The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Editorial Principles

Establishing the Original Text

Transcribing and publishing the documents

During the years 2006-2011 more than 8.000 transcripts of documents were published in this digital Archive.

Approximately 4.300 of these were transcribed during the years 1996-2001 by cand.mag. Jens Keld in collaboration with the Society for Danish Language and Literature. Jens Keld (1943-2006) was an experienced philologist and known for his professional expertise. Among his publications, mention can be made of:
  • Breve fra og til Adam Oehlenschläger. Registre 1809-1850. Værk- og personregistre 1809-1850. Tidstavle 1809-1850. Brevfortegnelse og register 1829-1850 published by the Society of Danish Language and Literature 1996.
  • B.S. Ingemann: Levnetsbog I-II and Tilbageblik paa mit Liv og min Forfatter-Periode fra 1811-1837, critical edition with introduction, commentary and index, the Society of Danish Language and Literature 1998.

Jens Keld carefully collated his transcriptions with the original documents, and the accuracy of the original texts is subjected to continuous control. For documents published, but not examined, especially Italian letters, there may be some discrepancies between the transcript and the original text.

During the years 2006-2011 further 3.700 documents, primarily at the Thorvaldsens Museum, were transcribed by the following:
  • Lasse Jonas Bendtsen, cand.mag., history
  • Laura Bjerrum, cand.mag., history and art history
  • Birgit Christensen,, Nordic philology
  • Bjørn Westerbeek Dahl, librarian
  • Ole Jorn, cand.mag., ph.d., Italian philology
  • Giulia Longo, cand.mag., ph.d., philosophy
  • Alberto Manai, ph.d., Italian philology
  • The editors of the Archives has also contributed to the transcription, cf. Contributors.

Several Versions of the Same Document

All documents in the physical archive at the Thorvaldsens Museum are published here. Consequently it may occur that there are several draughts of the same letter, or several versions of the same document – for instance Thorvaldsen’s will. However, this is a very rare occurrence, and in such cases this will be made clear from the commentaries to the document.


Every document in the physical archive at the Thorvaldsens Museum is rendered in a facsimile scan attached to the transcript. Click the button See Original at the individual document page.
At any time you may compare the transcript with the original source text, and if you find discrepancies the Archives will be happy to be informed about them at arkivet @

Displaying the Transcription of the Original Text

The transcribed documents are shown in such a way that the philologically established original text can be clearly distinguished from the commentaries added by the Editors. The actual original text is shown in a pale grey box with its own typography, while the editors’ explanatory commentaries are shown separately. There can thus be no doubt as to what is a historical source and what are the present-day comments by the editors.
Comments on specific passages are only shown by clicking on the light blue marking in the original text indicating that there are comments on this passage. For more on this marking, see How to Use the Archives.


As a general principle, the document text is reproduced as it was written, i.e. accurate to the word and the letter. The writer’s orthography is preserved everywhere, and no spelling errors or slips have been corrected.

Doubling of Consonants

Some writers follow the custom of that time by placing a line above a consonant that is to be repeated. For instance, the word Sygdomme [i.e. illnesses], which in this case is written as Sygdome with a line above the m. In our version of the text, both consonants are written out in full, and the line above the letter concerned is not noted.


The writer’s punctuation is retained throughout, but where missing commas or full stops create problems of understanding, the necessary punctuation is added in square brackets, [ ].

Crossings Out

If parts of the text are crossed out, the crossed-out words are not normally transcribed, even if they can be read. On the other hand, if the passage crossed out is considered to be important, the words crossed out are repeated crossed out in the transcript in the place where they occur.


If the author of the document has added a word or a comment between the lines or in the margins, the additions are recreated as ordinary text in the place where the author has wanted it to appear.
If it is not clear where the addition should appear in the text, its actual position in the original document will be indicated by square brackets or a comment.

Special Orthographical Forms or Marks

Special orthographical forms are recreated as far as possible as seen in the original. For instance, if a word is underlined, it is underlined in the transcription.
Similarly, emphasised script and other forms of script are as far as possible imitated in the digitalised form.

Special Signs

There are certain signs that cannot be recreated in digitalised form, for instance the signs for scudi, mark etc. In these cases, this is indicated in the relevant places in square brackets, for instance: [sign for mark].

Latin and Gothic Lettering

No distinction is made between texts written in Latin or Gothic script in the presentation of the transcript. Both appear in the same way, although Latin letters have sometimes been used to emphasise names, foreign words etc. in a document that is otherwise written in Gothic script; though in many cases the mixture is far less consistent.
In the main, documents in Danish and German are written in Gothic script, while documents written in Italian, French and other languages employ Latin script. However, there are so many exceptions from this general tendency that it is practically impossible to reflect the distinction in the layout of the transcript.

Layout of the Document

An attempt has been made as far as possible to recreate the document in the way in which the author/sender has arranged the sheet. That is to say that for instance a letter starting with the words, Dear Friend! written in the middle of the sheet and with a date at the top right on the same line, is reproduced in the way in which it is closest to the original layout.

Line Breaks

The documents are reproduced without any indication of the author’s or printer’s change of line or page.

New Paragraphs

New paragraphs are shown with a line break.

Hand Written and Pre-Printed Text

If both hand written and printed text occurs in a document, the pre-printed text is reproduced in grey.

Editorial Additions

Editorial additions to the original text of the document normally appear in square brackets.
Where it is considered necessary explanatory words or letters are added in square brackets directly in the text of the document as an aid to understanding. Longer explanations are added as a comment.

Unclear Passages

Places that are difficult to read are marked with x’s in square brackets, for example: [xxx xxxx xxxxx]. The number and grouping of x’s correspond to the illegible letters and words. In some cases an explanatory comment is added.

Doubtful Readings

Words which are difficult to read or which do not give a meaning in the context have added a ? in square brackets [?] immediately after the relevant passage. In some cases, the reading is further discussed in a comment.

Loss of Text

If the document has been damaged, torn, pieces of paper cut out etc., this is clearly pointed out in square brackets, e.g [paper missing] if such missing passages affect the reading of the text.

Translation by Glyn Jones (revised)

Last updated 25.02.2015