In the eighteenth century it was common practice to provide printed librettos for public performances of vocal music, sacred as well as secular. The works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach are typical in this respect. Normally, the libretto served as a program, at times perhaps also as an admission ticket. Detailed agenda were published for special events, for example, the consecration of the Waisenhaus-Kirche on 1 November 1769, when Die Israeliten in der Wüste, Wq 238 was performed for the first time, and the dedication of the newly built bell tower of St. Michaelis on 31 October 1786, for which Bach composed a festive cantata, H 823. Even though printed librettos were usually sold and thus formed a significant source of supplemental income for the organizer, they were regarded as ephemera; they were produced cheaply and in great haste, and most copies were probably discarded soon after the event. Librettos consisting of more than one folded sheet of paper were sewn together, but they were sold unbound.

The librettos did not have a wide distribution;1 none appear in the catalogues for the Leipzig and Frankfurt book fairs. While serving as a court musician in Berlin, less than 200 miles away from Hamburg, Bach himself had apparently never seen any printed librettos from Georg Philipp Telemann’s tenure at Hamburg. Thus Bach wrote to Telemann’s grandson Georg Michael on 6 December 1767 and asked for sample librettos in order to get acquainted with his new duties as music director in Hamburg.2 When, soon after 1786, Johann Jakob Heinrich Westphal started to collect materials relating to the life and works of Bach, he avidly sought librettos of oratorios, works for special occasions, and church music. Whereas he succeeded in gathering a representative collection of Hamburg text prints of oratorios and installation cantatas, he obtained only two out of twenty-one Passion librettos and no more than a handful of cantata texts—along with a few from Telemann’s time—although these must have been printed on a weekly basis in large numbers.

Thanks to the large print run, librettos for all of the Passions and virtually all of the Einführungsmusiken have been preserved, sometimes in multiple copies. Relatively few librettos for the cantatas performed on Sundays and feast days have survived.3 Occasionally copies were kept as documentary evidence, either by the institutions that had organized or paid for an event, or by participants. Bach himself usually stored one copy of the printed libretto with the music, so that it could be reused as printer’s copy if at a later occasion a new text print was to be prepared.4

On their title pages works for special occasions typically specify the event, including the date and venue of the performance; often Bach’s role is referred to, either as the composer (“verfertigt von…”) or as the conductor (“aufgeführt von…”), though these distinctions cannot always be taken at face value. The name of the librettist is only rarely given; this was due to several reasons, including the fact that many authors were not professional poets, and that many of the works Bach performed were pasticcios (using the music, and thus the texts, from a variety of sources). To save space, texts for the cantatas for Sundays and feast days were issued without a separate title page; brief information such as “Am VIII. Sonntage nach Trinitatis | 1777. | in St. Catharinen.” (on the 8th Sunday after Trinity 1777 at St. Catharinen) was provided below the invariable general heading “Text zur Music” on the first page of the libretto.5 Printed librettos for public performances of oratorios usually bear no exact dates; sometimes not even the year is given. This may have been due to practical reasons: it allowed unsold copies of the libretto print to be used for later performances. This practice makes it difficult to ascertain which copies of Bach’s oratorio librettos are related to an authorized performance, and to put them in chronological order.6 The format of the librettos in Hamburg depended more on the occasion than on the scope of the text: librettos for Passions, oratorios, church cantatas, and funerals were printed in octavo format; works for special occasions, Einführungsmusiken, and Bürgercapitainsmusiken were printed in quarto.

The first printed librettos for works by C.P.E. Bach survive from his time as a student in Frankfurt an der Oder. The overwhelming majority of the surviving librettos, however, date from Bach’s years in Hamburg. The printed texts have been used as an important point of reference when establishing the musical text of Bach’s works within CPEB:CW. Sometimes they are—along with the identification of the compositions in NV 1790 and AK 1805—our only source of information about a work whose music has been lost. The study of the text prints gives insights into aesthetic and literary developments and often provides clues about potential borrowing or reuse of material, though such suspicions must be verified on the basis of musical sources in each individual case.

The facsimile edition of the printed librettos to Bach’s vocal music in series VIII, volume 3 is organized in three parts:

1. Passions
2. Installation cantatas
3. Oratorios, cantatas, and other works

Unless stated otherwise the facsimiles are rendered close to their original size. If multiple copies of a print survive, the cleanest exemplar has typically been chosen. Signs of wear, owner’s marks, or stamps have not been technically manipulated. For easier reference, a short title has been added as a header for each work; the movement numbering of CPEB:CW is given in the outer margins. Minor variants between the librettos and the music are discussed in the respective volumes of the edition. Librettos for lost works have been included, as have the few copies of texts for foreign works that Bach verifiably performed. No transcriptions have been provided as a substitute if the originals of printed texts have been lost; but where no copies of a printed libretto survive, a transcription is included in the respective volume of the edition. On the other hand, librettos have not been included for performances of Bach’s works that are unlikely to have taken place with the immediate involvement of the composer. Within each part of series VIII (for part 3, within each group of related works) the facsimiles are arranged in chronological order. The facsimile pages are preceded by an introduction and followed by detailed information about the sources.

Ulrich Leisinger
General Editor

1. An exception to this rule are the complimentary texts that Bach had prepared for the printed editions of some of his vocal compositions, such as Die Israeliten in der Wüste, Wq 238 and the double-choir Heilig, Wq 217. Rarely, as was the case with the Klopstocks Morgengesang am Schöpfungsfeste, Wq 239, the text was printed separately in the first edition of the music. These texts were prepared under Bach’s supervision in Hamburg, then sent to Leipzig in order to be enclosed with each sales copy. This situation is reflected by the holdings of the large national libraries which usually do not contain any of the text prints except oratorio texts.

2. “Darf ich mir zur Probe einen gedruckten Musik Text ausbitten?” (May I ask for a sample of a printed music text?); see CPEB-Briefe, 1:132–36; CPEB-Letters, 14.

3. The first bibliography of text prints is found in Deutscher Gesamtkatalog, ed. Preußische Staatsbibliothek (Berlin: Preußische Druckerei- und Verlags-Aktiengesellschaft, 1931– ); this list includes several copies lost in World War II, but is restricted to public libraries, omitting any text prints from state or church archives. An updated list is found in Gesamtverzeichnis des deutschsprachigen Schrifttums (GV): 1700–1910, ed. Peter Geils and Willi Gorzny, 161 vols. (Munich: Saur, 1979–87). Additional information has come to light mainly as the catalogues of the Bach sources from Brussels and the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin have been prepared; see Leisinger/Wollny 1997 and Enßlin.

4. In one case, Bach annotated a copy of the libretto for his 1772 St. John Passion while preparing his 1776 St. John Passion; see CPEB:CW, IV/7.2.

5. Cf. the incomplete printed text preserved with the score and parts for the chorus Zeige du mir deine Wege, Wq 223 (D-B, SA 258); see Enßlin, 90.

6. Due to the small format of the paper, watermarks are often difficult to identify, particularly if the margins of the copies were trimmed.