Introducing: Maciej Mikuła
23. Juni 2017
Dear Dr. Mikuła, welcome to Frankfurt and to our Institute! You have been at the MPIeR for two months now. Is this your first time in Germany?
M. Mikuła: I have been to Germany several times (for holidays, a language course, visiting the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Leipzig). My first time at the MPIeR was for the Summer School in 2007, where I met Prof. Stolleis and Dr. Mohnhaupt, with whom I’m still in touch.
Can you tell us something about your research project?
M. Mikuła: My research is about ‘Law and the Invention of Printing. Towards a Modern Legal Culture’. The research is designed to determine to what extent the invention of printing, within a broad cultural framework, represented a substantial and universal turning point in legal history – one that is significant beyond the histories of specific communities and countries.
Since not even the painstaking manual copying of manuscripts in medieval scriptoria could guarantee that the text copied conformed exactly to its exemplar, there can be no talk of the standardisation of legal texts in the Middle Ages. Variation was not only the result of the fallibility of the scribe, but included, among other things, the tendency to add to legal texts certain supplements that were called extravagantes, as well as the tendency to deliberately modify the text in a way that it conformed to the interests of those whom the copyist was dependent on. These practices imparted an elasticity to the law that facilitated adaptation to local custom. Moreover, these modifications could play a role as instruments in the transfer and adaption of a foreign law into new circumstances.
These phenomena are, above all, being analysed on the basis of the so-called Magdeburger Weichbildrecht — which is to the present-day still in force in certain territories in several countries belonging to Central-Eastern Europe. The texts are written in German, Latin, Polish and Czech. The Latin (and also a few German) texts are the most important for the research, because they were in use in the Kingdom of Poland – manuscripts and old prints from 1505 and 1535.
How have you benefited from your research stay at the MPIeR?
M. Mikuła: On the one hand, the library is great. The access to the professional multi-language literature (“Standing on the shoulders of giants”, Bernard of Chartres) is remarkable. On the other, the Research Focus Area Translation: My research requires studies on translations from German into Latin. Discussions about the theory of translation, especially with Dr. Jean-Philippe Dequen, have produced many valuable insights.
And last but not least, the events are interesting: For me the most important event in which I took part was the workshop “Philology and Digital Humanities: Old Questions and New Approaches for Working with Texts”, which was organised by Dr. Manuela Bragagnolo and Dr. Andreas Wagner in May. The presentations regarding the possibilities of using IT-tools in the humanities and the broad discussion concerned issues that are important for my project – i.e., comparisons of different copies of the same legal text. I also attended the Jour Fixe “HyperMachiavel. First results of a comparison tool between the first edition of The Prince and its French translations of the XVIth century” with Séverine Gedzelman (CNRS, UMR Triangle) and Jean-Claude Zancarini (ENS de Lyon, UMR Triangle).
A final personal question: What was the last book you read in your free time that you would recommend?
M. Mikuła: Jaume Cabré's novel Confessions and Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose