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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

St. Louis Edition of Luther's (German) Writings – complete text

[2017-04-21: Updated Table with links to Der Lutheraner announcements]
Because the publishings of Luther, Walther, and Pieper were printed in the old German fraktur font, it has been extremely difficult to get the text into an electronic form for republishing in our digital/Internet age.  It appeared that even the great digitizers of the world's knowledge, Google Books, was not going to get the fraktur writings correct since all the 10 volumes of the St. Louis Edition on have gibberish for the OCR'd text files.   But I have recently discovered 2 surprises:

1) First surprise: I discovered that HathiTrust has already provided almost all the OCR'd text of all but 2 volumes of the 25-volume series of the St. Louis Edition of Luther's works, the so-called 2nd Walch edition or W(2).  The caveats to this are:
  • HathiTrust does not provide a download link of the full text, only page-by-page text. But this allows copy-and-paste of single page text.
  • the OCR'd text on the "Plain Text" button correctly recognizes the text of old fraktur German ("black letter", "gothic"), but not Latin, Greek or Hebrew which are shown as gibberish.  The error rate on the fraktur recognition is fairly good but the text appears to not have been verified by a human.
2) The second surprise: After poking around the confusing search methods and arrangements in Google Books, I discovered that they too have many volumes of correctly recognized OCR'd fraktur plain text!... 14 volumes (out of 25) to date.

This is very significant because ever since the Third Reich decree to end all printing in the fraktur font in 1941, modern knowledge of older German writings were effectively cutoff.  Coupled with the drive by the new (English) LC-MS to sweep away all vestiges of the German language, the descendants of the old (German) Missouri Synod (like me) have been cut off from their heritage in the writings of Luther, Walther, and Pieper... except for some select English translations.

So what does this mean for English language readers, readers (like me) who are so dependent on the available translations of Luther, Walther, and Pieper?   It means that almost all of Luther's works in German can now be more easily accessed for machine translation via Google Translate and other translation tools.  Of course this still requires some work:
  1. Untranslated words must be checked for occasional mis-spellings from mis-recognized letters by comparing to scanned image of the page
  2. Correcting words with errors
  3. Re-translating text
I have previously provided complete scanned images of the St. Louis Edition here.  I am updating that post with all the research from this survey.  These scanned images will still be necessary for anyone making use of these text files due to the remaining errors (~1%) still causing some confusion.

So now I present this table with hyperlinks for reference for online availability of the
St. Louis Edition of Luther's Works
Dr. Martin Luthers Sämmtliche Schriften  

St. Louis Edition

Der Lutheraner announcement
Google Books?
Plain Text?
(all txt files are gibberish)

(Pieper's essay - DL63, p. 403 ff.

DL36 p 176

DL37 p 113
snippet; no

DL50 p 202
DL51 p 221
snippet; no
DL52 p 214
snippet; no

DL53 p 198
snippet; no
DL47 p 195
snippet; no
DL48 p 199
snippet; no

DL49 p 188
snippet; no

DL41 p 105

DL38 p. 81

DL39, p.64, 80
DL39 p 104
DL40 p 96
no; no

DL54 p 206

DL55 p 218
snippet; no

DL56 p 390
DL57 p 373
snippet; no

DL44 p 185

DL45 p 196

DL46 p 205

DL59 p 167
DL60 p 326
DL43 p 125

DL66 p 197 (G.St. review)

(Last updated August 2, 2014; thanks to Finn B. Andersen for assistance on work for!)
This table will be updated with time as HathiTrust and Google Books update their holdings.
April 17, 2014 – Addendum:  Erlanger Edition of Luther's Works -> here (HathiTrust).

For reference on how to use Google Books and Google Translate to read the St. Louis Edition in English now, see the following diagram sequence of screenshots from Google Chrome browser with annotations (PDF image here, PNG image here):

Please note the PDF image must be viewed in a PDF viewer that shows annotations... not all viewers do this – I noticed my Firefox viewer did not show annotations.  If in doubt, download the PNG image.

Now we are not completely tied to the American Edition – Luther's Works and it's critical editors who more often than not do not get the spiritual message of Luther.  The editors of the St. Louis Edition, the old (German) Missouri Synod, understood Martin Luther far more than today's modern scholars.

But what about the other publishings of Lehre und Wehre and Der Lutheraner?  Are they becoming available too?  I will begin to address these in the next post.

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