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« Tuna 4 / 2017

Emanuel Reger’s “Memoirs” of School Matters in Livland (1708)

Major changes with far-reaching consequences took place in educational conditions and church activities and life in Livland in the last quarter of the 17th century. The development of Latvian and Estonian literary language, stocks of ecclesiastical books, and public primary schools progressed particularly energetically, so that it is not an exaggeration to see this as the protracted Lutheran Reformation finally reaching its goal. The leader of these reforms was Johann Fischer (1636‒1705, in office in Riga 1674‒1699), the Chief Superintendant of Livland. One of the most important sources concerning the educational work and publishing activity that he initiated is a collection of documents known as Emanuel Reger’s account book (collection 4038, register 2, archival record 732). Reger himself has remained practically unknown. He is mentioned in historiography only as the secretary and bookkeeper of the chief superintendent. The “memoirs” published here are in fact an undated letter (1708) from Emanuel Reger to the hovrätt of Livland (literally “royal court”, the highest court in Livland in the 17th – 19th centuries) in Riga. The letter is preserved at the Latvian National History Archives in the Consistory of Livland (Vidzemes konsistoria) collection (collection 233, register 1, archival record 840). A handwritten copy of Reger’s letter from the end of the 18th century is found at the University of Latvia Academic Library (Ms. 1140-96, 21). It forms the main part of a file entitled “Notice of how the Chief Superintendent of Livland, Mr. Dr. Johann Fischer blessedly worked in his position a hundred years ago and of the benefits that brought”.

Reger was of German extraction, born in Regensburg. In his letter, Reger mentions that Fischer invited him to come to Riga from Stockholm to do proofreading. He initially lived under Fischer’s roof and took upon himself some of the errands connected to schools as a token of his gratitude. In 1681, he became secretary to the Supreme Ecclesiastical Commission of Livland, and in the following year, he became a notarius publicus. Reger defends himself in the letter against two accusations. First of all, the Supreme Consistory had submitted a complaint to the hovrätt concerning ecclesiastical books and school textbooks that Reger had distributed free of charge to persons who wanted the books. The other accusation concerned official documents in private hands that were supposed to be handed over to state and ecclesiastical authorities. It cannot go unnoticed from the tone of the letter that Reger was irritated not only by those unjust reprimands but also by the shadow that was cast on Fischer. As the closest long-term assistant of the Chief Superintendent, he was as if living history and as such was aware of his value, especially after Fischer left Livland in 1699. In his letter he dwells quite thoroughly on the educational work initiated by Fischer without forgetting to highlight his own role and merits. The letter provides viewpoints of someone who participated directly in the relevant events and valuable descriptions that are more detailed than the corresponding sections of chronicles written by his contemporaries Christian Kelch or Arvid Moller, for instance. In terms of their content, Reger’s “memoirs” can be compared to the biographical descriptions by Ernst Glück and Adrian Virginius that have been preserved from that same time period. The letter leaves no doubt that Emanuel Reger was the actual coordinator of school matters in Livland, as well as book distributor and bookkeeper in everyday practice. His activities need to be researched in greater detail.