Krisjanis Barons strongly believed that the basic structure of Latvian folk poetry is a quatrain. It is backed by the Latvian singing tradition itself. So he asked the collectors to send the material (in quatrains) to him written on just one side of each sheet, in the format 3 x 11 cm, so it can be cut into the slips he used (the other formats had to be re-written before they could be used). By the year 1893 Barons had received some 150,000 texts. Without a rigid system it would make nothing but a heap of paper. As Barons proceeded, he had to invent some tool to help in maintaining the arrangement of the texts. First he used the cigarette paper boxes, which he, being a smoker, had in good supply. The particular size of the slips came from boxes like this. But the deep box turned out to be inconvenient when working with such a great number of slips.
very special piece of furniture was made in 1880, in Moscow, following
the Krisjanis Barons' own design. It has 70 drawers arranged in
two columns, each having 20 (2 x 10) compartments intended for
paper slips sized 3x11 cm, containing a quatrain of text. There
are also three larger drawers for documents.
Since 1940 the Cabinet is in the custody of the Archives of Latvian Folklore.
On 4 September 2001 it was inscribed on the
UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
This manuscript is unique not only from the
perspective of its cultural value, but also physically. While
the cabinet has two replicas (one in the Krisjanis Barons' museum
in Riga, the other - in Russia, in the manor where much of the
editing work was done, while Barons worked there as the private
tutor for the owner's children), the slips have just a single
microfilm copy made in 1940's, with indications that this might
As both a preservation measure and the way to make the manuscript widely accessible the project of scanning every single slip into a separate graphics file is under its way. It was initialised by Prof. Imants Freibergs in 1998. On 20 September 2004 the number of slips scanned reached 245,500. There is no exact total number known, but it must be around 300,000, as the last published text was written on the slip No. 246,318. But it will only be able to tell the exact number of slips some time next year, as there are still riddles and sayings as well as unpublished songs left in the Cabinet.
The first financial support was received from the Latvian Foundation in the USA, to which we remain grateful.
Foundation of Cultural Capital or Kulturkapitala fonds granted the project significant financial support, making it possible to acquire a new workstation. The project depends on the the support from the Foundation to quite a great extent.
The material scanned so far along with the text from the published edition of Latvju Dainas is available on a separate site at www.dainuskapis.lv This site is hosted by LURSOFT IT (we express our gratitude). It is in Latvian and will offer you a text search window to start with. If you do not speak the language, try a search for dziesma ('a song'), then click on the text numbers and go further to *.jpg files. Or do your own search (with or without a dictionary). Good luck!
If you have any questions, suggestions or offers, please do not hesitate to contact me.