Eduard Kurtz (Эдуард Курц)

Eduard Kurtz (1845-1925)[1]
Vecvagars M.
The first and obviously the only pioneer and expert in the 19th century’s established Byzantine studies in the territory of presentday Latvia, the Baltic German classical philologist Eduard Kurtz (Эдуард Курц), was born in Mitau (Митава, Jelgava, Mitava or Mītava) on December 20, 1845 into the family of a local teacher Johann Heinrich Kurtz and Wilhelmine Auguste (nee Jacobi) as the seventh of eleven children. His father, a well-known German theologist was born on December 13, 1809, in Monschau, and died on April 26, 1890, in Marburg. Having studied in Halle and Bonn he was appointed senior teacher of religion, Greek and Jewish languages at a secondary school in Mitau from March 27, 1835, until 1849. Then on December 7, 1849, H. Kurtz was appointed staff professor of Church history and theological literature at Dorpat (Дорпат, Тарту, Tērbata, Tartu) University; he continued in this position until June 23, 1870. He is also renowned as the author of several works popular at the end of the 19th century about the Christian religion and the history of the Church.
During his period of childhood and youth, Eduard Kurtz was connected with Dorpat, where he lived together with his family from the end of 1849. From 1855 until 1862 he attended the local secondary school; from 1863 until 1868 he studied classical philology at Dorpat University graduating from there in 1868, obtaining the degree of cand. philol.; additionally, in 1868 he studied in Leipzig for six months under Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl and in Berlin from August in 1869 for a similar period under Moritz Haupt, Ernst Curtius and Theodor Mommsen.
After returning to the territory of presentday Latvia Kurtz started his active working life on August 1, 1869, in the position of ‘Wissenschaftlicher Lehrer’ at the secondary school in Mitau province officially until August 2, 1871. On August 1, 1871, Kurtz moved from Mitau to Riga, and from August 2, 1871 until February 14, 1890, worked as the senior teacher of Greek, Latin and sometimes German at a provincial secondary school in Riga.
Under the impact of the so-called ‘russification’ Kurtz leaves his teaching post. In his job-hunting expeditions he consults with August Johann Nauck in St. Petersburg. For Nauck, Riga and its suburbs, and possibly even the distant Kremon (Krimulda) and Wolmar (Valmiera) are not unknown; from 1847 he worked as a governor in the family of pastor Adolph Albanus in Dünamünde (Daugavgrīva) near Riga, and presumably also in Engelhard(t)shof estate (Engelhardta muiža) near Kremon, and Waidau (Vaidava) estate near Wolmar.
From May 3, 1891 until 1910 Kurtz worked as Rigaer Comitee der ausländischen Zensur junior, and from December 1, 1910 until January 28, 1915 – as a senior censor. Kurtz’s activities practically ‘vanish into non-existence’ during the period of time from 1915 until 1920. In the inquiry form for government employees Kurtz indicated that during 1915-1918 he «lived in Riga, and obtained a Russian State pension». It could be so, though the regularity of receiving this type of pension during the many changes of different powers cause some doubt. From January 20, 1920 through to the day of his death (documented as July 15, 1925) Kurtz worked in establishments subordinate to the Ministry of Education, and also in the State library of Latvia, as a junior librarian.
In 1873 he married Anna, the daughter of Alexander Krannhals, who was the head master of Riga provincial secondary school. She died in December, 1914. The marriage produced several children. On October 8 (September 26 according to the old style calendar), 1874, their daughter Margarethe was born; circa 1879 [?] a daughter Helen was born. As proof, in a column of an inquiry form headed ‘given names and age of children’, we can find an entry «Margarethe 50 years old, Helen 45 y.o., Edith 40 y.o.». Using simplest arithmetic, I calculated the possible year of Helen’s birth. On July 19, 1884, their daughter Edith was born, who repatriated from Latvia on November 27, 1939. She died in 1948 (the place is not known to me). The total number of Kurtz’s children could be more (maybe 4), but I have not yet succeeded in discovering the names of them all.
In 1908 Kurtz was elected as a member of the Constantinople Russian Archaeology Institute; on December 3, 1908, he was also elected to a corresponding position in the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg. In 1912 Kurtz was elected Dr. honoris causa of the University of Athens. In 1924 he became an honorary member of Athens Byzantine Society.
Kurtz’s archive (5 boxes) is kept at the Academic Library of Latvia (now the Library of University of Latvia). It consists of different manuscripts, proof-reading notes, published materials, copies of Byzantine period texts, and a considerable amount of a variety of international correspondence. The majority of the correspondence consists of letters connected with publiching, interpretations and readings of numerous Middle Greek texts, as well as the issues on obtaining such text material. Letters and cards of a so-called ‘private’ character are very few.
There follows an approximate list of the larger and perhaps the most significant collections of letters:
1.      letters and cards from Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels (224 in number, embracing the period of time from 1894 until 1925. The greater majority of them are marked by Société des Bollandistes; in French);
2.      letters from Ernst Friesendorff in St. Petersburg (24 in number; in German; one jointly signed with August Nauck);
3.      letters and cards from Konstantin Horna (approximately 117 in number; the majority from Italy; in German);[2]
4.      letters and cards from Jernstedt (10 in number; in Russian and in German);
5.      letters and cards from A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus from St. Petersburg (31 in number; in Greek);
6.      letters and cards from Karl Krumbacher (145 in number; in German);
7.      letters and a card from H. Loparev (6 in number; in Russian);
8.      letters and cards from Paul Mark from Verlag von B.G. Teubner and Redaktion der Byzantinischen Zeitschrift;
9.      letters and cards from S.G. Mеrcati (12 or 13 in number; both in Italian and German). The majority of these letters are written on headed paper with a logo and an inscription R. Università degli studi di Roma. Facoltà di filosofia e lettere; in several of these letters the name of M. Psellos is mentioned;[3]
10. letters from August Nauck (7 in number; in German);
11. letters and cards (several of them marked as from the Publisher Vizantijskij Vremennik; ВизантийскийВременник) from V. Regel in St. Petersburg (49 in number; in German);
12. numerous letters from various other persons (approximately 200 in number; amongst them there are several that are non-identifiable) etc.
The content and the analysis of these letters are subjects of exceedingly specific interest: especially with reference to those letters that contain discussion of specific writings or, more often, a single fragment of a text and the problems associated with it. Although the possibility and necessity of such analysis exist, I am restricting myself only to the functions of initiating and reminding.
We cannot single out a separate period in Eduard Kurtz’s biography about which it could be said that it is the time when he turned to his academic work. Here time segment of this kind does not exist. In the field of science he worked in parallel to his ‘bread earning work’. Referring to Kurtz’s work in the area of Byzantine studies S.A. Zhebeljov (С.А. Жебелев) distinguishes the following moments:
1.      publishing of formerly non-published texts;[4]
2.      amendments and commentaries to the texts published by different publishers;
3.      commenting articles and interpretations of texts,
4.      bibliographical reviews.[5]
Additionally I would like to mention that Kurtz’s creative work has been a little broader, namely, it has also touched upon some problems outside the scope of Byzantinism. So for instance, under group 2 we could group also the work Miscellen zu Plutarch’s Vitae published in 1888 in Riga and other works. And still, in my opinion there is one more aspect that should be added to the above-mentioned classification. It is
5.      scientific editing of other authors’ writings and reviews, as well as texts published about Byzantine epoch.
Finally, the list does not comprise Kurtz’s many years’ standing interest about proverbs and sayings, about their origin and parallels – a field in which numerous works and reviews have been published. In this way we gain one more aspect of Kurtz’s activity –
6.      proverbs and sayings; their origin and parallels.
Eduard Kurtz died on July 13, 1925, in Riga; his funeral could have taken place either on July 15 or 16.[6]  Attempts to find the cemetery and the place where Kurtz lies buried have not been successful.




[1] Vecvagars M. Bizantoloģija Latvijā – Eduards Kurcs. 2. izd. Rīga: FSI, 2006; –. “A note on the Life and Works of Eduard Kurtz,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 1 (2005) 77-79.
[2] Some years ago (2006) I sent all the copies of Konstantin Horna’s letters to Dr. M. Grünbart in the Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik at the Universität Wien.
[3] And possible rezults later (?): Michaelis Pselli scripta minora, magnam partem adhuc inedita, edidit recognovitque Eduardus Kurtz; ex schedis eius relictis in lucem emisit Franciscus Drexl. Volumen primum. Orationes et dissertationes. Milano: Societa editrice Vita e pensiero, 1936; and Michaelis Pselli scripta minora, magnam partem adhuc inedita, edidit recognovitque Eduardus Kurtz; ex schedis eius relictis in lucem emisit Franciscus Drexl. Volumen alterum. Epistulae. Milano: Societa editrice Vita e pensiero, 1941.
[4] Some new editions for example: Kurtz E. (ed.) Die Sprichwörtersammlung Des Maximus Planudes. a) Nabu Press, 2010 (German edition, ISBN-10: 1145258727, ISBN-13: 978-1145258723), and b) Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010 (German edition, ISBN-10: 1161129006, ISBN-13: 978-1161129007), 1st ed.: Leipzig: August Neumanns Verlag, 1886.  –. Miscellen zu Plutarch’s Vitae und Apophthegmata. Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010 (German edition, ISBN-10: 1169614361, ISBN-13: 978-1169614369), 1st ed.: Riga: Druck von W.F. Häcker, 1888; etc.
[5] Жебелев С.А. “Эдуард Курц. Некролог,” Известия Академии Наук СССР 12 (1926) с. 1049 (статья по материалам Н. Буша {N. Busch} в Rigasche Rundschau № 166 за 1925 г. EinebaltischerGelehrtervoneuropäischemRuf. ZuzErinnerunganDr. phil. Ed. Kurtz).
[6] «На днях в Риге предано было земле тело европейски известного филолога и византолога доктора Эдуарда Генриковича Курца. [..] Известный ученый д-р Н. Буш в теплой речи отметил заслуги почившаго перед наукою и указал, какие причины побудили французских, русских и немецких ученых с таким уважением относиться к трудам почившаго» (Б[орис].Ш[алфеев]. “Э.Г. Курц,” Сегодня 156 {1925} с. 7 {18. vii}).