Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Early Reception of Herder's Volkslieder in Britain


Johann Gottfried Herder's Volkslieder -first published in two parts in 1778 and 1779 - was an attempt at a multicultural anthology of songs - only texts, but not tunes - of different nations. This collection was very influential not only in Germany but also in parts of Europe, for example the Baltic (see here in this blog) and Scandinavia. But it had barely any influence on British scholars and writers.

In fact Herder's relationship to Britain is a very interesting topic. On one hand English and Scottish texts made up the greatest part of what he worked with. Shakespeare's Hamlet had been a major inspiration (see Müller, Erinnerungen I, p. 70). His anthology is built around translations from MacPherson's Ossian and Percy's Reliques. Herder was also familiar with Ramsay, Addison and others as well as with popular song collections like d'Urfey's Wit and Mirth. "Der Anblick dieser Sammlung gibt's offenbar, daß ich eigentlich von Englischen Volksliedern ausging [...]", he wrote later in his Volkslieder (II, p. 27). In fact Scotland was even a kind of dreamland for him: "zu den Schotten! zu Macferson [...] eine Zeitlang ein alter Kaledonier werden" ( Briefwechsel, p. 17):
"[...] und dann nach Wales und Schottland und in die westlichen Inseln, wo auf einer Macpherson, wie Ossians jüngster Sohn sitzt. Da will ich die celtischen Lieder des Volks in in ihrere ganzen Sprache und Ton des Landherzens wild singen hören [...]" (Letter to Merck, 28.10.1770, in Briefe I, p. 277; Wagner I, No. 4, p. 14).
Besides that the works of English scholars like - to name only one - Thomas Blackwell's Enquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer (1735, at the Internet Archive) were of prime importance for him (see Gaier in HW 3, p. 850; for others see f. ex. Beers, pp. 387-9). One may say that Herder would not have been able to develop his ideas about what he regarded as Volkslied without knowledge of the relevant discussion in Britain that was already going on there for several decades. He borrowed the whole concept and applied it for his own project.

But on the other hand the Volkslieder were more or less ignored there. The first problem was of course that "until the turn of the nineteenth century, Herder's work was basically unknown in England" (Gelbart, p. 105). Before 1800 he was only rarely mentioned in the press or in literary magazines. Only one translation became available to British readers, a minor piece about Ulrich van Hutten, but for some reason this was assigned to Goethe (1789, [ESTC T96229]). Only towards the end of the century a kind of "rage for german literature" (quoted in Jefcoate, p. 86) was noted. A new generation of young writers took note of what happened in Germany but still others like Bürger, Goethe and Kotzebue (see Jefcoate, pp. 88-91; see also Stokoe 1926; Beers 1899, pp. 374-424) were much more successful in Britain than Herder. 

His Vom Geist der Ebräischen Poesie was reviewed in the Monthly Review in 1798 (pp. 642-50) and a part of this important work was translated into English and published as Oriental Dialogues in 1801 (at the Internet Archive). The same year William Taylor, an influential promoter of German literature in Britain, mentioned Herder in an article with the title Anecdotes of German Authors and Authoresses residing at Weimar in Saxony in the Monthly Magazine (11.1, 1801, pp. 145-6) but that was not particularly informative. 

1801 saw also the publication of the translation of his opus magnum, the Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-1891) as Outlines of the Philosophy of the History of Man ([ESTC T112944], at the Internet Archive). Interestingly the editor Thomas Churchill noted in the introduction one major problem with Herder's works (p. iii) : "Every one, who is acquainted with Herder, must be aware of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of transfusing his spirit, his 'words that burn,' into another language". 

Nonetheless this book was widely discussed in Britain. There were several interesting reviews (see Jefcoate, p. 85), for example in the Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature (30, 9-12 1800, pp. 1-10, 169-75) and in the Monthly Review (41, August 1803, pp. 403-420). A second edition came out in 1803. But this was an exception. Only very few translations followed until the end of the 19th century, for example the Treatise upon the Origin of Language in 1827 (at Google Books) and the Cid in 1828 (see Morgan 1922, pp. 245-6). Only in the 1880s a short but good biography appeared, Nevinson's A Sketch of Herder And His Times (1884, at the Internet Archive). All in all the reception of Herder's work in Britain left a lot to be desired. 

This was particularly the case with the Volkslieder. At the time of its first publication in 1778 nobody cared. It seems not even Joseph Ritson knew about Herder's work when he wrote his Historical Essay on National Song that can be found in the Select Collection of English Songs (1783, I, pp. xv-lxxii). Only in the '90s a few young writers interested in German literature took note. 


Most important in this respect was young Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775-1818; see Wikipedia; summ. from Guthke 1958b, pp. 41-8 & 135-55; see also Thomson 2010; Mortensen 2004, pp. 77-94) who spent some time at the court in Weimar in 1792/3. There he even met Goethe and other popular German writers. He also became familiar with the Volkslieder while in Germany. Lewis was particularly interested in some of the the kaempeviser, the medieval Danish ballads translated into German by Herder. 

In 1591 Andersen Sørensen Vedel had published Et hundrede udvaalde Danske Viser (later editions: Kopenhagen 1619, at the Internet Archive; Christiania 1664, at NB, Oslo). An updated and expanded edition compiled by Peter Syv then appeared in 1695: 200 Viser om Konger, Kemper og Andre (a later reprint, 1739, is available at Google Books and the Internet Archive). This collection was introduced in Germany by Gerstenberg in 1767 in the Briefe über die Merkwürdigkeiten der Litteratur (No. 8, pp. 108-15) and it became an important source for Herder who included four of these ballads in the Volkslieder (I.2, No. 14, pp. 152-5; II.2, Nos. 25-27, pp. 153-60; see Møller, p. 31-7). 

Lewis was the first one to introduce Danish kaempeviser to English readers. His more or less free adaptations were derived from Herder's German translations. In The Monk, his famous and romance first published in 1795, we can find "The Water-King" (here here 2nd. ed., 1796 Vol. 3, pp. 17-20). "The Erl-Kings Daughter" appeared first in Monthly Mirror (2, 1796, pp. 371-2). But this didn't help to promote the Volkslieder in Britain because in both cases he failed - for whichever reason - to refer to his source. Only in the 4th edition of The Monk in 1798 - where he also added "The Erl-King's Daughter" (pp. 23-5) - he managed to name Herder's anthology as the source of the "Water-King" (p. 17). This was - as far as I know - the very first time that the Volkslieder were mentioned in British literature. 

The next project were the Tales of Wonder (2 Vols., 1801, at the Internet Archive), an anthology of supernatural ballads the concept of which was at least partly indebted to Herder. It can be seen as the first attempt in England to produce something like the Volkslieder (Guthke 1958b, p. 135). Lewis wrote original ballads himself and also commissioned some more from other writers like the young Walter Scott with whom he discussed this work (see Guthke 1957). But he also borrowed some from German writers like Goethe and of course Herder. 

In the first volume we can find several ballads based on Herder's translations of Danish and Nordic texts. First there was "Elver's Hoh" (I, No. VI, pp. 31-3; see Volkslieder I.2, No. 14, pp. 152-5): "My version of this Ballad (as also most of the Danish ballads in this collection) was made from a German translation to be found in Herder's 'Volkslieder'"). He also included once again "The Erl-King's Daughter" and "The Water-King" (Nos. X-XI, pp. 53-61). The latter, by the way, served as an inspiration for new ballads written by Lewis himself respectively Mr. Scott: "The Fire-King" and "The Cloud-King" (No. XII & XIII, pp. 62-78). He also added adaptations of two more Nordic songs - not from the Kaempeviser but from other sources - that also can be found in the Volkslieder (I.2, Nos. 15- & 16, pp. 156-74): "The Sword of Agantyr" and "King Hacho's Death Song" (Nos. VII & VIII, pp. 34-50). At least for the latter he referred to Herder's anthology as his source. 

Lewis also used texts from the Volkslieder for another collection, the Romantic Tales first published in 1808 (4 Vols., at the Internet Archive). Here the reader could find "The Dying Bride" (II, p. 114-20) and he noted that this piece was "partly translated from a Lithuanian ballad, a German translation of which is to be found in Herder's Volks-lieder - the last seven stanzas are entirely new" (I, p. xiii, see Volkslieder I.1, No. 3, pp. 33-4). In fact this is a very free adaptation.. Also of interest in this respect are "Bertrand & Mary-Belle" and "The Lord of Falkenstein" (I, pp. 273-87). Lewis only noted that they were "in a great measure taken from some fragments of old German ballads". There is good reason to assume that these two pieces are also based on texts found in the Volkslieder but only forgot to name his source (Guthke 1958b, pp. 148-52; see Volkslieder, I.1, No. 16, pp. 79-82 & I.3, No. 2, pp. 232-4). 

Lewis was the first one and at that time the only one who made available English adaptations of texts from Herder's Volkslieder and also in some cases named it as his source. Here the reader at least learned about the origin of these pieces. The only other writer who during these years tried his hand at adapting a piece from this anthology was much less forthcoming and preferred not to mention where he had found the original German words. This was Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834; see Wikipedia), writer, poet, critic, philosopher and more, who was interested in German literature and philosophy and also learned the language (see Stokoe, pp. 89-143).

He spent some time in Germany in 1798 and there he bought a copy of the Volkslieder (see Coleridge, Marginalia II, p. 1048). Two years later a little piece was published in a literary almanac, The Annual Anthology (II, 1800, p. 192; see also Coleridge, Complete Poetical Works I, 1912, p. 313). He called it "Something Childish, but very natural. Written in Germany": 
If I had but two little wings, And were a little feathery bird,
And were a little feathery bird,
To you I'd fly, my dear!
But thoughts like these are idle things
And I stay here.

But in my sleep to you I fly,
I'm always with you in my sleep,
The world is all one's own.
But the one wakes, and where am I?
All, all alone.

Sleep stays not though a Monarch bids,
So I love to wake 'ere break of day;
For though my sleep be gone,
Yet while 'tis dark one shuts one's lids
And still dreams on. 
No source is given but this was clearly an adaptation of a song from the Volkslieder called "Flug der Liebe" (I.1, No. 12, pp. 67-8). Herder was the first one to publish this text in a book and it would then become immensely popular in Germany (see Widmer in Liederlexikon), one of the songs even today nearly everybody knows of:
Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär
Und auch zwey Flüglein hätt',
Flög ich zu dir;
Weil es aber nicht kann seyn,
Bleib ich allhier.

Bin ich gleich weit von dir,
Bin ich doch im Schlaf bey dir,
Und red' mit dir:
Wenn ich erwachen thu,
Bin ich allein.

Es vergeht keine Stund' in der Nacht,
Da mein Herz nicht erwacht,
Und an dich gedenkt,
Daß du mir viel tausendmal
Dein Herz geschenkt. 
Coleridge's little poem was reprinted numerous times but - as far as I can see - only very rarely with a reference to Herder as the original source. In 1873 a writer in the Aldine (Vol. 5, p. 23), a journal published in New York, did point to Herder's text, quoted it in an English translation and felt justified to call the poet a "plagiarist". It should be added that Coleridge also read other works by Herder but apparently never returned to the Volkslieder (see Marginalia II, p. 1048). 

The third one in the trio of early British "Herderians" with some interest in the Volkslieder was of course Walter Scott (1771-1832; see Stokoe, pp. 61-88). He also learned the language and developed a fascination with contemporary German literature. Among his earliest works were translations of ballads respectively plays by Bürger and Goethe (see Mortensen 2014, pp. 140-50). His "interest in ballads had been in part inspired" by Herder's Volkslieder (Ferris 2012, p. 10) of which he owned a copy (see Catalogue Abbotsford, 1838, p. 172). He discussed the topic - as already noted - with M. G. Lewis and contributed some pieces for the latter's collections (see also Thomson at the Walter Scott Digital Archive; Scott, Essay, 1830). 

But the only time Scott mentioned Herder's name was a reference to his "beautiful German translation" of "Sir Patrick Spens" that he added to the third edition of the Minstrelsy in 1806 (Vol. 1, p. 6; but see also Scott, Essay, p. 65). Here he also called the Volkslieder "an elegant work, in which it is only to be regretted that the actual popular songs of the Germans form so trifling a proportion", a complaint Herder surely would have agreed to. 

Otherwise there wasn't much. When Robert Jamieson included some Danish texts in his Popular Ballads and Songs (1806, at the Internet Archive) he didn't need to rely on Herder's adaptations as Lewis did but instead used the original sources and translated them anew (see f. ex. I, pp. 208-28; II, pp. 99-116; see also Møller, pp. 43-4). Even more original translations of kaempeviser can be found in the Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, the great anthology of "Teutonic and Scandinavian Romances" compiled by Jamieson in cooperation with Scott and Henry Weber. But here he at least added two German ballads taken directly from Herder, "Ulrich and Annie" and "The Maiden and the Hasel" (pp. 348-53; see Volkslieder I.1, No. 16, pp. 79-82 & I.2, No. 1, pp. 109-10 ).


Some years later the British readers could learn a little bit about Herder from the English translation of Madame de Staël's book about Germany (II, pp. 364-9). There are also some remarks about the Volkslieder, a not unhelpful summary of his thinking about popular poetry (pp. 366-7): 
"Herder published a collection entitled 'Popular Songs.' It contains ballads and detached pieces, on which the national character and imagination of the people are strongly impressed. We may studxy in them that natural poetry which precedes cultivation. Cultivated literature becomes so speedily factitious, that it is good, now and then, to have recourse to the origin of all poetry, that is to say, to the impression made by nature on man before he had analysed both the universe and himself. The flexibility of the German language alone, perhaps admits a translation of those naivités peculiar to that of different countries, without which we cannot enter into the spirit of popular poetry; the words in those poems have in themselves a certain grace, which affects us like a flower we have before seen, like an air that we have heard in our childhood: these peculiar impressions contain not only the secrets of the art, but those of the soul, from which art originally derived them [...]". 
An article in the Monthly Magazine in 1821 (pp. 35-8, 409-14) offered a short overview of Herder's life. The Volkslieder weren't mentioned but at least a translation of a "Fragment about Shakespeare" was added. Some more relevant publications appeared since the late '20. In 1827 Treuttel & Würtz, a French publishing house that was also busy in London, brought out an interesting anthology with the title Stray Leaves, Including Translations from the Lyric Poets of Germany, with Brief Notices of their Work (at the Internet Archive [wrong title]). The anonymous author wrote a short introduction to Herder (pp. 154-6) that also included a few remarks about the Volkslieder:
"His Volks-Lieder, or Popular Songs of all nations, translated into German, consist of the following [...] The translations are for the most part executed with facility, in corresponding measures. Such a garland of poetic flowers, in which are depicted the pains and pleasures, the love and hatred, the hopes and fears of almost universal humanity, in the affecting simplicity of national song, is interesting in the highest degree. The strains of the most distant zones here meet in harmony, and greet us from afar in the accents of home. Herder's passion for such anthologies is remarkable. Wherever he found a rare exotic of exquisite poesy, he immediately transplanted it, with evident delight". 
More important was William Taylor's Historic Survey of German Poetry, Interspersed with Various Translations, published in three volumes in 1830 (at the Internet Archive). Taylor (1765-1836; see Wikipedia), critic and translator - I have already mentioned him -, was at that time the most influential mediator of German literature in Britain. He included a longer chapter about Herder with English translations of original texts (II, pp. 9-42). The Volkslieder are represented by four songs, three of them from the Baltic (pp. 15-8):

John Bowring (1792-1872; see Wikipedia), well-known polyglot translator and editor, wrote a review of some Latvian song collections for the Foreign Quarterly Review (8, 1831, pp. 61-78). He had received these rare publications from Sir Walter Scott (see Catalog Abbotsford, p. 172). Here he also referred to the Volkslieder and added translations of Latvian and Lithuanian songs there as well as some of Herder's notes about Baltic popular poetry (pp. 73-5). 

At this point we can see that there was never a systematic reception of the Volkslieder in Britain. Only a few authors with knowledge of German were familiar with this anthology and some of them - particularly Lewis and Scott - seem to have been inspired at least a little bit by Herder's work. It was not exactly a book suitable for the English market and there was no way that this collection of mostly translations, many of them from the English, could be turned into something of comparable worth for a British audience (see also Bohlman 2011, p. 506). Therefore only a few texts were "translated" into English, the most successful of them as very free adaptations á la Lewis. These were in fact new works only loosely based on Herder's texts. 

Another problem was that for a long time German writers were neglected in Britain. Of course the romantics were interested in literature from Germany. But the "rage" didn't last long and only a few literary stars like Goethe, Bürger, Schiller and Kotzebue became popular and their works were translated into English (see Morgan, pp. 64-7, 154-84, 306-11, 443-66). The rest fared much worse and was rarely made available to English readers. Herder was one of them even though in his case one would have expected more. There was always a great interest for national songs and popular ballads on the British Isles and Herder would have fitted well there. But not even his theoretical works like the Briefwechsel about Ossian were translated. All in all the cultural exchange between German and England was in this case very one-sided and later it wouldn't get much better. 

Of course Herder would be mentioned in books about the history of German literature, like Gostwick's and Harrison's Outlines (1873). There is even a short comment on the Volkslieder (p. 234):
"By his 'Voices of the Peoples' - a series of free translations of the popular songs and ballads of several nations - and by his 'Spirit of Hebrew poetry' (1782) he awakened a cosmopolitan taste in imaginative literature [...] His best work - the popular songs and ballads of many nations - is divided into six books [...] The whole aim of his literary labours seemed to be to make the Germans forget the distinctive character of their own land and recognize themselves as citizens of the world." 
But the first critical discussion of this anthology in Britain can be found in Nevinson's biography (pp. 319-24), that is, by the way, still worth reading. Some paragraphs from the Briefwechsel about Ossian were translated for the chapter about Herder in Warner's Library of the World's Best Literature (XIII, 1902, pp. 7259-76, here p. 7261), an American publication. Of course Herder was regularly referred to by folklorists as a kind of great-grandfather of research into "folk-songs". But his most relevant texts were only recently translated into English (Bohlman 2016). This was really very late.


  • Henry A. Beers, A History of English Romanticism in the 18th century, Holt & Co., New York, 1899, at the Internet Archive 
  • Bohlman, Philip V.: Translating Herder Translating. Cultural Translation and the Making of Modernity. In: The Oxford Handbook of the New Cultural History of Music. Edited by Jane F. Fulcher, Oxford & New York, 2011, pp. 501-522 
  • Philipp Bohlman, Song Loves the Masses. Herder on Music and Nationalism, Oakland, 2017 
  • The Catalogue of the Library at Abbotsford, Edinburgh, 1838, at the Internet Archive 
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Complete Poetical Works Including Poems and Versions of Poems Now Published For the First Time. Edited, With Textual and Bibliographical Notes by Ernest Hartley Coleridge. In Two Volumes. Vol. 1: Poems, Clarendon, Oxford, 1912, at the Internet Archive 
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Marginalia II: Camden to Hutton. Edited by George Whalley, LOndon & Princeton, 1984 (= The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge) 
  • Matthew Gelbart, The Invention of "Folk Music" and "Art Music". Emerging Categories from Ossian to Wagner, Cambridge 2007 (= New perspectives in Music History and Criticism) 
  • Joseph Gostwick & Robert Harrison, Outlines of German Literature, Williams & Norgate, London & Edinburgh, 1873, at the Internet Archive 
  • Karl S. Guthke, Die erste Nachwirkung von Herders Volksliedern in England, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen 193, 1957, pp. 273-84 
  • Karl S. Guthke, Some Unidentified Early English Translations from Herder's Volkslieder, in: Modern Language Notes 73, 1958a, pp. 52-6 (jstor
  • Karl S. Guthke, Englische Vorromantik und deutscher Sturm und Drang. M. G. Lewis' Stellung in der Geschichte der deutsch-englischen Literaturbeziehungen, Göttingen, 1958b (= Palaestra. Untersuchungen aus der deutschen und englischen Philologie und Literaturgeschichte 223) 
  • Rudolf Haym, Herder nach seinem Leben und seinen Werken, Gaertner, Berlin, 1880 & 1885, 2 Vols., at the Internet Archive 
  • [Johann Gottfried Herder], Auszug aus einem Briefwechsel über Ossian und die Lieder alter Völker, in: Von deutscher Art und Kunst. Einige fliegende Blätter, Bode, Hamburg, 1773, pp. 3-70, 113-8, at the Internet Archive 
  • [HW =] Johann Gottfried Herder, Werke in 10 Bänden, Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, Frankfurt/M., 1985-2000 (= Bibliothek deutscher Klassiker) 
  • Johann Gottfried Herder, Briefe. Gesamtausgabe 1763-1803, Böhlau, Weimar, 1977-2009 
  • Graham Jefcoate, Deutsche Drucker und Buchhändler in London 1680-1811. Strukturen und Bedeutung des deutschen Anteils am englischen Buchhandel, Berlin etc., 2015 (= Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens - Studien 12) 
  • Library of the World's Best Literature. Ancient and Modern. Charles Dudley Warner. Editor. Teachers' Edition. Thirty-One Volumes. Vol. XIII, Hill, New York, n. d. [1902], at the Internet Archive 
  • Heinrich Lohre, Von Percy zum Wuinderhorn. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Volksliedforschung in Deutschland, Berlin & Leipzig, 2002 (= Palelaestra XXII), at the Internet Archive 
  • Lis Møller, Travelling Ballads. The Dissemination of Danish Medieval Ballads in Germany and Britain, 1760s to 1830s, in: Dan Ringgaard & Mads Rosendahl Thomsen (eds.), Danish Literature as World Literature, London & New York, 2017, pp. 31-52 
  • Peter Mortensen, British Romanticism and Continental Influences. Writing in an Age of Europhobia, Basingstroke & New York, 2006 
  • Johann Georg Müller (ed.), Erinnerungen aus dem Leben Joh. Gottfrieds von Herder. Gesammelt und beschrieben von Maria Carolina von Herder, geb. Flachsland, Cotta, Stuttgart & Tübingen, 1830, 3 Vols. , at the Internet Archive 
  • Henry Nevinson, A Sketch of Herder And His Times, London, 1884, at the Internet Archive 
  • Lawrence Marsden Price, English Literature in Germany, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1953, at the Internet Archive 
  • Bayard Quincy Morgan, A Bibliography of German Literature in English Translation, Madison, 1922 (= University of Wisconsin Studies in Language and Literature 16), at the Internet Archive 
  • Wolf Gerhard Schmidt, 'Homer des Nordens' und 'Mutter der Romantik'. James MacPhersons Ossian und seine Rezeption in der deutschsprachigen Literatur, 4 Bde., Berlin & New York, 2003-4 
  • Walter Scott, Essay on the Imitation of the Ancient Ballad (1839), in: The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border with His Introductions, Additions and the Editor's Notes, Vol. 4, Cadell, Edinburgh, 1849, pp. 3-78, at the Internet Archive 
  • F. W. Stokoe, German Influence in the English Romantic Period 1788-1818. With Special Reference to Scott, Coleridge, Shelley and Byron, New York, 1963 (first publ. 1926), at the Internet Archive 
  • Douglass H. Thomson (ed.), Matthew Gregory Lewis, Tales of Wonder, Peterborough, ON, 2010
  • Douglass H. Thomson (ed.), Walter Scott's An Apology for Tales of Terror (1799), at The Walter Scott Digital Archive (Edinburgh University Library) 
  • Karl Wagner, Briefe an Johann Heinrich Merck von Göthe, Herder, Wieland und andern bedeutenden Zeitgenossen. Mit Merck's biographischer Skizze, Diehl, Darmstadt, 1835, at the Internet Archive 
  • Tobias Widmer, Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär (2012), in : Populäre und Traditionelle Lieder. Historisch-Kritisches Liederlexikon (Deutsches Volksliedarchiv), last access: 15.10.2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

"Exotic" Tunes: Athanasius Kircher's Tarantellas (1641)


Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680; see Wikipedia; good introduction: Larsen 1989, at the Internet Archive), Jesuit from Germany, was one of the most famous and productive scholars of the 17th century. He has been called "The Last Man Who Knew Everything" (Findlen 2012) or the "Master of a Hundred Arts" (Reilly 1974), to quote the titles of two of the more recent works about him. Kircher wrote about numerous different topics, for example about China, Egyptology, medicine, geology, musicology and much more (see the list of his books at Roessler, Kircher; see also at the Internet Archive). 

I am interested here only in his work in one particular field. Kircher also happened to be among the first who made available popular tunes and songs of the people from Europe's cultural periphery. Today they would be called "folk-tunes". One may say that he could be regarded as one of the first folklorists or ethnomusicologists. I am referring of course to the famous tarantellas from the south of Italy, dance tunes that at that time were said to cure the bite of the tarantula. 

We can find them in his work about magnetism, Magnes Sive De Arte Magnetica Opus Tripartitum - first published in 1641 and then in new editions in 1643 and 1654 - as part of a chapter "De Tarantismo, sive Tarantula Apulo Phalangio, eiusque Magnetismo, ac mira cum Musica sympathia", an extensive scholarly discussion of what was called tarantism (see here 2nd ed. 1643, pp. 755-77). He offered eight tunes, some of them with texts, together with helpful notes (pp. 761-4, see the translation in Brewer 2011, pp. 2-9). 


But at first it is necessary to review the digital copies of this work. We have to find them which is not always that easy. Then we have to check if they are usable: are the scans complete and in good quality?. Not at least there is also the question if these digital copies are presented in a way that they can be used effectively? 

A good start is the above-mentioned list of digital copies of Kircher's books (Roessler, Kircher). Wikisource offers a links to scans of Kircher's publications with musical content including this one. To find more copies several search engines and catalogs are needed: KVK, Europeana, Google and Google Books, the Internet Archive and others. The result is once again very impressive. All in all I found more than 30 digital facsimiles of this work, eight of the 1st edition, nine of the 2nd and 14 of the third. Two thirds of them - twice as many as by all other libraries together - were produced by Google. This shows that they still rule the field. 

Athanasius Kircher, Magnes Sive De Arte Magnetica Opus Tripartitum, Scheus, Roma, 1641, here pp. 872-6 
dto., Editio Secunda, Kalcoven, Köln, 1643, here pp. 761-4 
 dto., Editio Tertia, Mascardi, Roma, 1654, here pp. 591-6 
It is good to have so many copies but as is known there are some serious problems with the quality of the Google-scans. Particularly troublesome is the fact that many of them are not complete. Everything that has a different format than the book itself has - in many cases - not been scanned correctly: fold-outs with maps, illustrations and music or other extras. This is not occasional sloppiness but a general problem that must always be taken into account. Therefore every Google Book needs to be checked for completeness. In this case - Kircher's books are lavish productions - it would be a very time-consuming task: how many illustrations and plates are missing? Were they already missing from the original copy or did they get lost during the scanning process? 

But I can't do this here and I only have checked if they are usable for my own purposes: at least the chapter about the tarantula including the musical examples should be complete. Surprisingly in nearly all copies it is. Only in two scans made from copies of the 2nd edition the plate with the "Antidotum Tarantulae" (after p. 762) is missing (UGent; BM Lyon). This seems to have happened during the scanning process. In another one (BSB) it is also missing but in this case it is a problem of the original book (see VD 17 23:255233C). In general most of the scans are better than expected. Of course some look a little uneven and some are still only in black & white but the pages I needed were there. But I don't doubt that a closer inspection would reveal other defects. 

The copies made available by other libraries also seem to be reliable but I think their online readers are not as good and effective as they should be. They are much slower and less flexible than those of Google Books and of the Internet Archive. The latter offers at the moment still the best possible reader and therefore I used as my working copy a scan of the 2nd edition - from the Boston College Library - that is available there. The Internet Archive's own scans are generally much more reliable than those by Google Books and usually I prefer them to all others. 


Tarantism, an exotic and strange custom from Europe's cultural periphery, used to be a favorite problem for scholars for a very long time. A wealth of relevant literature was produced over the last several centuries and it is still discussed today (see f. ex. the overviews in: Strasser 1984; Schedtler 1994; Arcangeli 2000, at; Le Menthéour, 2009, at Michigan Publ.; Daboo 2010; Korenjak 2013; still useful; Bergsøe 1865, at Google Books; Büsching 1778, at UB Tübingen). It was known well before Kircher's publications. Perotti referred to the tarantula in his Cornucopiae seu Latinae Linguae Commentarii (1527, col. 51; see Becker 1836, col. 11) as did Spanish humanist Pedro Meija in his immensely popular Silva de varia lección (1540, see German ed., 1564, pp. cciiii). In England it was John Case who included a short remark in The Praise of Musicke (1586 [ESTC S115011], p. 56, at EEBO]: 
"Likewise in Apulia when anie man is bitten of the Tarrantula, which is a certain kinde of flie, verie venimous and full of daunger, they finde out the nature and sympathie of the sicknesse or humor, with playing on instrumentes, and with diuersitie of Musicke, neither doe they cease from playing, vntill the often motion and agitation, haue driuen the disease away".
This fable also found its way into literature. There is for example a reference in Sidney's Arcadia (1590, here 1598, p. 33): "This word, Louer, did not lesse pierce poor Pyrocles, than the right tune tune of musicke toucheth him that is sicke of the Tarantula". Italian physician Vincenzio Bruni dedicated one of his Tre dialoghi to this problem (Napoli, 1601, pp. 1-37). More names could be added. But it was Kircher who actually discussed it in detail, as a scientific case study in the context of his ideas about musical therapy. "Rather than offering rarefied speculations [...] Kircher focuses on the here-and-now, observing, scrutinizing, documenting" (Gioia, p. 118). 

Most important in this respect was that he made available the tunes and songs performed at these occasions. He hadn't collected them himself. Instead he relied on the information sent to him by two Jesuits who lived and worked in Apulia and who had witnessed cases of tarantism. Their names are given at the start of the chapter (2nd. ed., p. 756). There have been some doubts about the reliability of these notations. All except one of these tunes are in common time while all tarantellas collected later were in triple metre (see Daboo, p. 122). Perhaps these two padres didn't have enough experience with this kind of music or these tunes were really performed this way. 

Kircher offered all in all eight tunes. For some of them he added texts. He was able to comment on every one of them, gave some information about the instrumentation, the performance context and the effects. One of them - the only one in triple time - had been sent to him from Napoli as the "true tarantella". In this case he had some doubts but added it nonetheless. His theories about musical therapy and his discussion about tarantism are of course now completely outdated. But this collection of tunes and songs remains important as "a unique example of actual music from this historical moment" (Daboo, p. 122), a very fascinating documentation of the popular music of the people from the South of Italy. 

At that time not much music of this kind - "exotic" tunes either from the European periphery or from outside of Europe - was available (see my bibliography at Google Docs). Spanish musicologist Francisco Salinas had published popular tunes from Southern Europe in his De Musica Libri Septem (1577; see also Pedrell 1899). Some original music from the Americas had been made available by Jean de Lery (1585) and Marc Lescarbot (1617). One Turkish piece can be found in both Salomon Schweigger's, Newe Reyßbeschreibung (1608) and Kepler's Harmonices Mundi (1618). 

Most closely related to Kircher's work was a book published only several years earlier. Friedrich Menius had included three fragmentary tunes recorded from performances of Baltic peasants in his Syntagma de Origine Livonorum (1635, see the reprint in Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum II, 1848, p. 525; see Graf 1963). Menius (1593-1659), at that time professor of history in Dorpat, also offered these songs and tunes in the context of an academic treatise. He was interested in the origin of the non-German Baltic populations, also a very popular topic among scholars at that time (see now Donecker 2017, part. pp. 123-46). But he also added interesting and notes about the musical performances. These tunes are in fact the earliest available examples of the music of the Latvians and Estonians and it would take a long time - more than 140 years - until more was collected and published. 

Neither Kircher nor Menius were interested in these tunes and songs itself but only in their value as an historical source and as documentary evidence in the context of their treatise. Nonetheless both works can be seen as the symbolic starting-points for subsequent research into the popular music of the people from Europe's cultural periphery. At that time both the Baltic peasants and Kircher's Apulian taranti must have been as exotic and strange to the common European scholar as some newly discovered people on the other side of the world. Unfortunately Menius' innovative efforts were quickly forgotten and it would take more than 140 years until more Baltic tunes were collected and published. But Kircher's tarantellas always remained available and were reprinted regularly over the next centuries. 


Kircher returned to this topic in two of his later publications, both musicological works:
  • Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis Sive Ars Magna Consoni Et Dissoni in X Libros Digesta, Grignani, Roma, 1650, II, pp. 221-4, at the Internet Archive: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 [= Google Books-UC Madrid: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2]; at Google Books: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 [= BSB], also at the Internet Archive: Vol. 2 
  • Athanasius Kircher, Philosophischer Extract und Auszug aus deß Welt-berühmten Teutschen Jesuiten Athanasii Kircheri von Fulda Musurgia Universali, in Sechs Bücher verfasset, Laidigen, Schwäbisch Hall, 1662, here pp. 179-87, at Google Books [= NBC]; at Google Books [= BSB] 
  • Athanasius Kircher, Phonurgia Nova Sive Conjugium Mechanico-physicum Artis & Naturae Paranympha Phonosophia, Dreher, Kempten, 1673, pp. 204-16, at the Internet Archive [= Google Books-BNC Roma]; at the Internet Archive [= Google Books-BSB] 
  • Athanasius Kircher, Neue Hall- und Thonkunst, oder Mechanische Geheim-Verbindung der Kunst und Natur, Durch Stimme und Hall-Wissenschaft gestiftet, In unsere Teutsche Sprache übersetzt von Agatho Carione, Schultes, Nördlingen, 1684, pp. 144-52, at Google Books [= BSB], also at the Internet Archive
In his Musurgia Universalis we can find a summary of this problem, but no musical examples. The German translation made Kircher's ideas also available to those who couldn't read Latin. I should add that this influential standard work (see Scharlau 1969) also included some remarks about non-European music (I., p  565; German ed. p. 151). Here he added two examples, one a fragmentary Chinese tune he had received from a Jesuit colleague who had been in China, the other the Turkish melody from Kepler's Harmonices Mundi

Kircher also wrote about tarantism in his Phonurgia Nova and here he offered his readers at least one of the tune originally published in the Magnes Sive De Arte Magnetica, the "Antidotum Tarantulae" (here pp. 209-10). He added a nice illustration of dancers and musicians (p. 206). Both the tune and the image can also be found in the German translation (p. 145 & p. 148). 

Other scholars also discussed this problem with reference to Kircher's work. Samuel Hafenreffer (1587-1660, see Wikipedia), physician and professor in Tübingen, did not invest much efforts but simply quoted most of Kircher's original text in his book about dermatology. We can find it here as part of the chapter about animal bites. He also reprinted all the music. But beware, this book has until now only been digitized by Google and in all five available copies the fold-out with the "Antidotum Tarantulae" (after p. 488) is either missing or mutilated: 
  • Samuel Hafenreffer, Nosodochium, In Quo Cutis, Eique Adhaerentium Partium, Affectus Omnes, Singulari Methodo, Et Cognoscendi et Curandi Fidelissime Traduntur, Ulm, 1660 , p. 475-520, at Google Books [= ÖNB]; at Google Books [= UofLausanne]; at Google Books [= UTorino]; at Google Books [= NB Napoli]; at Google Books [= BSB
The tarantula also earned an entry in Matthias Zimmermann's encyclopedia and he reprinted one of Kircher's tunes, the "Antidotum Tarantulae". But beware again, this scan, the only one available of this publication, is of very bad quality and barely usable. But at least we can see that a foldout with music was originally included: 
  • Matthiae Zimmermann, Florilegium Philologico-Historicum, Aliquot myriadum Titulorum, Cum Optimis Authoribus, qvi de qvavis Materia scripserunt, qvarum praecipuae curiose & ex professo tractantur, Adhibita re Nummaria & Gemmaria, Praemittitur Diatriba De Eruditione Eleganti Comparanda Cum Figuris, Parts II, Güntherus, Dresden & Meissen, 1689, here p. 757, at BSB [= GB] 
It seems that during the 18th century the tarantula and tarantism were referred to even more often. It was mentioned in literary works, for example by Jonathan Swift in his Tale of a Tub (1704, p. 203): "He was troubled with a Disease, reverse to that called the Stinging of the Tarantula, and would run Dog-mad at the Noise of Musick, especially a Pair of Bag-Pipes". Physicians discussed this topic in their treatises, like Giorgio Baglivi from Italy in his De Praxi Medica (1699, here Engl. ed., 1723, pp. 312-73) and Richard Mead from England in his Mechanical Account of Poisons (1702, here 1708, pp. 59-81). 

Travelers went to Apulia and reported what they saw, for example Johann Georg Keyßler (II, 1741, pp. 232-3) and Johann Hermann Riedesel (1771, pp. 250-9). But the original story - music as a cure for the bite - was more and more treated with suspicion and then debunked. German physician Ernst Gottfried Baldinger ridiculed it as a "Fabel" in an article in the Neues Magazin für Ärzte (1779, p. 143) and Anton Friedrich Büsching, geographer and jurist, found even harsher words in his Eigene Gedanken und gesammelte Nachrichten von der Tarantel (1779, at UB Tübingen), a collection of critical articles and documents. He regarded it all as a fraud. 

I will only list here those relevant publications that included some music. Among those was one that stood out: 
  • Georgius Vallerius, Exercitium Philosophicum de Tarantula, Quod Indultu Ampliss. Collegii Philosophici in Regia Upsaliensi Academia, Uppsala, 1702, at Google Books [= BL]; at the Internet Archive 
In this Swedish dissertation the author not only discussed Kircher's standard talking-points but also compared the Italian tarantellas with Swedish popular dances and songs and saw similarities (see also Arcangeli, p. 98). This may be regarded as a very early example of comparative ethnomusicology. Vallerius also reprinted several of Kircher's melodies and the frontispiece depicts two traveling musicians with drums and bagpipe performing an unidentified tune:

In Germany one or more of Kircher's tunes were included in a several books published during the first half of the century. It is interesting to see the many different contexts in which this topic was discussed: 
  • Germanus Adlerhold, Umständliche Beschreibung Des anjetzo Vom Krieg neu-bedrohten sonst herrlichen Königreich Neapolis, nach dessen bewunders-würdigen Natur-Gütern, Fruchtbarkeit, Flüssen, Seen, Meer-Busen, und Häfen [...]. Zusamt einer nachrichtlich-Alphabetischen Verzeichnus aller in denen zwölff Provincien dieses Reichs enthaltenen Städten und Vestungen ; Nebst vielen schönen Kupffern auch mit und ohne Land-Carten. Wobey eine Erzehlung was sich seit dem Tod Caroli II. in diesem Königreich begeben, Buggel, Nürnberg, 1702, pp. 239-60, at ÖNB [= GB]; at BSB [= GB
  • Michael Bernhard Valentini, Museum Museorum, oder Vollständige Schau-Bühne aller Materialien und Specereyen, nebst deren natürlichen Beschreibung, Election, Nutzen und Gebrauch. Aus andern Material-, Kunst und Naturalien-Kammern, Oost- und West-Indischen Reiß-Beschreibungen, Curiosen Zeit- und Tag-Registern, Natur- und Artzney-Kündigern, wie auch selbst-eigenen Erfahrung. Zum Vorschub der Studirenden Jugend, Materialisten, Apothecker und deren Visitatoren , wie auch anderer Künstler als Jubelirer, Mahler, Färber u.s.w. also verfasset, und mit etlich hundert sauberen Kupfferstücken unter Augen geleget. ZUnner, Frankfurt, 1704, pp. 514-6, at the Internet Archive 
  • Abraham Friedrich Krafft, Der Sowohl Menschen und Viehe Grausamen Thiere schädlichen Ungeziefers Und Verderblichen Gewürmer Gäntzliche Ausrottung: Oder vielmehr Ausführliche Unterweisung, Wie allerley Thiere, als reissende Wölffe, listige Füchse, wütende und rasende Hunde, Mader, Iltißen, Wieseln [...] gäntzlich auszurotten, zu vertilgen und zu vertreiben, Buggel, Nürnberg, 1709, pp. 344-67, music p. 362, at Google Books [= BSB
  • Georg Ernst Stahl, Praxis Stahliana, Das ist Collegium Practicum, Welches theils von Ihm privatim in die Feder dictirt, theils von seinen damahligen Auditoribus aus dem Discurs mit besonderem Fleiß nachgeschrieben, Nunmehrs aber aus dem Lateinischem ins Deutsche übersetzt, mit vielen Anmerckungen und Raisonnemens aus 29. jähriger Praxi bekräfftiget und erläutert, auch nach der Vorschrifft des Herrn Autoris bey dieser zweyten Auflage um viel vermehrt und verbessert zum Druck befürdert worden von Johann Storchen, alias Hulderico Pelargo, Eyssel, Leipzig, 1732, p. 31, at Google Books [= BSB]; also 3rd ed., 1745, p. 31, at ÖNB [= GB] 
  • Historische Nachricht von der Tarantula, und derselben Abbildung, in: Kern Anmuthiger und Zeit-kürtzender, Eines auserlesenen Vorraths curieuser und nützlich-gesammleter Wissenschafften und deren brauchbaresten Kunst-Stücke, 1. Sammlung, Funcke, Erfurt, 1745, pp. 283-7, at BSB
Adlerhold's book is description of the Kingdom of Napoli. The tarantula was what most readers presumably knew best about this area and therefore he couldn't avoid including a long chapter about this topic. Valentini (1657-1729; see Wikipedia), professor of medicine in Giessen, discussed the tarantula and the musical cure of its bite in his monumental medical compendium. Krafft in his book about animals regarded as vermin also felt it necessary to add a well researched chapter. All three used Kircher's "Anitidotum Tarantulae" as a musical example. 

Georg Ernst Stahl (1659-1734), professor of medicine in Halle, also reprinted this tune - he had taken it from Valentini's book - but he seems to have been quite skeptical about this story. He only mentioned it in passing in connection with some short remarks about music and medicine. Swiss "Küh-Reyhen" that were said to cure homesickness of soldiers from Switzerland served as another example. In Funcke's Kern Anmutigher Wissenschaften, a popular scientific periodical, the old stories about the tarantula and the tarantella were recycled once again more or less uncritically and here we can also find the same tune. 

Shortly later a different tune was made available in an article published by an English magazine:
  • Stephen Storace [i. e. Stefano Storace], A genuine Letter from an Italian Gentleman, concerning the Bite of the Tarantula, in: The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle 23, 1753, pp. 433-4, at Google Books 
One Steven Storace , i. e. Stefano Storace (1725-1781, see Wikipedia), an Italian musician who later moved to Britain - his son of the same name would become a popular composer there - claimed to have come across someone bitten by the tarantula. He learned the tune on the spot, played it for him and helped him to recover (see also Gioielli 2008). This article was translated into German the following year and his tune reappeared later in several other publications, for example a Viennese dissertation and Tans'ur's influential Elements of Musick
  • Ein ächter Brief von einem italienischen Herrn über den Biß der Tarantul. Aus dem Gentleman's Magazine for Sept. 1753, in: Hamburgisches Magazin, oder, Gesammlete Schriften, aus der und den angenehmen Wissenschaften überhaupt 13.1, 1754, pp. 1-8, at the Internet Archive [= BHL] 
  • Johann Baptist Mathias Schwarz, Dissertatio Inauguralis Medica De Tarantismo Et Chorea Viti, Wien, 1766, at Google Books 
  • William Tans'ur, The Elements of Musick Display'd. Or, Its Grammar, or Ground-Work Made Easy, Rudimental, Practical, Philosophical, Historical, and Technical. In Five Books, Crowder, London, 1772 [ESTC T153927], pp. 217-20, at the Internet Archive 

One more tune from Apulia was made available by English traveler and scholar Thomas Shaw (1694-1751; see DNB 51, p. 446, at wikisource) in the second edition of his popular and influential book about his Travels in the Middle East. In a short chapter about scorpions and phalangiae he couldn't resist referring to the tarantula and the dance "to obtain [...] copious perspiration". In a note one tune is printed. I haven't seen it in an earlier publication so I assume Shaw had heard and noted it himself. There is no mention of Kircher's work but only of Italian botanist and physician Mattioli's commentary on Dioscorides (1554, here 1565, p. 362), another early reference to this phenomenon:
  • Thomas Shaw, Travels or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant. Illustrated with Cuts. The Second Edition, with Great Improvements, Millar, London, 1757 [ESTC T114688], p. 191, n.9, at the Internet Archive 
Occasionally also a musicologist expressed his opinion about this topic. Jacob Adlung (1699-1762) wasn't fond of the "Antidotum tarantulae" and quipped that it sounded so miserable that one gets sick rather than healthy from it. He only included one half of this melody which he had found in Kircher's Phonurgia Nova thinking it was the second of two tunes: 
  • Jacob Adlung, Anleitung zu der musikalischen Gelahrtheit, theils vor alle Gelehrte, so das Band aller Wissenschaften einsehen; theils vor die Liebhaber der edlen Tonkunst überhaupt [...], Jungnicol, Erfurt, 1758, pp. 57-8, Tab 1.1, at the Internet Archive [= Oberlin] 
All of Kircher's tune were later made available once again in a German dissertation about the human ear: 
  • Christian Ernst Wünsch, De Auris Humanae Proprietatibus Et Vitiis Quibusdam, Leipzig, 1777, pp. 38-43, at Google Books [= BSB] 
A decade later six more tarantellas were included in a Spanish publication: 
  • Francisco Javier Cid, Tarantismo observado en España, con que se prueba el de la pulla, dudado de algunos, y tratado de otros de fabuloso, Gonzalez, Madrid, 1787, here after p. 14, at the Internet Archive 


After the turn of century tarantellas began to appear in collections of national airs. Edward Jones, Welsh harper and editor of a series of anthologies dedicated to foreign tunes (for more about Jones see my article in this blog), once again revived Kircher's "Antidotum Tarantulae" but his source was Zimmermann's Florilegium Philologico-Historicum. He also added some variations: 
  • Edward Jones, Maltese Melodies; Or National Airs, And Dances, usually performed by the Maltese Musicians at their Carnival & other Festivals; with a few other characteristic Italian Airs & Songs; To these are annex'd a selection of Norwegian Tunes, never before Published; and to which are added Basses for the Harp or Piano-Forte, London, n. d. [1807], pp. 38-9, at the Internet Archive 
Among the more important publication dedicated to this topic was surely Justus Hecker's influential book about dancing manias. This work was translated into English and other languages. Hecker (1795-1850), historian and physician, reprinted all of Kircher's tunes and made them available for a new generation of readers: 
  • J. F. C. Hecker, Die Tanzwuth, eine Volkskrankheit im Mittelalter. Nach den Quellen für Aerzte und gebildete Nichtärzte bearbeitet, Enslin, Berlin, 1832, pp. 26-54, tunes: pp. 89-92
  • J. F. C. Hecker, The Epidemics of the Middle Ages, London, 1844, pp. 107-133, tunes: pp. 167-74, at the Internet Archive 
At this time the tarantella had already been adopted by modern composers and a lot of new pieces were composed and published. Nearly 400 relevant publications were announced between 1829 and 1900 in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten (at Hofmeister XIX). Many travelers went to Apulia and witnessed local performances of tarantellas. Goethe made it there during the 1780s but his short report was only published much later, in 1810 (pp. 110-2; see Assel & Jäger at Goethezeitportal). Others brought back tarantella tunes they had heard there, like Gustav Parthey (I, 1834, App., No. V, p. 6) and Karl August Mayer (I, 1840, pp. 387-8, see also pp. 366-73). But the old tunes were also republished and remained available, for example in a history of dancing:
  • Albert Czerwinski, Geschichte der Tanzkunst bei den cultivierten Völkern von den ersten Anfängen bis auf die gegenwärtige Zeit, Weber, Leipzig, 1862, pp. 54-7, at Google Books 
Of course some of the experts for national airs and Volkslieder also weighed in. Danish composer Berggreen included nine tarantellas in his comprehensive anthology of international Folke-Sange. Eight of them (No. 90-96) were modern pieces from different sources, for example Parthey's book and several Italian collections. As an example of the older style he revived Storace's tune (No. 97). But of course he was familiar with the historical development of the genre and in his notes also referred to Kircher: 
  • A. P. Berggreen, Italienske, Spanske og Portugisiske Folke-Sange og Melodier, Samlade og Udsatte for Pianoforte, Anden, Meget Forogode Udgave (= Folke-Sange og Melodier, Fædrelandske og Fremmede 7, Anden Utgave), C. A. Reitzel, Köbenhavn, 1866, here No. 97, p. 129 , also notes, p. 246, pp. 251-2 
I will close with two musical encyclopedias from the latter part of the 19th century. In both of them we find informative summaries of this topic. One or more of Kircher's tunes were reprinted and once again made available to those interested in the history of this genre. 
  • Musikalisches Conversations-Lexikon. Eine Encyklopädie der gbesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften. Für Gebildete aller Stände, begründet von Hermann Mendel. Fortgesetzt von Dr. August Reissmann, Bd. 10, Oppenheim, Berlin, 1878, pp. 104-108, at the Internet Archive 
  • A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (A. D. 1450-1889). By Eminent Writers, English and Foreign. With Illustrations and Woodcuts. Ed. by Sir George Grove. In Four Volumes. Vol. IV, MacMillan, London & New York, 1889 , pp. 58-9 
During the 20th century these tunes were also regularly published again. For example the original plate with the "Antidotum Tarantulae" appeared as the frontispiece in a Handbook of Medical Entomology (1915, p. ii). We can find them in musicological works and other academic publications discussing tarantism. Some of Kircher's tarantellas were recorded. Today they are of course available on YouTube (see f. ex. here). Now these melodies have a consecutive history of more than 350 years. They have made it in to the modern world even though Kircher's own theories are long out-dated.

  • Alessandro Arcangeli, Dance between disease and cure: the tarantella and the physician, in: Ludica. Annali di Storia e Civilà del Gioco 5-6, 2000, pp. 88-102, at 
  • Jutta Assel & Georg Jäger, Goethes Italienische Reise - Neapel: Volksleben Folge 3: Tarantella (Italiensehnsucht Deutscher Künstler der Goethezeit), 2015/16, at Goethezeitportal  
  • Giorgio Baglivi, The Practice of Physick, Reduc'd to the ancient Way of Observations Containing a just Parallel between the Wisdom and Experience of the Ancients, And the Hypothesis's ogf Modern Physicians, Intermix'd with many Practical Remarks upon most Distempers. The Second Edition, Midwinter etc., London 1723 [ESTC N9783], at the Internet Archive 
  • Philip V. Bohlman, Representation and Cultural Critique in the History of Ethnomusicology, in: Bruno Nettl & Philip V. Bohlman (eds.), Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music. Essays on the History of Ethnomusicology, Chicago & London, 1991, pp. 131-51 
  • Karlis Brambats, Ein frühes Zeugnis livländischen Singens, in: Musik des Ostens 8, 1982, pp. 9-29
  • Carl Ferdinand Becker, Systematisch-Chronologische Darstellung der musikalischen Literatur von der frühesten bis auf die neueste Zeit, Friese, Leipzig, 1836, at the Internet Archive [= GB
  • V. Bergsøe, Iagttagelser om den italianske Tarantel og Bidrag til Tarantiesmens Historien i Middelalderen og nyere Tid, in: Naturhistorisk Tidsskrift 3.2, 1865, pp. 239-299, at Google Books
  • Charles E. Brewer, The Instrumental Music of Schmeltzer, Biber, Muffat and their Contemporaries, Abingdon & New York, 2011 (see Google Books
  • Anton Friedrich Büsching, Eigene Gedanken und gesammelte Nachrichten von der Tarantel, Berlin, 1778, at UB Tübingen 
  • Jerri Daboo, Ritual, Rapture and Remorse. A Study in Tarantism and Pizzica in Salento, Bern etc, 2010 
  • Stefan Donecker, Origines Livonorum. Frühneuzeitliche Hypothesen zur Herkunft der Esten und Letten, Köln etc, 2017
    Paula Findlen (ed.), Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything, New York & London, 2004  
  • Walter Graf, Die ältesten deutschen Überlieferungen estnischer Volkslieder, in: Musik des Ostens 1, 1963, pp. 83-105 
  • Johann Georg Keyßler, Neueste Reise durch Teutschland, Böhmen, Ungarn, die Schweitz, Italien, und Lothringen, worinn der Zustand und das merckwürdigste dieser Länder beschrieben wird. Mit Kupfern, Försters und Sohns Erben, Hannover, 1740-1, 3 Bde., at BSB [= GB] 
  • Mauro Gioielli, Il tarantismo campano in una lettera di metà settecento, in: Utriculus. Bollettino trimestrale dell’Associazione Culturale “Circolo della Zampogna” di Scapoli 22, No. 46, April-June 2008, pp. 29-33, at 
  • Ted Gioia, Healing Songs, Durham & London, 2006 
  • Andrea Korenjak, Musik und rituelle Heilung am Beispiel des Tarantismus - Historische, ethnologische und psychologische Reflexionen, in: Jacob A. v. Belzen (ed.), Musik und Religion. Psychologische Zugänge, Wiebaden, 2013, pp. 125-164 
  • A. Dean Larsen (ed.), Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680). Jesuit Scholar. An Exhibition of his Works in the Harold B. Lee Library Collections at Brigham Young University. Introduction and Descriptions by Brian L. Merrill, Provo, 1989, at the Internet Archive [= BYU] 
  • Rudy Le Menthéour, The Tarantula, the Physician, and Rousseau: The Eighteenth-Century Etiology of an Italian Sting, in: Proceedings of the Western Society for French History 37, 2009, pp. 35-47 , at Michigan Publishing 
  • P. Conor Reilly, Athansius Kircher, S. J.: Master of a Hundred Arts, 1602-1680, Wiesbaden, 1974 (= Studia Kircheriana 1) 
  • Karl August Mayer, Neapel und die Neapolitaner, oder Briefe aus Neapel in die Heimat, Schulze, Oldenburg, 1840 & 1842, 2 Bde., at the Internet Archive [= GRI] 
  • Richard Mead, A Mechanical Account of Poisons in Several Essays. The Second Edition, Revised, with Additions, Smith, London, 1708 [ESTC T55004], at the Internet Archive 
  • Friedrich Menius, Syntagma de Origine Livonorum, Dorpat, 1635 (not yet digitized; reprinted in: Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum II, Riga & Leipzig, 1848, pp. 511-42, at the Internet Archive) 
  • Gustav Parthey, Wanderungen durch Sicilien und die Levante, 2 Bde. & Anhang, Nicolai, Berlin, 1834 & 1840, at the Internet Archive 
  • Felipe Pedrell, Folk-lore musical castillan du XVI. siècle, in: Sammelbände der Internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft 1, 1899-1900, pp. 372-400 (Internet Archive
  • Johann Hermann Riedesel, Reise durch Sicilien und Großgriechenland, Orell etc, Zürich,. 1771, at the Internet Archive 
  • Hole Rößler, Athanasius Kircher: Forschungsbibliographie & Werke im Internet , at 
  • Ulf Scharlau, Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) als Musikschriftsteller. Ein Beitrag zur Musikanschauung des Barock, Phil. Diss., Marburg, 1969, (= Studien zur hessischen Musikgeschichte 2) 
  • Susanne Schedtler, Musiktherapeutische Aspekte der Tarantella in Geschichte und Gegenwart. In: Jahrbuch für musikalische Volks- und Völkerkunde Band 15, 1994, 181-221 
  • Gerhard F. Strasser, 'Wie von der Tarantel gebissen': Tarantismus und Musiktherapie im Barock, in: Martin Bircher et al. (eds.), Barocker Lustspiegel. Studien zur Literatur des Barock. Festschrift für Blake Lee Spahr, Amsterdam, 1984 (= Chloe. Beihefte zum Daphnis 3), pp. 245-64

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gustav Parthey's Remarks about Sicilian and Egyptian Music in his Wanderungen (1834/40)

In the previous article I have discussed an interesting addition to my bibliography of "exotic" tunes in European publications from the 16th to the 19th century (see here in my blog and the bibliography at GoogleDocs): a few Bedouin tunes the Finnish orientalist G. A. Wallin's collected during the 1840s.

Two decades earlier young German scholar Gustav Parthey had traveled to the Mediterranean and to Egypt and he also brought back some music: tunes from Sicily, Malta and Egypt. They later appeared in his travelogue which is worth rediscovering not only because of his own contribution to this field but also because he reprinted some formerly unpublished tunes and notes by a famous traveler of the previous century: 
  • Gustav Parthey, Wanderungen durch Sicilien und die Levante, 1. Theil. Wanderungen durch Sicilien und Malta, Nicolai, Berlin, 1834, here Musikbeilage 
  • Gustav Parthey, Wanderungen durch Sicilien und die Levante, 2. Theil: Wanderungen durch das Nilthal, Nicolai, Berlin, 1840 
  • Gustav Parthey, Wanderungen durch Sicilien und die Levante. Anhang zum zweiten Theil der Wanderungen durch Sicilien und die Levante, Nicolai, Berlin, 1840, pp. 15-20,
    all at the Internet Archive 
Gustav Parthey (1798-1872; see Wikipedia; see ADB 25, 1887, pp. 189-91, at wikisource), German art historian, Egyptologist and philologist - he was the grandson of Friedrich Nicolai (1733-1811), the influential publisher, writer and critic, a key figure of literary enlightenment - studied in Berlin and Heidelberg. After his dissertation in 1820 he went on an extended journey through Europe and to the Mediterranean and also the Levant. Especially Egypt and the Holy Land used to be popular travel destinations for German intellectuals (see f. ex. Goren 2003; Amin 2013) . 

He returned in 1824 and soon became director of the Nicolaische Buchhandlung, the publishing house founded by his grandfather. Parthey also made himself a name as a private scholar. Among his publications were a dictionary of Coptic language, a geography of old Egypt and catalogs of modern and antique works of art (see wikisource). Later he moved to Italy and died in Rome. 

His travel report appeared in two parts, first a volume about Sicily and Malta in 1834 and then in 1840 the second one about his time in Egypt. An extra volume with a map, illustrations, astronomical observations by the one of his companions, the astronomer and mathematician Johann Heinrich Westphal, a small Nubian dictionary and a chapter about music was published as a supplement. 

Parthey's account of his travels is well written and still very pleasant to read. He was mostly interested in the antiquities and offered good summaries of the history of the places he visited. But he also happened to be a good and sympathetic observer who showed some genuine interest in the people he met, their culture and their everyday life. 

In the volume about Sicily and Malta we can find some helpful and valuable remarks about the music he heard (see pp. 27-8, 93-4, 124, 140, 143-4). For example he discussed the legendary Sicilian poet Giovanni Meli (1740-1815, see Wikipedia), a name not unknown in Germany. His songs were still popular among the people and sung all over Sicily (pp. 45-48). 

The Musikbeilage offered a collection of 21 songs and tunes mostly from Sicily and Malta that he had recorded from oral tradition - "dem Volke abgehorcht" -, among them some of Meli's together with the melodies they were sung to as well as songs apparently imported from Tyrol and France (Nos. IV & XII). Of course he couldn't resist including a tarantella from Apulia (No. V). 

The volume about Egypt also includes a number of short and often casual remarks about musical performances he witnessed (f. ex. pp. 63, 91, 186, 203, 208-9, 280, 294, 560-2). But more important and informative are a chapter about music as well as 21 tunes and songs that can be found in the extra volume, the Anhang zum zweiten Theil (here pp. 15-20). It is obvious that Parthey was not particularly impressed with what he had heard there. In fact he sounds very disappointed: 
"Die Armuth des heutigen Orients an edleren geistigen Genüssen zeigt sich auch in der Musik [...] Man findet im Orient weder eine wissenschaftliche noch eine praktische Ausbildung der Musik, einen zwei- oder mehrstimmigen Gesang hört man nirgends, die Notenschrift ist gänzlich unbekannt, von Generalbass oder Kontrapunkt hat niemand einen Begriff [...]" (p. 15). 
This was a not uncommon attitude for travelers from Europe. But nonetheless he collected some tunes (Nos. I-VI), for example a song of Nubian sailor, a Nubian variant of the popular tune "Malbrook s'en va-t-en guerre" as well as a "lament of an Arabian girl whose lover was conscripted by the Pasha. She wants to go to him but her mother holds her back with beatings" (see p. 15). He also noted that these melodies were difficult to transcribe "weil die Araber und Nubier, ausser den halben, auch Drittel-Töne haben, woran ein europäisches Ohr sich schwer gewöhnt". 

But apparently Dr. Parthey wasn't really satisfied with what he had heard and noted. Therefore he made available some more tunes collected eight decades earlier by the famous Carsten Niebuhr. His grandfather Friedrich Nicolai used to conduct correspondences with numerous contemporaries. Among them was Niebuhr (1733-1815, see Wikipedia; a good introduction: Wiesehöfer & Conerman 2002), who between 1774 and 1780 had sent several letters to Nicolai where he discussed Arabian music and also included a number of melodies (see Kalliope). 

Niebuhr, a German engineer in duty of the Danish king, started his journey to Arabia, India and Persia in 1760 together with five companians. In 1767 he returned as the only survivor. The first two volumes of his famous Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien und anderen umliegenden Ländern appeared in 1774 and 1778. This would become one of the most important and widely read travel books of the 18th century and it was quickly translated into other languages. 

Unlike many other travelers Niebuhr was also a trained musician. He played the violin and even performed there for the locals. He also tried to keep his ears open and listened to what he heard. In his Reisebeschreibung we can find a chapter about "Leibesübungen und Zeitvertreib der Morgenländer bey müssigen Stunden" and here he wrote a little bit about music (I, pp. 175-182, at the Internet Archive). But, just like Parthey eight decades later and just like other visitors in the meantime, he was more or less disappointed and mostly critical. Particularly valuable were Niebuhr's descriptions of musical instruments (see Pl. XVI, at UB Kiel). He was also able to transcribe tunes he had heard. For some reason he only included one single melody in his work (dto., E)

Parthey had access to his grandfather's estate and reprinted nearly all the unpublished tunes from the correspondence as well as the relevant parts from six of the letters Niebuhr had written for Nicolai: they offer explanations and notes about these tunes and Arabian music in general. First there is the original, uncorrected version of the tune published in the Reisebeschreibung (No. VII). Then there are five tunes identified by Niebuhr as Greek (12.3.1775) - perhaps these were "Oriental melodies" performed for him by a Greek musician that he referred to in an earlier letter (30.9.1774) - as well as three Arabian and Egyptian tunes, among the a sailor's song he had heard on a ship (Nos. XIV-XII; 12.3.1775). This of course isn't much but there is so little Arabian music available from that time that even the fragmentary pieces recorded by Niebuhr may count as a major addition. 

The rest are tunes from other publications. The music of the dervishes of the mosque in Pera (Nos. XVIII-XX) was of course taken from Ferriol's Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant (1715, p. 16) but Niebuhr had some doubts about its authenticity. One part he claimed he had heard himself but another one didn't sound "morgenländisch" to him (18.4.1775).

He also referred Nicolai to a new Danish publication, Georg Höst's Efterretninger om Marokos og Fes, samlede der i Landene fra ao. 1760 til 1768 (1779). Höst (1734-1794; see Dansk Biografiskt Leksikon) had spent most of the 1760s in Morocco, first working for the short-lived Danish-African Company and then as vice-consul. Encouraged by Niebuhr he wrote his own report about his time there which also included a chapter about music as well a generous amount of tunes (pp. 241-6, plate No. 32). Niebuhr sent some of thm to Nicolai even before the book was published (here only No. XXI). In the last letter reprinted he even translated some relevant parts of this chapter for Nicolai (3.4.1777, 20.3.1780). 

Taken together both Niebuhr's tunes and comments as well as those by Parthey himself eight decades later offer interesting insights into how non-European - here Arabian - music was experienced and judged by European scholars (see also Lebedeva 2011 & Harbert 2008). Both showed a remarkable openness and were willing to listen but in the end they were mostly disappointed about what they heard. Their attitudes - particularly the cultural bias - were still very similar even though in the meantime major treatises about Arabian music - particularly Villoteau's work (1809) - had been published. Nonetheless the tunes they have collected - no matter how their authenticity in a modern sense may be judged - and their often casual descriptions of musical performances and performance contexts are still valuable historical sources. 

  • Abbas Amin, Ägyptomanie und Orientalismus. Ägypten in der deutschen Reiseliteratur (1175-1663). Mit einem kommentierten Verzeichnis der Reiseberichte (383-1845), Berlin, 2013 
  • [Charles Ferriol], Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant, tirée sur les Tableaux peints d'apres Nature en 1707 et 1708 par les ordres de M. de Ferriol, Ambassador du Roi a la Porte. Et gravées en 1712 et 1713 pat les soins de Mr. Le Hay, Le Hay, Duchange, Paris, 1715, p. 16, at Gallica Bnf & the Internet Archive
  • Haim Goren, "Zieht hin und erforscht das Land". Die deutsche Palästinaforschung im 19. Jahrhundert, Göttingen, 2003 
  • Benjamin J. Harbert, Of Their Knowledge in Musick: Early European Musical Encounters in Egypt and the Levant as Read within the Emerging British Public Sphere, 1687-1811, in: Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology 13, 2008, at Ethnomusicology Review
  • Georg Höst (i. e. Høst), Efterretninger om Marokos og Fes, samlede der i Landene fra ao. 1760 til 1768, N. Müller, Kiøbenhavn, 1779, pp. 241-6, plate No. 32 (at the Internet Archive) 
  • Carsten Niebuhrs Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien und anderen umliegenden Ländern, 2 Vols., Möller, Kopenhagen, 1774-8, at UB Kiel & UB Heidelberg, here Vol. 1, pp. 175-182 & plate No. 26 (there are also several GB-scans, for example this one at the Internet Archive , but the plates are never correctly scanned). 
  • M. Villoteau, De l'État Actuel de l'Art Musical en Égypte. On Relation historique est descriptive des Recherches est Observations faites sur la Musique en ce pays, in: Description de l'Égypte, ou, Recueil des Observations et des Recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l'Éxpédition de l'Armée Française. État Moderne, Vol. 1, De L'Imprimerie Royale, Paris, 1809, pp. 607-846, available at the Internet Archive & at World Digital Library 
  • Josef Wiesehöfer & Stephan Conermann (eds.), Carsten Niebuhr (1733-1815) und seine Zeit. Beiträge eines interdisziplinären Symposiums vom 7.-10. Oktober 1999 in Eutin, Wiesbaden, 2002