Case Study 3: The Benefits of the ‘Cologne Edition' of Heinrich Böll for the commercial, cultural and heritage sectors

Submitting Institution

University of Leeds

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Heinrich Böll (1917-1985) was one of post-war Germany's leading writers and public intellectuals. The Edition of Böll's complete works, prepared by a seven-strong international research team which included Finlay, has had significant impact across a number of areas, including commercial publishing (spin-off publications, marketing opportunities); digital humanities (software and platform development for large-scale critical editions, significantly changing working practices); culture and heritage (in particular in the city of Cologne); the media and the public sphere (public debate on the writer's legacy and the Heinrich-Böll foundation's cultural programme in 30 countries).

Underpinning research

Professor of German at Leeds since 1999, Finlay has been researching Böll for over two decades. Of greatest significance is his work since 1999 as co-originator and General Editor of Die Werke Heinrich Böll's, in particular the volumes for which Finlay was directly responsible (Outputs 1 and 2), as well as his direct input to the remaining 24 volumes which appeared between 2002-2010 (e.g. 3 as well as research published in outputs 4 and 5). Taking eleven years to complete, this is the first ever scholarly edition of Böll's complete literary and non-literary output — fully annotated and entirely rethought. It has brought to light for the first time many important `new' works from his literary estate housed in the Cologne's Historical Archives, and in family and other collections. This involved extensive analytical and detective work and the discovery and editing of unknown and unpublished literary manuscripts and fragments of texts in genres not usually associated with the novelist. The team also identified and edited Böll's contributions in print and broadcast journalism, public speeches and texts for film and radio, as well copious interviews. The work on individual texts included comparing and documenting manuscripts, different drafts and significant variants, along with recording textual interventions/emendations and tracing transmission and publishing history.

A radical editorial principle allows an entirely new sense of the shape of Böll's career: the sequencing of texts in a strict chronology, irrespective of whether they were published during his lifetime and irrespective of text type. This necessitated painstakingly precise dating and some reconstruction of texts, particularly in the case of juvenilia and unpublished work in the war and early post-war years (e.g. Outputs 2, 4 and 5). In this respect, the edition can point up in new and revealing ways continuity of themes styles, literary influences between and across different texts, to chart and illuminate Böll's creative development. The critical apparatus contains a wealth of previously unpublished supporting materials. For example extracts from private and business correspondence and notebooks provide the new biographical, socio-historical and literary-historical context, as does the critical reception in the case of the fiction, drama and poetry. The Edition has already helped generate significant new insights, modify earlier research findings, and is a rich store-house of material for future research.

The team's other major aim was to reflect the wider interests of public and private sponsors keen to develop new methodologies and ways of working of lasting benefit to scholars engaged on similarly large-scale, complex scholarly projects — and their commercial publishers. The demands of ambitious editorial principles, the complexities of multiple stakeholders, and scholars based in different countries working to rapid publication deadlines necessitated close collaboration between the team and its own digital humanities support staff based at the University of Siegen with software engineers at the commercial company Pagina Ltd. This involved a productive dialogue to develop new tools, particularly to migrate and transform digital content from a time-independent encoding and storage format (i.e. it can be used irrespective of future generation software and avoid problems of compatibility with them) for display, revision and ultimate printing and publishing- all parts of an end-to-end, fully electronic process.

This technical collaboration in regular special weekend workshops, which also included refining and consolidating editorial principles, was at its most intense during the first five years of the project which involved outputs 1 and 2 These volumes, featuring, respectively over 60 short texts (over 50% first publications) and a long novel were amongst those deliberately chosen because of their diversity of text genre to act as the prototypes for the entire edition, appearing in its first two batches, respectively.

References to the research

1. [with Markus Schäfer (eds.)]: Heinrich Böll, Billard um halb zehn. Kölner Ausgabe Band XI, 458pp. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne (2002) (critical apparatus 250-458pp.) Available on request

2. [with Jochen Schubert (eds.)]: Heinrich Böll, Erzählungen 1947-1948. Kölner Ausgabe Band III, Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2003, 832pp. (critical apparatus 551-832pp.) Available on request.

3. [Viktor Böll (ed.)] Heinrich Böll, Werke 1956-1959 Kölner Ausgabe Band X, Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2005. Herausgegeben von Arpad Bernath, Hans Joachim Bernhard, Robert C. Conard, Frank Finlay, J H Reid, Jochen Schubert and Ralf Schnell. Available on request

4. "In this prison of the guard room": Heinrich Böll's Briefe aus dem Krieg 1939-1945 in the Context of Contemporary Debates, in Stuart Taberner and Karina Berger Germans as victims in the literary fiction of the Berlin Republic (2009) Listed in REF2.

5. 'Ein krampfhaftes Augenzumachen': Heinrich Böll and the Literaturbetrieb, of the early postwar years, Monatshefte für deutschsprachige Literatur und Kultur XCV, No. 1, pp.97- 115 (2003). Available on request.

Indicators of research quality

1, 2, 3: the specialist international journal, Germanistik, acclaimed `the exemplary edition of a modern classic writer' (Vol. 44 2003 1-2, p.498), and praised the project variously as `an indispensable edition for the future' (Vol. 46, 2005, 3-4, p. 988) which `leaves nothing to be desired' (Vol. 48, 2007, 3-4, p. 963).

4 has been favourably reviewed by the international referred journals Monatshefte and The Journal of European Studies as a significant contribution. 5 appeared in an international peer reviewed journal.

External funding was received from: the publishers Kiepenheuer & Witsch and Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag; the City of Cologne; the Heinrich-Böll Foundation; the German Research Council (DFG); the Cultural Foundation of the federal state of Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW) and its Ministry of Education; the (national) Federal Office of Culture; the Stadtsparkasse Köln (regional bank). In the UK, from the Modern Languages Research Association (one year PDRA in Leeds to work with Finlay to contribute to output 3).

Details of the impact

i. Commercial

The project's multiple innovations have impacted the commercial interests of publishing houses Kiepenheuer & Witsch (K&W) and Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (DTV) in significant ways. K&W is a major literary publisher of works by prominent contemporary German and international writers, such as Saul Bellow, V.S. Naipaul and Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a backlist of 568 authors. DTV exploits its paperback rights. The biggest ever publishing project in K&W's history, the edition was designated as being of national significance by the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the launch ceremony in 2002. With three volumes released over a decade at the annual high-profile international Frankfurt Book Fair, it generated a fresh wave of prestige, publicity, marketing and sales opportunities, not least owing to the definitive re-editing of existing writings as well as the presentation of unpublished texts for the very first time which were quickly translated and sold under new copyright around the world.

`The way it was produced has been new in German publishing because we have generated a complete digital edition [...] and by this we are able to have a much easier printing process and we are also able to license other editions which can use our text basis. [...] It is having a tremendous [commercial] effect because by this means we have a reliable text on which we can generate different editions, for instance new hardcover editions of single novels or editions of collected stories. We can also publish audio books, and together with our partner, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag [...] new paperback editions, and an electronic version. So the publishing house is very indebted to the editors because [...] we are able to prolong the copyright for the works of Heinrich Böll, and the public will have access to editions during the next decades'[A]

ii. Digital Humanities

Impact was generated for the company Pagina Ltd via its close collaboration on the project. The software that was developed has `set the benchmarks for the application of digital humanities technologies to large-scale critical editions'. A particularly important technical innovation came in specific response to the team's editorial needs and has been subsequently disseminated as good practice in trade publications. The CEO acknowledges the further importance of the Edition to Pagina in establishing a new commercial department for `Digital Humanities' which has been central to his company's development as a thriving enterprise, helping it to win new business. It now occupies a niche as supplier to other leading publishing houses on projects such as the Complete Thomas Mann Edition for S Fischer Verlag. Pagina acknowledges the Edition as part of a causal development which underpinned the company's reputation as a market-leader, culminating in it being one of the co-founders, in 2012, of the joint professional organisation `Digital Humanities Deutschland'. [B]

iii. Culture, Heritage/Tourism

The celebration of Böll as a `Cologne author' is tied directly into the Edition and has generated impact for municipal cultural and heritage institutions. Examples are the `Literature in Cologne' (LiK) and Heinrich Böll archives. Based in its Central Library with open access to the general public, LiK's mission is to raise and maintain the profile of the history of Cologne literary life since the Second World War so that it becomes part `of the public consciousness'. In corroborating interviews, the Director confirmed that the Edition was `enormously important' and that `its significance is incredibly high': it is an invaluable source to deal with public interest and enquiries and it obviates the need to make originals of texts available which might otherwise suffer damage. Moreover the wealth of new materials in the apparatus has been mined for regular public events and exhibitions associated with Böll's life and work (e.g.Output 1 on 30.11.2012). Exhibitions of other, broader interest are given a Böll-theme which deliberately capitalises on his high name-recognition to fulfil the Director's vision of making `a living archive' [C]. The entire second storey of the Central Library has been restyled as an interactive `Literary World' and its centrepiece is a recreation of Böll's original study/library.

Impact has been generated for local tourism in Cologne. The Edition's public sponsors as well as public-service broadcaster WDR are partners in the `Böll and Cologne' initiative. The city has "A Walking Tour of the City in the Footsteps of Heinrich Böll" which has been run for the past five years and uses the writer's life and works as a window on the city's history. Output 1 features on the website, particularly the section entitled "Cologne in Böll", as it is the novel which most evokes and references this history in the Twentieth Century [D].

The destruction of the building of the Historical Archives of the City of Cologne in March 2009 and the loss of the original manuscripts and other documents means that the finished volumes now have a curatorial value to posterity immeasurably greater than originally envisaged by the editors. The Federal Minister for Culture and Media declared the Edition `part of the national literary heritage of Germany as a nation of culture'. [E]

iv. Media/Public Sphere

The Edition has been extensively reported and discussed in the German and international media (substantial newspaper clippings are available), keeping the writer in the book-buying public's consciousness, and raising the profiles of the stakeholders and sponsors. A touring exhibition, a retrospective on Böll's life and works, supported by the Goethe Institut and the German Information Centre of the European Parliament, draws on many of the new archival discoveries (e.g. the colour plans for novels as described in Output 2, since published separately, and the wartime correspondence detailed in Output 5). The Edition features prominently in the activities, website and annual reports of the independent political and cultural Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, which has offices in thirty countries around the world. [F] Finally, it has stimulated public debate, particularly concerning the social function of literature, and the responsibility of the writer as public intellectual among a younger generation of writers, for example [G], [H].

Sources to corroborate the impact

[A] Commissioning Editor, Kiepenheuer und Witsch, Cologne Corroboration interview (in English) 29.11.2012.

[B] Managing Director and Director of Production, Pagina Publikationstechnologien, Tübingen Germany. Corroboration email correspondence (6.2.2013)

[C] Director of the two civic archives `Literatur in Köln' and `Heinrich-Böll-Archiv'. Corroboration interviews 5.9.2012 and 25.9.2013.


[E] Federal Minister for Culture and Media,

[F] President, Heinrich Böll Foundation:

[G] Correspondence with the writer Norbert Neumann 28.3.2013.

[H] Article on the Edition in the national weekly `Die Zeit' (27.1.2011).

(websites last accessed 6 November 2013)