RITA – Reading in the Alps

This project, a collaboration between the ACDH and the University of Innsbruck, sets out to investigate private book ownership in the catholically dominated rural areas of the Central Alps, or, more precisely, in the historic territory of 18th century Tyrol. Like comparable existing studies (such as the one by Hans Medick), which covered protestant-pietistic regions, this study takes as its starting point the data found in estate inventories. About 4,400 inventories from the Pustertal/Val di Pusteria – now a part of South-Tyrol/Südtirol/Alto Adige, Italy – and Stubaital are searched for mentions of specific books in order to describe and systematically analyse private book ownership in the respective administrative districts. The results of the study are then published in an XML-encoded database.

The main research questions are:

  • Who owned books and which patterns can be observed regarding the book-owners? (gender, age, socioeconomic background, profession)
  • Which and how many books were in circulation and which were particularly popular in the region and what were their characteristics regarding content (religious or secular, effects of censorship, etc.), authorship, origin and value.
  • Which differences and/or parallels come to light in comparison with the findings of existing studies?

A study like this is pioneering work, not only for the area of historic Tyrol, but also for Austria, and even for the mainly catholically oriented South of the German language area. The project can therefore also be seen as a significant contribution to the European history of books and reading, and, with that, to the cultural and social history of the 18th century at the dawn of the age of modernity. Thanks to the digital edition and publication of the data, substantial value is added by creating easy access to source material that can become a starting point for further scientific research as well as a resource for the interested public.