Monday, May 16, 2016

The Remarks about the Livonian Bagpipe in Balthasar Rüssow's "Chronica der Prouintz Lyfflandt" (1578/84)

Recently I needed to check some references regarding the use of the bagpipe in Livonia in the 16th century . The source referred to (by Graf 1962, pp. 88-91) was one particularly important chronicle from that time, Balthasar Rüssow's Chronica der Prouintz Lyfflandt (1578/84). Once again I was impressed by number of digital copies of this book that are available. Digitization has changed everything and even old and rare books are easily at hand in a matter of minutes.



But today it is not enough to go to only Google Books or Hathi Trust and see what they have. In fact digital copies of historical books are scattered over numerous different libraries and repositories and they are not always easy to find. There is not a single catalog that allows the access to all that are available. KVK is a good start but its results are - for different reasons - far from being complete. There is still quite a lot of footwork to do. 

Besides that the quality of the scans is not always what one would expect. That means a systematic review of all digital copies of a particular book is often necessary to see which one is the best. In case of Rüssow's Chronica this is thankfully not that difficult. Nonetheless it is helpful to bring them in some kind of order. There are - at least - two Google-scans of each edition and some other libraries are offering their own digital copies. For the first edition alone we have four different scans! This should be enough at the moment: 
Rüssow's Chronica was already discussed by historians since the late 18th century. Early examples were Gadebusch's four pages in his Abhandlung von Livländischen Geschichtsschreibern (1772, pp. 37-41) and Kruse's Balthasar Rüssow, in Erinnerung gebracht in 1816 (at UTR). In 1845 Eduard Pabst translated the Low German text into modern High German to make it more accessible. Most of his notes are still helpful:
  • Balthasar Rüssow's Livländische Chronik. Aus dem Plattdeutschen übertragen und mit kurzen Anmerkungen versehen durch Eduard Pabst, Koppelson, Reval, 1845
    at BSB München, Russ. 132 t [= Google Books, also at the Internet Archive
Even though the Chronica was sold quite well at the time of its publication - otherwise there wouldn't have been the two additional editions - it had apparently become quite rare in the 19th century and was not that easy to find in libraries. Therefore the original text of the edition from 1584 was reprinted in an important collection of original sources for Baltic history: 
  • Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum. Sammlung der wichtigsten Chroniken und Geschichtsdenkmale zu Liv-, Ehst- und Kurland; in genauem Wiederabdrucke der besten, bereits gedruckten, aber selten gewordenen Ausgaben. 2 Bde (at the Internet Archive: Vol. 1 [GB] & Vol. 2 [GB]), Franzen, Riga & Leipzig, 1853/1848, here Bd. 2, pp. 1-194 (also at ÖNB [GB]: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
There are several Google-scans of copies from different European and American libraries and I have tried to select the best of them. With the easy access to digitized copies of the original work one may assume that this reprint is of no use today. But that is not the case. First there are helpful additions, especially a dictionary and an Index. Besides that: for a long time scholars have used the Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum. It happened to be easily available in libraries while the original books were difficult to find. Therefore page numbers in the notes of most of the secondary literature usually refer to this edition. Not at least these two massive volumes also include other important relevant works that have not yet been digitized, for example Friedrich Menius' Syntagma de Origine Livonorum (Dorpat, 1635, here Vol. 2, pp. 511-42). 

We can see that in this case all necessary publications have been digitized. There are several digital copies of each of the different editions of the original Chronica and also of the reprint and the translation. The quality of the available scans is not bad and they are all readable and usable. 

By the way, this chronicle is still well worth reading, not only for those interested in Baltic history and culture. Rüssow (1536-1600; see Johansen 1996, the standard work; good introduction: Brüggemann 2003, short: Miljan 2004, p. 426) was a very interesting character. He may have been born as an Estonian - that is not completely clear but not unlikely -, was sent to Germany to study theology and then became Lutheran pastor in Reval. He was also an excellent writer, often very laconic and he happened to be very critical of just about everybody, particularly the upper class. 

But his book is also quite depressing to read. The late 16th century was an era of death and war for the Livonians, both the indigenous peasants - the Latvians and Estonians - and their oppressors, the German nobility. Russian, Tatars, Poles, Swedes as well as mercenaries from Germany and even from Scotland were fighting against each other and plundering the locals. Especially the Russians regularly raided the country and were responsible for much destruction and terror. Not at least the plague broke out several times. 

The author also added interesting information about the life and culture of the people living in Livonia. What I was looking for were several remarks about the Estonian bagpipe. Interestingly these parts can only be found in the edition published in 1584. Rüssow writes about the peasants coming to the "kerckmissen" - the parish fairs - in summer to drink and celebrate. They made themselves "frölich [...] mit eren groten Sackpipen, de men by auendt tyden schyr auer eine Myle weges hören kan". These instruments must have been really loud! And after the church they kept on drinking and singing and playing the bagpipe "daß Einem [...] das Hören und Sehen vergehen möchte" (p. 31b). 


In the summer of 1574 (see pp. 85b-86) the Livonians had to bear one more attack, this time by 10000 Russians and Tatars. They burned down all villages near Reval and killed or captured many people. "Do wos alle fröwde in dem ganzen Lande benamen" and the great Livonian bagpipes had to hide. One "Börger" of the besieged Reval complained about the permanent ringing of the alarm bell and longed to hear "der Buuren Sackpipen" again. Here the sound of the peasants' bagpipes - usually more of a nuisance for the cultivated citizens - became a symbol of more peaceful times. 

Literature: 
  • Karsten Brüggemann, Die 'Chronica der Prouintz Lyfflandt' von Balthasar Rüssow. Ein lutherischer Pastor als politischer Chronist, in: Klaus Garber (ed.) et al., Kulturgeschichte der baltischen Länder in der frühen Neuzeit, Tübingen, 2003, pp. 265-282 
  • Friedrich Konrad Gadebusch, Abhandlung von Livländischen Geschichtsschreibern, Hartknoch, Riga, 1772, at the Internet Archive (here pp. 37-41
  • Walter Graf, Die ältesten deutschen Überlieferungen estnischer Volkslieder, in: Musik des Ostens 1, 1963, pp. 83-105 
  • Cornelius Hasselblatt, Geschichte der estnischen Literatur. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Beerlin, 2006 
  • Paul Johansen, Balthasar Rüssow als Humanist und Geschichtsschreiber. Aus dem Nachlaß ergänzt und herausgegeben von Heinz von zur Mühlen, Köln, 1996 (= Quellen und Studien zur baltischen Geschichte 14)
  • Karl Wilhelm Kruse, Balthasar Rüssow, in Erinnerung gebracht. Gelegenheitsschrift zur Ankündigung des Lehrganges auf dem Gymnasio illustri zu Mitau für das Jahr 1816, Steffenhagen und Sohn, Mitau, 1816, at University of Tartu Repository 
  • Toivo Miljan, Historical Dictionary of Estonia, Lanham & Oxford, 2004

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