Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode VI: Finding text re-use

by Markus Müller

In 1550, the Catholic cathedral preacher Johann Wild (Ioannes Ferus, 1495–1554) admitted in the preface to his commentary on the Gospel of John that he reused texts of Protestant authors such as Johannes Brenz (1499–1570) and Johannes Oekolampad (1482–1531) in his book, but that he only borrowed thoughts that were compatible with Catholic teaching.1 Unfortunately, in his text, there are no footnotes or other references in his text to the authors he presumably cited. Since 1950, however, various historians have found verbatim parallels or at least significant similarities between Wild’s commentaries and Protestant authors.2 But these findings were more or less accidental. It is still unclear to what extend Wild actually quoted Protestant authors, which authors he used in particular, and so on. The main reason for that is that a manual search for verbatim parallels is very time-consuming, even more time-consuming than searching for censorship. So, is there a way to hack the search for literal quotes in 16th century books?

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