Proudly presenting: August Boeckh’s “Catalogue of my books”


Further reproduction of the facsimile only with authorization of the Historical Collections at the University Library of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

The handwritten catalogue of Boeckh’s books is only since yesterday (here).

Including it in the digital edition is only half satisfactory in the sense that the point of this project does only partially overlap the general idea of the digital edition. A book catalogue can hardly provide information on networks; the history of the text is of limited interest (only one hand is at work) and there is no further version of it, published or unpublished, we might compare it with. What the book catalogue allows to do, though, is to see how books operate as information deliverers and how the chronological constitution of the book collection reflects an evolution in the history of scholarship.

Since Boeckh designed this catalogue to his personal use, the information about the books is more than often pretty allusive. The work steps of this project hence include:

– transcription of the manuscript

– identification of the book; realization of a complete bibliographical dataset;

– connecting this dataset with an exemplary of the book.

This is certainly at this stage the most interesting part of the work process. The Historical Collections at the University Library of the Humboldt University (whom we greatly thank for providing the scans as well as access to some of the least easily findable archiving data such as ex-libris catalogues) did not only inherit the catalogue, but also the books listed in it. Since those were along time incorporated in the University Library’s collection – and since its archiving system changed a couple of times since 1865 -, finding the books is not as easy as one might presume. Some of them are to be found at the Prussian State Library. Some of them have remained by the family (whom we are also grateful to for having given us permission to have those books scanned).

How can we know that these are Boeckh’s personal books? This is where, in a further work step, things should get really fun. Boeckh annotated his books, or at least, some of them. These notes he made on the books – for instance those by classical philologists he might have been in concurrence with – have the potential to be retraced as a first formulation of what may have become, in a further work step, part of a class (for instance his famous “Encyclopeadia of the philological sciences”), an argumentative point in a critique or even a chapter in a book that he wrote. In that sense, this project is not as far of the general idea of our digital edition as it could seem at first, since it also allows to retrace text genesis and reception phenomena, exchange of ideas, and stonemarks in the history of sciences – in this case, in the history of Classical Philology.

For the time being, the webdesign gives access (by mouseclick) to a complete bibliographical dataset as well as to the connected entries (for instance, if you check an edition of Homer’s Ilias, you will be given a list of all versions of Homer’s Ilias mentioned on the list – and there are a few of them…). When a free accessible scan of the corresponding book is available online (not Boeckh’s exemplary, but one that has already been scanned and made available online), a link leads you to it. By the end of the year, we will add links to Boeckh’s personal, annotated volumes that will be by then scanned and hosted by the University Library (this should concern about 35 books).

We are still looking for ideas to improve the design or the general concept – don’t hesitate to leave a comment here!

Cite this blog post
Anne Baillot (2013, August 13). Proudly presenting: August Boeckh’s “Catalogue of my books” Digital Intellectuals. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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