• Date of Birth: December 30, 1729
  • Born City: Strassburg
  • Born State/Country: France
  • Date of Death: June 12, 1803
  • Death City: Strassburg
  • Death State/Country: France
  • Education:

    Study at Jesuit College, Paris; University of Strassburg.

  • Professional Experience:

    Prof. Strassburg; memb., Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1777.

  • Publications:

    Analecta veterum poetarum Graecorum, 3 vols. (1772-7); Anacreon (1888); The Greek Tragedians (1779-89); Apollonius Rhoidius (1780); Aristophanes (1781-3); Gnomici poet Graeci (1784); Sophocles (1786); Virgil (1786); Plautus (1788)Terence (1797).

  • Notes:

    Brunck is known chiefly for his numerous editions of the Athenian playwrights and the Hellenistic poets, which restored a number of manuscript readings (particularly the Laurentian ms. of Sophocles) and clarified textual and metrical difficulties. 

    He grew up in a German family in French-controlled Alsace. He was sent to Paris for his education at the Jesuit College, following which he was called into service at the military commissariat in Giessen during the Seven Years War. In his leisure time he developed a love of the Greek poets which he pursued at the conclusion of his service in 1760.  He enrolled at the university in Strassburg where he had access to numerous collations (he also used the libraries in Paris) and concentrated his studies on Greek. 

    He had sufficient personal financial resources not to need a job, to travel freely in search of manuscripts, and to publish his editions at his own expense. His first major work was a three-volume edition of many poets of the Greek anthology, conveniently arranged by author, plus Callimachus, Theocritus, Bion, and others, characterized by Brunck’s aggressive approach to text criticism, freely emending whenever he encountered a difficulty and providing no commentary in which to explain his intrusions. Troublesome passages, he felt, were made so on the course of transmission by faulty editors or inattentive scribes; he rarely yielded to manuscript authority in such cases. He produced texts of Anacreon (1778), Apollonius (1780), Aristophanes, with a Latin translation (1781-3), Gnomici poetae Graeci (1784). His edition of Apollonius, though based on inferior manuscripts, was the best edition before Hermann Fränkel’s 1961 Apollonii Rhodii Argonautica. Brunck’s 1786 edition of Sophocles, with a Latin translation like his Aristophanes, was notable, as Sandys says, because “his recension…opened a new era by removing from the text the interpolations of Triclinius [introduced by Turnebus], and by reverting to the Aldine edition and especially to the Paris MS A (cent. Xiii), with which that edition generally agrees.” gained him the favor of Louis XVI, who awarded him a lifetime pension of 2000 francs. Brunck turned to Latin, completing texts of Virgil (1786), Plautus (1788), and Terence (1797).

    Crowding 60 years of age, Brunck became involved in the French Revolution, was stripped of his pension, and imprisoned in Besançon. Without resources, he was obliged to sell his entire library, precluding further editorial work. In 1802 his pension was restored, too late to permit further scholarship.

  • Sources:

    Memoria Brunokii (Strassburg, 1803); K. Halm, ADB 3(1876) 440-1; Fr. Jacobs, EG (1,13) 220-2; Sandys 2:395-6; Wilamowitz 87-8


    Picture credit: Cabinet of Engravings, Strassburg

  • Author: Ward Briggs