Editorial preliminary notes
This edition contains about 1,680 letters from, to and about Heinrich Barth. They were collected from 16 different archives in Germany, Great Britian, France and Switzerland. Besides the transcriptions, most of the archives kindly agreed that we can also show the digitized originals here.
Some of the letters have been published previously, f.i. in the book “Er schloß uns einen Weltteil auf” edited by Rolf Italiaander in 1970. These letters have been transcribed anew, which allowed us to correct some mistakes in this older edition. Other editions of letters which contain no letters from and to Barth, but mention him, like the published correspondence between Carl Ritter and Alexander von Humboldt are not included, because they are accessible in libraries.
Some letters of Barth and Overweg were published in contemporary journals. If the original letters have been preserved, we transcribed them anew, compared them to the published versions and included them in this edition. Yet some collections of letters are no longer existent, like the papers of the Berlin Egyptologist Richard Lepsius. Since these letters are of importance for the reconstruction of the African expedition, we included them. They are devoid of the salutations because the editors of the journals took only the geographical information they contained.
The State and University Library of Hamburg owns a comprehensive collection of letters, the majority of which are private letters to members of the Barth family, especially to Barth’s brother-in-law Gustav Schubert. Since many of these letters refer to family matters like financial or health problems, we included only those few that contain information on Barth’s person, his scientific concepts or his journeys of exploration.
This edition contains letters from Barth’s adult life between 1839 and 1865. Thus it is not restricted to the Africa expedition alone, although the journey and Barth’s work on the 5 volume travel report are refered to in many of them. In addition Barth’s journey to the Mediterranean between 1845 and 1857, his later journeys after 1858, his large network of friends and colleagues, his activities as an organizer of expeditions and his role in the Carl Ritter Foundation are documented here. When he became president of the Geographical Society of Berlin in 1863 Barth extended his network of contacts and geographical research, and travel reports from other continents come into view as well.
Barth's spelling has been preserved in the transcripts, only in a few cases commas in square brackets have been added to allow for easier understanding. It is not always easy to distinguish capital and small letters in his hand-writing, since Barth never used f.i. the capital D in his Sütterlin.
The abbreviation for the currency Reichstaler (imperial dollar) as it was used during the 19. Century and by the authors of the letters, has been replaced by the abbreviation rt., because computers don’t contain a sign for it.
The spelling of place names has largely been preserved, in some cases the spelling as it is used today has been added in a footnote to allow for easier orientation.
Barth’s place names have been compared with the Africa map of the Perthes publishing house from 1864, in which Barth’s route is marked and which used the place names in the same spelling as Barth.
If they could be identified, information on the persons mentioned in the letters, are given in footnotes. Some important persons who are mentioned frequently, can be find in the menu under the heading "Important persons".
Since smaller mistakes in the transcriptions can never completely avoided, I will be most grateful for corrections. Please send them to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org