About the Moralrede

Technical Details

In order to convert the images of the pamphlets into a text file, the images were run through OCR software from ABBYY Finereader.  You can access the link to a free trial of the software here:https://finereaderonline.com/en-us

The OCR process of converting these image files into text files can be time consuming due to the errors created when the images files are turned into a text file, but it is faster than attempting to type the entire documents by hand, especially if there is a large number of documents that need to be converted.  Once the files are converted then the human labor begins and one must compare the image file with the text file and edit the text accordingly.  After looking at two or three documents converted from Fraktur there are a few patterns and symbols that are consistently incorrect which does speed up the editing process.  Generally the lowercase letter "s" is switched with the letter "f" because they do look very similar in Fraktur.  Numbers also came out as letters and needed to be revised.       

The purpose of converting these images of the documents into text files serves a two main purposes: 1. Text files are searchable and more manageable to work with than an image file when focusing on content. It is easier  to do a close reading or a distant reading with these documents as text files than to look at the image file. 2. Converting these images into text files they can be read in a latin script instead of an old German Gothic script (Fraktur) which makes these documents legible to a wider audience.

General Information about the Moralrede

These poems act as a conclusion which serve a few different functions.  The first and most obvious function can be deciphered through the name given to the poems, moral meaning the same in English and in German and the word "rede" meaning speech.  These poems served to act as a lesson and also warning to other individuals thinking about commiting crimes.  This mirrors the function of the public execustions themselves which were a clear visual warning to anyone in attendance who could see the horrible fate of these criminals.  The moralrede act as a longer lasting spectacle than the public execution itself, which means that if one was not present at the public execution they could still receive a moral speech through the warning and condemning poesie on the pamplets. In addition to acting as a warning, these moral poems can also serve to explain why the person committed such crimes.  When this is the case, the poems tend to focus on the criminals upbringing.   

 These pamphlets can also serve a religious purpose. The Moralrede for Franz Steinbacher quotes proverbs 29 and the poem itself has many religious overtones and usually express remorse and can be categorized as "Reuelieder" or "remorse songs."  the pamphlet about Franz Steinbacher fits into the category of "Reuelieder".  These poems/songs can also be described as an "Abschiedslied" or a farewell-song which signify the death of Christ (Willelms 6).  The death of Christ is contrasted by the death of the criminal or villain, who feels the physical pain, but Christ himself is the one who absorbs the criminals sins (Willelm 7).  The moral poems can also act as a dramatic display of the bloody and brutal crimes through verse with words of comfort for the bereaved.  The reasoning behind the religious moral poems is not to cleanse the criminal of the sins, but to heal, cleanse, and purify the community after such sinnful acts.  This was the case especially for murders committed because in 18th and 19th Century Germany a murder did not only break societal laws but it also broke Gods "law". When the individual repented then the moral poem would focus more on type of punishment and its function in the community.      

Moralrede included in our Website            

6 out of the 7 Moral Poems/Songs on our site were published between 1770-1781, however one of the poems was published in 1818.  The poem published in 1818 differs vastly from the other poems in terms of content, style and location. This poem describes crime committed and even includes the motive for the crime, followed by a description of the punishment and the execution. Although this poem does not have the title Moralrede attached to it, I have included it in the exhibit due to the fact that it is also a poem. This poem published in 1818 varies in terms of location as well; it was published in Thuringia, which is in the East of Germany, whereas the other documents 6 were published in the south of Germany.

Most pamplets including a moralrede were published in Bavaria and generally in the city of Munich. 6 out of 7 documents support the fact that moralrede were common in Bavaria, and out of the 6 pamplets from Bavaria 5 out of the 6 were published in Munich.  One of the reasons for the higher number of pamphlets including a Moralrede can be attributed to a publisher and poet Matthias Ettenhueber.  Ettenhueber was a courtpoet (Hofpoet) and also a journalist who published roughly 150 documents between 1753-1781 with the title "Wohlverdientes Todesurtheil nebst einer Moralrede" (Bollen 76).  We can identify his publications through this title and it acts as a signature. Ettenhueber had a lifelong printing allowance which explains the high number of pamphlets published.  After Ettenhueber's death in 1782 the baroque alexandrine style of meter began to disappear in the pamphlets, which became a common style of moralrede printed in Munich. (Bollen 78).  The alexandrine style of poetic meter consists of 12 syllables.  The style of moralrede in Munich flourished between 1770-1790.   

About the Moralrede