Funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Bundesbeauftragte für Kultur und Medien) the “Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen”, originally published in a print edition in 7 volumes from 1892-1991, was digitized and converted into a freely accessible database:
The project on the Urkundenbuch Online was coordinated by Dr. Ulrich A. Wien, programming was accomplished by Dr. Martin Armgart from the University of Koblenz-Landau from 2011 to 2012. Technical assistance was provided by the University of Trier. The database contains all texts, annotations and descriptions from the original printed version as well as numerous important updates and emendations, resulting in the new digital volumes 8 and 9. The Urkundenbuch Online is therefore not just a copy of the printed edition but contains important recent contributions by medievalists (e.g. regarding issue dates or forgeries) and new documents. In total the texts of almost 6.000 documents from the year 1185 until 1531 from the archives of the Transylvanian Saxon communities are accessible with detailed metadata and full text searchable, providing invaluable historical knowledge on the history of German as well as other population groups in the Kingdom of Hungary and its neighbouring regions. More documents are to be added in the future.
As a frequent user of the database who appreciates its many qualities I’d like nevertheless to present the following proposals in order to maximize the potential of the Urkundenbuch Online:
- PDF versions of the volumes are not available on the website. Interested researchers have to search for these elsewhere (e.g. at archive.org)
- As is the case in the print edition, the Latin orthography is standardized, causing the impression that medieval Transylvanian chanceries respected classical spelling. Consequently in almost every document there are numerous letters which were deliberately changed or introduced by the editors. An emendation for the online edition would of course be quite costly but still represent a considerable gain of quality.
- There are no images of the original documents available, thus making the user depend on the editor’s originary descriptions of the documents (especially regarding reading, handwriting, sealing and contemporary annotations).
Overall the usability is outstanding – the comprehensive metadata enables highly efficient search results – and presently makes the Urkundenbuch Online an unmatched database in comparison to other digital services on German-language minorities in the Middle Ages.
Vlad the Impaler’s diploma for the Saxons from Braşov/Kronstadt, who were asking for commercial privileges in exchange for political asylum for the famous Wallachian voivode. Original: National Archives Braşov, Collection Schnell II, No 14