Sep 1, 2012

Mozart Documents "transcribed" (follow-up)

I recently pointed out that money is being spent in Salzburg on the copying of flawed 50-year-old transcriptions of Mozart documents. It turns out that the web-based project "Mit MOZARTs Worten", which in the future is supposed to present the complete Mozart family correspondence on the Web, is also using copy work from the old Bauer/Deutsch edition of the Mozart letters. Because the experts involved in this edition obviously lack the necessary palaeographical expertise and experience, they are unaware of the eighteenth-century use of what was called "Fahnen-h", i.e. a letter resembling a Kurrent "h" that was used to double the following consonant, if it was an l, m, n, r, or s (except where the known elongation of the preceding vowel indicated otherwise). For sheer lack of archival practice Bauer and Deutsch never became aware of this custom which slowly fell into oblivion in the second half of the nineteenth century (and still survives in Austrian family names such as "Weihs", "Lahner" and "Muhm"). The same goes for the special "f" which was often used at the end of words, especially after diphtongs. Since it resembles a regular double-f, it is still repeatedly being mistranscribed, even by renowned historians. The stubborn dragging along of old flaws in Bauer's and Deutsch's edition of the Mozart letters results in digital publications being fraught with countless embarrassing mistranscriptions, such as "genohmen" and "gefahlen". And I am completely sure that Nannerl Mozart's entry in her diary from 10 April 1764 will forever be transcribed with "[...] wie das mer ablaufet und wieder Zunihmt[sic]".


  1. Very interesting.
    Thank you so much for these excellent posts.

  2. As someone who grew up with the appellation Mlle Jeunehomme as an unquestioned fact, I've always been intrigued about her real identity, but never got further than the usual nonsense dished up by historians.

    I therefore salute your brilliant detective work to separate fact from fiction, and am especially interested to hear of the latest research.

    Knowing that old and bad habits become ingrained and die hard, I am doing my bit to spread the word.

    More strength to your elbow.

    Nico Pohl, Pretoria