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Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm Lachmann

Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm Lachmann (March 4, 1793 - March 13, 1851), German philologist and critic, was born in Brunswick, in what is now Germany.

He studied at Leipzig[?] and Göttingen, devoting himself mainly to philological studies. In 1815 he joined the Prussian army as a volunteer chasseur and accompanied his detachment to Paris, but did not encounter the enemy. In 1816 he became an assistant master in the Friedrichswerder gymnasium at Berlin, and a Privatdozent at the university. The same summer he became one of the principal masters in the Friedrichs-Gymnasium of Königsberg, where he assisted his colleague, the Germanist Friedrich Karl Köpke[?] (1785-1865) with his edition of Rudolf von Ems' Barlaam und Josaphat (1818), and also assisted his friend in a contemplated edition of the works of Walther von der Vogelweide.

In January 1818 he became professor extraordinarius of classical philology in the university of Königsberg[?], and at the same time began to lecture on Old German[?] grammar and the Middle High German[?] poets. He devoted himself during the following seven years to an extraordinarily minute study of those subjects, and in 1824 obtained leave of absence in order that he might search the libraries of middle and south Germany for further materials.

In 1825 Lachmann was nominated extraordinary professor of classical and German philology in the university of Berlin (ordinary professor 1827); and in 1830 he was admitted a member of the Academy of Sciences. The remainder of his laborious and fruitful life as an author and a teacher was uneventful.

Lachmann, who was the translator of the first volume of PE Müller's Sagabibliothek des skandinavischen Altertums (1816), is a figure of considerable importance in the history of German philology (see Rudolf von Raumer, Geschichte der germanischen Philologie, 1870). In his "Habilitationsschrift" über die ursprungliche Gestalt des Gedichts von der Nibelungen Noth (1816), and still more in his review of Hagen's Nibelungen and Benecke's Bonerius, contributed in 1817 to the Jenaische Literaturzeitung he had already laid down the rules of textual criticism and elucidated the phonetic and metrical principle of Middle High German in a manner which marked a distinct advance in that branch of investigation.

The rigidly scientific character of his method becomes increasingly apparent in the Auswahl aus den hochdeutschen Dichtern des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts (1820), in the edition of Hartmann's Iwein (1827), in those of Walther von der Vogelweide (1827) and Wolfram von Eschenbach (1833), in the papers "Über das Hildebrandslied," "Über althochdeutsche Betonung und Verskunst," "Über den Eingang des Parzivals," and "Über drei Bruchstucke niederrheinischer Gedichte" published in the Abhandlungen of the Berlin Academy, and in Der Nibelunge Not und die Klage (1826), which was followed by a critical commentary in 1836.

Lachmann's Betrachtungen über Homer's Iliad, first published in the Abhandlungen of the Berlin Academy in 1837 and 1841, in which he sought to show that the Iliad consists of sixteen independent "layers" variously enlarged and interpolated, have had considerable influence on modern Homeric criticism, although his views are no longer accepted.

His smaller edition of the New Testament appeared in 1831, 3rd ed. 1846; the larger, in two volumes, in 1842-1850. The plan of Lachmann's edition, explained by himself in the Studia. Krit. of 1830, is a modification of the unaccomplished project of Bentley. Lachmann was the first editor to break from the Textus Receptus, seeking to restore the most ancient reading current in manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type, using the agreement of the Western authorities (Old Latin and Greek Western Uncials) as the main proof of antiquity of a reading where the oldest Alexandrian authorities differ.

Besides Propertius (1816), Lachmann edited Catullus (1829); Tibullus (1829); Genesius[?] (1834); Terentianus Maurus[?] (1836); Babrius (1845); Avianus (1845); Gaius (1841-1842); the Agrimensores Romani (1848-1852); Lucilius[?] (edited after his death by Vahlen, 1876); and Lucretius (1850). The last, which was the main occupation of the closing years of his life, from 1845, was perhaps his greatest achievement, and has been characterized by Munro as "a work which will be a landmark for scholars as long as the Latin language continues to be studied." Lachmann also translated Shakespeare's sonnets (1820) and Macbeth (1829).

See M Hertz, Karl Lachmann, eine Biographie (1851), where a full list of Lachmann's works is given; F Leo, Rede zur Säcularfeier K. Lachmanns (1893); J Grimm, biography in Kleine Schriften; W Scherer in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, xvii., and JE Sandys[?], Hist. of Classical Scholarship, iii. (1908), pp. 127-131.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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