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Francis Lieber’s «Brief and Practical German Grammar»

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Achim Kopp

This volume presents a textbook on German grammar written by Francis (Franz) Lieber in 1835. Persecuted in Germany for his revolutionary views, Lieber had immigrated from Prussia to the United States in 1827, where he spent his entire career as a distinguished scholar and author. Lieber designed his German grammar primarily for his students at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), claiming that the course of thirty-four lessons would enable them «to read fluently common German prose within about twelve weeks». Although the book was never published during Lieber’s lifetime, it compares favorably with the best German grammars written in English available on the American and European markets at the time. With Lieber’s many observations on the differences between German and English and his wry comments on the advantages and beauty of the German language, the text is instructive and entertaining even to a modern reader. The editor’s introduction explores the reasons why Lieber’s grammar was shunned by publishers, based on Lieber’s correspondence with friends and publishers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Contents: Francis Lieber’s Brief and Practical German Grammar – Editor’s introduction with Lieber’s biography, description of the manuscript, the history of the text, and editorial remarks – Part I: Lieber’s preface, thirty-four lessons, and three appendices – Part II: Fragments from German prose writers – Bibliography – Ten illustrations (facsimile pages from the manuscript).