Johann Matthias Gesner
He was born at Roth an der Rednitz near Ansbach. His father, Johann Samuel Gesner, a pastor in Auhausen, died in 1704, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. Gesner's mother, Maria Magdalena (born Hußwedel), remarried, and Johann Matthias's stepfather, Johann Zuckermantel, proved supportive. Noticing the boy's gifts, he prepared him for the Ansbach Gymnasium. Since the costs of the school surpassed the family's means, the boy was supported by public resources and spent his school years in a dwelling for poor students; he was given special attention and instruction by the rector of the Gymnasium, Georg Nikolaus Köhler, who sparked his interest in languages, loaned him Greek texts, and devised special exercises in which the boy had to reconstruct intelligible texts from fragments. Gesner later called his Gymnasium years the most pleasant in his life.
He went on to study metaphysics, Semitic languages, and classical literature as a theology student at the University of Jena, working under Johann Franz Buddeus, who befriended Gesner and allowed the student to live in his own house. Despite Buddeus's support, however, he was passed over for a position in Jena. In 1714 he published a work on the Philopatiis ascribed to Lucian. In 1715 he became librarian and vice-principal at Weimar, where he became good friends with Johann Sebastian Bach (Bach later dedicated his Canon a 2 perpetuus BWV 1075 to Gesner), in 1729 (having been dismissed as librarian at Weimar) rector of the gymnasium at Ansbach, and in 1730 rector of the Thomasschule at Leipzig. The faculty at the University of Leipzig refused Gesner teaching privileges, however, and on the foundation of the University of Göttingen he became Professor of Poetry and Eloquence (1734) and subsequently librarian, continuing to publish works on classical languages and literature as well composing Latin poetry and publicizing the university. Having probably become familiar with a similar organization in Leipzig, in 1738 he founded the Deutsche Gesellschaft, devoted to the advancement of German literature. He died at Göttingen.
Gesner won a wide reputation as a reformer, a scholar, and a humanist.
- editions of the Scriptores rei rusticae, of Quintilian, Claudian, Pliny the Younger, Horace and the Orphic poems (published after his death)
- Primæ lineæ isagoges in eruditionem universalem (1756)
- an edition of Basilius Faber's Thesaurus eruditionis scholasticae (1726), afterwards continued under the title Novus linguae et eruditionis Romanae thesaurus (1749)
- Opuscula minora varii argumenti (1743—1745)
- Thesaurus epistolicus Gesnerianus (ed. Klotz, 1768—1770)
- Index etymologicus latinitatis (1749)
- Reinhold Friedrich, Johann Matthias Gesner: Sein Leben und sein Werk (Roth: Genniges, 1991), pp. 21, 23.
- Paul Otto, Die deutsche Gesellschaft in Göttingen, Volume 1 (C. Haushalter, 1898), p. 5.
- Gesner: Novus Linguae et Eruditionis Romanae Thesaurus online edition in the project Camena
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