The roots of this project go back to the mid 2000s, when the two of us (DE and DB) first discussed digitized historical sources and their potential for the discovery of previously unknown Mozart documents. By the time our discussions resumed in 2012, Google had made its great push to scan the collections of several major American and European libraries, and made those scans available through Google Books (see the Wikipedia entry on that project). We also discovered that we had independently undertaken successful searches on Google Books for unknown references to Mozart and his works, focusing on material published during Mozart’s lifetime and the years immediately following his death. We were not surprised to find that our discoveries overlapped to some extent, but we also found that each of us had uncovered a significant number of items that the other had not. Thus we agreed to combine our findings (which initially numbered around 70 items) and to publish them jointly.
We also agreed that the most effective and flexible approach would be to publish online, rather than in print. Publishing online has allowed us to include more extensive and detailed commentaries on individual documents than would have been feasible in print, and to incorporate many illustrations, including, in nearly every case, images of the primary sources for the new documents. Digital publication also allows us to update and correct the commentaries as new information comes to light. Since we began publishing this site in 2014, the number of new documents on our list has roughly quintupled, and now stands at around 350.
The question of what exactly counts as a “Mozart document” is not straightforward. The classic and seminal work in the field is Otto Erich Deutsch, Mozart. Die Dokumente seines Lebens (Dokumente), first published in 1961, a compendium of the primary source documents on Mozart’s life and reception that had been uncovered by scholars up to that time, coupled with the results of Deutsch’s own considerable original research. (An English translation of Deutsch’s volume appeared in 1965 as Mozart: A Documentary Biography.) Deutsch also published documentary biographies of Schubert and Handel using a similar format: all three include transcriptions of original documents in chronological order, accompanied by relatively brief commentaries, without a synthesizing narrative.
This is not the only possible approach to documentary biography, and it makes sense only for certain historical figures. For some major artists (Shakespeare, for example), so little documentary material survives that a book consisting only of primary documents makes little sense. Other cultural figures generated such an immense body of primary documentary material (Stravinsky, for example, or The Beatles) that a comprehensive single-volume collection would be impossible.
The concept of a “Mozart document” has traditionally been constrained in a particular way. Deutsch’s documentary biography of Mozart did not include the correspondence of the Mozart family, which is so extensive and so fundamental to Mozart scholarship that it has been published in several complete editions, including the still standard Mozart. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen (Briefe), edited by Wilhelm A. Bauer, Otto Erich Deutsch, and Joseph Heinz Eibl (1962–1975, supplement 2006). Collections of Mozart documents have generally also excluded items that are mainly contextual and do not refer directly to Mozart or his works—for example, lists of the personnel of the Viennese orchestras that performed his operas, or lists of comparative box-office receipts for operas by his contemporaries. (For more on such contextual documents, see Edge 1991, Edge 1992, Edge 1996, Edge 2001, and Edge 2020.) The concept of a “Mozart document” has generally been restricted to documents that refer to Mozart by name, or in an unambiguous way to one of his works (for example, a review of a performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail that does not mention the composer’s name). This is the traditional definition of a Mozart document established by Deutsch’s practice, and it is, with a few exceptions, the definition we continue to follow here; however, we have incorporated into our commentaries as many contextual documents as seem necessary to elucidate the meaning and significance of the Mozart documents themselves.
There have been two major “official” supplements to Deutsch’s documentary biography: the Addenda und Corrigenda (Addenda) assembled by Joseph Heinz Eibl, published in 1978; and Cliff Eisen’s New Mozart Documents: A Supplement to O. E. Deutsch’s Documentary Biography (NMD), first published (with all documents translated into English) in 1991, followed by its publication in German in 1997—with all documents in original languages, and a small number of additional documents not in the English version—as Mozart. Die Dokumente seines Lebens. Addenda. Neue Folge (Neue Folge). As did Deutsch before him, Eisen combined the discoveries of other scholars over the preceding decades with the results of his own considerable original research.
Our site continues in that tradition. We present here mainly Mozart documents that have come to light since the publication of the Neue Folge in 1997, together with a few discovered before that date that are not in Dokumente, Addenda, or Neue Folge for one reason or another. In the initial years of our project, most of these new documents were uncovered in digital corpora—resources not available to Deutsch, Eibl, or Eisen. As the project has developed, we have supplemented these with archival items that have turned up in our own research and that of other scholars. (For details on the coverage of this site, see the “Scope” section in Methods.)
At present, anyone needing a comprehensive corpus of Mozart documents must consult Deutsch (and its internal Anhang and Nachtrag); the 1978 and 1997 Addenda; this site; and a significant number of additional articles and publications (by Lorenz and others) that contain Mozart documents not included in any of the compendia and not yet on this site. A complete publication of all Mozart documents as a unified resource with up-to-date and corrected commentaries would be a great boon to Mozart scholarship, but we do not have the resources to attempt such a grand synthesis here. However, we welcome contributions of new documents or pointers to publications of previously unknown documents by others, and we are happy to invite guest authors and collaborators whenever appropriate. We give explicit credit and acknowledgment to all contributors.
By and large we have restricted our chronological coverage to Mozart’s lifetime and the year immediately following his death, although we include a small number of items after 1792 that refer retrospectively to Mozart during his lifetime or were otherwise too interesting to omit. We are gradually adding English translations for all documents and quotations, and our commentaries attempt to summarize the content of the document for readers who do not read German or the other languages found in the documents published on this site.
Many of our commentaries include corrected transcriptions of documents in Deutsch, whose transcriptions tended to be somewhat haphazard (see our Corrigenda). We have also restored relevant passages, sometimes quite extensive, that Deutsch omitted, particularly passages on singers in reviews of Mozart’s operas.
Edge, Dexter. 1991. “Mozart’s Fee for Così fan tutte.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 116 (2): 211–35.
————. 1992. “Mozart’s Viennese Orchestras.” Early Music 20 (1): 64–88.
————. 1996. “Mozart’s Reception in Vienna.” In Wolfgang Amadè Mozart: Essays on his Life and his Music, edited by Stanley Sadie, 66–117. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
————. 2001. “Mozart’s Viennese Copyists.” Ph.D diss., University of Southern California. [academia.edu]
————. 2020. Operas in the Burgtheater, 14 Apr 1789 to 7 Mar 1791 (website)
Haberkamp, Getraut. 1992–2013. “Anzeigen und Rezensionen von Mozart-Drucken in Zeitungen und Zeitschriften,” parts 1–19. In Mozart Studien, edited by Manfred Hermann Schmid, vols. 1–3, 5, 7–8, 10–22.