Leopold Cohn

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Leopold Cohn (born January 14, 1856 in Zempelburg , West Prussia , † November 18, 1915 in Breslau ) was a German classical philologist and librarian .


Leopold Cohn came from a Jewish family. His parents were Heimann Cohn and Lina geb. Kroll, his older brother, was Rabbi Joseph Cohn (1850–1948), who emigrated to Palestine in 1933 and died in Jerusalem .

Leopold Cohn attended elementary school in Zempelburg and from 1866 to 1873 the grammar school in Kulm , which was then headed by Adalbert Łożyński , a well-known history of philosophy. After graduating, Cohn enrolled at the University of Breslau in the winter semester of 1873/74 and studied classical philology and history. His academic teachers included the geography historian Karl Neumann , whose historical seminar Cohn attended for two semesters, and the philologists Richard Foerster , Martin Hertz , Arthur Ludwich , August Reifferscheid and August Rossbach . Cohn received most of the stimulation from Hertz and Reifferscheid, who, as Ritschl students, provided a mainly linguistic and philological training.

Since his high school days, Cohn has been making a living almost exclusively from private lessons. Nevertheless, he devoted himself energetically to scientific projects during his studies and envisaged an academic career as a professional goal. At Reifferscheid's suggestion, in 1876 he worked on the award task of the Philosophical Faculty on the authors quoted by Eustathios in his Homer Scholien (Auctores from Eustathio in scholiis Homericis adhibiti indagentur) and won the Faculty Prize. With this work, which he dedicated to Reifferscheid, Cohn was promoted to Dr. phil. PhD . The following year he passed the state examination for the higher teaching post, but did not enter the school service.

In the following years, Cohn immersed himself further in the ancient and Byzantine Homer philology. He published several source studies on Eustathios' commentaries and completed his habilitation on April 26, 1884 at the University of Breslau in Classical Philology. His habilitation thesis (on the sources of the Plato scholia) was dedicated to Reifferscheid and Hertz. When defending the work on March 20, 1884, his college friends Georg Wissowa and Julius Brzoska appeared as opponents. In the years that followed, Cohn made several trips to study Greek manuscripts. In 1886 he toured France and Italy for a year for this purpose. In doing so, he not only collected rich material for his studies, but also developed into an expert in Greek palaeography and codicology . In the spring of 1888, the Prussian Ministry of Culture commissioned him to revise the manuscript catalog of the Pauline Library in Münster (today Münster University and State Library ), which Joseph Staender had compiled. Cohn checked, corrected and supplemented Staender's statements in the summer of 1888 in weeks of concentrated work. In the summer of 1889, together with Wilhelm Studemund , Reifferscheid's successor in the chair in Breslau, Cohn prepared the catalog of the Greek manuscripts in the Meermann collection at the Royal Prussian Library in Berlin , which appeared in 1890.

The year 1888 also saw a key event in Cohn's academic career: he won the Charlottenstiftung Prize for Classical Philology, which had awarded a new edition of Philon 's De opificio mundi . The commission of the Prussian Academy of Sciences felt compelled to split the award because of the quality of the submitted work: Cohn received a side award, the Berlin high school teacher Paul Wendland the main award, which consisted of a four-year scholarship. The task of the prize became a life's work for both winners: Cohn and Wendland got together to create a critical edition of all of Philon's writings.

Despite all his successes, Cohn's hopes for an academic career remained in vain, which was due on the one hand to his reticent personality and on the other hand to the usual discrimination against Jews in the Prussian civil service at the time . Wilhelm Studemund's efforts to get him an extraordinary professorship came to nothing after his death on August 8, 1889. Cohn joined the academic library service in October 1889, but retained his teaching position as a private lecturer. On December 23, 1897, he received the title of professor from the Philosophical Faculty, and in 1902 he was promoted to senior librarian. From 1906 to 1909 Wendland (as professor) was temporarily his colleague. Both died in the autumn of 1915.

Cohn's estate is in the Berlin State Library .

Fonts (selection)

About Greek literature :

  • Quaestiones Eustathianae . Breslau 1878 (dissertation)
  • De Aristophane Byzantio et Suetonio Tranquillo Eustathi Auctoribus , Leipzig, 1881
  • Investigations into the sources of the Plato scholias , Leipzig, 1884
  • De Heraclide Milesio Grammatico , Berlin, 1884
  • To the paroemiographs , Breslau, 1887
  • On the handwritten tradition, criticism and source studies of the Paroemiographs , Leipzig, 1892.

About Jewish literature:

  • Philonis Alexandrini libellus De opificio mundi . Wroclaw 1889
  • Philonis Alexandrini Opera quae supersunt (with Paul Wendland)


  • Jacob Guttmann : Funeral speech held on the bier of Professor Dr. Leopold Cohn, senior librarian at the Royal University Library in Wroclaw . Breslau 1915 ( digitized version ).
  • Julius Guttmann: Leopold Cohn (Nekrolog) . In: Annual report of the Silesian Society for Patriotic Culture . Year 93, 1915, Volume 1 (1916), Nekrologe, pp. 7-10 ( digitized version ).
  • Wilhelm Kroll : Leopold Cohn . In: Chronicle of the Royal University of Wroclaw for the year 1915/1916 . 30th year (1916), pp. 120–123.
  • Old Prussian biography . Volume 4, Marburg 1995, p. 1341.
  • Cohn, Leopold. In: Lexicon of German-Jewish Authors . Volume 5: Carmo – Donat. Edited by the Bibliographia Judaica archive. Saur, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-598-22685-3 , pp. 229-231.
  • Cohn, Leopold , in: Encyclopaedia Judaica , 1972, Volume 5, Col. 691

Web links

Wikisource: Leopold Cohn  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Guttmann (1915) 7f .: "To break the resistance that opposed his academic hopes was not given to his withdrawn nature." Kroll (1916) 122: "If his quiet and reticent nature of this profession (the librarian ) May be especially, so he always remained committed to science with his innermost heart. "
  2. Guttmann (1916) 5: "... until he, to whom every other prospect was closed as a Jew, found a job at the local Royal University Library, which gave him a modest but secure existence."
  3. Guttmann (1915) 7.