Königsberg FoodStuffs Database
Molly Taylor-Poleskey and Jason A. Heppler
This page presents data and visualizations of the food consumption recorded at the palace of Königsberg in Prussia during the reign of Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg-Prussia (1640-1688), all now located at the Prussian State Secret Archive in Berlin.
The purpose of the visualizations is to see change in taste over time at court. The visualizations were created with D3 at Stanford University’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis.
The parallel coordinates chart represents the z-score, or standard score (how far the annual consumption of an ingredient diverged from its average consumption over the 48-year period represented in the chart). It was inspired by the USDA Nutrient Content chart and attempts to see how consumption of particular ingredients related to consumption of other ingredients.
The table under the parallel coordinates chart contains the color key, categories, units of measure used, the minimum and maximum consumption, the mean, and the tabular raw consumption values.
Scrolling over particular ingredients in the table mutes all other lines on the chart. Likewise, brushing a particular region on the an x-axis on the chart hides all other ingredients in the table.
The Bar Graph Index presents an overview of consumption grouped by “category.” Category means both the food type that Dr. Taylor-Poleskey determined (fish, meat, birds, etc.) based on how the clerks grouped the foods in the annual account books and the unit of measure they used to record the quantity. This overcomes the problem of comparing apples to applesauce, or as in this case, absolute numbers of fish to pickled fish in vats (Stof or Pfund). Click here for charts of modern measurement equivalents of the early modern German terms.
The data behind these visualizations was transcribed and translated from seventeenth-century folios at the Prussian State Secret Archives in Berlin with a grant from the German Foreign Exchange Service (DAAD) and a travel grant from the Central European History Society. These were transcribed and translated as part of Dr. Taylor-Poleskey's research for her dissertation, "The Great Elector’s Table: Food and the Rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, 1640-1688." The kitchen clerks in the palace in Königsberg, Prussia compiled these folios: each one recording the food used by the court kitchen in a year.
Although the thirty remaining folios from the Great Elector's reign are relatively standard in format (compared with other early modern archival material), many inconsistencies have become apparent through the transcription and visualization process. For example, in 1659 the clerk recorded alternative units of measure for many ingredients. These inconsistencies are noted as comments in the original project spreadsheet.
In total, the database consists of 228 unique ingredients supplied to the palace by regional and European markets as well as from local estates. These books do not, however, account for the foods sourced from the palace kitchen gardens.