The object of this project’s research is the Latin and German inscriptions from the early Middle Ages until 1650 within the German linguistic sphere. As historical textual evidence, inscriptions are most prominently of interest as they are often very much authentically preserved in their original historical context. For the period in question, these texts on stone, wood, gold, silver, bronze, and glass, and also on textiles and leather serve as a considerable supplement to the manuscript and printed transmission on paper or parchment. The majority of the inscriptions distinguish themselves from these latter sources though a broader and longer-lasting public impact inherent in their conception and execution, this pertaining, for example, to inscriptions on funerary monuments, bells, houses and church furnishings such as altars, reliquaries, chalices, offertory boxes, pulpits, or fonts.
Central to the academic edition, which not only includes those inscriptions intact today, but also those presently lost but preserved in earlier copies or photographs, is the precise reproduction of these often difficult to decipher texts. Connected with this is the documentation of these often art historically significant inscription-carriers, and a description of their original locations. Ideally a complex understanding of text and object in time and space should develop from this. Not only all foreign language texts, but also those from earlier linguistic stages in German’s development will be translated; diverse problems posed by the inscriptions and their carriers are discussed in the commentary. In addition to the presentation of texts, a vital task of the project is to make accessible material in the interest of inscription palaeography, with the assistance of which dating or workshop contexts might be reconstructed by means of respective letter forms.
Since 2012, this project operates according to a newly orientated conceptualisation. For Germany, this is aimed at developing a corpus of sources aligned towards certain thematic-contextual emphases (such as imperial cities, residences, and monastic landscapes), thus rendering accessible the cultural heritage preserved within inscriptions in a representative assortment.
The volumes of the series “Die deutschen Inschriften” (“The German Inscriptions”) offers not only an important source for academics from all historical disciplines, but also an engaging read for laymen interested in history. Since 2009, more than 40 volumes and special publications are also digitally accessible on Deutsche Inschriften Online in a constantly actualised edition expanded by means of many images and addenda and corrigenda.
The editing of the inscriptions serves as a joint venture between the German Academies of Science and the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. As of yet, more than 100 volumes have resulted from the work of the sum of these research positions.