Horizon 2026

Yesterday, we had a guest in the person of Peter Stadler, who came to present the Carl-Maria-von-Weber-Gesamtausgabe and talk about technicalities and general DH philosophy.

It is always interesting, as it has also been in discussions with Stefan Dumont (who develops the digital work environment of the Schleiermacher edition at the Academy of Sciences), to see what kind of differences it makes to transform a non-digital edition into a digital one on one side and, on the other, to conceive the whole edition as a digital one from the beginning.  Digital editions that are built on the basis of a print product have the advantage that most of the editorial decisions have already been taken, and they have been taken in a way that fits the technical possibilities of print – that is, most of the time, the standards of a reading version that expands known abbreviations, whether these are letters or glyphs (Geminationsstriche, Ligaturen, abbreviations specific to an author or a time for instance), to mention only some of the cruxes we, on the opposite, actually have to deal with. This form of print standard has established itself as a scholarly one and works all the better as the transcription is not immediately comparable with the source. Having the manuscript next to the transcription compels much more the need for a diplomatic transcription (or so I think at least). In the case of the Carl-Maria-von-Weber-Ausgabe, the  hybridism also comes from the fact that part the edition (the genuinely musical one:  notes) is being made available in book form only.

The fact that the edition revolves around one author  also restricts to some extent its digital ambitions. I was surprised to hear Peter say that such author-centered editions are bound to disappear, but come to think about it, it makes sense. A big part of his work is to make the connections visible – connections between persons, between works, between realization steps of one single work – in the digital part of the edition. Peter underlined that is a clear advantage, in that sense, that they are editing all of the works, letters, etc.  in a “Gesamtausgabe”. But in order to make the networks really visible, it would be necessary to not remain within the Weber environment itself. Peter mentioned the papers of Weber’s first editor and biograph Jähns, that are also kept at the Staatsbibliothek. These are not just in themselves interesting, but also because they would provide valuable information about Jähns’ interventions on the Weber manuscripts (corrections, deletions, additions). But this would suppose to expand the author-centered concept of the edition. And invest money in a fine cataloging of Jähns’ papers after the model of what is currently being done with the Chamisso papers. As much as we certainly all agree that this is part of the scientific missions of libraries and archives (or becoming part of it), this requires funding and hence political decisions on the library’s level (which authors should take precedence for that kind of grant proposals?).

A point we discussed at length was, of course, the persons. The comparison between Weber’s index of person and ours makes little sense as it is, considering they have to deal with something like 7000 persons and we still only have 430 entries. Even if we reach the 1000 persons-mark by the end of the year, it will remain a completely different scale. While the Weber edition provides with a lot a biographical information, we keep that fairly scarce, but on the other hand, we implemented much faster the visibility of relationships (authorship, correspondence partner, mention, family relationship or love affair, and hopefully soon teacher-pupil as well). Plus, I am still unsatisfied with the biographical information we provide. Its provenience is sometimes not as reliable as I would wish, but there is no way for me to inform about that without falling into an obvious excess of time investment. So we decided to implement, like the Weber edition does to, the PND-BEACON that will at least make the provenience of the information on one person somewhat clearer and allow to give access to more biographical information without us having to sort, link and enter it all manually.

The beauty of the Weber edition is of course that it is an Academy project, due to be completed by 2026. Long time archiving, long period funding, a clear road map: so many things I often wish I had. But on the other hand, few surprises and little room for experimentation. I suppose you can’t really get it all…

Anne Baillot

I studied German Studies and Philosophy in Paris where I got my PhD in 2002. I then moved to Berlin, where I have been living & doing research ever since. My areas of specialty include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history. I am currently working at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin as an expert in digital technologies for the humanities.

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