“A matter that may seeme incredible to the understanding of many men, yet most certainly verified by experience. By virtue of this arte are communicated to the publike viewe of the Worlde the monuments of all learned authors that are set abroach out of the sacred treasurie of antiquity, and being now freed from that Cimmerian darknesse wherin they lurked for the space of many hundred yeares, and where they did cum tineis ac blattis rixari, to the great prejudice of the common weale of learning, but especially of God’s church, are divulged the common light, and that to the infinite utility of all lovers of the Muses and professours of learning. By this arte all the liberall sciences are now brought to full ripeness and perfection. Had not this art bene invented by the divine providence of God, it was to be feared lest the true studies of all disciplines both divine & humane would have suffered a kind of shipwrack and have bene halfe extinct before this age wherein we breathe. I would to God we would use this great benefite of our gracious God (as a learned author saith) not to the obscuration but the illustration of Gods glory, not to dis-joine but rather to conjoine the members of Christes militant Church here on earth.”
Thomas got printing in Mainz, there’s no doubt of that. There is an argument that says printing created the Reformation, helped to promulgate its “framework.” I’m really struck here in Mainz about the relationship of printing, especially those early printing centres that emerge in the later fifteenth century and onwards to Tom’s time in the early years of the seventeenth, to the “River”. Especially the Rhine. Strasbourg, Basel, Zurich, Mainz – and Frankfurt just a barge away up the Main – are all deeply constructed around the River as information highway, surely? This is for more thought, in colder, bookier, climes. AKA London.
Baby Photographer One told me about her previous job, house photographer on cruise lines, navigating the world with rich, older, guests. It was hard work: wherever in the world they landed her job was to capture the myriad being happy – and photogenic – in front of, well, the pyramids, the Bob Marley museum, the skyscrapers of Dubai. Photos all day, developing at night. I tell the baby photographers about The Venetian hotel in Vegas; they tell me about the security guards that follow into the toilets in the hotels on the Emirates, because the taps to flush are pure gold. “I’d rather have the smell of real Venice,” Baby Photographer 2 says. “Although, I like casinos, as long as I win.”
On the outskirts of Mainz heading for Bingen, not so far away up the Rhine, I stumble across a very modern building (photos on Facebook). It is beautiful in a slightly kitsch angular way, and it is certainly out of kilter with its surroundings. An older couple are investigating the exterior, seeing if it is possible to go inside. What is it, I ask.
The new synagogue, it is not even open yet.
It’s rather amazing, no?
Yes, very nice. It is a Swiss architect. Mr. Hertz. (Although a later news story says from Cologne.)
They are cousins, he has has come to visit her. She has just retired as Professor of Archaeology here, he too is retired and nowadays translates Irish and Anglo-Irish poetry.
– He’s very good, says the archaeologist.
The most recent a volume of Bernard O’Donoghue.
Yes and next an anthology of anglo-Irish writers including Derek Mahon – one of my own favourites. We talk a little of The Hudson Letters. Both Swiss, both enjoying the new Synagogue, an unexpected surprise.
I had my first IPad meeting last night. At the next table a well dressed young man, flipping through his “Flipboard” app – Norbert got me clued into that in Zurich, I use it myself, it is a kind of mobile “Daily Me” thing.
You enjoying yours?
Absolutely, for work really.
He’s a publisher of a business magazine, a trade title, about fast moving consumer goods, FMCG. His title has a great market share, and German – good old still “making things” Germany – is riding the recession a little better, as it were, than Britain or American. We talk about publishing for ages, he’s met my old boss; hung in New York with the Economist guys. Likeable, fun. A professional. Apps may be the salvation for publishing? We discuss. In Germany the regional press has a much greater strength and resilience than in American or Britain.
I wonder too if it also has a more refined readership.
The Pubishers’ Wife arrives; she’s involved in NGO work, Africa. Practical, friendly. They have travelled a great deal, big trips, southern India is next week. I talk about my love of that region, how once, many years ago, I got engaged down there. And next?
Oh next is another big trip – or a baby. I think it is time. The juggle of lives. It is time for dinner, they are going home. We swap Facebooks, then The Publisher says, hey, want to see the oldest Brothel in Mainz?
It is their home, right in the centre of town, metres from the cathedral. They have an apartment; it’s a very old house, but the interiors are modern and bauhausly less is more.
“Napoleon, when he was here, set this house up as the brothel for his officers. In the grand simple lobby a glass framed exhibit of Roman finds made here, when the rebuilding was being done. An instant series of archaeological and historical allusions.
“Julius Caesar having conquered all the Cities on this side of the Rhine which was in his time called Gallicum littusthe shore of Gallia &c. planted garrisons in each of them…for the better fortification of the place, and to keepe the bordering people living in the same territorie in awe and subjection of the Romans. For which cause he assigned Lieutenants called in Latin Proefecti to all the principall cities and Townesthat he had conquered,” Tom writes. I think about that long sequence in Goethe’s autobiography in which he describes his family house in Frankfurt being sequestered by the French – he makes some interesting observations, which find an echo I something I read by Tony Judt, but I’ll come to them in Frankfurt.
I somehow miss dinner and chat to a couple about terrorism. An IT guy and a Graphic Designer, what really struck me, he says, about 9/11 was how personally I took it. I really thought “these guys are after people like me. And I’m just a regular guy who works with computers.”
There’s a Siegfried statue outside the Deutsch bank offices, and Mainz win again in their mid-week match. Top of the league still. In the bottom of my back pack I find a ripped newspaper article I’ve found. The London Daily Mail from September 15. An English woman who fell asleep and woke up speaking perfect French. I sometimes wish I could have that kind of sleep.
Instead I wake and walk to Bingen. It’s about six hours, along the Rhine, the Rhine is its mid-Rhine glory, where each curve in the bend augurs another castle on the hills; more vineyards, and a lot of pleasure cruises, with or without in-house photographers. I stick low, close to the river, and parallel to road B9 – and the trains. Which now resemble a giant train set, spotted across the river, some great fantasy of mittel-European play. But they carry everything from people to tanks.
It is dark when I hit Bingen and the hotel sheets are itchy. In the back streets there is a lot of Russian being spoken. In the internet cafe, because there’s no wifi around, a group of Turks and Slavs Skype home.
But I haven’t seen Bingen by day, so I can’t really judge. I know there is a big feminist mystic thing here. Hildegard. I fall asleep staring out of the windown into the gloom across the river and the vineyard hills. There is something up there, bright when the fog or the clouds move. I check the hotel tourist sheets. It is the statue of Germania, one of those Rhine Warrior Women. Frustuck is rather doleful; I head for the Hildegarde museum in the rain. Above me, in and out of the clouds, Germania looks down across the vineyards of the right bank.