Skip to main content
×
×
Home

A Dictionary without Definitions: Romanticist Science in the Production and Presentation of the Grimm Brothers’ German Dictionary, 1838–1863

  • Kelly Kistner (a1)
Argument

Between 1838 and 1863 the Grimm brothers led a collaborative research project to create a new kind of dictionary documenting the history of the German language. They imagined the work would present a scientific account of linguistic cohesiveness and strengthen German unity. However, their dictionary volumes (most of which were arranged and written by Jacob Grimm) would be variously criticized for their idiosyncratic character and ultimately seen as a poor, and even prejudicial, piece of scholarship. This paper argues that such criticisms may reflect a misunderstanding of the dictionary. I claim it can be best understood as an artifact of romanticist science and its epistemological privileging of subjective perception coupled with a deeply-held faith in inter-subjective congruence. Thus situated, it is a rare and detailed case of Romantic ideas and ideals applied to the scientific study of social artifacts. Moreover, the dictionary's organization, reception, and legacy provide insights into the changing landscape of scientific practice in Germany, showcasing the difficulties of implementing a romanticist vision of science amidst widening gaps between the public and professionals, generalists and specialists.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Aarsleff, Hans. [1967] 1979. The Study of Language in England, 1780–1860. Westport CT: Greenwood Press.
Alter, Stephen G. 1999. Darwinism and the Linguistic Image : Language, Race, and Natural Theology in the Nineteenth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Amrine, Frederick. 1998. “The Metamorphosis of the Scientist.” In Goethe's Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature, edited by Seamon, David and Zajonic, Arthur, 3354. Albany NY: State University of New York Press.
Bahr, Joachim. 1991. “Periodik der Wörterbuchbearbeitung Veränderungen von Wörterbuchkonzepftion und - praxis.” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, Band I, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 150. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Ben-David, Joseph. 1971. The Scientist's Role in Society: A Comparative Study. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall.
Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Science. “Das DWB.” Last accessed July 30, 2011 (http://dwb.bbaw.de/dwb/dwbstart.html).
Bontempelli, Pier Carlo. [2001] 2004. Knowledge, Power, and Discipline: German Studies and National Identity. Translated by Poole, Gabriele. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Christmann, Hans Helmut. 1994. “Linguistics and Modern Philology in Germany 1800–1840 as ‘Scientific’ Subjects and as University Disciplines.” In Romanticism in Science: Science in Europe, 1790–1840, edited by Poggi, Stefano and Bossi, Maurizio, 203214. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Cottrell, Alan P. 1998. “The Resurrection of Thinking and the Redemption of Faust: Goethe's New Scientific Attitude.” In Goethe's Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature, edited by Seamon, David and Zajonic, Arthur, 255276. Albany NY: State University of New York Press.
Craig, Edward. 1987. The Mind of God and the Works of Man. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Crane, Susan A. 2000. Collecting and Historical Consciousness in Early Nineteenth-Century Germany. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
Cunningham, Andrew, and Jardine, Nicholas. 1990. “Introduction: The Age of Reflection.” In Romanticism and the Sciences, edited by Cunningham, Andrew and Jardine, Nicholas, 19. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Delbrück, Berthold. 1884. Einleitung in das Sprachstudium: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte und Methodik der vergleichenden Sprachforschung. Leipzig: Breitkopf and Härtel.
Denecke, Ludwig. 1980. “Jacob Grimms Vorrede zum Dritten Bande des Deutschen Wörterbuchs.” In Geschichte des Deutschen Wörterbuchs 1838–1863: Dokumente zu den Lexikographen Grimm, edited by Kirkness, Alan, 267–78. Stuttgart: S. Hirzel Verlag.
Dettelbach, Michael. 1996. “Humboldtian Science.” In Cultures of Natural History, edited by Jardine, Nicholas, Secord, James A., and Spary, Emma, 287304. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press.
Farrar, W. V. 1976. “Science and the German University System.” In The Emergence of Science in Western Europe, edited by Crosland, Maurice, 179192. New York: Neale Watson Academic Publications.
Ganz, Peter. 1973. Jacob Grimm's Conception of German Studies: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered before the University of Oxford, 18 May 1973. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Grass, Günter. 2010. Grimms Wörter: eine Liebserklärung. Göttingen: Steidl.
Grimm, Jacob. 1854. “Vorwort zu Band I.” In Deutsches Wörterbuch. Leipzig: S. Hirzel Verlag.
Habermas, Jürgen. [1998] 2001. “What Is a People? The Frankfurt ‘Germanists’ Assembly’ of 1846 and the Self Understanding of the Humanities in the Vormärz.” In The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays, edited and translated by Pensky, Max, 125. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Hahn, Roger. 1971. The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution: The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666–1803. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. 2009. “Roots, Races, and the Return to Philology.” Representations 106 (1):3462.
Henne, Helmut. 1990. “Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm at Work on Their Dictionary.” In The Grimm Brothers and the Germanic Past, edited by Antonsen, Elmer H., et al., 8996. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Holmes, Richard. 2008. The Age of Wonder. New York: Pantheon Books.
Holland, Jocelyn. 2009. German Romanticism and Science: The Procreative Poetics of Goethe, Novalis, and Ritter. New York: Routledge.
Holly, Werner. 1991. “’Wilde pflanzen ohne nährende frucht’ – Die Behandlung des politisch-sozialen Wortschatzes im Deutschen Wörterbuch.” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grim und Wilhelm Grimm, Band II, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 347405. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Horlitz, Bernd. 1991. “Deutsches Wörterbuch – Hausbuch der Nation? Probleme der Benutzung und Benutzungmöglichkeiten.” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, Band II, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 407434. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Jardine, Nicholas. 1996. “Naturphilosophie and the Kingdoms of Nature.” In Cultures of Natural History, edited by Jardine, Nicholas, Secord, James A., and Spary, Emma, 230245. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press.
Kemble, John Mitchell. 1838. “The Hanoverian Coup d’Etat.” British and Foreign Review; or, European Quarterly Journal, 6 (11):269338.
Kemble, John Mitchell. 1840. “The Political Opinions of the Germans.” British and Foreign Review; or, European Quarterly Journal 10 (19):2549.
Kirkness, Alan. 1980. Geschichte des Deutschen Wörterbuchs 1838–1863: Dokumente zu den Lexikographen Grimm. Stuttgart: S. Hirzel Verlag.
Kistner, Kelly. 2013. “‘A Word Factory Was Wanted’: Organizational Objectivity in the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.” Social Studies of Science 43 (6):801828.
Knight, David M. 1976. “German Science in the Romantic Period.” In The Emergence of Science in Western Europe, edited by Crosland, Maurice, 161178. New York: Neale Watson Academic Publications.
Knight, David. 1986. The Age of Science: The Scientific World-View in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Knight, David. 1990. “Romanticism and the Sciences.” In Romanticism and the Sciences, edited by Cunningham, Andrew and Jardine, Nicholas, 1324. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Koerner, Konrad. 1990. “Jacob Grimm's Position in the Development of Linguistics as a Science.” In The Grimm Brothers and the Germanic Past, edited by Antonsen, Elmer H., et al., 723. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Kraus, Hans-Christof. 2013. “Die Gelehrten und der cholerische König.” Damals 45 (5):4041.
Kuhn, Thomas. 1961. “The Function of Measurement in Modern Physical Science.” Isis 52 (2):161193.
Kühn, Peter. 1991. “wir wollen kein Gesetzbuch machen. Die normativen Kommentare Jacob Grimms im Deutschen Wörterbuch.” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, Band I, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 104167. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
McClelland, Charles. 1980. State, Society, and University in Germany, 1700–1914. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Mead, George Herbert. 1936. Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Century. Edited by Moore, M. H.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Megill, Allan. 1994. “Introduction: Four Senses of Objectivity.” In Rethinking Objectivity, edited by Megill, Allan, 120. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Mellor, Chauncey Jeffries. 1972. “Scholarly Purpose and National Purpose in Jacob Grimm's Work on the Deutsches Wörterbuch.” Ph. D. diss., University of Chicago.
Metcalf, George. 1967. “Review: Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm. Neubearbeitung, Vol. I, Fascicle 1: A-Abenteuer.” Modern Philology 64 (4):386389.
Miller, Douglas. 1995. “Preface.” In Scientific Studies, vol. 12 of Goethe: The Collected Works, edited and translated by Miller, Douglas. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.
Morgan, S.R. 1990. “Schelling and the Origins of his Naturphilosophie.” In Romanticism and the Sciences, edited by Cunningham, Andrew and Jardine, Nicholas, 2537. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Nicolson, Malcolm. 1987. “Alexander von Humboldt, Humboldtian Science and the Origins of the Study of Vegetation.” History of Science 25:167194.
Osselton, Noel. 2000. “Murray and His European Counterparts.” In Lexicography and the OED, edited by Mugglestone, Lynda, 5976. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.
Pollock, Sheldon. 2009. “Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World.” Critical Inquiry 35:931961.
Püschel, Ulrich. 1991. “Zwischen Erörterung und Ergebnisdarstellung Zu Wörterbuchstilen im Deutschen Wörterbuch.” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, Band I, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 51103. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Reichman, Oskar. 1991. “Zum Urbegriff in den Bedeutungserläuterungen Jacob Grimms (auch im Unterscheid zur Bedeutungsdefinition bei Daniel Sanders).” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, Band I, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 299345. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Richards, Robert J. 2002. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Salmon, Paul. 1974. “The Beginnings of Morphology: Linguistic Botanizing in the 18th Century. Historiographica Linguistica 1 (3):313339.
Schaffer, Simon. 1990. “Genius in Romantic Natural Philosophy.” In Romanticism and the Sciences, edited by Cunningham, Andrew and Jardine, Nicholas, 82100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shaffer, Elinor S. 1990. “Romantic Philosophy and the Organization of the Disciplines: The Founding of the Humboldt University of Berlin.” In Romanticism and the Sciences, edited by Cunningham, Andrew and Jardine, Nicholas, 3854. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shippy, Tom. 2003a. The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Shippy, Tom. 2003b. “Grimm's Law: How One Man Revolutionized the Humanities.” Times Literary Supplement, November 7, 14–15.
Tresch, John. 2010. “Even the Tools Will Be Free: Humboldt's Romantic Technologies.” In The Heavens on Earth: Observatories and Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century Science and Culture, edited by Aubin, D., Bigg, C., and Sibum, H.O., 253284. Durham: Duke University Press.
Tresch, John. 2012. The Romantic Machine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Turner, Steven. 1981. “The Prussian Professoriate and the Research Imperative 1790–1840.” In Epistemological and Social Problems of the Sciences in the Early Nineteenth Century, edited by Jahnke, H. N. and Otto, M, 109121. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.
Turner, Steven. 1983. “Historicism, Kritik, and the Prussian Professoriate, 1790–1840.” In Philologie und Hermeneutik im 19. Jahrhundert II, edited by Bollack, Mayotte and Wismann, Heinz, 450477. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht.
Whewell, William. 1837. History of the Inductive Sciences from the Earliest to the Present Time. London: J.W. Parker.
Wiley, Raymond, trans. 1971. John Mitchell Kemble and Jakob Grimm: A Correspondence 1832–1852. Leiden: Netherlands: Brill.
Wyss, Ulrich. 1979. Die wilde Philologie: Jacob Grimm und der Historismus. Munich: C.H. Beck.
Zajonic, Arthur. 1998. “Goethe and the Science of His Time: An Historical Introduction.” In Goethe's Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature, edited by Seamon, David and Zajonic, Arthur, 1532. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Zgusta, Ladislav. 1986. “Grimm, Littré, OED, and Richardson: A Comparison of Their Historicity.” Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 8:7493.
Zgusta, Ladislav. 1991. “Jacob Grimm's Deutsches Wörterbuch and Other Historical Dictionaries of the 19th Century.” In Studien zum Deutschen Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, Band II, edited by Kirkness, Alan, et al., 595626. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed