Between 1929 and 1930 a feud over the legitimacy of reproductions of works of art erupted in the pages of the culture periodical Der Kreis. Later dubbed the Hamburg Facsimile Debate, the dispute involved many of the day’s most eminent curators and academics in art and art history and became a focal point for emerging ideas about authenticity and the educative impact of the replica in the Weimar Republic. Even as the intelligentsia were publicly quarreling over the epistemological stakes of the facsimile, four nuns at Eibingen Abbey were meticulously hand-copying the most renowned illuminated twelfth-century manuscript of Hildegard von Bingen’s visionary summa, Scivias. This essay pits the Facsimile Debate against the facsimile craft of the Eibingen nuns, situating both within the context of new reproductive technologies devised specifically for representing medieval artifacts. It argues for a historicizing approach to the notion of authenticity, which bears on how we think about mediation and the surrogate in our research and teaching today.

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