, published in 12 volumes between 1860 and 1888. This choice has rightly been interpreted as a sign of his conservativeness.[96] It should be stressed. however, that this approach also preserved Moravian integrity in relation to Bohemia and within the Habsburg realm. According to Dudík, Moravia’s historical fate was unfortunate. He even described Moravia as being booty itself, taken by its surrounding neighbors—Bohemia included—during the period 906–1029.[97]

Dissecting the Giant

I will now return to Stockholm in 1851 and delve deeper into Dudík’s research method by considering his work with a certain Latin manuscript of great significance to him, and the crown jewel of the Royal Library, as it still is today. The spectacular Codex Gigas, also known as the Devil’s Bible and once considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World, was the object Dudík dedicated the most attention to in Forschungen in Schweden—more than 27 pages. Measuring 890 by 490 millimeters and weighing 75 kilograms, this huge codex was said to have been written by a monk imprisoned for his sins. According to legend, he got the devil to help him, and the work was done in a single night. Considering the Gigas’s grand format and mysterious origin, it must have been ideal loot for the Swedish officers when Prague was invaded in 1648. The manuscript was then kept together with Emperor Rudolf II’s collection of Naturalia, holding mainly minerals and gemstones. This somewhat peculiar placement underlines the work’s exceptional status as a curiosity and far more than a bible.[98]

At the beginning of his description of the Gigas, Dudík argued that an accurate account of such a complicated item had to be based on a thorough physical examination of the manuscript. He referred to this as “an autopsy,” literally meaning exploring an object with one’s own eyes.[99] In nineteenth‑century German, the word was commonly used as we know it today—relating to the examination of a dead body.[100] Interestingly, though, the term was also employed by mid‑nineteenth‑century German archaeologists to signify the art of seeing, or in other words, seeing as a research practice.[101] It has been noted that the development of German archaeology was heavily influenced by philological method, meaning that objects were treated as texts.[102] Of relevance here is Dudík’s engagement with several disciplines, including archaeology, as it affected his method as well as his use of metaphors, which were often archaeological and geological allegories.[103] Besides history, his more than 90 publications also covered archaeology and statistics, and he taught the natural sciences at the gymnasium in Brünn.[104] Consequently, an actor in the cultural sphere like Dudík makes disciplinary boundaries less relevant, as he did not take them into account.[105]

Through Dudík’s dissection of the Gigas, then, he set out to challenge earlier interpretations of it and its history by Dobrovský and Pečirka, among others. Determining the codex’s exact age (created sometime between 1204 and 1230) and refuting the legend of the imprisoned monk were important issues for Dudík to address through his autopsy. He gives an exact account of the book’s content, which is comprised of a full bible along with historical and medical texts. The most important of these are the first history of Bohemia written by Cosmas from Prague, a calendar that mixes the commemoration dates of saints with those of important Bohemian noblemen, and finally, the monastic rules of St. Benedict, which had largely been cut out of the volume.[106] It seems to have been secondary to Dudík that the Gigas had once belonged to Rudolf II, or that in Cosmas’s chronicle it contained an essential source for Bohemian history. Instead, he treasured the bible primarily because it had once belonged to the Benedictine monastery Břevnov in Prague, and this is what he chose to highlight in his account of the Gigas’s history. Dudík’s interest in Břevnov’s ownership of the bible is apparent both in his description of the tome, and also in his physical interaction with it; his autopsy was not just about exploring with his eyes. At the very end of the codex, a few readers and scholars have made brief entries at later dates. For instance, Josef Pečirka wrote that he ended his examination of the Gigas on September 21, 1850. Pečirka’s entry is quoted by Dudík in his description from 1851, as Dudík set out to make a complete account of the book and thus included its later additions.[107] What he did not record in his account, however, was that he himself made an entry in the Gigas, saying he had examined it and emphasizing that the object had once belonged to his “mother,” referring to the monastery Břevnov.[108] Through this entry, Dudík made himself a part of the codex’s history. By physically transforming the object, he added a new layer of time and place to the giant’s materiality and provenance that highlighted its monastic meaning. To Dudík, this was truly a Benedictine object, which overshadowed everything else in its long history. During his Swedish and Roman journeys, this was Dudík’s most intense interaction with a source object, and it was also a moment when his Benedictine identity clearly guided his scientific pursuits.

There was no manuscript in Queen Christina’s collection that Dudík studies with the same kind of attention as he had the Codex Gigas in Stockholm.[109] This was certainly an effect of the limited opening hours; Dudík must have examined an average of 25 manuscripts per three‑hour workday at the Vatican. Still, there was a handful of manuscripts that seem to have interested him more than others. The first number, Quatuor Evangelia cum argumentis capitulorum et Capitulare, contained the four gospels, and had been taken from Moravian Nikolsburg. According to its provenance note, the manuscript had once belonged to Saint Wenceslaus, a Bohemian duke who was murdered in 935. In Dudík’s examination of this codex, he focused first on the script, punctuation, initials, and tint in order to prove that the object was in fact from the tenth century, and therefore could have been in the possession of Wenceslaus. The manuscript’s sacred origin even prompted Dudík to describe it as a relic.[110] He also paid a fair amount of attention to two manuscripts of uncertain origin, as he regarded them to be highly valuable historiographical sources. The first was the Old Testament written in the Bohemian language, and the other was the journal of Bohemian Baron Waldstein, written in Latin.[111] Interestingly, Dudík did not dare claim that the Old Testament was of certain Moravian or Bohemian origin, despite its language and plentiful circumstantial evidence. Just as he had done with Wenceslaus’s gospel, he considered the characteristics of the script to be important in suggesting the manuscript’s origin, as were its ornate illustrations.[112] In the case of Waldstein’s diary, Dudík’s inventory in the Mährisches Landesarchiv shows that he definitely thought it to be of Moravian origin.[113] Nevertheless, he chose to be more cautious with his assertions in Iter Romanum.

Looking at Dudík’s Swedish and Roman research in relation to the nineteenth‑century source fetishization that Bonnie Smith has brought to the fore, there are, unsurprisingly, no erotic metaphors in Dudík’s accounts, but there are some signs of fetishistic discourse. The tone of Dudík’s publications is one of enchanted reverence, expressing a mixture of passionate patriotism and object desire. We must recall that all the Moravian objects he described were true treasures to him and to his audience. Scientific accuracy and classification, however, are what guide his hands‑on work with the manuscripts. Somewhat surprisingly, Dudík’s diaries for the years 1851 to 1852 hold quite limited information about his research and interactions with the manuscripts and other objects; the focus is more on his networking and sightseeing experiences, as well as religious matters.[114] Compared with Smith’s observation of modern historians’ archive fetishization and erotic metaphors, which were mainly expressed in private correspondence, Dudík was more passionate in his official writings than he was in private.[115] This concurs with the phenomenon of source fetishization being an integrated part of scientific discourse, just as Smith has argued. In the Moravian case, it could be interesting to examine whether this was intended as a way to attract readers. Regardless, Smith has shown that collective source fetishization should be taken seriously. The Moravian Committee of the Estates as well as the politicians and intellectuals in Moravia all desired source objects due to their provenance; this is unquestionable.

Provenance Mutability

With the lengthy Bohemian‑Moravian historiographical tension in mind, I turn to the restitution of the Bohemian manuscripts held at the Royal Library in Stockholm with which I began this article. A bit surprisingly, perhaps, most Swedish officials seem to have been of the opinion that these manuscripts were of little value to Swedish collections, and some librarians were even eager to sell them off.[116] In 1878, after years of informal negotiations between Dudík and Klemming, the first 21 Bohemian manuscripts described in Forschungen in Schweden were donated to the Austrian government by the Swedish King.[117] Remarkably, in 1731, when the famous Benedictine scholar Bernhard Pez made a request for the restitution of materials purloined from the Habsburg lands, Swedish officials described the manuscripts as having been taken from Austrian monasteries and thus were sources regarding Austrian history.[118] Building on the work of Dobrovský and Pečirka, Dudík later classified 21 manuscripts in the Royal Library as Bohemian, it was their linguistic classification that turned them into a brand new epistemic category within the Royal Library’s collections. Herein lies an important transformation of the looted objects, as, through Dudík’s work and especially his article in Aftonbladet, they officially became both Bohemian manuscripts and Swedish spoils.[119] Many of the Bohemian manuscripts restituted in 1878 were also of geographical Bohemian provenance, as at least 14 of them had been (or had likely been) taken from Prague.[120] Another significant epistemic twist followed this restitution: thanks to the Austrian emperor, all the Bohemian manuscripts ended up in the Mährisches Landesarchiv, and this move defined their new identity. The manuscripts that Dudík had defined as Bohemian in 1851 based on language became Moravian in 1878 based on location and new ownership.

Dudík’s classification of sources as Bohemian in Stockholm and of certain Moravian and Bohemian origins in Rome conflicted with the way they were classified in each of the institutions where he conducted his provenance research. The Royal Library in Stockholm did not acknowledge Slavic languages in its organization, and Queen Christina’s manuscripts in the Vatican were kept together in order to evoke the memory and ownership of the former regent, with no consideration of Moravian or Bohemian history. In the end, Dudík certainly could not account for the 7,000–8,000 volumes of printed books and manuscripts he had initially been sent to Sweden to find. Instead, through his discoveries in the Royal Library and the Vatican, his classifications and dissecting analyses of manuscripts generated objects of Moravian and Bohemian historical knowledge that, despite their age, were entirely new. He indeed studied the same manuscripts that had once been abducted from collections in Moravia and Bohemia, yet after centuries of displacement, geopolitical changes, and scholarly developments, they were no longer the same.

Conclusions: Provenance and Moravian Provenance Research

This article has examined provenance and its research as a certain way of perceiving the past in the nineteenth century. I have argued that thinking about history through provenance became increasingly common in Europe in this period, which is apparent in the nationalization of heritage and its systems of classification, in the organization of archives, and, not least, in provenance research. Enquiries into provenance were an effect of heritage becoming a public matter and being collectively fetishized. The Moravian case that I have focused on here illustrates that the history of this region did not exist in an abstract world of thought but was rather dependent on objects kept in foreign collections. Uncovering them was therefore an urgent issue. In sum, the activities of Moravian political and scholarly actors demonstrates that historical thought was always materially vulnerable, and that this vulnerability is far from fully explored.

Leslie Howsam has argued that the history of historiography can learn from book history, by considering historiographical practice through the lens of book culture. An important premise of book history is that text objects are always mutable. Applying this premise offers useful insight into Beda Dudík’s provenance research in Sweden and Rome. Dudík’s classifications and descriptions indeed gave new meaning and value to manuscripts well‑hidden by the organization and cataloguing schemes of Swedish and Papal institutions. The provenance of the Bohemian manuscripts in Stockholm changed on several occasions, from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, due to relocation and different classification practices. Dudík’s research of the Moravian treasures was part of a wider scholarly culture that collectively fetishized heritage. Since many studies of nineteenth‑century historiography have been occupied with the professionalization of the discipline, it is essential to bring in other perspectives. This has been done by Bonnie G. Smith, who has shown that archival fantasies were an important part of scientific creativity. Dudík’s scholarly endeavour reveals another outlook, as it illuminates scientific versatility. Different types of scholarly activity and exchange, then, deserve further attention and might offer a productive way to think about nineteenth‑century scholarship in general.

If a new awareness of provenance emerged largely due to increasing interest in national history, one might wonder about the relevance of an inferior region like Moravia, that never became an independent nation. I suggest that it is precisely regions that might appear to be marginal and peripheral from a contemporary Western point of view that can add key elements to our understanding of provenance in history. As my introduction points out, several scholars from the present‑day Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, and Germany have consulted Swedish collections in search of early modern spoils of certain provenances. In my current research project, I investigate provenance researchers of other marginalized historical regions––Livonia and East Prussia––in order to compare them with the Moravian case.

To conclude, for a disregarded land like Moravia, inquiries into provenance were important to assert historical existence. Although the word provenance is conspicuous in its absence from Dudík’s work, his mission stresses that the Committee of the Moravian Estates used provenance research as a form of resistance: against the Czech national project that claimed Moravian history, and in order to manifest Moravia on the European historiographical map.