All Scholars

BUTTMANN, Philipp Karl

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  • Date of Birth: December 05, 1764
  • Born City: Frankfurt am Main
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: A merchant & wife
  • Date of Death: June 21, 1829
  • Death City: Berlin
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Education:

    Study at Göttingen, 1782-6; Strasbourg, 1786-7.

  • Professional Experience:

    Tutor, Anhalt-Dessau family, 1787; asst. Königliche Bibliothek, Berlin, 1789-96; libarian & secretary, 1796-1800; declined post of First Librarian, 1816.; teacher, Joachimsthalsches Gymnasium, Berlin, 1800-8; member, Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin, 1806; secretary (Faculty of History and Philology). 1810-29; founder, with F,.A. Wolf, of Museum der Alterthumswissenschaft, 1807-8; declined appt. to University of Landshut, 1808; member Foundation Committee of Berlin University, 1810-11; secretary of Academy (Faculty of History and Philology) 1811-29.

  • Publications:

    Kurzgefasste griechische Grammatik (1792; 2nd ed., 199; 22nd ed., 1869); G.L. Spalding, Quintilian Instituto Orationis, vol. 4 (ed.) (1811); Lexilogus, 2 vols. (1818; 1860); Mythologus oder gesammelte Abhandlungen über die Sagen des Althertums, 2 vols. (1818-25); Ausführliche griechische Sprachlehre 2 vols. (1819-1827; 2nd ed., 1830-9); Sophocles Philoktet (1822); Platonis Dialogi selecti, ed. L.F. Heindorf & Buttmann (Berlin, 1827-9); Demosthenes in Midiam (1864); Griechische Schulgrammatik, ed. A. Buttmann (17th ed. 1875, et al.); Apollonios Dyskolos (comm. & trans.) (1877).

  • Notes:

    Buttmann came from an ancient French Huguenot family from Flanders named Boudemont that was obliged to leave France in 1685 because of their religion. They settled in Phillipsburg. Buttmann’s father changed the family name to the Germanic Buttmann. (Buttmann eventually dropped his middle name.) After study at local schools in Frankfurt, he moved to Göttingen, where he studied under C.G. Heyne (1729-1812) and subsequently to Strasbourg, where he studied with Johann Schweighäuser (1742-1830). He taught privately then worked in the King’s Library, where in 1792 he began the sketch of Greek grammar, sparked by his lessons from Schweighäuser, that led to what he called his “Intermediate” as distinct from his New School Grammar (1812) and the complete grammar (1819-27), which was so widely used in Germany and widely translated (In America it was translated by Edward Everett [1794-1865].) Its popularity is due to the clarity of its presentation and the logical presentation of rules. Wilamowitz remarked that “Before Buttmann there existed no doctrine of Greek accidence and word-formation worthy of the name.” Sandys, echoing Bursian, judged that Buttmann’s grammar “led to a marked improvement in the Greek scholarship of the schools of Germany.” 

    His lexicographical interest led him to a study of the words in his beloved Homer (He nicknamed his children Helen, Hector, Achilles, and Alexander). His work stemmed from the scientific interest in Homer sparked by F.A. Wolf (1759-1824), but Buttmann was unaware of the new work of Bopp, Grimm, and others in comparative philology; instead he presented historically based analyses of Homeric vocabulary, translated into English in 1861. As Pfeiffer says, “He remained a pure grammarian without any inclination towards the philosophy of language or comparative linguistics.” 

    Buttmann’s other great contribution was his work on myth, which may have been stiulated by his teacher Heyne. In a series of articles, Mythologus, Buttmann attempts to trace the origins of myth back to their foundations as a means of determining the nature of the Greeks who began the myths. 

    His subsequent derivative editions of Plato, Euripides, and the Odyssey offer little tat commends them to the modern philologist.

    Buttman was well connected to the intellectual circles of Berlin and was a founder of the Gesellschaft herodotliebender Freunde, nominally composed of devotees of Herodotus, but open to all lovers of Greek, and a casual social club, Zweite Gesetzlose Gesellschaft (“Second Lawless Society”). In these circles were the major intellectual figures of Berlin: Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), F.D.E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834), F.C. von Savigny (1779-1861), August Boeckh (1785-1867), B.G. Niebuhr (1776-1831), Wilhelm Süvern (1775-1829), Immanuel Bekker (1785-1871), and Wolf, with whom he published the Museum der Alterthumswissenschaft which offered work by the two Humboldts, Karl Lachmann (1793-1851), and Schleiermacher. Buttmann took part in the founding of the Berlin University though like his colleague F.A. Wolf, he declined an appointment. He was in charge of the philological seminar. 

  • Sources:

    Sandys, 3:84-5; Pfeiffer, 185-6; Wilamowitz, 115; M.S. Löwe,  Selbstbiographie in Bildnissen jetzt lebender Gelehrter (1806); A. Buttmann, “Philipp Karl Buttmann, ADB 3 (1876) 656-9; M. Disselkamp, “Gelehrte und poetische Mythenkunde in W. Elm & G. Lottes ed., Die Antike der Moderne (2009) 165-85; A. von Harnack, Geschichte der Königlich Preussischen Akad. der Wissenschaften, Vol. 1-2, (1900) 852-3; K. Kettig, “Philipp Buttmann (1764-1829), Bibliothekar und Gelehrter in Bibliothek und Wissenschaft 5 (1968) 103-57; H. Schlange-Schoningen, “Philipp Buttmann und die ‘Gesetzlose Gesellschaft’, in B. Seidensticker & F. Mundt (eds.), Altertumswissenschaften in Berlin um 1800 an Akademie, Schule und Universität (2006) 223-46; F. D. Schleiermacher, “Gedächtnisrede auf Philipp Buttmann (8. 7. 1830), in Abh. der Königlichen Akad. der Wissenschaften in Berlin, 1830, XI-XXII = Sämmtliche Werke3,3, 1835); H. Schlange-Schöningen, “Philipp Buttmann und die ‘Gesetzlose Gesellschaft’,” in Altertumswissenschaften in Berlin um 1800 an Akademie, Schule und Univer- sitat, ed. B. Seidensticker & F. Mundt (2006) 223-246; F. D. Schleiermacher, “Gedächtnisrede auf Philipp Buttmann (8. 7. 1830),” Abh. der Koniglichen Akad. der Wissenschaften in Berlin, 1830, xi-xxii (repr. Sämmtliche Werke 3,3, 1835).

  • Author: Ward Briggs