Edited by Iván Horváth

Written by Iván Horváth, András Nyírő, Márton Szentpéteri, Katalin Szőke, Zsuzsa Tószegi

Translated by Éva Csillik and J. D. Urquhart

Music by the Kirnberger Composer Machine

Special thanks to Andor Márton Horváth, Lili Horváth, Ákos Teslár and Tünde Tóth.

© Gépeskönyv Contentware Labs, 1999




Quirinus Kuhlmann's automata composing artificial sonnets
(Himmlische Liebesküsse, 1671)
Made by Gábor Molnár, on the basis of Péter Benits' reconstruction
Hungarian text translated after László Márton's former version

Contentware in Hungary


- Softwares in the field of literature, arts, music and science

- On-line publications


- Poetry and music composing machines from the 17th -18th century



Contentware Exhibition for the Folk of Books

May Hungarian contentware products be interesting for the representatives of the world's book business? Are there any new solutions of universal validity in the field of Hungarian contentware?

Hungary has taken its share in the revolution of informatics so far.


Hungarians in the Revolution of Information

János Neumann was not the only Hungarian pioneer of cybernetics. He was inspired by the ideas of a scientific workshop that operated in Budapest.

Rudolf Ortvay, a professor at the Budapest Institute of Technology let Neumann - who worked in the USA at that time - know the ideas of discussion that were going on in Budapest.

Here is a letter of February 16, 1941 that was written in Budapest by Ortvay to Neumann:

"Dear Jancsi... everybody is speaking about organization and totality. In technology a lot of things represent such organizations as follows: computing machines, automatic telephone exchanges, high-voltage equipment, such as cascade transformers and radio transmitters, radio receivers and even all the industrial plants and all the offices. I think that among the things listed here, there is a common element that is suitable for axiomatization. I do not know if there had been such attempts previously. I would be interested in this field because I think that if we manage to identify the elements that are essential for the organization, we will be able to understand such systems as the brain, for example. Yours, Rudolf"

Rudolf Ortvay (1885-1945), professor at Budapest Institute of Technology


Ernő Ács, director of a military research institute in the late 1950s invented the telephone exchange "Address Code" which, according to some researchers, may be considered as a forerunner of the Internet (or more precisely: of the military Arpanet)

Ernő Ács (1907-1991), director of the research institute


An excerpt from the device specification of the "Address Code" in Hungarian: digital pieces of messages which are transmitted in a time-sharing asynchronous system. These messages consist of two parts, namely of a variable address code which is altered while mailed to its destination and of a constant content.


An announcement - that was put out four years prior to "Arpanet" - about the principle of the "Address Code" (1964).


The Message and the Aim of the Exhibition


- CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs are still considered as off-line devices like books. The great qualitative change is caused by the on-line publications which were edited specifically for the net. Publishers and booksellers may well fear that a new epoch will open from now on.

- We are not only representing a collection of Hungarian CD-ROMs but also Hungarian on-line publications. Displayed here are the solutions made by Hungarian publishers: the scientific, economic and legal solutions for the questions that those working with books are concerned with.

- We also show how the new epoch does not differ very much from the old one. The "McLuhan-galaxy" bears some likeness to the "Gutenberg-galaxy". In the age of the information boom we are facing the same difficulties as we did during the previous boom in the 16th -18th centuries when modern book output and big libraries sprang into existence.



The Age of the Previous Information Boom. Germany and Transylvania

The combinatorial treatises of mnemotechnics, the pansophic panacea that followed the art of Ramón Llull were gradually eclipsed while book-printing, the "typographic logic" was coming out. Even so they can regain their importance - though now in a more symbolic sense- through the digital revolution just in the age when the history of Books is in its decline ...

The early modern information boom reminds us of the digital revolution at the end of this millennium. Even in the 17th century the very idea of the computer - that is of a machine able to optimally systematize and process the accumulated information - was raised by Pascal and Leibnitz.

The fanatics of logic and memory machines before the ages of electrotechnics - Giordano Bruno, Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Athanasius Kircher, Georg Philipp Harsdörffer, Quirinus Kuhlmann and others - followed and continuouly reinterpreted the combinatorial art of Ramón Llull, the Catalan scholar who lived in the Middle Ages. From the point of view of the Hungarian-German cultural relations in the Early Modern, Johann Heinrich Alsted acquired special importance. The greatest encyclopedist of his time, systematizing knowledge, he applied Llull's method. He used the art of combination in his young days in Herborn, Germany and towards the end of his life in Transylvania as well, while working as the first professor at Bethlen College, Alba Iulia.

Combinatorial circuli from Alsted's Clavis artis Lullianae, 1609


Excerpt of Alsted's dedication to Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania, from the 1630 Encyclopaedia


Excerpt from Alsted's combinatorial oratory from the 1630 Encyclopaedia. This Cyclognomonica oratoria was republished by Ludwig Philip Piscator in his Transylvanian Rudimenta Oratoriae in 1649, Várad.


  Titlepage of a Transylvanian specimen of Alsted's unpublished combinatorial encyclopaedia, Colophon de Reformatione Philosophiae ac reliquarum disciplinarum …


"…in omnibus artibus iubeo te attendere ad combinationem, ceu proram et puppim eruditionis"

"…in all arts I force you to apply the art of combination that is the beginning and the end of erudition"

(Alsted's warning towards his pupil in his Transylvanian Rudimenta linguae Latinae, 1634)


Gábor Bethlen (1580?-1629), Prince of Transylvania accompanied by the "Rosicrucian" Frederick the V. Prince-elector of Pfalz and Bohemian King.


Albert Szenci Molnár (1574-1634), Alsted’s Hungarian friend. On the correspondence between Johann Heinrich Alsted and his Hungarian friend, see Márton Szentpéteri's detailed study with yet unpublished sources.


Albert Szenci Molnár's combinatorial poem dedicated to his German friend, Georg Rem, reproduced by Caspar Dornau’s Amphiteatrum sapientiae, 1619



Literary Algorithms

You do not need a computer to create or read a combinatorial poem but you may need some aid of a simple device.

Raymond Queneau's thin volume of poetry or song-book (1961) for instance consists of just ten sonnets which are of consonant rhyme. Each sonnet is printed on a separate page. The pages were cut into stripes by the lines of poetry already in the printery. Wherever you open this book you can see a sonnet you will never see again, since this volume contains between its refined covers a hundred thousand billion poems which is more than enough to read for a million centuries.

The French text-generator, a kind of poetry-creating program - that is made by Tibor Papp, who used Queneau's book - automatically takes care of organizing the lines of sonnets at random, without even turning the pages over. If you wish, this text-generator can terminate the original volume's feature that is as follows: there are two sonnets - the first and the last one - put on a decorated place. The Hungarian metrical poetry generator of the poet is the Disztichon Alfa. The database of this generator contains the prosody rules plus 24 empty structure of sentence and about 2400 words.

Tibor Papp, Disztichon Alfa (1994)


In 1679 John Peter, an Englishman, received royal patent rights for a procedure which is partially identical with Tibor Papp's creation in his Disztichon Alfa. It is an insignificant difference that John Peter used dice instead of a random-number generator and tabulations instead of databases.



Throw the dice and get six numbers between 1 and 9. Put down the numbers one after another. Make your move onto the square where your first cast of the dice was. Put down the obtained letter. Then move nine steps forward. Put down the obtained letter. Then move nine steps forward ... and so on. Having reached the end of the tabulation you are in possession of the first word. For possessing your second word use the second tabulation. Make your move onto the square where your second cast of the dice was. Put down the obtained letter. Then move nine steps forward ... and so on.

Using a simple program you can imitate John Peter's method.

Peter's tabulation for composing hexameters automatically

Peter could rely on similar attempts: Quirinus Kuhlmann created a sonnet composing machine (1671), Georg Philipp Harsdörffer represented the permutation poetry composing automata in his Delights of Mathematics and Physics (1647), and the twenty-year-old Leibniz, in his essay About the Combinatorial Art (1666), gave the general theory of these automata.

We brought to Frankfurt a possible mechanical reconstruction of Kuhlmann's sonnet composing procedure. Spin the disks round and create a new variant of Kuhlmann's sonnet! It can be owed to László Márton, a Hungarian poet, that while you are doing so you are just creating the Hungarian translation of your new German sonnet variant.



Algorithms for Music and Arts



Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák's creation is based on permutation.

Permutation generally means that the Web (and interactive CD-ROMs) provides an opportunity for using different access paths. The CD-ROM composition Das anatomische Theater by Milorad Krstić and Roczkov Radmila is a proportional system of symmetries and discrepancies among the possible access paths.

As for music, we would like to demonstrate a funny software that is the Kirnberger-Mozart way of musical composing. This program will take some explaining.


Musical Dicegames


From 1757 to 1813 more than a dozen musicial dicegames were published. With the help of these games everybody could compose polonaises and minuets without actually knowing how to compose.

Important figures, such as Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Mozart, and Haydn amused themselves with these pass-times, but the technique of composing using mechanical methods came from the 17th century.

The first such games, which appeared in print in Berlin, 1757, were published in Der allezeit fertige Polonoisen und Menuetten Componist, the work of a German music theorist and composer Kirnberger. The game contains dice, a number table, and a note in which all bars have a number.

Kirnberger's number-table and note with numbers


The numbers above show the bars of the minuet or polonaise. The numbers in the table belong to the bar-numbers. At the beginning of the game the composer rolls for example a 6, then looks for the bar from the table, rolls again and compiles the new bar to the former.

Joseph Haydn composed his musical games (Gioco Filarmonico) for two violins (or flutes) and a bass. Its principles are similar to those of Kirnberger's. Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach published his Anleitung mit zwei Würfel zu komponieren, so viele man will, ohne etwas von der Musik oder Composition zu verstehen in 1790. Also, there are some musical games published under Mozart's name, and there are a lot of Mozart's pieces we can find variations, combinations and permutation in. The best-known example for permutation occurs in the last movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony.

Musical games attributed to Mozart



The difference that lies Between the Early Modern Information Boom and Present One

One of the advantages of using the Internet which is mentioned several times is that it makes texts easily available. But nobody mentions that sometimes the Internet abets in killing texts.

  Literature portrait gallery. Made in 1996. It was displayed as a part of the virtual exhibition, 1996, on the 11th centenary of the Hungarian conquest. Destroyed in December 1998. Partially restored in August 1999.


Palimpszeszt, a comparatistical web magazine. Its first three issues which were destroyed in 1997 have not yet been restored.


Five Objects and Five Sentences

Five Objects


1. The first issue of the periodical 2000 of April 1989. Literary periodicals intend to exist in the form of a standing, non-perishable piece of reading so that these periodicals be legible even 20 years after the issue comes out. I.e.: there should not be any difference between periodicals and books from this point of view.

2. Magyar Kurír /The Hungarian Messenger/, volume of 1791. Being a newspaper, Magyar Kurír was not even a periodical. Anyway, it is our pleasure that this newspaper is still extant since it is more interesting nowadays than ever. Here you can read pieces of news about early attempts using balloons and censored announcements about the French Revolution as well.

3. The Works of Caesar is a characteristic publication of the late Renaissance period. It is one of Chr. Plantin's last masterpieces from the 15th century. Its paper however, is not as fine as it used to be in the earliest books that were printed in the 15th century, but it stil hasn’t got a yellowish tinge. Its size is well agreeable (it has a jacket pocket form rather than an overly decorative one). There are no places left blank for the ornamental initials - like in painting books - so you do not need to take the book over to the miniaturist's if you do not feel like doing it yourself. Quite the contrary: the initials are also printed like they are in any book or publication nowadays. It is a well-carried-out piece of bulk book products. The proportions of matter are perfect. In spite of the fact that our copy has the traces of being read, it is in excellent shape. This book might be in the same good condition in the year 2400 as long as it is handled carefully.

4. Professional CD-Recordable. This object is a so called writeable/readable laser disk. More precisely, it used to be readable, since it went wrong because of its user's fault.

5. A perished 5.5 " flexible disk with its trade-mark covered. It is a coffin of the text of a book.

Five Sentences


1. We consider that published texts are worth more than life. They are fundamental in our culture.

Texts should exist long after the author's death. Texts should even survive the nation whose language they are written in. Libraries serve this purpose to a certain degree. The librarian’s task is not only to help the reading public. They are supposed to take care of the treasure committed to their trust and hand this treasure down intact to the succeeding generations. Spirit may or may not be eternal. But it is ourselves who are able to have an intellect to be eternal. And our culture did its share. We read poets who wrote in languages that have long since been extinct.

2. Published texts have existed because they were fixed on a lot of media.

Media were reproduced - they were copied or set - since for making use of a text you need a copy. Text itself is immaterial, but if you wanted to make use of it you had to keep a copy of the text- like a clay tablet, a codex or a print - in your hands. You were not able to read without keeping the book in your hands. Success used to mean making use of a text several times, for doing this a lot of copies were required and the more copies meant a bigger chance for survival. Presuming that the Hungarian experience can be generalized there is a need for big amounts of copies. About 99 per cent of printed copies perished in Hungary over 400 years. But this fact does not necessarily mean that published texts are going to be extinct. (Upon a thorough estimation: texts were not annihilated for the most part.)

3. Internet breaks off the relations between the published texts and their media.

Irrespective of the number of those who visited a text on the net in a month - one hundred thousand readers read one of the texts and nobody read the other one - the medium that is the material copy is the same in both cases. It is a Winchester in a server PC. The evevnt of reading - contrary to the experience of history so far – has been successfully multiplied on the Internet without increasing the number of media. Reading occurrence is not dependent on the number of copies any longer. A single medium per text is enough. Parallelly with this phenomenon it is significant that from a technological point of view these new media are not as durable as the old ones were. The characteristic data of different media (flexible disks, Winchesters, magnetooptic disks, magnetic tapes) - since their technological solutions are quite unidentical - differ very much. Data access time, reading access time, writing access time are also different. But their lifetime is very similar: only a few years. Traditional media (clay tablets, papyri, parchments or thread stitched books between covers) are ever so much better from the point of view of durability. We can say that traditional media are more advanced.

CDs, DVDs replacing these, and MDs are also expected to last 30 years or perhaps a little longer. These media are temporary ones like the books designed for only one single use i.e. those without thread stitching. CDs, DVDs and MDs and books without thread stitching are designed for the market of traditional media. They are designed for old-fashioned customers who want to build a library of semi-durable copies or accumulate a CD, DVD or MD collection of semi-durable voice carriers.

4. Published texts perish in the age of Internet.

The inevitable annihilation of copies - for the very first time in human history - is accompanied by the annihilation of texts en masse. Not only the copies but most published texts themselves are likely to perish in the next 400 years - perhaps this time even their 99 per cent.

5. The age of the Internet will have its great culture as well - but this culture is not going to be ours.

Sometimes the revolution of the Internet is said to be similar to the invention of book printing or of writing. Another appropriate analogy would be the oblivion of writing.



Internet Periodicals started a Hungarian online IT news agency 18 months ago. 6-800 readers visit the site every day for software news, beta testing and virus information. Its operator is Haszprus, a 14-year-old schoolboy, trying to conceal his dental braces in an embarrassed smile. Ten years from now, Haszprus and his generation will define the image of the new media in Hungary.

And until then? The 500,000 Hungarian Internet users can already find portal sites serving 20-30,000 viewers a day, professional and political fora drawing crowds of tens of thousands, Internet radio stations and shopping malls. Index, maybe the biggest Internet-only daily, introduces some of the most important services to the visitors of the Frankfurt Book Fair at


Selected Hungarian web-magazines and web-periodicals. According to the prevailing trend in Hungary the amount spent on producing web-magazines and web-periodicals is not charged end users.



Libraries on the Net

Home pages and in some cases catalogues show the traditional libraries on the Net.

Hungarian libraries on the Net



There are three kinds of virtual libraries (electronic text-collections) in Hungary.


1. Digitalization as a Movement

One of them these, the Hungarian Electronic Library (Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár, MEK), which rests on a wide movement for text digitalization. Its aim is to become the central text-collection on the Internet with texts that are available without any restriction. Anyway, the library services of the MEK are very pleasant.

The virtual check-room of MEK



2. The Authoritative Digitalization of Hard Copies

Neumann-house (Neumann-ház) makes an attempt to collect authoritative texts exclusively. They digitalize traditional (hard copy) critical editions of Hungarian classics. The Contemporary Literature Center (Kortárs Irodalmi Központ) has digitalized books written by Hungarian contemporary writers who have been given the highest government award by the political leadership in power since the end of the 1940s.


Databases of the Neumann-house


Databases of the Contemporary Literature Center



3. Net Books

There are also publications which are not the net variants of hard copies. They are new databases that are created for scientific research or the net critical editions of classics or Internet text-books for schools.

These products are very expensive. Publishers worry about putting them on the net. They do not often get into free virtual libraries. How can you stop stealing publications?

Contentware laboratory at Budapest University (ELTE)



Book Service Alternatives to Publishing, I.


Net Scientific Publications

In the old days, after publishing a book and giving it over to the salesman, the scientific publisher’s job was over. Nowadays the publisher's task starts mostly with publishing.

With the example of machine processing in the field of early Hungarian poetry we demonstrate that publishing is replaced by book service in sciences.

The main phases of processing history:

- 1976: manual processing, using marginal punchcards. (You can see the machine made in the German Democratic Republic in the lower part of the tableau. Have a look at the original knitting needles!)

- 1977-79: the very first machine database is created

- 1983: database utilization by means of a network system using another PC in another city

- 1988: results are demonstrated on a scientific session

- 1992: publication of the Répertoire de la poésie hongroise ancienne on diskettes and in a two-volume manual in Paris

- 1993: the first Internet publication of the Répertoire

- 1999: a new Internet-edition

- 2000: the next scientific session...


The old off-line variant of the database



The old on-line variant of the database


- Generally you can look up a poem in more than one single book (either in a manuscript or in a printed one). Several books appertain to a poem.

- Generally a book contains more than one single poem. Several poems appertain to a book.




Regarding the database, one of the theoretical results is as follows: the new, plural concept of the text. The unit of recording is not a poem nor a manuscript or a printed book, but encountering these.


The example of machine processing in the field of old Hungarian poetry demonstrates that the database has been in touch with the scientific team that created it 20 years ago. The same scientific workshop - with a staff whose members are naturally replaced now and then - refresh the database if it is necessary and upgrade it as well. Any other inexpert team would not be able to do this job. Stealing the database - and providing with the accompanying services - would be nonsense.

The members of the database team are paid. But their salary does not come from the end users. The team members are paid by their scientific institute. The situation is the same at a traditional academic library: you do not need to pay for anything but reading books there.

After publication the scientific publications on the net stay in a tight bond with the scientific workshop which created them - as long as this team's creative energy is kept.


Book Service Alternatives to Publishing, II.


Critical Editions on the Net

All over the world publishers are unwilling to let their critical editions - that took a long time and heavy expenditure to complete - be put on the Internet. For fear of stealing, publishers prefer CD-ROM publication.

Hungarian critical editions are among the first ones on the Net

Excerpt from the critical edition of Bálint Balassi, poet (1554-1594) on the Net


Excerpt from the critical edition of Attila József, poet (1905-1937) on the Net



Principles regarding edition:

- There is no connection between financing and end-use.

- Editing attached to some sort of a scientific workshop which is in possession of a contract with the publisher.

- Editions are not set up with protection against hacking. Security has been reached by such additional services that can be given only by experts. Services are planned to be given for several years.

- Editions are programmable ones. That is why they are in possession of some special facilities you could not even have thought about earlier.

- Editions should also be valuable and essential from the point of view of traditional philology.


Attila József is one of those 12 prominent personages whose bust is set up in the Hungarian National Pantheon in the Hungarian Pantheon of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

One of the recently discovered manuscripts that are available only to the visitors/readers of the Attila József Net critical edition.


Collation of variants in Balassi Net critical edition.



Book Service Alternatives to Publishing, III.


Sulinet (Schoolnet – See School-book e.g.)

The majority of the Hungarian book market consists of traditional textbooks. The project entitled Sulinet/Írisz (1997-'99) provides Hungarian high and elementary schools with electronic textbooks. Since 1999 Hungarian Ministry of Education has purchased services instead of electronic textbooks. One of the service tools is displayed here.


Minerva II

the Browser and Developer Tool of Electronic Textbooks and Manuals


Main features:




Minerva II navigational tools

Minerva II helps to understand and to learn the topic as well as its interrelations


Topic additions appear in a dockable popup window


Minerva II maintains the available books and other data for each user


Minerva II Developer Tools construct the structure of the books