Lesegesellschaften in den baltischen Provinzen im Zeitalter der Aufklärung. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Lesegesellschaft von Hupel in Oberpahlen. Teil I

Indrek Jürjo


As regards culture, the Baltic provinces belonged to the Northeast-European communication system in the age of Enlightenment (second half of the 18th Century and first decade of the 19th Century). In these provinces, the same forms of common reading were known as in Germany: reading societies, public libraries, possibilities of reading in clubs, coffeehouses and Freemason's lodges. In Riga, the biggest public libraries were those of printer Müller and pastor Poelchau's widow; in Reval, those of the booksellers Illig, Glehn and Bornwasser; of the bookbinders Dienes and Boldt; of the merchants Allee, Hasse and Eggers and the one of teacher Klee. There were also reading societies in smaller towns like Dorpat, Arensburg, Pernau, Hapsal, Wesenberg, Libau, Mitau, and also in the country. Besides reading societies, clubs with reading rooms resp. reading tables were founded in many towns. One of the oldest reading societies was founded by pastor August Wilhelm Hupel in Oberpahlen (Pöltsamaa) (not after 1772). Main supplier for this reading society was the well-known bookseller and publisher Johann Friedrich Hartknoch in Riga, who bought his books directly on the book fair in Leipzig. The general picture of reading in Oberpahlen has been shaped by Hupel and his researches. As regards the book choice, the share of historical, political and geographical literature was very big while the share of light fiction was relatively small. The members of the reading society came from the educated classes resp. professions (nobility, pastors, officials, physicians). Its activities lasted, with a short break in Emperor Paul's I times, till 1805. Thanks to the reading societies, most of the Baltic readers were informed about the literary and cultural life in Germany and the whole of Europe. In comparison with other regions of Germany, the Russian Baltic provinces not in the least numbered among the most backward regions; in these provinces, however, the cultural centres were situated less close together, also the number of educated people was smaller, but their intellectual level and their familiarity with literature were not lower.