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Ersch, Johann Samuel

ERSCH, JOHANN SAMUEL (1766-1828), the founder of German bibliography, was born at Grossglogau, in Silesia, on the 23rd of June 1766. In 1785 he entered the university of Halle with the view of studying theology; but soon his whole attention became engrossed by history, bibliography and geography. At Halle he made the acquaintance of J.E. Fabri, professor of geography; and when the latter was made professor of history and statistics at Jena, Ersch accompanied him thither, and aided him in the preparation of several works. In 1788 he published the Verzeichnis aller anonymischen Schriften, as a supplement to the 4th edition of Meusel's Gelehrtes Deutschland. The researches required for this work suggested to him the preparation of a Repertorium über die allgemeinen deutschen Journale und andere periodische Sammlungen für Erdbeschreibung, Geschichte, und die damit verwandten Wissenschaften (Lemgo, 1790-1792). The fame which this publication acquired him led to his being engaged by Schütz and Hufeland to prepare an Allgemeines Repertorium der Literatur, published in 8 vols. (Jena and Weimar, 1793-1809), which condensed the literary productions of 15 years (1785-1800), and included an account not merely of the books published during that period, but also of articles in periodicals and magazines, and even of the criticisms to which each book had been subjected. While engaged in this great work he also projected La France littéraire, which was published at Hamburg in 5 vols., from 1797 to 1806. In 1795 he went to Hamburg to edit the Neue Hamburger Zeitung, founded by Victor Klopstock, brother of the poet, but returned in 1800 to Jena to take active part in the Allgemeine Literaturzeitung. He also obtained in the same year the office of librarian in the university, and in 1802 was made professor of philosophy. In 1803 he accepted the chair of geography and statistics at Halle, and in 1808 was made principal librarian. He here projected a Handbuch der deutschen Literatur seit der Mitte des 18. Jahrh. bis auf die neueste Zeit (Leipzig, 1812-1814) and, along with Johann Gottfried Gruber (q.v.), the Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste (Leipzig, 1818 ffg.) which he continued as far as the 21st volume. The accuracy and thoroughness of this monumental encyclopaedia make it still an indispensable book of reference. Ersch died at Halle on the 16th of January 1828.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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