Monday 21 April 2008

Found and seen

Behind these doors the reading room of the Danish Rigsarkiv is located, an archive where one can find e.g. documents relating to diplomatic and government affairs going back centuries. I was there earlier today, spending a few hours looking for, finding and perusing a couple of 18th Century documents referring to vampires, or either Wampyres or Vampyres to use the two ways of spelling the word that I encountered in the documents. Well, I found nothing fundamentally new, but the documents do add some extra facets to the history of vampires.


Anonymous said...

I've certainly seen the rendering of "vampyres" in old documents...but never "wampyres". Thus, I was quite surprised to see you refer to it so casually in your post.

Indeed, the earliest reference I have seen approximating "wampyres", is in none other than Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897):

In the records are such words as 'stregoica' - witch, 'ordog' and 'pokol' - Satan and hell; and in one manuscript this very Dracula is spoken of as 'wampyr', which we all understand too well. - Mina Harker's Journal, 30 September

Would you be willing to divulge which previous sources mention "wampyres"?

~ Anthony Hogg

Niels K. Petersen said...

There was no standard way of spelling the word 'vampire' back in the early 18th Century. According to Aribert Schroeder, the original informant on the Kisolova vampire case, Frombald, according to the document stored in Vienna used the spelling Vanpiri, when trying to write the term used by the villagers. Schroeder also quotes documents that contain spellings like Vampiers and Wampiers. There are probably as many variants as there are of the name of the supposed vampire Arnod Paole, and the village Medvedja, and all are just approximations of what the Austrians heard in Serbia. Finally, I would like to add that sometimes you can be uncertain of the exact spelling when studying a handwritten document, so for that reason different spellings of strange and hitherto unknown names and words no doubt easily arose.

Anonymous said...

It was the nature of the language of the time. Spelling variations were still common at the time and such frustrating inconsistencies led to the invention of dictionaries and lexicons.

However, I'm still interested in specific name variations, regarding vampires.

Incidentally, Hamberger cites the term as "Vampyri" (p. 44) in the Plogojovitz report, apparently quoting Frombald.

This variation also appears in other contemporary sources at the time, so I'd be more likely to side with Hamberger over Schroeder.

Though, I'd be happy to be corrected on this matter.

As to Paole, the earliest record of the case referred to "Vampyrs".

This was later transposed to "Vampyres".

Our standardised "Vampire" seems to have been around since (or, at least popularised by) Calmet.

I have certainly seen "Vampier", however. Add to this the plural "Vampiren" and "Vampyren".

It must certainly a nightmare for etymologists and linguists! Not to mention vampire researchers.

All the same, it is the spelling with the "W", that I haven't really come across before.

If you could give some examples of incidents where this occurs, that'd be great. If not, that's ok too.

You've certainly piqued my interest in Schroeder's book, though!

~ Anthony Hogg

P.S.: I'd be writing under my usual name at the head, but for some reason, the "Name/URL" function keeps coming back with this: "URL contains illegal characters"

Niels K. Petersen said...

The example quoted by Schroeder that I referred to is from one of the Austrian documents concerning the remuneration of Flückinger and the other persons involved in exhuming and examining the bodies in Medvedja:

Kayl. Hoefkrigsraths ersuchen, womit denen in das Dorf Mettweg zu untersuchung der(en) Vermög anligend(en) convoluti alda verspührten Wampiers od(er) Blutsaugern abgeschickten drey(en) Rgts feldscherern nebst ainer recompens die raisgelter bonificiert wer(en) möchten.

The text is simply a short application for recompensation for examining 'wampiers or blood suckers' in the village 'Mettweg'.

If you read these documents as quoted by Schroeder, you will find that our word 'vampire' is spelled in at least three different ways.

Anonymous said...

I think I might have to do some sleuthing here, as I get the impression that Schroeder is using modern or obscure variants of the term, in substitution for the original.

My sources thus far have turned up "Vampyri" and this is contemporary to the time of the original report.

My main concern is then-contemporary instances of the word, to get a closer approximation of the original.

I'll also note that this has happened to the names of the participants involved, too. But that's a different matter.

I hope I'm not bogging things down with semantics, but I am striving more for accuracy; a snapshot, if you will, of the precise use of the term in its original context and usage.

It is of course possible that contemporary sources chronicling the events, conjured up their own variables. As we established earlier, European language was subject to such problems - leading to the rise of dictionaries and lexicons to standardise language.

It is also possible that later "transcriptions" of earlier reports could have used modernised language to "translate" them.

An example of this is the substitution of "Revenants" for Calmet's Revenans is his famous Disseratations and Treatise on vampires.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Schroeder travelled to a number of European countries to study archival material pertaining to the vampire cases. I have no particular reason to doubt his reproduction of the sources he found. Schroeder actually minutely traces the evolution of the word in the various forms used in 18th century source material as well as contemporary literature on vampires. Although I'm very cautious when it comes to theories on the etymology, an interesting and more recent theory can be found in Bruce McClelland's Slayers and their Vampires.

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