Monday, February 28, 2011

Unearthing Nosferatu

Emily Gerard (1849-1905) is generally considered to be the first author to use the term nosferatu. I examined a source allgedly pre-dating her own, but found it wanting. However, what I didn't tell you, is that I actually knew of an earlier source, pre-dating Gerard's usage by 20 years.

I was saving the info for a special purpose. Maybe a book, maybe a journal article. But with my recent membership into the Canadian branch of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, I found the perfect outlet for my finding: their newsletter. Here's my article for your reading pleasure. Click on the image to read it in higher resolution.

Source: Anthony Hogg, 'Vindicating Gerard', The Borgo Post, Winter 2011, p. 3.

Incidentally, my article's inclusion in The Borgo Post marks a significant milestone in my 'career' as a vampirologist: this is the first vampire-related article I've submitted for a print publication. Ever. It even scored an addendum by the Society's president, Elizabeth Miller, who, as you guys would probably be aware by now, is an author I hold in high regard. Quite an honour.

I've gotta admit though, it was a bit nerve-wracking waiting for the article to be published. You see, The Borgo Post is a quarterly newsletter. That's a long time between publication. I had to keep my fingers crossed that no-one else would make the 'discovery' in the meantime, as I wanted it to be an 'exclusive'. I would occasionally check Google to see if it'd appear elsewhere. It was a long wait between my original submission to the newsletter's editor ('Submission for The Borgo Post', Tuesday, 2 November 2010 8:18:32 AM)‏ till the newsletter's arrival on February 2nd. Thankfully, it went off without a hitch.

At this point, you might be wondering why exactly I chose to chase this pre-Gerard lead in the first place. What was the inspiration behind it. Well, I'm gonna lay a couple more exclusives on you, dear readers. Stuff you won't find in that article. As it happens, I chased the lead after I read Niels' coverage of the Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert conference. A certain passage stood out to me:
Karin Barton, associate professor at Laurier University in Canada, is particularly interested in insects and their role in cultural history and literature, currently with emphasis on the flea. She presented a paper on The Habsburg Flea: Notes on the Cultural and Literary History of an Insect Vampire with numerous examples of how the flea has been presented in various media, including some that related it to vampires. Remarkably, she presented a source from 1866 that mentions the word 'nosferatu', a term otherwise usually perceived as constructed by Emily Gerard in her Transsylvanian [sic] Superstitions from 1885!
My eyes lit up when I saw that, too. Like many people in the field, I was also under the impression that the word's original appearance was in Gerard's article. Niels didn't list Barton's 1866 source, so I decided to find it myself. It really was as simple as typing "nosferatu" into Google Books. Not much legwork involved there. But I certainly hit paydirt, because the source I found pre-dates Barton's by a year.

Now, this is where I share my other exclusive with you. Being mindful that Barton's article hasn't yet seen publication, with no mention (to my knowledge) if it's gonna be included in the conference's upcoming anthology, I bet I could tell you what her source was. Something else I didn't mention in 'Vindicating Gerard': Wilehem Schmidt's 1865 article, 'Das Jahr und seine Tage in Meinung und Brauch der Rumänen Siebenbürgens' was expanded into a book of the same 1866.

Here's something I just discovered while writing this blog entry: at the time I wrote the newsletter article, the journal Schmidt had written for was no longer available on Google Books. (apart from the Danish version Neils kindly drew my attention to). But now, it's back up.

And there you have it, folks. The earliest known appearance of nosferatu in written form. I'm more than happy to be corrected on that, of course, but that's the earliest mention I've been able to come across thus far. If you know of an older source, feel free to send me along your source.


Jonathan said...

Congratulations on this - an excellent find!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

congratulations :)

Anthony Hogg said...

Thanks guys, much appreciated. :)

And now, Gerard can rest easy!

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