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August Friedrich Pott Collection

The core of the Penn Libraries’ outstanding linguistics collection is the library of August Friedrich Pott (1802-1887), professor of general and comparative linguistics at the University of Halle and first librarian of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft.

Photograph portrait of August Pott, renowned linguist

Collection Overview

This collection, acquired by the University of Pennsylvania through private subscription from the University of Halle-Wittenberg, was described in its Penn Libraries gift register, April 24, 1888, as “between 4,000 and 5,000 vols. and represents almost every language and dialect of any prominence. Especially rich in the departments of Sanskrit and the Romance and Teutonic languages, particularly the German dialects, as well as in the Greek and Latin languages. It includes a good collection of books on the alphabet and its history and a remarkably fine collection on gypsy dialects and proper names.” (see cite below). The books received a special bookplate and they were place in the Penn Libraries general collection; over the years, many volumes have been moved to Special Collections or to LIBRA. The collection, and Pott’s life achievements, have been detailed in The letter liveth : the life, work and library of August Friedrich Pott (1802-1887) / Joan Leopold (John Benjamins, 1983)

The Pott collection’s works on Romani, formerly the Gypsy language, illustrate the extraordinary value of the whole collection. Early volumes on this language are “interleaved; with copious ms. notes” (Franklin Catalog). The late Penn professor Georg Knauer believed that these notes preserve Pott’s research for his book, Darstellung die Zigeuner in Europa und Asien (1844-1845).