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Werner Seibt

Edited Oral History Interview with Werner Seibt conducted by Jonathan Shea, with Margaret Vo participating, on June 22, 2015, in the Dumbarton Oaks seals and coins conference room. At Dumbarton Oaks, Werner Seibt was a Summer Fellow of Byzantine Studies (1981, 1984, 2001, and 2009) and a research stipend recipient (2015).

JS: So, it’s June 22nd. My name is Jonathan Shea and I’m here interviewing Werner Seibt, in the lovely surroundings of the coins and seals conference room.

WS: You are welcome.

JS: So, today, I just wanted to sort of delve into your recollections of Dumbarton Oaks over the thirty-five years you’ve been coming here. And I have some questions I want to ask about the seals collection as well.

WS: Mmm hmm.

JS: So, just starting off, the first time you came to D.O. was in 1980?

WS: It was in 1980. It was the first possibility to have Summer Fellows in Dumbarton Oaks, because shortly before, the air condition was introduced in many places, and then it was possible even to come in summer. In earlier times, it was not possible. They had only – they had Fellows earlier, but in summer it was closed, because it was a bit difficult to survive. [Laughter]

JS: I can imagine.

WS: Especially for not people used to this climate – for people not used. [laughter]

JS: So how did you apply to become a summer fellow, then? Did you…

WS: It was organized by my professor, Herbert Hunger, at that time already president of the Academy of Sciences, who had, a long time before in the sixties – he was Fellow for a year in Dumbarton Oaks, when his friend, Ihor Ševčenko, was director. And in that time already, he showed – Ihor showed to Herbert Hunger the new bought seals collection. And Herbert Hunger said, “It’s necessarily to publish it!” [Laughter] “And I have an idea. I will – I’ll take one of my young doctors and let him work one year in Vienna on the seals collection in the museum, and then he could go to Dumbarton Oaks and make in three years catalogue of the – [Laughter] – of this collection. And really, here, he started – one colleague of mine started. One year, he made a fiche of the seals in Vienna, and then he should go to fly to Dumbarton Oaks. But his mother said, “No! That’s too dangerous. My son must not fly to America.” And then Hunger said, “Okay. It’s finished.” And the younger fellow went as a teacher to a gymnasium.

JS: Huh.

WS: And shortly after that, he asked me if I would like to start working on this material. I said I didn’t work with that until now, but I’m ready, and I’m ready to make the chance. And I started in ’71 in Vienna to work with this material. But when the year was over, Dumbarton Oaks had already other plans, and there was already Nikos Oikonomides and, I don’t know since when, John Nesbitt. And I had the possibility to work on seals systematically and so on. But after my first volume of seals in Austria, it became necessary to come at least once to Dumbarton Oaks, and Hunger organized it. And I was here for some weeks, perhaps six or seven weeks. I came – it was not so easy in this time to fly to America. I had to go to Brussels, then we had the small airplane to New York, but it was too long, so we had to stop in Iceland, [Laughter] in Reykjavik to get new gas. Then we stopped in Canada somewhere to get new gas, and then we came to New York. [Laughter] And after some days in New York, when it was the time ripe to come to Dumbarton Oaks, I came with the train here. It was an exciting thing, of course. We were living – it was quite different from now; it was much smaller scale: the director’s house was where now is refectory; the small number of Fellows – Summer Fellows – was living in the Fellows Building, now the Guest House; and there were also, downstairs, the kitchen where in the morning we had the possibility to make our breakfast as now, and for lunch, that was served in this building. It was enough for the small number, but the Director was normally present at lunch also. It was possible to talk to him and so on. And there were – there hadn’t been yet this Director of Studies, but there was a vice director for administration. It was a lady. Judy – Her forename was, first name was surely Judy. Perhaps Siggins or something like that. I gave her the nickname “Judy Pasha” because she was very strong and hguch  [Laughter]. People learned some fear of her. I less, but [Laughter] I had no problems with her. And in this time, it was a real Byzantine center. There were two or three people already working on Pre-Columbian. And it was one, a lady, a member for the Garden Architecture – Landscape Architecture. It was a very nice time, and – especially the pool. I rem – I think I remember right that it was possible even on the weekend to use the pool.

JS: Hmm. Nice.

WS: Ja ja, at that – but I am not so sure. And I had the possibility here to work with Nikos, with John Nesbitt. There was another young man who later on was active in Los Angeles, John Langdon. I remember Patricia Karlin-Hayter was here. McCormick – Mike McCormick, ja, ja, was here. It was nice. We had good discussions, and it was possible to work well. So, there was only a small room for all the sigillographers, and another small room for the numismatics, but nobody from the numismatic department was here. We only were admiring the special – for hold coins – ah, I don't know the…

JS: A scale?

WS: A scale. Ja, ja. It was not possible to come near to it. [Laughter] If we could touch and hold something.

JS: And was that room down here, in the basement?

WS: It was in the basement, and it was no problem if the light was not very good. In some cases, I went out to have – in the good light, to work with it, to make my notes outside, and I came back! It was no problem. And the library was also here, especially up. Sometimes it was not easy to find something. But in many cases, much was already downstairs in our room, and – especially I came here to work with originals, not so much with the literature.

JS: And you were looking for parallels to the Austrian material, or you were looking…?

WS: Well, found. Ja, ja. I was not only working on the Austrian material, but also – I had other projects, especially for some family names and offices. I was looking. I found interesting and important material, ja, ja. In some cases, I later had to revise the first reading, but anyway, I have been learning much in these short weeks. It was very fruitful time, and it was also important to have better contacts with the colleagues. That was – so since that time, we could much better write to each other and so on. Yet, Outlook, or the email was not yet [Laughter] as it is nowadays. We wrote letters and waited and waited, and then we got a letter back, and waited. [Laughter] That was it in this time.

JS: So, did you get to spend much time with the other Fellows?

WS: We have some time, some time sitting together, especially in the, at lunch. And in the evening also, we had ourself the possibility too to prepare something. It was all in a small room, so it was automatically that we had good contacts, much better than now, where there are so many people around.

JS: Yeah, the accommodation is quite different now as well, of course. Although for you, perhaps not, because you’re staying in the same Guest House.

WS: I was three or – three times, I think, in the Guest House. I was later on also in La Quercia sometimes.

JS: Yeah, not many of the Fellows seem sorry to see La Quercia go, but. [Laughter]

WS: Yeah. I was content. Nevertheless, there were some problems sometimes, but I had the feeling it was here, in both cases, when I was in La Quercia, I had family with me. In the first case, it was in 2000, my wife – of this time [Laughter] – and my son, who was eighteen or something like that. But they came only for a short time and then we went together to Los Angeles. And in 2009, together with my wife and the new child – and the new wife. [Laughter] But she’s a sigillographer, and she was very intensively working. We had hoped that it would be possible to give the child to a kindergarten or a summer camp, but it was impossible. She was only four years old.

JS: Ah.

WS: And had no chance. So as long as we both had been here, I gave her more possibility to work with the seals. She was preparing the metrical seals corpus. And I took more care of the child, as long as they had been there. Later on, when I was alone, I could work full time until we have been pulled out. [Laughter] Everyday, yeah. Of course, interesting it was, especially the next stay here in 1983. I came here in invitation of the Director – that was Giles Constable at this time. He wanted to congregate Nikos Oikonomides, John Nesbitt, and me to discuss the future of the seals project, how it should go on, because the catalogue hadn’t yet begun. There was preparatory work, a lot of. And he said, “Now, it’s necessary to go on to know should we make something? What should we make?” And my idea was, because there’s so much material, to take out only the historic interesting seals. And Nikos preferred to make a publication of all the seals in the long run, and – nevertheless, how many they are. And then we decided together to start with family names – with geographical names, with the seals in Dumbarton Oaks with geographical names. And here, prepared already, I – on the one side, the program needed for such a publication, and on the other side, he collected the seals that were more or less certainly dateable, and  for his first book. And that was the first… versuch, trying, how to arrange it with a computer so that it’s easy to publish it. It was already a little bit advanced technology.

JS: And is that where the Athena, the original Athena fonts that came from –

WS: That was the Athena, ja, ja. Mmm hmm. He was working hard on that with some colleagues. I don’t know who helped him. But then came this first volume, and then for some time, Constable was not so easy. I think for some time, John Nesbitt was pushed out of the team. And then not much evolved. But later on, it was possible by Nikos Oikonomides to call John Nesbitt back, and then they started with the work on the geographical seals. And soon the first volume came out, and it followed.

JS: So, how long were you here in 1983? Was that another fellowship, or was it –

WS: It was again a – organized as a summer fellowship. Ja, ja. I think six weeks or something like that. As long as I was in the university and at the same time manager in the academy, it was not possible during the year to go for some weeks away. Only the summer was a possibility, during the holidays when the university had the examen finished. And it was possible to work for your own research and so on. And it was also possible to go abroad. Only later on, now, as soon as I was retired, it was easier [Laughter] to go during the year.

JS: So you mentioned the start of the seals projects. How integrated, when you were here in 1980 and 1983, with the rest of Dumbarton Oaks was the seals project? You said there was no Byzantine Studies department or such back then.

WS: Naja, it was – Dumbarton Oaks was – in this time, ’83, Constable had already managed to reduce a little bit in percentage the Byzantine part and to advance the other sections. It was already much more – for Pre-Columbian, there was already a Director, a managing director for the Pre-Columbians. They were immediately our neighbors. [Laughter] And there was already more for Landscape Architecture. But the percentage of Byzantium was reduced. Constable himself was not a Byzantinist, but more Latin; medieval Latin was his interest. And so he wanted to open the center here even for others. I don’t know if in ’83 there was already a Director of Byzantine Studies. Frankly speaking, I don’t remember. It could be. And the next time, I came only for a week, during the Byzantine Congress in Washington in ’86, in, I think it was, again, it was July or August. I think it was August. And then Thomson, Robert Thomson was the Director. And he gave us the possibility to have the – the first seals table ronde here. It was in Dumbarton Oaks.

JS: Yeah.

WS: Normally, it was all in the Georgetown University. But especially this once was organized here, and he welcomed us quite friendly. It was a very good condition. And we could manage that the papers of this first table ronde for sigillography during a congress were published as a volume of studies in Byzantine sigillography. We didn’t say openly that the series is planned. We knew it, and we had organized it like that, but to make it easier for Dumbarton Oaks, we said we publish – especially Nikos Oikonomides – we proposed to publish the [inaudible], the papers of them. So, it had not ‘Number One’ or something like that, only ‘Studies in Byzantine Sigillography.’ And then we organized – we had the possibility to plan much in these days. And he said, in future, we have to make in every congress, a table ronde for sigillography, and between the two, the congresses, we will make a special symposium for sigillography. And he prepared the first in Athens. I had to prepare the next one in Vienna. [Laughter] And the papers of this first symposium in Athens were already volume two of these ‘Studies in Byzantine Sigillography.’ We said it was so – success, and it seemed it made sense to continue. [Laughter] And since that, it’s running.

JS: And it’s continued ever since.

WS: But in the beginning, there was a lot of seals donated and sold, and it became less and less. And then I came next – it was already a problem. It was Alice-Mary Talbot who was already Director of Studies. And she said in the future, we don’t want to continue, because the sold volumes go back from two hundred, a hundred, now the last volume was sold only six. Eighty something, like that. And – they asked me if I would take it to Vienna. And I said if the sold volumes is so small, the number, then I wouldn’t like to bring it to the academy. And then it came to Cheynet to keep, and it was published in Germany, first with a company that was eaten, let us say it like that, by a bigger German company, and now it’s by De Gruyter. De Gruyter consummated all the other, all of them. [Laughter] Even Teubner and – all these others. But the future now is absolutely unclear. Jean-Claude Cheynet surely said, “That's now the last volume I make. Number twelve. And if Claudia Sode wants to continue it any way, she can. But without me.” And even us, we don’t want to continue. That was ’86. In 2000, I was here, again a summer fellowship. Especially, I wanted to discuss problems of methodology, of dating and so on, with Nikos Oikonomides. And we planned, both of us, but before I came to Dumbarton Oaks, he passed away already, exactly in this year. So, nevertheless, I came, and was working on a lot of seals. But especially this goal was not applicable.

JS: Mmm hmm.

WS: And for the first volumes of the Dumbarton Oaks seals catalogue, I was the first reviewer. But after it was published, making the reviews, I think, in Byzantinoslavica. Since volume four, I think, already, I was already the internal reviewer. So, they sent me the manuscript already. They thought I could make more sense to bring all my ideas I had already to the publishers. They could use it and could in time make it. That went until 200- – until the last volume.

JS: Volume six.

WS: Volume six. And in 200- – 9? 2008, when volume six was finished, John Nesbitt asked me if I would be ready to make the following seals with him, the following about family names. And Alice-Mary was content, but from the side of the Director, there was not a real – Unterstützung, subsidence. He was not so fond of the – and we didn’t get an answer from him. So, we started, but then we saw the priorities different, and we made our private work – for instance, these two articles that we had in DOP, and it made sense to show on the one side, what can be learned from the seals and other resources for a special family, that prior to was neglected, because we didn't know how much material. Even we were surprised, if we had known that so much is applicable. Perhaps we had taken that up. [Laughter] And when I came again for this short symposium, a workshop at the end of 2011, I remained some days more to study the strange names of alpha. And that again became an article. I had already work done before, and I wanted to again see this material before we had tried to publish it. And only after long discussions, last year we began now to make it systematically. And as long as we depended on photos sent from D.O. to Vienna, it was slowly. But now I hope we come on in a quicker way. And if really, perhaps in one year, I come back, the manuscript should be quite advanced, that we would have for the letter ‘alpha,’ more or less the manuscript, and work on refinements and something like that. Perhaps it will be enough for one volume, all that we have in ‘alpha.’ That’s much more than we had thought. Some came to the material; some was put out, because we decided now to make it according to Latin alphabet. That means wherever we have a spiritus asper, ‘ha,’ hagio, for instance, that will be postponed.

JS: Right.

WS: Taken out, and postponed for ‘h.’

JS: So, you came here a couple times in the eighties and then –

WS: Ja.

JS: And actually now, three times in the 2000s. What changes have you noticed about – happening in Dumbarton Oaks?

WS: Ja, the enormous change was, of course, the new library. And the problem was now much more to go from one place to the other, and especially with the books. I know it is the possibility with this nice machine, to send books here and there, but it was quite different if you just stand up, go to a Fach higher, take the book, bring it down. Now we – [Laughter]. And it became much more. The library became so gigantic that it’s not so easy to find it. In earlier times, it was easier to find what you needed. Now it’s also possible, after some time, if you know the mysteries, you find much. You find not all. [Laughter] But you find. It – Gott sei Dank, I don’t need so much library, because at home, what I need, I bought or have it, took it from the academy. We have, god thanks, a good library. But of course, the original material is not – without that, the work is only half thing. You can have a lot of ideas, but if you see no, that must not be a ‘alpha’, that must be a ‘lambda’ or a ‘delta,’ all changes! [Laughter] You can have so many ideas, but it doesn't work.

JS: So, the library’s a big – and you can’t take the seals outside anymore, of course.

WS: That is difficult. [Laughter] Even to take out a book and then read it outside is impossible. But the conditions of this coldness in the library is still worse than here. Here it is better. But even it could be a little bit less cold. [Laughter] That was not so bad in earlier times. It was not so necessary – even the books up in the second floor here, they were under difficult conditions. It was quite warm up in the high library [Laughter] But it was not so big a problem. But now there is much place, and place to work and so on. Especially here, the possibilities for the seals project are much better. Alice-Mary’s promised it already, when I have been there in – in 2000, was it? Already, that there are plans to make it different, to make a bigger library, to buy the house of Elizabeth Taylor, and to transform the house of the Director to the new refectory, and the Director takes the big building. And I don’t know who was at the beginning. I think in the beginning of the house where now the security is, there was at the beginning the house of the deputy, the vice director, of Judy. Then when we managed to bring Alexander Kazhdan to America, he came via Vienna, and was some time in Austria. Then we tried to find something – Hunger invited the Director of Dumbarton Oaks – I don’t know if it was still Constable; I think it was still Constable – to discuss with him possibility for Kazhdan to come here. And then he had to go to Italy for three weeks or something like that to be checked through by the CIA [Laughter] and then he got green light to come here. And then he lived in this house, where now the security is. [Pause] And in the garden, that didn’t change so much. The pool is as it is now. It was – especially summer, it was so important to have this possibility, because if you are living in La Quercia, already the way from La Quercia up to the Main House was not so easy. You were already wet. [Laughter] And especially when I had to take care of the child, after lunch, we went – in the noon sun, we went back home. I brought her home. Then it was a little bit difficult. And so the pool was enormously, enormously important to survive. [Laughter] You have to survive.

JS: So, I wanted to ask you just a few questions about seals and sigillography. You’ve answered some of them as well, such as how you got into sigillography, which is a great story. Were you excited to get in, when your professor approached you? Was this something you thought would be interesting? Did you expect to be doing it forty years later?

WS: No. Absolutely not. [Laughter] But the center, the focus of my former study was Latin, history, and especially ancient history. I made my dissertation ancient history. But I had been attending lectures of Herbert Hunger since the institute was founded, and he had become the first Ordinarius in 1962 already. I had started studying a little bit earlier. And I had good training in Latin epigraphic, but nothing in seals. And so I said, okay, I will try it. If something comes out, okay. If not, I have to look for another possibility. And the important thing was that Hunger gave me the possibility to come deeply into the material, and I used, frankly speaking, the volume five, part one and two, of Laurent, of the corpus of Laurent, that had been appeared at the time as a kind of Bible. I started taking word for word – I had in the beginning some problems with French, but so I translated what not was so clear, and word for word, it was my Bible. So, long till I found two seals – later on, even three seals – that were exactly parallels, but read different and dated different. [Laughter] Then the wall fell down, and I said, okay, now it’s necessary to become – standing on your own feet, and don’t believe all what he says as a dogma. And I had the big chance to work in this material through some years, and when I published the first volume of the seals in Austria, that was already after seven years. Then it was already quite different. Then I was so accommodated with this material, and I’d already started to start collecting seals. I went to different places to – first to make photographs in Athens, in Istanbul. In London, I had not the possibility to make photographs, but I could see all the material.

JS: Okay.

WS: And make my notes in the – a copy of the catalogue. And then I started – first I got some seals presented by Wolfgang Hahn, the numismatist, who had bought some and cleaned it, but cleaned it too much, [Laughter] so that too much was lost. And he hadn’t – didn’t have any pleasure again with it, and said, “Do you want it? You are working with seals.” I said, “Okay.” That was the beginning. And when I came soon afterwards to Istanbul, I asked my Armenian friends if there would be a possibility to get some material. And they brought me to an Armenian who had one seal that he knew was of some value, and I got contact with a Syrian merchant, who was the first time cautious. The first time I came there, I got only tea. The second, I got tea and we spoke a little bit. Then he said, “Come tomorrow in the evening.” [Laughter] And then I saw his material and could take some – forty, thirty seals, I don’t remember so – of this material. Then we spoke about the price and what’s going on. So started it. Then I got some presented, and I started buying. [Laughter]

JS: That’s a great story.

WS: And it became my hobby at the same time. But at university, of course, it was not possible to teach only about sigillography. I had to make the full program. And so there was not so much time, but at the same time, I continued my seals project in the academy. And then I was for twenty, twenty-five years, the – a kind of manager of the Byzantine Commission, as the deputy Director. I had the possibility to buy the books necessary and to make good working conditions [Laughter] for me, and so on. And this went parallel to my other work. And I had some dissertants who make dissertations. One of them was Stavrakos. He was my first dissertant who could finish a Ph.D. about seals, and the second high qualified was my later wife, who started already with a dissertation about metrical seals, so in Vienna. And I gave her the lectures – I was at the same time Director of Studies, responsible for teaching and then examining and all these things. I gave her to become Lektor, I think in 1000, ’01, something like that. So since that, she made the lectures concerning sigillography, and I could concentrate more on Byzantium and Caucasus and administrative history and these things.

JS: You mentioned a trip to Istanbul, and obviously a lot of the Dumbarton Oaks seals came from Istanbul.

WS: Ja, ja. We think.

JS: I wondered if you know anything about where our seals came from, the formation of our collection. Anything like that.

WS: The early ones, the Shaw collection, and the… group fifty-five, fifty-five one, was surely at a very high percentage from Istanbul and the region. But as soon as the people knew that George Zacos is paying more than others for seals, they brought him seals from all of Turkey and even from other countries. And even later on, after he had sold even his second collection, I was also once with him in Basel, and in this week, two merchants came from different countries and offered to him seals. And he said, [frowns and gestures as if picking at seals on the table] “Mm… Nothing, nothing. Ah. That’s interesting; okay, put it aside… That’s nothing, that’s – I have. Hmm. That’s a thing. Okay.” [Laughter] And then they started about – speaking about the price. It was no problem for him to pay a thousand, two thousand Swiss francs. [Laughter] But he paid more than others would have paid in this time. But in this time, we don’t know where from the seals came.

JS: Right.

WS: And even he bought, for instance, a collection that is in the – in Laurent, it’s the Collection Diamanti, Vienna. It was never in Vienna; I was searching a long time for it. But George Zacos told me, “Ja, Diamanti was a man, a dealer, perhaps antiquities and something like that, who came from Vienna to Istanbul in the thirties and started also collecting a small collection – that was the Collection Diamanti – and I bought it later on.” [Laughter] So it became part of the Zacos collection, and it didn’t – it wasn’t necessary to search for it anymore in Vienna. [Laughter]

JS: Zacos seems to have been a very interesting man.

WS: Very interesting, ja, and original, absolutely a man of manner. And he – especially he was a gourmet. That was very important, two hours at noon, we went to noble restaurants, and he had a big pleasure with excellent food and so on. And he was very, very eager on this material. It was his hobby. He continued, of course, selling and buying antiquities. Especially, I heard from another dealer, “Medieval and early silver, don’t touch. That is a question of George Zacos. It would be difficult to come into his – problems with him. That is his area, and let it be.” [Laughter]

JS: And he, of course, moved to Switzerland in the end. He left his –

WS: Ja, ja. When the police of Istanbul found a copy of the check Dumbarton Oaks had sent – it was the second check – then they said, “Okay, you have forty-eight hours. If you are still in the country, you will be jailed in the rest of your life. You have this information. Do what you think.” And he collected what he could and pushed out. [Laughter]

JS: That’s nice of them to give him a warning.

WS: Perhaps that had its price also. [Laughter] And he moved to Switzerland, to Basel. And every year, he wanted to be near to Turkey, so he came always, as long as it was relative secure and sure – secure, he went to Cyprus. And he was in Cyprus when there was this invasion of the Turks with this problem. Immediately [Laughter] he take a Flug back to Basel. And he never tried to enter Turkey anymore.

JS: Can’t say as I blame him.

WS: What?

 JS: I can’t say as I blame him. [Laughter]

WS: And he participated also in the Viennese Congress, in the Byzantine Congress. And ja, we had a nice meeting there with Hunger and, I think, two other of the so-called “big animals” [Laughter] in the Palais Schwarzenberg, this big old Palais. Now they wanted, and they did it, transform into a five star hotel, but that isn’t working really, so. I don’t know what’s really going on. They are restoring and, so – but in this time it was a very special and quite expensive hotel, ja. He was living with his wife.

JS: So, antiquities dealing is a good business to get into, then. [Laughter] I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about the other sigillographers you worked with at Dumbarton Oaks. You’ve worked with pretty much everybody who’s been through here, sort of.

WS: Now the sigillographers, they are not much more. At the first time, there was John Langdon interested in seals, especially in the seals of Vatatzes. He dedicated the rest of his life to the family of Vatatzes. It was already a dissertation, but even his email has beginning with ‘Vatatzes.’ [Laughter] It – I don’t know how it’s going on. Gmail or something like that. [Laughter] But others, of course with Nikos and with John Nesbitt – but normally then I was working here alone, except when my wife Alexandra was here. We have been working together with some metrical problems. But normally then, except that, I was working alone intensively [Laughter] on the seals I could get.

JS: I think John is one of the longest serving members of staff Dumbarton Oaks has had. Thirty-six, thirty-seven years, I think.

WS: Uh huh. Ja, ja.

JS: And you’ve worked with him for the whole time.

WS: Ja, ja. Ja, ja. Uh huh. We met first time in ’80, in 1980, and since that time, we have good relations that now they come even to a higher and better – [Laughter]

JS: And the same with Oikonomides. You knew him for most of the time he was at Dumbarton Oaks.

WS: From 1980. Ja, ja. Mmm hmm. But we had also a lot of contacts outside sigillography. I had been working successfully to make him General Secretary of the Association.

JS: Mmm hmm.

WS: He was not very fond about that. But at some time, we thought it’s necessary to have a new presidium. Ševčenko had been long enough president, and Karayannopoulos was long enough general secretary, and for the Paris Congress, they wanted to have Dagron as president and Nikos as general secretary. Dagron was einverstanden, d’accord. Nikos was not so happy about that, but – [Laughter] He was already director of the center in Athens, the fonds de recherche Idryma Erevnon, and so on. And he accepted it. And where – wherein some fear that there would be a counter Stimmung, a fight between the old and the new. But we could bring Ihor Ševčenko till so far that he himself made it at the end. And in the session the proposal, the new president should be Dagron, and the new general secretary, Nikos Oikonomides. And we applauded, so it was without discussion accepted. [Laughter] Karayannopoulos was not happy. [Laughter] D’accord. But he had to accept. But they made it only as – Dagron made it only for five years after the congress in Paris. He said, “No. It’s enough.” But Nikos remained till he passed away, much too early, of course. And then Chrysos had to take it over, his successor in Idryma, in the center in Athens. And then we had to find a new president, and we thought, okay. Schreiner should make it. [Laughter]

JS: So, obviously since you’ve first arrived, things have changed quite a lot with the project to publish the seals. I wondered if you had any thoughts about that, about the future of the project.

WS: Naja, I didn’t think that I would be more involved for long times, because I had the feeling that there is some – I wouldn’t say rivalry, but concurrency between Vienna and Dumbarton Oaks. [Laughter] We had our own center, and here was the other center. But as soon as Nikos passed away, it was already different. It was not – for a center, you need at least two specialists who can work intensively together to add one the other and so on. And if you are alone, it is quite different. It’s the same in Paris. Jean-Claude Cheynet is an excellent specialist, but he’s alone. And he – of course he collaborates with different colleagues in Turkey, sometimes a little bit with Prigent, a young man who wants climb up to become a good specialist. Perhaps he will. I wish it for him. [Laughter] And now it’s same, the situation, so that we try to make a new center in the Herz that more younger peoples, who are imbued in the project, and that’s of course important, and – I hope you will be long enough here to – [Laughter]

JS: Fingers crossed.

WS: Ja, ja. [Laughter]

JS: I’d just like to finish off with a few general questions about –

WS: Ja. Uh huh.

JS: – your experiences at Dumbarton Oaks. How would you characterize Dumbarton Oaks’ impact on the Byzantine Studies – on Byzantine Studies as a whole?

WS: Ja, it depends, of course. You don’t have a residing professor here that is really teaching. Now there is a Director of Studies. That is, of course, an important thing. And some people in the staff who are working. But the changing of Fellows – Summer Fellows, half-year Fellows, year Fellows – isn’t making a real center, automatic. They are not working together on a special project. But it is, I would say, an anchor for Byzantine Studies in America, but also in the world. It is so nice – in the book I edited with, for Ioli Kalavrezou, in the introduction, he said, “Werner Seibt was an anchor.” [Laughter] So, this situation reminds – [laughter] And the subject like that. But for a teaching center, it would be, of course, different.

JS: Yes.

WS: And you don’t have regular students here to – but you give the possibility to finish the dissertation or to study a project after dissertation, so on. That’s very important and helpful, and if the Director of Studies is strong imbued in these project of the single persons, it is, of course, a enormous impact to have. And still older personalities here – Kazhdan is long time ago already passed away, but there is Irfan Shahîd still here, long and very fruitful scholar. And I was happy to see him still working. I didn’t believe when I saw him in come in to the refectory. [Laughter] In the library, I hadn’t seen him before, ja, ja. He is a good friend of mine since a long time ago. We met first in Jordan in a symposium in the… the late sixties, should it – no. In the late seventies. In the sixties, I – well, I was still studying. [Laughter] In the seventies, in Jordan, there was a lexical workshop and a symposium about Bilad al-Sham, the history of ancient Syria, organized this time by the crown prince, who later on was pushed away when the king had himself a son. [Laughter]

JS: Are there any things that you miss about the old Dumbarton Oaks?

WS: Ja, in the former times, it was much easier, in much respect, to work, to take books, bring it back, and so on. I had a feeling that it wasn’t necessary to have so much security around. It was more to make life easy, to give good conditions to work in a much smaller concept as now. Of course, it’s fine to give more people the possibility to use the possibilities here, and to work, and to study, and to come on, and to make all these studies. All three have here now merely equilibrium importance to give all these people the possibility to advance in their research, and we hope that some of them, at least, get a job for – a tenure job. That’s nowadays not so easy, and becomes more and more difficult. I see it even with our students. And even in the academy, we can arrange something for three years, for six years, perhaps then another project, three years. And even the assistants at the university, they get a job for six years, some only four years, maximum six years, and then it’s finished. Absolutely finished. In the university, you can’t – if you have not a chance to become a professor or a test professor, or limited – for a limited time, you have to pick. Some get a intermediate job for a project, but then you have to look to come on or to change and to find a job elsewhere. And I think in this country, it’s not much better.

JS: No.

WS: Ja, in Germany, it’s quite similar, ja, ja. I know the conditions. And in some cases, it is not so self understanding that when a professorship becomes free, that the post is renewed. Some are reduced, for instance in Köln, Schreiner was Ordinarius, C4 professor, and the post was new, uh, ausgeschrieben – prescribed. A lot of people wanted to get it. Then they said, “No, we reduce it from C4 to C3 – that is associate professor, and there is no possibility to get an assistant or something like that.” And then many people said, “Oh, then it’s less interesting....”

JS: Mmm hmm.

WS: The idea of Nikos Oikonomides, that it should be an – a epi tes megales hetaireias is one thing. And a epi tes mikras is also thethe hetaireia ton – not exactly barbaron, but of a small, a group from externals – I don’t remember for the moment – from the Far East. He thinks that epi tes megalesmegales hetaireias is one, and epi tes mikras hetaireias could be better. But they were barbarians. It was published when he had already passed away, so he couldn’t send me the offprint.

JS: Ah.

WS: And I didn’t note it for the Byzantinische Zeitschrift. So, only late on, we found this article by chance, and so in volume two of Seals of Austria

JS: Yes.

WS: – we didn’t use it already. We had also seen the skrinion ton barbaron has to do with people coming from outside and looking about. And there were some notes, but normally, going back to the fifth century, sixth century. It didn’t help much for tenth or eleventh century. [Laughter]

JS: No, not definitely not. No.

WS: Absolutely not, ja, ja. [Laughter]

JS: So just – last question, really.

WS: Ja.

JS: Is there anything I’ve left out that you think that you’d like to say, any people I haven’t thought of to bring up that you have fond memories of?

WS: Naja, I was happy that last year, one of my former students, Christos Stavrakos, had the possibility to work here. It was important for his next catalogue he is working on, to publish it. And yesterday, I met new Summer Fellows, and we came into discussion. They are from the garden section, but they remember very well Christos, and said, “Yeah, it’s nice. It was a man working hard here, but he was happy, and it was quite fine to work with him.” He has some Italian background or something and sometimes speak in French, so they had also something to do with Paris. [Laughter] But that was ­­– it was fine to hear, and… And I recommended, also, years ago, I think even twice, Jordanov, Ivan Jordanov, that he could work here. And he mentioned much material of Dumbarton Oaks in his commentary. Sometimes okay, sometimes, of course, with caution too loose, for it’s necessary to check it back. Especially his datings are sometimes not the best basis for further study. But for him, it was still more important, because he had here the possibility to scan hundreds of books. [Laughter] So he has the material. But for the moment, the last year, I think he is becoming ill. It must be this slow illness for elder people, that they forget and so on, and, ja,  he plans to make still a second addendum –

JS: Ah, yes.

WS: – for his corpus. A first addendum is already published, and the second, of two hundred seals, I hope he can make it. But what he presents last time in the symposia and so on is not so exciting that he make so the left hand. [Laughter] But he should have still interesting material. He’s sending me difficult things, but sometimes so difficult that only two or three letters are visible. Even for us that’s – [Laughter]

JS: You can’t do much with that. [Laughter] Right, well, I think that’s –

MV: I actually have one question.

JS: You have a question! Excellent.

WS: Ja, ja. Okay.

MV: Although I’m kind of far away, so if you wouldn’t mind it’s written in this square. [passes paper over the table]

JS: In the square…

MV: I’m just curious about the Byzantine department under specific people.

JS: Okay. How was Byzantine Studies different – Studies Department different under the different directors that you’ve been here with?

MV: Constable and Thomson and Alice-Mary Talbot are the three directors.

JS: And of course, Margaret Mullett now.

MV: They’re very different people, so –

JS: Four very different people running the place.

WS: Ja, of course I had a lot of very good experiences with Marice – with Alice-Mary Talbot. I had a long contact already earlier, and when I came last time, she was here, and she ended her term. And shortly before we departed, Margaret came in. So, I didn’t have too much contact with – she was one year before in Vienna.

JS: Yes.

WS: As guest professor. Of course I knew it at least from this time. And we’d had especially contact with, concerning DOP, our articles. We had there from not so much. And the new one is coming now, but I don’t know him still. [Laughter] But I must say, whenever I came, there were not Byzantinists as directors here. The long time when Angeliki Laiou was Director, I was not here.

JS: Right.

WS: I don’t know why. But there was one interesting thing. When I organized – I submitted a project for my wife about the seals in Austria, the next volume, she became one of the reviewers. But she made a too good review, and the other one was Speck, and Speck was jealous, and said, “It’s nonsense to publish seals with commentary, and it’s enough to say, ‘That is written on the seal.’ Parallels and things like that, later on people should, reviewers should make it. And anyway, I don’t believe the datings of Mr. Seibt.” [Laughter] And so, I was ordered to come to the board, and to answer what’s going on. “One is too good; we cannot accept it. And the other is, more or less, negative.” And we had been fighting for some time, and then the president said, “I give you an… a Vorschlag. I make you a proposal. Make a new proposal, a little bit different, and it goes to others, and you can tell me who would be specialists to be good reviewers.” And it went to – one was Nikos, and the other one, I don’t remember if it was Cheynet or somebody else, but then the project went through without problem. [Laughter] But that’s what – and of course, when I made a big symposium in honor of Herbert Hunger – I don’t remember which birthday, perhaps the seventies – I invited – we have it about the Paleologan times, and I invited also Angeliki Laiou. She was in Vienna for this time, and had a very interesting paper that was published, of course, in the volume I published after that. From that time, I knew her, and we remember even it was December, always would make these symposia in December because Hunger had his birthday [Laughter] around the eighth of September. And she came with this hat, a big hat. [Laughter] And she was acknowledgeable from everywhere. Even when we went to a big winery in the Stiftsdörfer Weinberg down in the cellar, she was sitting with this [gestures massively over his head] [Laughter] with this big hat. But all the others were not specialists. Thomson is a very good specialist of Armenian. I have a lot of contacts with him in Armenian studies and Armenian history. But I met him only here as Director during the congress. And ja, Nina was also not – Neenan?

JS: Keenan.

WS: Keenan. Keenan, ja. Was also not a specialist for Byzantium, and now Jan is also not a specialist for Byzantium. And so I have the feeling that these want to bring in their field. That’s good. Especially, I’m very thankful that Thomson was for some time Director, so we have a lot of publications concerning Armenian texts and Armenian studies here that are sometimes rare. I had all these, but I was very generous to my students, giving them for loan at home, and to work even at home on the dissertation. But when a student from Azerbaijan left after three years – he couldn’t finish his dissertation – in this time, I had to move from one place to another with a lot of parts of my library, and at the end, many of these texts were missing. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but so I don’t have them anymore. And so it’s good that in some cases, I could find here. And even one text, Aristakes, I copied now. [Laughter] I have the original text, the Armenian one, the old Armenian one. But the good translation with footnotes and commentary, I had lost. And so I have it again. [Laughter] And I accept, of course, that it is not only a Byzantine center, but there are now three centers, every in its own right, and we must take it. And it’s in some way also a good idea, and – to have – and to attract people, even for the museum, if you have a lot of interesting things. I only question if Dumbarton Oaks is buying still material, Byzantine material. I didn’t hear much. I spoke a long time ago with Gudrun Bühl, and I think she was one of these museum directors who say all that is not older than 1970, that is dangerous to buy it, because there could be some arears from the country where it comes, the problems.

JS: People can demand their return.

WS: Ja, ja. Ja, ja. Uh huh. But for seals, is in former times, it didn’t make sense. Now it’s different. Now there are in Greece collections, in Turkey, in the Ukraine and so on. Now it’s different, and they look at the material, and they are interested, and they don’t let it go, forget it somewhere in a box, and then after twenty years, it’s only dust. In the British Museum, I got some former seals that was only a Häufchen dust.

JS: Oh, just a little pile of dust.

WS: Dust, ja, ja. All totally. And so it was not possible to control the reading of Greek words. [Laughter] In other cases, it was very important to control.

MV: All right. Well, I have nothing else.

JS: Thank you very much.

WS: You are welcome. [Laughter]