Johann Albert Fabricius (1668-1736), or what it means to have writer’s rash….

Johann Albert Fabricius, or better known as just Fabricius was a Professor of Eloquence and Practical Philosophy in Hamburg. Various biographical sources have indicated that Fabricius library consisted of over 20,000 books which is quite an achievement. He has been described as one of the most prolific encyclopedic writers of his time period and naturally fluent in the biblical languages. Now what did write? A short summary of the most essential of his works includes the following. His bibliography of the Latin classics first appeared in 1697 and was reprinted as well as enlarged as late as 1774. But his bibliography of the Greek classics is by far his most famous work printed in fourteen volumes. It was his intention to collect all the scholarly works on or about Greek literature produced up to his own lifetime. He continued with a bibliography of the medieval writers and, naturally a scholarly work on the church fathers and the theologians. And a bibliography of Martin Luther which, by the way, is very important today because it includes the first index to Luther’s letters. He also expanded works written by others. For example, the first printed work on ‘literary criticism’ was written by Daniel Georg Morhof (1639-1691) which is an overview of literature at the time It was printed in 1688. Well, Fabricius expanded it from one volume to two thick quartos. But of Fabricius enormous production, there is one title very rarely mentioned in the scholarly studies because it’s a bit odd. His Centuria Fabriciorum scriptis, roughly 80 pages and printed in 1709 is a bio-bibliography of writers with the same last name as his own. This little work was again expanded and reprinted in 1727. I suspect he found more ‘Fabricius’… One cannot help but wonder whatever possessed him,

11 thoughts on “Johann Albert Fabricius (1668-1736), or what it means to have writer’s rash….”

  1. Do you suppose he was sleep deprived also? I imagine him so wound up with thoughts and words running helter skelter through his mind. Sitting late by candlelight furiously scribbling his thoughts on parchment. And, it occurred to me all his manuscripts were penned with a dip pen. The nibs and ink he must have consumed.

    1. He must have been sleep deprived. The magnitude of his literary production was enormous, and some have not been surpassed by modern traditional academic standards. He was fluent in Greek, Hebrew and Latin. All scholars of merit at the time corresponded frequently with each other. Writing was an artform and they had all studied both Cicero’s Epistles and Quintilian’s grammar as youngsters. Erasmus often complains in his letters about the time he has to set aside every day for his correspondence.

        1. I have at the office [my day job] about 20K unread email which have accumulated over five years. Just cannot get to everything.

          Should have added that Erasmus complaint was in a letter to his friend Thomas More. He stated that he receives correspondence from scholars from all over Europe seeking his opinion and it consumes time.

          1. I am flattered that you’ve always answered my emails! But I know what you mean. Like many others, I have an account that I use when I know I’m only going to get junk. But 25K is impressive.

            Ironically, I imagine More was also the recipient of many letters which needed to be answered, including Eramsus’. And yet they continued writing.

  2. The energy and discipline to accomplish so much is unfathomable. What kind of mind or neurosis must one have? Have for read any of his works? Are they readable or volumes of dry information.

    1. I think he had serious OCD issues. He also somehow managed an enormous letter correspondence with other scholars in Europe. His books are not readable. I have some of his works and use them only like lexicons when I want to look up information.

      1. It’s natural, but funny, how we apply today’s terminology to the past. OCD. You mention correspondance. So he was well regarded among his contemporaries?

  3. The production level of these sorts of people is truly astounding. Latin, Greek, Luther… Fabricius… all with no central heat or keyboards.

    Question. What is meant by ‘practical philosophy’ at that time? Would it have been something akin to Aristotle’s phronesis? (By the way, I managed to work that word/concept into my children’s book. The main dog character, Missy, frequently speaks in malapropisms. She misspoke phronesis for Phoenicians.)

    1. And this is just a fraction of his entire production. Thats why it became almost comical when I ran across his Centuria, a bio-bibliography of people with the same last name Fabricius. Did he run out of subjects?

      Practical Philosophy in Hamburg was basically comparable to political education. These were the philosophical pursuits that did not just capture ‘truths’ but affect ‘action’ such as Aristotle’s phronesis.

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