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2007-12, 355, 356, Book collecting, Brian Taylor, German, Jewish

By their books ye may (get to) know them (1): Edgar Ederheimer

By their books ye may (get to) know them (1):

Edgar Ederheimer

Brian Taylor


SOME READERS will recognise my title as having been biblically inspired by Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 7, verse 16 and again in verse 20, where, in warning his audience against false prophets, he tells them (in the King James version of 1611): “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

However, my topic itself has been inspired by two articles in the September 2001 (331st issue) of Biblionews: one by Jürgen Wegner on bookmarks (pp.91–101) and, more particularly, one by Jon Prance on “Writing in books” (pp.102f.).

Contrary to many antiquarian booksellers, who in their catalogues add such comments as “Good copy, apart from a signature at the front”, Jon makes a case for considering that a previous owner’s inscriptions—so signature, dedications etc.—can, like a book plate or a book label, enhance the volume’s value.

In his section on what he calls “blank bookmarks”, Jürgen refers to “things found in books [that] include not only blank slips with annotations by former readers, but also their shopping lists, their friends’ holiday postcards”, amongst other things.

In my editorial to that issue I said that Jon’s contribution had struck a chord with me, as over the years I had been the recipient of the unwanted libraries of deceased people I had never met and that in a number of cases I had been able to develop a rudimentary biography of these strangers merely on the basis of the inscriptions in their books. I then warned the readership that they could expect a series of such mini-biographies from me beginning in 2002, but I have only now, five years later, actually got around to it with this paper. And I will be looking at the things found in books that both men refer to.

I wish here to look at the first of two libraries, both of which originally came to Australia from overseas and belonged to speakers of German. I will deal with the other one in a future issue of Biblionews.

A few years ago my fellow-Germanist and medievalist, Dr Nic Witton, was about to retire from Macquarie University and wished to give away most of his medieval library, as he thought it unfair to leave the disposal of his rather large collection of books to his offspring when the time came. Since, as indicated, his field of German studies was also my field, I could not resist the offer, and went over to Macquarie and picked up a box or two of his books. I was particularly struck by a number of these volumes— some 30 in all – from the last two decades of the 19th and first decade of the 20th century that were rather nicely bound and contained in one form or another the name of one, Edgar Ederheimer.

I asked Dr Witton who this gentleman was, but he had no idea. He said he had originally been given the books by this man’s son, presumably because they were of no use or interest to the son, but that was it. The name Ederheimer is not to be found in the current Sydney phone book, so I am completely dependent on the books and what is in them to infer anything at all about this man.

Though the books have, from the frequent moving about of my various collections, become mixed up with other books, most of his can be readily identified by the inclusion of his name in them or by various forms of book plate or both.

The collection is of quite particular interest to me because most of the books belong in the field that I myself studied in Germany while at the University of Heidelberg at the beginning of the 1960s, namely the history of the German language and grammars and texts of long since dead Germanic languages. The significance of this will become more apparent below.

Ederheimer’s name occurs in his books in a number of forms.

The most primitive is on the first righthand endpaper of the 1891 2nd edition of Wilhelm Braune’s Althochdeutsche Grammatik, (Halle: Niemeyer), so a grammar of Old High German, the form of German recorded between about 750 and 1050AD. The signature here is a pencilled one of his surname only and trails off into a squiggle, but on the second front righthand endpaper there is a slightly skewed purple rubber stamp with the name “Dr. Edgar Ederheimer” with the r of Doktor superscript and double underlined. The front inside cover has in the bottom left corner the bookseller’s label “vorm[als] WEISS’sche Universitäts-Buchhandlung HEIDELBERG”, so the university bookshop in Heidelberg previously owned by the bookseller Weiss.

This same bookseller’s label is found in an abbreviated version of the first book, Braune’s Abriss der althochdeutschen Grammatik [Outline of Old High German Grammmar] of 1900, but with a darker and larger rubber stamp that simply says “Edgar Ederheimer”.

With the same bookseller’s stamp and from 1900 too, but without any owner’s name is Wilhelm Braune’s Gotische Grammatik[Gothic grammar] (Halle: Max Niemeyer), so a grammar of the Gothic language, the oldest recorded Germanic language, which we have in a Bible translation by missonary to the Visigoths (West Goths), Wulfila [‘little wolf’], or Ulfilas in the Greek form of his name, from the 4th century AD. It is clear that it belonged to Ederheimer, since the the binding, especially the marbelling, is very similar to that of the previous volume.



Illustration 1: Binding of Ederheimer’s copy of W. Braune, Gotische Grammatik [Gothic grammar].

Published in 1900 also is the 5th edition of Hermann Paul’s Mittelhochdeutsche Grammatik (Halle a[n der]. S[aale]: Max Niemeyer [Halle on the River Saale: M.N.]), so his grammar of Middle High German, the German of the High to Late Middle Ages, as recorded from about 1050 to 1350. Though it has no bookseller’s label, it does have the owner’s inscription “Edgar Ederheimer.”, but written in the old German script, followed in roman script by “stud. philol.”, an abbreviation of the Latin studens philologiae, meaning ‘student of philology’, and then what looks like a German script capital J followed by a full stop, possibly short for Jahrgang meaning ‘year’, then 19, then a German script capital R, followed by the beginning of a letter that has been cut off—perhaps minuscule d—clearly during rebinding. I have not yet worked out what “J. 19 R” stands for, especially in the absence of the cut off letter.



This volume has, as do the others just discussed, a handwritten abbreviated author plus title near the top of the spine, though the very thin book Outline of Old High German Grammar has one such abbreviation on the morocco binding strip on each side of the spine.

What can we deduce about Ederheimer from these four volumes?

Since the term stud. philol. referred to an undergraduate student in the area of the study of languages and their literatures, we might infer that from around 1900 he was an undergraduate student at the University of Heidelberg and that these were the textbooks he used to attend classes. He clearly went on some time later to do his doctorate – as shown by the rubber stamp mentioned above citing his title – and used these books to prepare for his examinations. An inspection of their contents shows that the sections of texts he had to prepare for class are annotated, and there is often heavy underlining of many of the grammar sections.

We can infer too that he had the books rebound himself, as the foreshortened inscription on the Middle High German grammar indicates.

Ederheimer did not restrict himself to studying only earlier forms of German and the Gothic language. There is amongst his books the 1904 3rd edition of Edward Sievers’ Abriss der angelsächsischen Grammatik [Outline of Anglo-Saxon Grammar] (Halle a[n der] S[aale]: Verlag von Max Niemeyer [Publishing House of M.N.]), so a grammar of the early Germanic language that scholars today usually refer to as Old English. It contains the bookseller’s label of the “Alfred Neumann’sche Buchhandlung (E. v. Mayer), Frankfurt a. M., Goethestr. 33”, so evidently of the bookshop founded by Alfred Neumann, but now owned or run by E. von Mayer, and located at 33 Goethe Street in Frankfurt on the River Main.1 The right front end paper has the handwritten inscription in roman script “Dr. phil. Edgar Ederheimer”. So he is, according to this, a doctor philosophiae, what we would call a PhD.2

The same Frankfurt bookseller’s label appears on an endpaper in the version of the seemingly undated Old Norse, so Viking text, Die Edda. Die Lieder der sogenannten älteren Edda, nebst einem Anhang: Die mythischen und heroischen Erzählungen der Snorra Edda [The Edda: the songs of the so-called Older Edda, together with an appendix: the mythical and heroic tales of the Snorra Edda] (Leipzig und Wien [Vienna]: Bibliographisches Institut), translated and annotated by Hugo Gering. Instead of a handwritten or stamped owner’s name, this volume, which is in its original publisher’s binding, contains a kind of horizontally narrow rectangular book plate on the title page—which may be pasted over the date of publication; it says “EX-LIBRIS E. EDERHEIMER” above the head of a devil with outstretched arms and curved, perhaps clawed, fingers. But that is not all: in the centre of the inside front cover is another equally narrow rectangular paste-in with almost parallel lines forming an arc above a rising sun and containing the Latin words “VINCE–SOL”, presumably meaning ‘Conquer–o Sun’. A close inspection of both strips suggests they may have been cut out from something larger.



From these two volumes it would seem that Ederheimer may have continued his studies at the University of Frankfurt on the Main and taken his doctoral examinations there. Until relatively recent years it was almost de rigueur for German students to study at more than one university, often to attend lectures by a famous professor, and it was essential for doctoral students to follow the professor supervising them if he moved to another university, otherwise your doctorate was dead in the water, as no other professor would take it over. One problem with this, however, is that this Frankfurt University was not founded till 1912, so some dozen years after Ederheimer appears to have begun his studies. On the other hand, at that time, after their school leaving certificate, the Abitur, university students took no examinations whatever until they did their doctoral examinations, which were all oral before a battery of professors, and it could be years and years before they actually got the courage to take the exams.3

However, this problem is quickly cleared up when we find amongst his books that one of them is pretty certainly his published doctoral thesis. It is titled Jakob Boehme und die Romantiker. I. und II. Teil: Jakob Boehmes Einfluß auf Tieck und Novalis and is “von Edgar Ederheimer”, so ‘Jakob Boehme and the Romantics. First and Second Part: Jakob Boehme’s influence on Tieck and Novalis’ by Edger Ederheimer. Thus his topic linked the medieval religious mystic Jakob Boehme with two writers of the 19th century German Romantic period, Ludwig Tieck and Novalis, the latter being the pen name of Friedrich von Hardenberg. It was published by the Winter publishing house in Heidelberg in 1904. Therefore, he pretty certainly began his studies back in the 1890s and did his doctorate at Heidelberg around 1903 or 1904, and the many books dated at 1900 suggest that they were purchased for him to begin to study intensively for his final exams. In Germany the doctoral degree can still, as back then, not be finally conferred until the thesis has been published.



We thus have no evidence after all that he studied in Frankfurt, only that he bought some of his textbooks there, perhaps because it was his home city or near his home town or village. Or else he may have ended up teaching at a high school (in German Gymnasium) in the area.

Now back to the question of the ex-libris. The two rectangular strips already mentioned turn up in quite a few of his other books, but their source is resolved by the fact that five of the books I have ultimately inherited from him, all large-format books, contain the same full-size book plate. The finest of these is the 1892 two-volume 3rd edition, edited by Elias Steinmeyer, of Karl Müllenhoff and Wilhelm Scherer’s Denkmäler deutscher Poesie und Prosa aus dem VIII-XII Jahrhundert [Monuments of German Prose and Poetry from the 8th to the 12th Century], the 321-page first volume containing the texts (Texte) and the even longer 492-page second volume containing the notes (Anmerkungen) and index. They are bound in half-calf with the same beautiful marbling on the inside and outside front and back covers and the front and back endpapers. The gold stamped spines of both volumes reveal their respective contents.



Illustration 6: Spine and front board of Edeheimer’s copy of volume 2 of Denkmäler deutscher Poesie und Prosa [Monuments of of German poetry and prose]. 

But on the inside of the front cover, of both, as also on the other three volumes, is a book plate, which contains at the top the “VINCE – SOL” panel and at the bottom the “EX-LIBRIS E. EDERHEIMER” panel we met earlier. In between is the image of a young moustachioed man in a suit and high collar, with a quill in his right hand and a sheet of paper in his left looking pensively out of a curtained window into a countryside where the sun is just rising. Opposite him on his desk is a glowing kerosene lamp, some books standing and lying and the bust of what looks like Germany’s most famous writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (who, incidentally, was born in Frankfurt on the Main). So we seem to have a student who has been burning the midnight oil—or kerosene—through to sunrise preparing perhaps for his exams.


If this figure is meant to be Edgar Ederheimer, which it probably is, then we can infer that he was a well-to-do young man for whom his studies were of main importance at that time in his life. But just how the two panels are to be interpreted, I’m not sure. Do they mean that E. Ederheimer had diabolical thoughts during the night that were to be conquered only bythe rising of the sun and the coming of the light in the morning?

I could not conclude this article without reporting on an odd coincidence. As I have mentioned off and on in my articles in Biblionews, I have since my Heidelberg days been researching the 16th century poet and mastersinger Hans Sachs (1494–1576), known today from his being the leading character in Richard Wagner’s 1867 opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [The Mastersingers of Nuremberg], and I have a not bad collection of modern publications of his works, sometimes with duplicates of individual volumes. So it was with great glee that I observed a set of them amongst Ederheimer’s books. Unlike the ones I had brought with me from Germany or inherited from my late Sydney University colleague, Dr Bruce Beaton, which were all card-covered, Ederheimer’s were, like his other books, very nicely rebound and contained his two strips of ex-libris. There were volumes I to IV of Sachs’s Fabeln und Schwänke [Fables and farces] but, disappointingly, only volumes I and III of his Fastnachtspiele [Shrovetide plays], so volume II was missing. But then as I scanned the bookshelves containing my previous copies again, I suddenly noticed two volumes in the same binding and marbling as Ederheimer’s, and inside both, along with the now familiar two ex-libris panels, on the front endpaper was inscribed in pencil “2 vols $5”. And sure enough, one of them was the missing volume II, while the other contained Sachs’s 1140-line play Der hüernen Sewfrid [Horned (or, more accurately, Horn-covered) Siegfried] and his so-called Gemerkbüchlein, the notebook in which he recorded the results of the Nuremberg mastersingers’ singing competitions (Singschulen) between 1555 and 1561, along with another notebook containing Nuremberg mastersinger records not by Sachs that cover the period 1595 to 1605. The play and the notebooks were originally published in two separate volumes, but Ederheimer has had them bound together. I realised then that I had bought them from some Sydney bookseller, now forgotten. What a very happy coincidence! I can only speculate on how they had become parted so arbitrarily from the rest of Ederheimer’s books and ended up in a second-hand bookshop here. However, they are now all back together again.

But there is a further coincidence worth mentioning. In the collection there is a book in its original publisher’s binding – without Ederheimer’s name on it in any form – which is titled Martin Opitzens Aristarchus sive de contemptu linguae Teutonicae und Buch von der Deutschen Poetery [Martin Opitz’s Aristarchus or on contempt for the German language and Book on German poetics] (Leipzig: Verlag von Veit & Comp., 1888) edited with notes by Dr Georg Witkowski. It is effectivley a re-edition of two works by the German writer, above all poet, Martin Opitz (1597-1639). One, the Aristarchus, originally the published version of a high school lecture that appeared in print in 1617, argued for German as a respectable literary language and opposed the wholesale use by educated Germans of Latin and French words in their German, but was, ironically, itself in Latin (the language of scholarship in his day). Witkowski, the editor of the 1888 edition, provides a translation into German facing the Latin text. The other, published in German originally in 1624 made the case for writing respectable and respected verse in German and laid down a set of principles for doing so.4 The coincidence here is that Dr Witton’s family, after emigrating from Berlin to Sydney just before the Second World War, anglicised their name from Witkowski. At first I thought that the book must have been Dr Witton’s own and been passed down from a forebear, but he has said that this originally Polish name is common in the eastern part of Germany and in Poland and, though he had been told the literary scholar Georg Witkowski was a distant relative of his, the book had not originally been part of his own library at Macquarie, so it must have been part of Ederheimer’s library.

For the sake of completeness, I list below the remaining volumes in this collection.

Friedrich Ludwig Stamm’s Ulfilas oder die uns erhaltenen Denkmäler der gotischen Sprache neu herausgegeben von Moritz Heyne und Ferdinand Wrede [F.L.S.’s Ulfilas or the monuments of the Gothic language preserved for us, newly edited by M. H. and F. W.], 10th ed., (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1903). In publisher’s binding with “Dr Edgar Ederheimer” stamp on t.p.

-Karl Lachmann (ed.), Der Nibelunge Noth und die Klage [The plight of the Nibelungs and the Lament (The greatest medieval German heroic poem of 2316 4-line stanzas – more usually known as the Nibelungenlied “Lay of the Nibelung’—and its sequel, the Lament, of 2158 lines)], 5th ed. Berlin: G. Reimer, 1878). Rebound with full Ederheimer book plate on inside front cover.

-Karl Lachmann (ed.), Wolfram von Eschenbach [(an edition of the works—Parzival and Willehalm—of this greatest of German medieval epic poets)], 5th ed. (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1891).Rebound, with a signature “Ederheimer” pencilled on the front e.p. with flourishes initially and finally and the full Ederheimer book plate inside the front cover.

-Hermann Paul (ed.), Die Gedichte Walthers von der Vogelweide, [The poems of W.v.d.V. (Germany’s greatest medieval lyric poet)], 2nd ed. (Halle a. S.: Max Niemeyer, 1895). Rebound with “Edgar Ederheimer stud. phil.” in ink on t.p.

-Hermann Paul (ed.), Die Werke Hartmanns von Aue. IV. Gregorius [The works of H.v.A. IV. Gregorius (a 4006-line poem about a religious figure by a great medieval German epic poet)], 2nd ed. (Halle a. S.: Max Niemeyer, 1900). Rebound with “Edgar Ederheimer” stamp on inside front cover.

-Hermann Paul, Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte [Principles of language history], 2nd ed. (Halle a. S.: Max Niemeyer, 1898). In publisher’s binding, but with the full Ederheimer book plate inside the front cover.

-K. von Bahder (ed.), König Rother [King Rother (a medieval German epic poem of some 5200 lines)] (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1884). Rebound, but without any owner’s name.

-R. Symons (ed.), Kudrun (a medieval German heroic poem of 1705 4-line stanzas) (Halle a. S.: Max Niemeyer, 1883). In publisher’s binding, but without any owner’s name.

-Oskar Erdmann (ed.), Otfrids Evangelienbuch [Otrfrid’s gospel book (Old High German harmonised translation of the Gospels by the monk Otfrid von Weissenburg)] (Halle a. S.: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses [publishing house of the orphanage bookshop], 1882). Rebound with “Edgar Ederheimer” stamp on front e.p.

-Otto Behaghel (ed.), Heliand [The Saviour (A poem of 5980 5-line stanzas in the north German Old Saxon language of around 800 AD harmonising the Gospels) (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1882). Rebound with “Vince Sol” strip inside front cover and “Ex-Libris E. Ederheimer” strip on t.p.

-Friedrich Paulsen, Einleitung in die Philosophie [Introduction to philosophy], 20th and 21st ed. (Stuttgart und Berlin: J.G. Cotta’sche Buchhandlung Nachfolger [successors to the bookshop founded by-J. G. Cotta], 1909). Rebound with “Dr Edgar Ederheimer” stamp on front e.p.

-Karl Noack, Bilder aus der Kirchengeschichte für Schule und Haus [Images from church history for school and home] (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlags-Buchhandlung / R.Stricker [bookshop of the Nicolai Publishing House (owned now by R. S.?)], 1894). In publisher’s binding with “Dr Edgar Ederheimer” stamp on front e.p.-

On the title page of this last book the author, Professor Dr Karl Noack, is said to be ”Prorektor des Realgymnasiums zu Frankfurt a[n der]. O[der].”, so deputy headmaster of the grammar school in the other Frankfurt, namely on the Oder River in eastern Germany. The remaining book in the collection is, in contrast to all the others, a small card-covered, so very cheap 14th and 15th edition by G. Bötticher and K. Kinzel of Das Nibelungenlied / im Auszuge / nach dem Urtext / ….erläutert und mit den nötigen Hilfsmitteln versehen, (Halle a. d. S.: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1914), so the Lay of the Nibelungs in extract after the original text…explained and provided with the necessary aids. This 14th and 15th edition, we are told there further, brings the number produced so far up to thirty thousand. It has the “Dr Edgar Ederheimer” stamp at the top of the front cover. It would seem that both books are for school use and this suggests to me that, on completion of his doctorate, Ederheimer went on to acareer as a high school teacher. As we can see from Noack’s titles, not only were there way back at the turn of the 20th century high school teachers with a doctorate, but even with the title “professor”, though the latter usually also gave classes on a casual basis (ausserplanmässig) at a university. My own mentor in mastersong at Heidelberg in the 1960s, Professor Dr Bert Nagel, was a case in point.



1  Oddly, the street directory (list of names and maps between pp.440 and 441) for Frankfurt am Main in volume 6 of the 15th edition of my German encyclopaedia Der Große Brockhaus. Handbuch des Wissens in zwanzig Bänden [The Great Brockhaus: handbook of knowledge in twenty volumes] (Leipzig: F.A. Brockahus, 1930) lists and shows a Goetheplatz, so Goethe square, but no Goethe street.

2  Between stud. phil. (so studens philosophiae rather than philologiae) and dr. phil. There was the stage cand. phil. , the abbreviation for candidatus philosophiae ‘candidate of philosophy’, for anyone proceeding to the doctoral degree. While none of the books in this collection have this title accompanying Ederheimer’s name, one of them, the 6th edition of das Nibelungenlied, ‘the lay of the Nibelungs’, edited by Friedrich Zarncke (Leipzig: Georg Wigand’s Verlag, 1887) has on a front endpaper the name in German script “Karl Böhrig” followed by “cand. phil.” It is in its original binding. Why Ederheimer did not add his name can only be guessed at, but not all books in the collection do contain his name in some form or other.

3  I remember when I was a student in Heidelberg there was a shy Swiss gentleman who seemed to be in his late forties at least and who turned up at any student function where there were free eats to be had. I was told that this chap, Herr Schäfer, was one such student who had been at university for a couple of decades and just could not get up the courage to take his final examinations. In those days, and until very recently, there were no university fees at all and there were concessions of all sorts for students, so that such people could survive even if they were not particularly well-to-do.

4  In my study for my MA Honours degree of the German mastersinger Adam Puschman (1532–1600), published in two volumes in Germany as Adam Puschman. “Gründlicher Bericht des deutschen Meistergesangs” (Die drei Fassungen von 1571, 1584, 1596) [A.P. “A thorough account of German mastersong” (The three versions of 1571, 1584, 1596)] (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1984), I put forward the hypothesis that Puschman’s 1596 book (of which I published there a facsimile of the only surviving copy) was so awful in its attempt to describe the rules for writing German poetry in general that Opitz, having come across it in his school library, which is known to have had a copy given to it by Puschman himself, felt it necessary later to produce a decent account of how German poetry should be written. Reviewers’ reactions to my hypothesis varied from the positive to the sceptical.



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