The Pommernchronik, or Pomeranian Chronicle, had been lost for more than 70 years. This 600-page manuscript, nearly 400 years-old, was recently discovered by the Blochman family from Marl, Germany in the attic of a multi-family residential house. At the end of 2017, the document was handed over honorably to Andreas Roloff, a specialist in digitization and rarities from the Landesbibliothek Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, without any money exchanging hands. With the help of people in Szczecin, formerly Stettin, the chronicle has been digitized quickly and without bureaucracy and will soon be made available online.
For those unfamiliar, the Pommernchronik was written between 1600 and 1640, a volume containing a total of seven works, and thought to have been authored in Cammin. When asked about its author, the historian and expert on handwriting from the Middle Ages, Michael Gierke, declined to comment without further evaluation. However, he hinted that the textual technique bore a semblance to the style used by the court of Pomeranian Duke Johann Friedrich. The chronicle ends in 1541, but also includes a description of Stettin, an examination of more cities, a genealogy until 1557, and a house and court order from Duchess Erdmuths (1561-1623). The youngest of these documents gives the life history of Duke Philipp I and the burial of Duke Ernst Ludwig. These would seem to be connected to other fragments of Pomeranian history. Several rulers mentioned would, in fact, play a role in bringing Lutheranism to their lands.
According to Roloff, the Pomeranian Chronicle is just a specimen, a copy of sorts. It has no elaborate ornaments, no gilt edges or gold leaf. The manuscript is void of magnificent pictures, yet these tightly written pages in German and Latin describe the history of Pomerania.
This valuable document of Pomeranian history was brought to Schwerin in the early 19th century.
During World War II, it was outsourced along with thousands of other Schwerin books for fear of bombing. For safe-keeping, the Pommernchronik was tucked into a tunnel in a salt mine near Staßfurt in Saxony-Anhalt. This was a common practice done to prevent the loss during air-raids. According to the Ministry of Culture, the manuscript was brought there in March 1944 but was lost in the post-war days. For many decades after 1945, its whereabouts were unknown, because many depots were broken up and partially plundered at the end of the war. Such was the case with three guild records from Schwerin, and manuscripts and early prints from the Mecklenburg State Library. The Pommernchronik’s entry was found on the corresponding outsourcing and inventory lists, but unlike most books, this entry did not return. (Editor’s note: “Chronicon Pomeraniae” was one of a number of handwritten documents created by Thomas Kantzows (1505-1542) in the service of Philipp I. Its relation to the Pommernchronik is certain to be established in the coming months.)
Roloff and his colleagues searched for this manuscript for decades. Finally, in 2008, it was entered into the “Lost Art” database, an internet register for lost cultural assets. Other pieces of history and art have been entered into the database to help original owners, victims of persecution from the Nazi lootings, find stolen belongings.
Little did anyone know that the book would travel to North Rhine-Westphalia. A married couple stumbled upon this missing piece of history when tidying up an attic of an apartment building. They were curious to see what the old book would be worth and searched for its title online. Consequently, they found the entry in the “Lost Art” database and returned the manuscript to Schwerin, 430 kilometers away from where the book was found. The complex was built after the war, its tenants changing often, leaving the story of how the Pommernchronik arrived in Marl a mystery.
Upon discovering the entry in the “Lost Art” database, the couple called the library in Schwerin. The entry in the database is to be continued for transparency, but the documentation will be appended as “restored.”
The hope is that the Pommernchronik will reveal previously unknown details about Pomeranian history. This is both a fascinating and exciting time for researchers from Schwerin, Szczecin and globally, as many wonder what mysteries will be unlocked.
But for some, the handling of this discovery leaves a bitter taste. Some are disgruntled that the University Of Greifswald was not asked for their expertise in this matter or even considered for the digitization of this finding. However, for most, this incredible find is a victory for both historians and researchers alike. With the digitization of the Pommernchronik, researchers across the world will have access to this long-lost treasure.
This article was sourced and translated from multiple German sources and press releases. For further reading, please see the links below.