(LD) is undoubtedly the best known and most popular edition of
Latvian folk song texts, the first with so great the number of
texts used collected all over the territory of Latvia.
This edition has not lost its significance, although
has become less legible because of it being printed in the so
called old orthography. This edition was intended as proof of
the old age and importance of Latvian culture, to back the aspiring
nation's claim to its rights (along the line of Herderian
Since Herder's idea of the voice of nations in songs the term "song" has come to mean just the text of a song - as a piece of national poetic expression, thus leaving melody outside the scope. There are no melodies included with the texts in LD, but there are descriptions of traditional customs to help understand the situation of singing the particular texts.
Krisjanis Barons (1835-1923) is well known as the creator of LD. Still Barons is not the author of the original idea, neither he has collected the texts, nor rewritten all of the received texts on the tiny paper slips of the famous Cabinet of Folksongs (Dainu skapis)(though there is a significant number of the slips displaying Barons' own handwriting), as some may believe. Still his contribution is of no less importance - he elaborated the classification system of LD, arranging the texts and introducing the notion of song type or bush - choosing a text as the main among a number of similar ones, grouping the rest around it; this would allow for easier perception of variation and save space in the published edition (as only the differences are indicated in print). Barons has also edited some texts, in order to restore their possible older and better form.
Already at the time when Barons was working at the edition the traditional singing is lost to a great extent; Barons in his introduction to LD mentions that "the sources of nation's memory, as it seemed, filled up and having run dry long ago, started to flow amazingly" after the collection was started, still he also warns that "the old ladies, our purest source of folk songs, become more and more rare with each day". Barons also points at the Latvians themselves turning away from the singing of traditional songs when accepting Christianity.
On the title page of LD Barons is not the only publisher indicated, besides his name there is also that of Henrijs Visendorfs (1861-1916). Barons in the same introduction to LD wrote: "Then in the month of January 1892 I was surprised by a kind letter from St. Petersburg, from Mr. Wissendorff, in which he offered his support for the publication of the edition. We soon achieved our agreement on this." Visendorfs is a quite well doing Latvian merchant, with his own office at the famous St. Petersburg Gostinnij Dvor. He had got interested in Latvian culture before, supported researchers and editions, wrote about Latvian mythology himself (although these writings were not met with enthusiasm by the academic scholars). Visendorfs provides Barons with copies of collections from Jelgava Latvian Society Department of Literature, by publication of the Volume 1, he submits to Barons 12,800 song texts, acquired "with the help of local collectors", altogether his collection contains 28 406 texts. It is likely that based on the popular idea of that time - that of the Latvian- Lithuanian great nation, he suggests to Barons the word daina, which is actually Lithuanian, but becomes the title of the edition. The first volume is published in Jelgava, funded by Visendorfs himself. Though it turns out to be rather costly, and Visendorfs, using his connections, organises the publication of the other volumes with the help of the Imperial Academy of Sciences. In 1900 it is officially settled and from 1903 till 1915 the other volumes are published. These volumes in addition to the previous two title pages in different languages (Latvian and French) receives one more in Russian. Although Visendorfs takes no part in editing and arranging the texts, his contribution performing organisational tasks, reading the preprints of the volumes published in St. Petersburg and providing his advice has been significant enough to earn the place for his name on the title page, although Prof. Peteris Smits objected against it.
In 1893 Krisjanis Barons returns to Latvia with his Cabinet of Folksongs, containing around 150,000 texts at that moment. The Index to LD shows more than 900 contributors, among them 237 male informants, 137 female informants, while of collectors only 54 are laies, at least 150 collectors were schoolteachers, 50 - men of letters, 20 - priests. Barons without exact account indicates the total number of texts used to be 217 996, this number is usually quoted as that of the songs published. Still, as LD was created based on collection by local people, it doesn't cover comprehensively the whole territory of Latvia, 218 Latvian civil parishes (see map) were not represented, not even with a single text. To collect from the mute parishes, 30 after publication of LD was started Latviesu folkloras kratuve started its activities.
Whatever the other editions there are and will be in the future, LD has become the most quoted and referred to, as testified by two repeated editions - in 1922-1923 and 1989-1994.