1715. aasta tallinnakeelne Uus Testament uues valguses [Shedding new light on the Tallinn-Estonian New Testament of 1715]

Jürgen Beyer, Kristiina Ross


This article offers the first study of how the Tallinn-Estonian editio princeps of the New Testament was seen through the press from 1713 to 1715. Work on this translation took most of the second half of the seventeenth century, passing through several stages of revision.
After the Russian conquest of 1710 and the plague, it took until the beginning of 1713 before the ruling bodies of the Lutheran church in Estonia started to function again. From September 1713 to March 1715, the work of the consistory was interrupted again (or at least no minutes are preserved).
The existing minutes of the Estonian Lutheran consistory and of the general assemblies of the clergy nevertheless cast an important new light on the printing of the translation. Tallinn pastor Eberhard Gutsleff procured a manuscript containing the text of the translation according to the last revision before the war. The Tallinn printer, Johann Christoph Brendeken, offered to defray the printing costs if only 150 subscribers were found. That was quickly the case. The minutes list the subscribers: 26 pastors serving in different parishes all over Estonia. More than 20 copies were ordered by Eberhard Gutsleff, Heinrich Gutsleff and Christian Hoppius – three men who are known to have been involved in the editing and publishing process. The other subscribers mostly ordered three to six copies. If the remaining copies of the New Testament were distributed in similar numbers to pastors, hardly any copies could have reached the homes of peasants, artisans or estate owners.
Last but not least, the minutes contain a specimen print of eight pages, dated 1713. A detailed comparison of this specimen print with the first edition from 1715 shows that the text had been thoroughly revised in the meantime – a fact no other source mentions. Indeed, the minutes explicitly state that the New Testament was to be printed following the last revision before the Russian conquest. Th e text of the specimen print contains only 2023 words (Matt. 1:1–5:3). Nevertheless, between the 1713 and 1715 versions, some considerable lexical, grammatical as well as orthographical changes can be observed. These alterations were probably made by Eberhard Gutsleff, who appears to have seen the manuscript through the press. The changes, alas, were not necessarily for the better, and the following editions (the second edition in 1729 and the first complete Bible in 1739) oft en reached solutions closer to the specimen print of 1713 than to the fi rst edition of 1715.

Keywords: Bible translation, book history, history of the Estonian literary language.

Jürgen Beyer (b. 1965) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Research Centre of Tartu University Library. Correspondence: Tartu University Library, W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu, Estonia. E-mail: jurgen.beyer@ut.ee

Kristiina Ross (b. 1955) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of the Estonian Language. Correspondence: The Institute of the Estonian Language, Roosikrantsi 6, 10119 Tallinn, Estonia. E-mail: kristiina.ross@eki.ee

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/AA.2013.4.03

ISSN 1406-3859 (print)
ISSN 2228-3897 (online)
Journal DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/issn1406-3859