Johann Christian Senckenberg (1707–1772)


Digital Edition of the Diaries

Upon his death, the Frankfurt physician and founder Johann Christian Senckenberg left voluminous diary recordings covering a period from from his 23rd year until the end of his life. In the 19th century, the municipal archivist Georg Ludwig Kriegk reorganized this huge amount of loose sheets and booklets and had them bound into 53 quarto volumes. Along with Senckenberg’s private library and over 600 folders of posthumous papers, they are now kept in the university Library of Frankfurt.

The later volumes mainly consist of medical case studies on the one hand and reproachful remarks on the Imperial city‘s moral depravity on the other. The earlier recordings, however, are chiefly concerned with the author himself: Headed with Observationes in me ipso factae or Observationes ad cognitionem mei et aliorum respectively, they contain detailed records regarding his daily routine as well as his physical and mental state in connection with all perceptible environmental influences. Added to this are his medical and dietetic observations made in his fellow citizens and his empirical studies on the fields of botany, chemistry and physics. Also, a large amount of space is occupied by religious topics: Strongly influenced by radical pietism which was flourishing in early modern Frankfurt, he declined all church attendance and sacraments. Instead, his diary became a place of confession and inner retreat as well as a medium of religious meditation, self-knowledge and self-improvement. His strict pietist belief, however, often led him to rather drastic judgments of his fellow citizens who hardly ever lived up to his high moral standards.

In a research project funded by the Dr. Senckenbergische Stiftung, the Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft and the Gemeinnützigen Hertie-Stiftung, Senckenberg’s diaries are presently digitized, transcribed, annotated and edited online according to the TEI-/XML standard. After the years 1762 and 1763 have partly been transcribed between 2010 und 2013, the current project phase concentrates on the early volumes from 1730 onwards. The transcriptions can be read in parallel with the digital copies. Their use is subject to resitrictions of copyright. For the transcription guidelines see here.