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Martin Boghardt: A Memoir

From: Studies in Bibliography
Volume 57, 2005-2006
pp. 39-62 | 10.1353/sib.0.0000

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Martin Boghardt, one of the most wide-ranging and creative bibliographers of the post-World War II era, died of cancer in Wolfenbüttel on 26 October 1998, just a month after his sixty-second birthday.1 In the two years after the fatal illness was diagnosed, he faced it the way he had faced many of the difficulties of existence: with a reticent, stoical fatalism, combined with a stubborn determination to continue on his path of life and intellectual investigation, achieving what he could with the time and strength left to him. Even into the summer of that year he was hopeful of participating in the Lyons-Villeurbanne colloquium of 16–21 November 1998, “Les trois révolutions de l’imprimerie.” His topic was one he was uniquely qualified to discuss: “Printer’s Manuals of the Pre-industrial Age: What They Reveal and What They Conceal” (“Der vorindustrielle Buchdruck in medialer Funktion: Was seine Lehrbücher beschreiben und was sie verschweigen”). A half-completed draft, with notes for a conclusion, survives.

The last years were not a time of unhappiness, far from it. Martin (to refer to him temporarily in the terms of our own friendship) had many reasons for satisfaction. Within the world of book scholars his reputation increased steadily. This was due not to the quantity of his output—he had no desire to inflate his publication list—but to its uniformly high quality. He published only when he knew he had something useful to say, and when his work met his own standard: a more rigorous standard than any external editor could supply. More than this, his private life was happy, after years beset by periods of self-doubt and depression. With his third marriage, to Julie, he had found stability and a devoted supporter. And he was able to rebuild a close relationship with his son Thomas, from whom he had been long separated after the breakup of his second marriage. This was the great consolation of his later years; his pride in Thomas’s academic achievements as an historian far surpassed the satisfaction he took in his own scholarly work.

Martin Boghardt was born in Berlin on 26 September 1936, the middle of three children, two boys and a girl, of Fritz Boghardt, a Lutheran-Evangelical minister, and of his wife Elisabeth.2 During the pre-war and most of the war years the family lived near and in Danzig, where Martin’s schooling began; half a year was spent in Esslingen am Neckar, when his father was on service with the radar corps (Radarabwehr). At the end of the war the family succeeded in moving west—the mother and children by one arduous journey through a landscape of devastation, the father by another—from the Soviet to the English Sector. They were reunited in Hamburg, where the father found a pastoral position. Martin, aged ten and never strong in health, became seriously ill. Fritz Boghardt was helped to find more spacious and sanitary living quarters for his family by the aid of a sympathetic English officer whose favor he earned by reciting Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy in English. The first stage of Martin’s education was completed with his secondary school Abitur in 1955 in the classical curriculum, followed by his first visit, with a school friend, to Italy, a country and culture to which he became devoted.

The road to bibliographical scholarship was slow and winding. Boghardt’s university studies at Hamburg, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin were at first directed toward psychology and philosophy. Only in his fourth year, on his return to Hamburg, did he settle on German philology. He completed his Prüfungsarbeit in philosophy, under C. F. von Weizsäcker, in 1962: “The Theory of Knowledge Embodied in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave” (“Der erkenntnistheoretische Gehalt des Höhlengleichnisses”). This was the year also of his marriage to Inge Brenner. Boghardt’s “doctor-father” was the eminent Hölderlin scholar Adolf Beck. Beck was one of the advisers to the incipient new critical edition of Klopstock (Historisch-kritische Klopstockausgabe, 1974-). In 1966 Boghardt joined the project, where he met Christiane Dalhoff, who became...

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