Today it is possible to work with digital copies of historical books. Digitization makes both researching and writing much easier because the literature needed is much quicker at hand. But it also allows greater transparency. The reader is able to immediately check the sources. Therefore reliable scans are necessary. They should represent the original book in the best possible way and - of course - they should be complete so they can be used as surrogates. Besides that it is desirable that they are not hidden behind a paywall or in a closed repository. What's the use of digital books that can only be accessed by the fortunate few? This does not encourage and promote transparency. At least those that are in the public domain should be freely available.
But - as I have noted before - it is not advisable to use them uncritically. The first step should always be a review of all the digital copies of a particular book. Are they available online in an open repository? How many different copies there are? What is the quality? Are they usable? Here is another example that also demonstrates some of the problems with the use of digitized literature.
August Wilhelm Hupel (1737-1819; see Jürjo 2006; Eckhardt in DNB 13, 1881, at wikisource; von Recke & Napiersky 1829, pp. 363-9; Kulturportal West-Ost), a German pastor in Livonia, was a very industrious editor and writer. Among his many works were the Topographische Nachrichten von Lief- und Ehstland, published in three volumes between 1774 and 1782. It was at that time the most comprehensive and competent topography of the Baltic provinces.
I needed to have a look at these books because Hupel also wrote - in Volume 2 (pp. 133-4, pp. 158-61) - a little bit about the songs and music of the Estonians and Latvians. He even added some original Estonian and - in the third volume - Latvian melodies. In fact Hupel was a pioneer in this respect. This was the first time tunes from the Baltic were published since Friedrich Menius had included some musical examples in his Syntagma de Origine Livonorum in 1635 (see SRL II, p. 525). Therefore it belongs in my bibliography of publications from the 16th to the 19th century that offer examples of original "exotic" music either from outside of Europe or from the European periphery (see in this blog: "Exotic" Songs and Tunes in European Publications 1577-1830 and the Bibliography at Google Docs).
But this work became very important for another reason. In 1777 Johann Gottfried Herder in Weimar, at that time busy compiling his anthology of international Volkslieder, contacted Hupel and asked for more songs. Pastor Hupel then sent him some additional Estonian texts and tunes and also organized the collection of a great number of Latvian pieces. Some of them were used by Herder in the Volkslieder (1778/9, f. ex. II, pp. 83-92, pp. 96-101, p. 303 etc.; see Jürjo 2006, pp. 342-50, Arbusow 1953, Paškevica 2003, Jaremko-Porter 2008, pp. 126-46).
Thankfully the Topographische Nachrichten have been digitized several times and it is no problem to find these digital copies. There are at the moment five sets available and - for the sake of completeness - I will list them all here. But only one of them is really complete and immediately usable. That's not a good - but not untypical - ratio:
- August Wilhelm Hupel, Topographische Nachrichten von Lief- und Ehstland, Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, Riga, 1774, 1777 & 1782, 3 Vols.,
at Google Books: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3 [= BSB: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3];
at Google Books: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3 [= BSB/SB Regensburg: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3];
at Google Books: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3 [= ÖNB];
at Jagellonian Digital Library [djvu];
at University of Tartu Repository (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3), also at EEVA (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3), also at the Internet Archive: Vol. 2 & Vol. 3;
I found three copies produced by Google from books from the holdings of two Bavarian libraries and the Austrian National Library. They are available both at Google Books and in these library's own repositories. But here we run into the usual problems. In all three cases the plates at the end of the book in Volumes 2 and 3 - where the tunes are supposed to be found - were not scanned correctly. This means that the musical examples are missing. We need only to look at Vol. 2 of the copies for the BSB, the SB Regensburg and the ÖNB. This is disappointing but should be expected. It is well known that Google's scanners use to mistreat all pages of a book that exceed its standard size. They have digitized the texts but not the books. Of course these copies are not usable. I must admit I still don't understand why the contributing libraries have accepted these kind of shortcomings.
Another copy is available at the Jagellonian Digital Library. The Polish libraries offer excellent digital collections (see fbc - On-line Collections of Polish Cultural and Scientific Institutions). But unfortunately they still prefer as file-format the outdated djvu and therefore their digital books are quite difficult to use. This library's online reader is awfully slow and not particularly´user-friendly. The scans are in good quality. The one of the second volume is complete and the plate with the music is included. Unfortunately it is missing in the third volume. But this is a problem of their copy of the original book (see the catalog entry). Of course they can't scan anything that is not there.
The only really complete copy of this set was produced by an Estonian library. Excellent scans are available in the repository of the University of Tartu. As far as I can see all plates of the second and third volume are included. Pdfs of the scans can be downloaded there. These books can also be read online at EEVA, the Digital Text Repository for Older Estonian Literature. This is an outstanding site that offers nearly all relevant historical literature from and about the Baltic. They also have more of his publications as well as a good introduction to his life and works (see Hupel's page at EEVA). Their online-reader is quite simple and a little bit old-fashioned but still usable. Volumes 2 (here plate: Ehstnische Melodien) and 3 (here plate: Zwey lettische Lieder ) of this set are now also available at the Internet Archive where they are even easier to use.
The additional collections of Estonian and Latvian songs made for Herder are also available in digital form. Hupel's himself compiled 8 Estonian texts as well as two tunes and some informative notes. This was published in 1896 in a learned periodical that has also been digitized in Tartu:
- L. M. [= Leo Meyer], Acht estnische Volkslieder aus Herders Nachlaß und dreizehn aus Wielands Teutschem Merkur nebst mehreren alten Hochzeitsgedichten in estnischer Sprache in: Verhandlungen der gelehrten Estnischen Gesellschaft zu Dorpat, Bd. 16, 1896, pp. 237-318, here pp. 243-67,at University of Tartu Repository [pdf], also at the Internet Archive;
The Latvian collection consists of nearly 80 texts recorded by some of Hupel's colleagues whom he had asked for support (see Arbusow 1953, pp. 187-222). In this case the original manuscript has been scanned and is available online:
- Johann Gottfried Herders Sammlung der lettischen Volkslieder, ms. SB Berlin, Nachlass Herder, XIV 50-53, online at Archives of Latvian Folklore;
Pastor Hupel also put together a grammar of the Estonian language that was first published in 1780 and then again in 1806 and 1818. Here we can find some more informative notes about Estonian songs in a small chapter with the title "Von der Dichtkunst und den Volksliedern". The first edition of this book is easily available at EEVA. There are also several scans by Google but their quality is not the best:
- August Wilhelm Hupel, Ehstnische Sprachlehre fuer beide Hauptdialekte, den revalschen und doerptschen; nebst einem vollstaendigen Woerterbuch, Hartknoch, Riga und Leipzig, 1780, here pp. 89-9
at EEVA (pdf at UofTartu Repository)
at diigar [pdf]
at Google Books [= BSB]
- -, Grenzius, Dorpat, 1806,
at diigar [pdf] , here pp. 144-5
- -, 2. durchgängig verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage, Steffenhagen & Sohn, Mitau, here pp. 144-5at Google Books [= Oxford]
at Google Books [= BSB]
We can see that whoever wants to work with digital copies of Hupel's relevant publication as well as the two originally unpublished collections will be able to find them all online. Everything has been scanned. But of course it is important to be careful with those produced by Google. They are not up to the necessary standards. Incomplete and sloppily scanned books are not suitable for serious work and they do not encourage confidence in the systematic use of digital copies. But - as I have noted before - there are many libraries that are offering excellent scans and in many cases they can be used in place of the often dubious products of Google's scanners. It is necessary to learn to distinguish between the good and the bad, between usable and unusable scans. This is an additional but indispensable level of source criticism. But it will help to bring a little bit of order into this still rather chaotic field.
- Leonid Arbusow, Herder und die Begründung der Volksliedforschung im deutsch-baltischen Osten, in: Erich Keyser (ed.), Im Geiste Herders. Gesammelte Aufsätze zum 150. Todestage J. G. Herders, Kitzingen/M., 1953 (= Marburger Ostforschungen 1), pp. 129-256
- Kristina Jaremko-Porter, Johann Gottfried Herder and the Latvian Voice, Ph. Diss., Edinburgh, 2008 (at Edinburgh Research Archive)
- Indrek Jürjo, Aufklärung im Baltikum. Leben und Werk des livländischen Gelehrten August Wilhelm Hüpel (1737-1819), Köln etc., 2006
- Friedrich Menius, Syntagma de Origine Livonorum, Dorpat, 1632-35, p. 45 (not yet digitized; reprinted in: Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum II, Riga & Leipzig, 1848, pp. 511-42, at the Internet Archive)
- Beata Paškevica, Die Sammlung von Volksliedern im lettischen Livland. Herders Helfer in den Jahren 1777 und 1778, in: Klaus Garber (ed.) et al., Kulturgeschichte der baltischen Länder in der frühen Neuzeit, Tübingen, 2003, pp. 229-244
- Johann Friedrich von Recke & Karl Eduard Napiersky, Allgemeines Schriftsteller- und Gelehrten-Lexikon der Provinzen Livland, Esthland und Kurland. Zweyter Band: G - K, Steffenhagen & Sohn, Mitau, 1829, at the Internet Archive [= GB]