Compilation (literature)

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Compilation (Latin: compilatio , plunder) is a term for a scientific or literary work or text collection compiled from quotations from other works. The term was first used mockingly by Cicero in his letters for a collection of files.

Compilations were made frequently in Europe from ancient times to the end of the Middle Ages . Most of the time they are not scientifically motivated and therefore have no independent scientific value. Compilations become particularly important when the looted works have been lost. This allows the works to be at least partially reconstructed. For example, 7 of the 123 dramas were saved by Sophocles , similar to Aeschylus and Euripides . An example of a compilation with historical and especially scientific value can be taken from the Icelandic Sturlunga saga , whose originator is the history of the Icelandic oneDescribes free state time with set pieces of other works of saga literature . This work has long been considered an important historical source.

Medieval world chronicles were often brought together by compilation. For example, the chronicles of Rudolf von Ems and Jans Enikel up to the late medieval compilation by Heinrich von Munich . This made it possible to create a complete world chronicle from the beginning of mankind to the time of the writer from many incomplete ones.

The early writers of Islamic historiography also put together important compilations, such as Al-Balādhurī and At-Tabarī .

The title of compilations of theological, educational, legal and entertaining kind was often Speculum or (translated) mirror . Examples are:

The term compilation for these works comes up in the 16th century and has retained its negative basic meaning, as it was created by Cicero. She wants to emphasize the superficial and uncritical character of this work.


  • Frank Büttner, Markus Friedrich, Helmut Zedelmaier (eds.): Collecting, organizing, illustrating. On knowledge compilation in the early modern period. Lit, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-8258-7164-9 .
  • Sarah Fekadu: Compilation . In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . Darmstadt: WBG 1992ff., Vol. 10 (2011), Col. 480-486.
  • Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler-Lexikon Sprach, 2000
  • Reinhold R. Grimm: Compilation . In: Günther Schweikle, Irmgard Schweikle: Metzler Literature Lexicon. Terms and Definitions . JB Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, 2nd edition 1990, p. 248
  • Karl Ernst Georges : Latin-German concise dictionary , 8th edition, Leipzig 1913
  • Gunter Wesener : Codifications and compilations, reform programs and land rights drafts of the 17th and 18th centuries. In: Journal of the Savigny Foundation for Legal History , rom. Dept. 127 (2010) pp. 202–244.