Gerhild Scholz Williams

Washington University, St. Louis

Gerhild Scholz Williams holds the Barbara Schaps Thomas and David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities in Arts and Sciences at the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. Professor Williams has held numerous administrative positions including Vice Provost (1999-); Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Associate Vice Chancellor (1997-). Williams earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of Washington, Seattle.

Her recent publications include: Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel (Eberhard Werner Happel, 1647-1690). Ann Arbor: MUPresse, 2014; Ways of Knowing in Early Modern Germany: Johannes Praetorius as a Witness to his Time. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

Items of interest: Travelogues 
(shared with Elisabeth Wåghäll Nivre)

During the early modern period (app. 1450–1750) the fascination among many readers for accounts of that which occurred far away was increasingly growing as technical improvements made new areas of the world known to the Europeans. The invention of the printing press with movable letters in the 15th century further contributed to the distribution of the written word.

The Skokloster library holds numerous early modern texts on travels and traveling that are written in languages such as Dutch, English, French, German, Latin, and Swedish. Some of the texts are unique copies that cannot be found elsewhere in Sweden, other texts are easily located in several libraries around the country.

Many travel narratives are small, inexpensive prints, often bound together with other texts with similar topics, but not always in the same language. German and Swedish texts can often be found in the same volume. At Skokloster one also finds richly illustrated folio size publications with detailed images and maps. Those were expensive prints that clearly were intended for wealthy readers and book collectors.

The travelogues at Skokloster library make up a small treasure of early modern knowledge. They contain information about the world as it was known and conceived of at the time when the texts were written, but the collection also shows us what books were important to the collectors, to Carl Gustav Wrangel, Nils Brahe the younger, and Carl Gustav Bielke. Some of the books seem to never have been opened, other books have handwritten notes in the margins. They have been read and used actively, possibly by an armchair traveler.

Contact: E-mail gerhildwilliams@wustl.ed