February 9 – Johann Georg von Eckhart

February 9, 2023

Eckhart, Johann Georg von (called Eccard before he was ennobled), German historian, b. at Duingen in the principality of Kalenberg, September 7, 1664; d. at Würzburg, February 9, 1730. After a good preparatory training at Schulpforta he went to Leipzig, where at first, at the desire of his mother, he studied theology, but soon turned his attention to philology and history. On completing his course he became secretary to Field-Marshal Count Flemming, the chief minister of the Elector of Saxony; after a short time, however, he went to Hanover to find a permanent position. Owing to his extensive learning he was soon useful to the famous historian Leibniz, who, in 1694, took Eckhart as assistant and was, until death, his large-hearted patron and generous friend. Through the efforts of Leibniz Eckhart was appointed professor of history at Helmstedt in 1706, and in 1714 councillor at Hanover. After the death of Leibniz he was made librarian and historiographer of the royal family of Hanover, and was soon after ennobled by Emperor Charles VI, to whom he had dedicated his work “Origins Austriacae”. For reasons which have never been clearly explained he gave up his position, in 1723, and fled from Hanover, perhaps on account of debt, to the Benedictine monastery of Corvey, and thence to the Jesuits at Cologne, where he became a Catholic. Not long after this the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, Johann Philipp von Schönborn, appointed Eckhart his librarian and historiographer. In his work Eckhart was influenced by the new school of French historians, and gave careful attention to the so-called auxiliary sciences, above all to diplomatics; he also strove earnestly to follow a strictly scientific method in his treatment of historical materials. Together with Leibniz he may be considered as a founder of the critical school of historical writing. Besides the help he rendered Leibniz, of whom he prepared an affectionately respectful obituary (in Murr, “Journal für Kunstgeschichte”, VII), he issued a number of independent works. His chief work, while professor at Helmstedt, is his “Historia studii etymologici linguae germanicae hactenus impensi” (Hanover, 1711), a literary and historical study of all works bearing on the investigation of the Teutonic languages. At Hanover he compiled a “Corpus historicum medii aevi” (Leipzig, 1723), in two volumes; at Wurzburg he published the “Commentarii de rebus Franciae Orientalis et episcopatus Wirceburgensis” (1729), also in two volumes, an excellent work whose rich materials are treated with scientific exactness.

PATRICIUS SCHLAGER (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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