[Index of Biographies]

Michael Lilienthal (1686-1750)

[This is a draft of an article in The Dictionary of Eighteenth Century German Philosophers, 3 vols., edited by Manfred Kuehn and Heiner Klemme (London/New York: Continuum, 2010).]

Michael Lilienthal was an important Königsberg Pietist, editor, cultural historian, bibliographer, and book collector, publishing prolifically in both Latin and German. He was born of landed nobility on 8 September 1686 in Liebstadt, a town of about 1000 inhabitants lying ninety kilometers southwest of Königsberg, the city where he died on 20 January 1750.

After private lessons at home and school in Liebstadt, Lilienthal entered the university at Königsberg on 19 July 1700. After his father's death in 1706, Lilienthal transferred to the university at Jena, matriculating on September 2 and receiving a magister’s degree on October 21, to the acclaim of his Aristotelian professors. He continued his studies there an additional year, and in 1708 began a three year academic tour through Germany (primarily Rostock and Berlin) and Holland (Franeker), towards the end of which he was made a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences (25 January 1711). He then returned to Königsberg (6 July 1711), and habilitated with a dissertation on student albums or Stamm-Büchern (2 December 1711). His 1713 bid for the professorship of logic and metaphysics failed, which went instead to Johann Boese [bio], although Lilienthal did receive Boese's old position as second inspector of the Alumnat (the college dormitory), a normal step at the university toward securing a professorship (which, despite many applications, Lilienthal never received). During this year he also married Regina Agnes von Kohlen, the daughter of a city councilor of Altstadt (one of the three towns that would later be combined to form Königsberg). He was made deacon of the Cathedral in 1715, and in this capacity married Immanuel Kant’s parents (Johann Georg Kant and Anna Regina Reuterin) that same year. In 1717 he was made deacon of the Altstadt church, another of the three main city churches of Königsberg, and he held this post until his death. Although never receiving a professorship at Königsberg, he was elected to the academy of sciences at St. Petersburg in 1733 and made an honorary professor there. His son, Theodor Christoph [bio], was more fortunate in the academic world: after receiving a magister at Jena (1737), he began lecturing in philosophy at Königsberg the same semester Kant entered as a student (1740), received a doctorate of theology and appointment as associate professor of theology in 1744, with a full professorship in 1750.

Lilienthal also worked as a librarian in Königsberg, serving as the assistant librarian at the university library from 1714-15 (the same position Kant would later occupy), and then beginning in 1726 as head librarian at the city library (a six-room affair that included an important collection of mathematical and physical instruments), where he developed a large collection of Pietist books. Lilienthal possessed an enormous library himself, and his extensive published bibliographies on bible scholarship and church history (1740, 1741, 1745, 1746) were to a large extent lists of his own holdings. The only comparable bibliophile in Königsberg at the time was Daniel Salthenius [bio], who died just six days after Lilienthal.

His literary activity included editing three local periodicals: Erleutertes Preußen, 5 vols. (1724-8, 1742), Acta Borussica, 3 vols. (1730-32), and Preußische Zehenden, 3 vols. (1740-44), for which he also wrote many of the articles.

Lilienthal was the first at Königsberg, and among the earliest in Germany, to lecture on literary history (historiam literariam and notitiam autorum). His De historia literaria (1710) sketched a plan for studying the origin and growth of the sciences in a country, as well as their basis of support, such as schools, universities, learned societies, libraries, book printers, scholars and their writings. In addition, his Pietist hymnal became one of the most popular of the century.

Lilienthal was also an avid coin collector and one of the first to pursue this historically; his collection of thalers numbered close to 800, which he described in a publication of 1725, and which eventually grew to a description of 2384 by the 4th edition (1747), laying the basis for a definitive history of this coin. In a similar vein, he published briefer works on other coins and medals that helped illuminate the histories of Poland and Prussia.


De historia literaria, certae cuiusdam gentis scribenda consultatio (Leipzig and Rostock, 1710).

M. M. Lilienthals des Singens vernünftigen Gottesdienst (Königsberg, 1723; 2nd edn, 1736).

Erleutertes Preußen, oder Auserlesene Anmerkungen über verschiedene zur preußischen Kirchen-, Civil-, und Gelehrten-Historie gehörige besondere Dinge, 5 vols. (Königsberg, 1724-8, 1742).

Acta Borussica ecclesiastica, civilia, literaria, 3 vols. (Königsberg, 1730-32).

Preussische Zehenden allerhand geistlicher Gaben, Von mancherley in die Gottesgelahrtheit Kirchen- und Gelehrten- Geschichte laufenden Materien, 3 vols. (Königsberg, 1740-44).

Biblisch-Exegetische Bibliothek (Königsberg, 1740).

Theologische Bibliothek, 10 vols. (Königsberg, 1741).

Biblischer Archivarius der Heiligen Schrift Neuen Testament (Königsberg and Leipzig, 1745).

Biblischer Archivarius der Heiligen Schrift Alten Testaments (Königsberg and Leipzig, 1746).

Other Relevant Works

Historische Beschreibung des Thums oder der Cathedralkirche der Stadt Kneiphof Königsberg (Königsberg, 1710).

Schediasma critico-literarium de philothecis varioque earundem use et abusu, vulgo von Stamm-Büchern (Königsberg, 1711).

De machiavellismo literario, sive de perversis quorundum in republica literaria inclarescendi artibus dissertatio historico-moralis (Königsberg and Leipzig, 1713).

Entwurff eines Collegii Historici über die Antiquitäten und andere Merckwürdigkeiten des Königreichs Preussen (Königsberg, 1714).

Schediasma de rerum prussicarum scriptoribus manuscriptis pariter ac impressis (1718).

Selecta historica et literaria, 2 vols. (Königsberg and Leipzig, 1715, 1719).

Wahrscheinliche Vorstellung der Geschichte unserer ersten Eltern im Stande der Unschuld (Königsberg, 1722).

Vollständiges Thaler-Cabinet (Königsberg, 1725).

Heiligung des Volks auf den morgenden Tag, das ist, schrifftmäßige Vorbereitung bey der Beichthandlung (Königsberg, 1743).

Further Reading

ADB, vol. 18, p. 650 (Wilhelm Heinrich Erbkam).

APB, vol. 1, p. 398 (Lehnherdt).

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Ausführliche und mit Urkunden versehene Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1746), vol. 1, p. 347.

Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1756), p. 12.

Fortgesetzte Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1769), pp. 171-72.

Gause, Fritz, Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preussen, 2nd edn, 3 vols. (Köln, 1996) vol. 2, pp. 129.

Jöcher (Leipzig, 1750), vol. 2, cols. 2436-38.

Knoll, Renate, 'Michael Lilienthal. Ein Vermittler zwischen den Kulturen als Mitglied der Petersburger Akademie' in Joseph Kohnen, ed., Königsberg-Studien: Beiträge zu einem besonderen Kapitel der deutschen Geistesgeschichte des 18. und angehenden 19. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt/Main, 1998), pp. 329-43.

Meusel (Leipzig, 1808), vol. 8, pp. 255-63.

Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Buchern: mit einer Notiz uber den Autor und sein Buch, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886), pp. 492, 497-8, 509-10, 593-4, 598-601, 669-70, 681-9. Orig. publ.: Königsberg, 1790.

[Index of Biographies]