Karl Lachmann

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Karl Lachmann
Signature Karl Lachmann.PNG

Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm Lachmann (born March 4, 1793 in Braunschweig , † March 13, 1851 in Berlin ) was a German medievalist and classical philologist who worked as a lecturer and professor at Berlin University. His method of historical-critical edition of ancient texts became the model for modern textual criticism .


Karl Lachmann was born on March 4, 1793 in Braunschweig as the son of the preacher Carl Ludolf Friedrich Lachmann and received his first training at the Catharineum there . From 1809 he devoted himself to classical studies in Leipzig , then in Göttingen under Georg Friedrich Benecke also German studies, completed his habilitation in Göttingen in 1815, but soon afterwards entered military service as a voluntary foot hunter in Duderstadt . Lachmann did not take part in any combative actions during the reign of the hundred days and resigned after a short stay in Paris at the end of 1815.

In 1816 he became a collaborator at the Friedrichswerder Gymnasium in Berlin and a private lecturer at the university there, took over the position of senior teacher at the Friedrichs Kollegium in Königsberg in the summer of the same year and in 1818 an extraordinary professorship at the university there. In 1825 he became an associate professor, in 1827 a full professor of Latin and German philology in Berlin, and in 1830 a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences . His successor in the chair of philology was Moriz Haupt . In 1837 he was elected a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . Since 1841 he was a foreign member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1846 he was accepted as a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg .

Lachmann was close friends with Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm .

Grave of Lachmann on the Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof II in Berlin-Kreuzberg

Lachmann died on March 13, 1851 in Berlin. He was buried in Berlin's Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof II , where he still has an honorary grave for the city of Berlin .


Lachmann is, along with Benecke, the founder of the historical-critical editing practice ; He traced the creation of texts back to fixed norms, not only in the field of classical - as was usual - but also in old German literature. Lachmann's editions by the Middle High German poets Hartmann von Aue , Wolfram von Eschenbach and Walther von der Vogelweide are considered classics in German edition history. Lachmann's aim was to move from the previously unscientific approach used by the editors, which was based solely on a purely subjective assessment of the competing readings, to a methodologically sound editing practice. His method was to classify the various sources of tradition in a stemma (a kind of family tree) on the basis of dependencies, which are determined by systematic comparison of the readings and the identification of binding and separating errors made possible in this way, and in this way under Eliminatio codicum descriptorum (Exclusion of the manuscripts derived from preserved models) to determine the textual form of the archetype (preserved or reconstructable earliest tradition carrier). This is the starting point for the emendation, the most exact possible restoration of the original text of each work , which can also be obtained through conjectures if necessary . What mattered to him was the consistent distinction between the readings that emerged in the course of handwritten tradition and those that are the result of the conjectures of ancient, medieval, humanistic or modern scholars, many of which are already in the manuscripts, but most of them in find printed editions. Regarding conjectures, without which, depending on the quality of the handwritten tradition, it is by no means possible to do without, regardless of their quality and stylistic attractiveness, there is a fundamental mistrust. Wherever possible, the traditional handwritten reading of the archetype should be preferred to the most elegant conjecture. The scientific edition must give a precise account of the interdependence of the manuscripts and must document the origin of the readings included in the text, stating the manuscripts they offer or the scholars whose conjectures may be involved. If conjectures are included in the text, the deviating readings of the relevant handwritten tradition should be noted with particular care. Lachmann used to justify his decisions where doubts seemed conceivable, which is mostly omitted in modern text-critical editions. From the perspective of research in the 21st century, Lachmann's works can be assigned to reconstruction philology.

In the field of classical literature, his "Considerations on Homer's Iliad " (1837; with additions by Moriz Haupt 1847), in which the Iliad is broken down into individual songs, and his pioneering edition of Lucretius (1850), then the Editions of Properz (1816), Tibullus (1829), Catullus (1829), the New Testament (1831), Genesis (1834), Terentianus Maurus (1836), Gajus (1841), Babrios (1845), Avianus (1845) , the “Explanatory Notes on the Writings of the Roman Surveyors” (with Friedrich Bluhme , Theodor Mommsen , Adolf August Friedrich Rudorff , 1848–52), Lucilius (from his estate, edited by Johannes Vahlen , 1876) and the treatises “Observationes criticae "(1815)," De choricis systematis tragicorum graecorum "(1819)," De mensura tragoediarum "(1822) and others; he also published the “Philological Treatises” of his friend Clemens August Carl Klenze (1839).

In Latin linguistics, Lachmann's law , named after him, is as well known and controversial as it is today , which in its traditional formulation states that Latin verbs ending in a voiced plosive sound should be preceded by an expanded root vowel before the -to -suffix des Past participle to have passive, thus âctus to agere , têctus to tegere and câsus to cadere (but factus to facere and messus to meter ).

Of his Germanistic writings, we first mention his work on the Nibelungenlied , some of which were, of course, very contested and today must be considered out of date: the treatise “On the original form of the poem of the Nibelunge Noth” (1816) and the edition of “ Der Nibelunge Noth und die Klage ”(1826; Notes and readings on it, 1837). In addition, the splendid edition “Twenty old songs from the Nibelungs” (1840) compiled for the anniversary of the invention of the art of printing should be mentioned; this edition contains only the songs that Lachmann declared to be genuine. He also edited: "A selection from the High German poets of the 13th century" (1820), "Specimina linguae francicae" (1825), Walther von der Vogelweide (1827), Hartmann's "Iwein" (with Benecke, 1827), Wolfram von Eschenbach (1833), Hartmanns “Gregor” (1838), Ulrich von Lichtenstein (with Theodor von Karajan , 1841) and published treatises: “About the corpse of the German poets of the 12th and 13th centuries” (1829), “About Old High German Stress and verse art ”(1831), making him the real founder of the German metric; "About the Hildebrandslied" (1833), "About Singen und Sagen" (1833), "About the entrance of the Parzival" (1835) and others

We also owe him a translation of Shakespeare's sonnets (1820) and Macbeth (1829) as well as a critical edition of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's complete works (1838–40, 13 volumes). Moriz Haupt published some of the older minstrels produced by Lachmann from his estate ("Des Minnesang's Spring", 1857).

Normal Middle High German

Lachmann is also considered to be the inventor of the so-called normalized Middle High German or Normal Middle High German . This is an artificial form of language developed by German studies of the 19th century, which tries to standardize the differences between the regionally and diachronically very varied spelling forms of medieval Upper and Central German literature. Normal Middle High German is mainly based on the courtly writing language of the Staufer period , which in turn was strongly influenced by Swabian / Alemannic and Franconian Middle High German. Normal Middle High German makes it easier for laypeople and German studies students to understand these ancient texts.

However, this subsequent standardization has proven to be disadvantageous for linguistic research. Since almost all new editions of medieval literature appeared in this "normalized" form, a large part of the older secondary literature is also based on the edited texts. As a result, regional and diachronic differences were often ignored or given too little attention. Linguists with a teleological perspective on the history of the German language in particular were tempted to recognize a uniform standard German language as early as the Middle Ages. Modern German studies is therefore forced to completely re-evaluate medieval literature in its linguistic aspect or to laboriously work out whether certain works from earlier secondary literature are based on the original spelling or on Normal Middle High German.


Remnants of the estate, which was largely lost in World War II , are in the Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage (SBB-PK).

Lachmann owned medieval manuscripts, of which the Berlin State Library today has at least fragments of Ulrich von dem Türlin's Willehalm and the Nibelungenlied.


His “Kleinen Schriften” were edited by Karl Viktor Müllenhoff and Johannes Vahlen (Berlin 1876, 2 volumes).


  • Reflections on Homer's Iliad. Treatises of the Berlin Academy 1837, 1841 a. 1843; collected with additions by Haupt, Berlin 1847; 3rd edition 1874.
  • Observationes criticae. Götting. 1815.
  • De choricis systematis tragicorum graecorum. Berlin 1819.
  • De mensura tragoediarum. das. 1822 et al
  • About the original form of the poem of the Nibelunge Noth.Dümmler, Berlin 1816 ( digitized version and full text in the German Text Archive )
  • About the corpses of the German poets of the 12th and 13th centuries. 1829.
  • About Old High German emphasis and verse art. 1831.
  • About the Hildebrandslied. 1833.
  • About singing and saying. 1833.
  • Via the entrance of the Parzival. 1835.



Individual evidence

  1. ^ Martin Hertz: Karl Lachmann. A biography . Berlin 1851. p. 21ff. Google Books. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
  2. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 143.
  3. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724. Karl Konrad Friedrich Lachmann. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed September 28, 2015 .
  4. The reasons for origin are, for example, transcription errors, incorrectly resolved abbreviations, read-out ligatures , omissions ( e.g. through haplography , jump in the eyes; skipped lines), interpolations (insertions of additions that do not belong to the original text such as variants, dittographs , glosses ) or word or text rearrangements. See also the text-critical method .
  5. Karl Lachmann, Sex. Aurelii propertii carmina . Fleischer, Leipzig 1816, pp. III-XXVIII, especially pp. VII-IX; XVI-XVIII [1] ; ders., In T. Lucreti Cari de rerum natura librs commentarius. Reimer, Berlin 1850, pp. 3-15 [2] .
  6. Kathryn Starkey and Haiko Wandhoff: “NEW PHILOLOGY. Mouvance - Variance - Performance: Der unffest Text ”, (pp. 45–69, p. 45), in: Walther von der Vogelweide and the theory of literature. Nine model analyzes by ‹Nemt, Frouwe, disen Kranz› , edited by Johannes Keller and Lydia Miklautsch, Reclam, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-15-017673-3 .
  7. digitized version


Web links

Wikisource: Karl Lachmann  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Karl Lachmann  - Collection of images, videos and audio files